Tips on how to travel like tourist
When you think of Italy what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Probably pasta, pizza, badly constructed Pisa tower and a romantic 80 euro boat ride trough the Venice canals. Well, this post is exactly about that. Here you will find some new and old practical things you should know about Italy before you actually go there, so let’s not waste too much time with introduction and get straight to the point!
Since many of us think of Italy as a country of delicious food, I’d like to begin this post with facts about the food you can get there and how the service works.
You don’t have to go to Mont Blanc de Courmayeur to buy an ice cream or go to Napoli to have a slice of Margarita pizza and you don’t even have to take Silk Road to Turkey to get a kebab sandwich. All of these things are basically everywhere you go in Italy.
Everyone must have heard that Italy is famous for its gelato. And it is more than true. If you are an ice-cream fanatic who cannot live without it for a few days, Italy is a place for you. There is nothing more refreshing than Italian sorbet or gelato.Especially on those hot summer days. And it gets better, they have a huge variety of ice-cream sometimes 20 kinds in one ice-cream parlor, if you’re lucky – even 30. There are two flavors of gelato that are the real Italian flavors or the classics: the pistachio and fior di latte that everyone has to try. In Florence, one of the cities I have visited, they even have some special ice cream parlors, such as vegan gelato made without any milk, or Persian gelato parlor that has flavors that no other ice-cream shop has in the whole city.
The price of the food depends on the cities you visit and the type of food you are willing to have. Usually, if you step out of the main tourist attraction places you would find the cheaper restaurants. It’s not only about the price, but also the quality of food you get. I never enjoyed eating at the huge restaurants which look more like fast-food chains with annoying waiters trying to convince to eat at their place. But there is one thing that both cheap and more expensive restaurants do – they charge for the table and usually even for each person at the table. That’s the tricky part. You should check the service fee (which is from 1 to 5€) somewhere written down on the menu. Unfortunately, sometimes they don’t announce it and you get a different bill from what you first had expected because of the table cover charge. Let’s say you have been walking from place to place and you’re already drained after the search for a decent place to eat. Maybe you’re so angry that you don’t even want to eat any Italian food anymore. In this case, I recommend to try a Chinese restaurant. The prices there are so low that you can even buy 2-3 dishes for the price of one small pizza at an Italian restaurant and also good thing about them – they usually don’t charge for the service. Sometimes it is funny, because you’re sitting there alone with 2-3 waiters ready to help you…just like in gangster movies, but who wouldn’t like to be like an important mafioso at least at a dinner time?
Coffee and Tea
I am not a big fan of coffee, so I prefer tea and when I drink a tea, it means I want to have a quality one. Unfortunately, Italians don’t have deep rooted traditions in drinking tea and that says everything – don’t expect much when you order one. It’s very likely that instead of the loose green tea you would receive a bag of Lipton tea in a small cappuccino cup and if you’re big Starbuck’s fan you would have to beg for a hot water refill at least twice to fulfill your cravings. While traveling through different countries I have learned that the best way to enjoy a trip is to get used to local customs. So, instead of complaining about the quality of tea I started to drink coffee. But don’t worry if you’re not caffeine tolerant there’s option of ordering barley coffee (café d’orzo), decaf or café latte which contains really small shot of espresso and three times amount of milk.
This is a part of Italy which might make your good travel experience less charming. Believe it or not the public restrooms in Italy are something that you should consider about before you enter them and if you want to have a pleasant time, then you should go for it in a restaurant, but WAIT! Not even all restaurants have clean restrooms. With my own experience I must tell that Chinese restrooms are greatest in town (any town)! Also, the public toilets and toilets in the bigger train stations all charge for the entrance. The amount could vary from 50 euro cents to 1,5 euro and after paying this fee do not expect to have the cleanest toilet you have ever visited.
This is an easy one. Skip the buses and use the trains. Trust me! It’s the best way to travel both short and long distances and ticket fares are usually flexible depending on your own needs.
If you’re on the budget trip the only way to get economical tickets is to take the longer route and cross all the villages and in many cases need to change trains several times. Don’t worry about that. If you have 5-10min between trains then you would not have a bad day. When I travelled from Annecy to Genoa I had to take 5 different trains to get to Genoa.
Annecy – Turin Porta Susa – Turin Porta Nuova – Genova Centrale – Genova Bolzaneto in 5 hours, no heartbreaking delays and on-time boarding. Couldn’t expect anything better!
There are two important things that you should know about the ticket system: you can buy train tickets in the autonomic machines which are based in all the big and small train stations which is very convenient and before you enter the train it’s EXTREMELY important to check-in your boarding pass on the green machines located by the boarding gates. If you don’t do so, the inspector might charge you with a 5€ to 40€ fine.
There is a huge difference between the local and regional bus services and also the bus service between different cities. For example, from Florence to Siena there’s only 75km distance, but both cities have totally different selling and check-in systems. However there is one thing that all cities have in common: you can purchase bus tickets at the Tabacchi convenience stores.
To rent a car you have to be at least 18-25 years, have a valid driving license and usually a VISA Card for a 1000€ deposit. For example, if you rent a car in Milan and want to return it in Rome you would have to pay minimum 50€ more than returning it in the same city. Boat If you are at the coastal area it’s possible to take short distance boat trips. In Venice the only possible way to rest your feet is to take a boat-bus or boat-taxi. The bus is cheaper but sometimes very crowded while taxi boat is a private ride.
*Rental car information about the age a fees depends on the companies and locations.