After a 17 day trip to Italy I organized for myself, my mom and a friend, I learned a few tricks. I love Italy and hope to someday return there and explore more sections of this beautiful country. I will definitely do these things again!
The Italians are lovely people, friendly and warm. The crime rate is very low. For example, we felt very safe walking the streets of Venice late in the evening, even alone. What crime there is tends to relate to pick pockets. Make sure when you are traveling you keep your money and credit cards in a safe place where the pick pockets cannot get at them.
If you are taking a taxi, make sure you use the city approved metered taxis. At every train station or airport there are lots of private taxis vying for your business. They will try to convince you where you need to go is a great distance and quote you a price that is a “great deal” when in fact it is anywhere from three to ten times the rate it should be. I got into the habit of calling the hotels ahead of time. I told them where we were arriving (what train or airport), how many adults and how many bags we had, and asked what the fare should be for the trip. There are additional charges per person and per bag as well as night time rate increases. This is normal for Italy and the Hotel staff seemed to have a good handle on what charges SHOULD be if you are using a reputable taxi. This saved us a significant amount of money over using the private pirate taxis.
If you are planning to see any museums, book a reservation! Any given day of the week there are two to three hour lineups for the Academia Museum to see Michelangelo’s Statue of David. Having a reservation will allow you to go into the museum with no waiting. I have been to Florence twice now and it was raining both times. I was very grateful to have the reservation. It was well worth the fee. Reservations can be made for any of the major museums in Italy, including the Vatican. If you don’t wish to make them yourself, you can consider having the concierge at your hotel make one for you. They do need to be made 24 hours ahead of time.
If you are planning to see the Isle of Capri or visit Pompeii or Herculaneum, I much prefer staying in Sorrento to Naples. I have done both. Sorrento is fewer train stops to Pompeii or Herculaneum than Naples and the boat to Capri is also easier to get to. Along with the convenience, Sorrento is a muck lovelier location. If there is a crime capital in Italy many consider it to be Naples. We found the service people in the hotels less helpful and often found the hospitality workers seemed inconvenienced by our questions and requests. The man on the street was helpful but overall it was a big dirty city and lacked the charm of Sorrento.
If you are visiting Venice, go for two or three days. You really don’t need more. It is a beautiful, unique and quaint city. It is also expensive. Makes sense really since everything is brought in by boat! Many have argued the virtue of staying across the lagoon in Lido and traveling into Venice each day. Hotels are much less expensive but you will spend time traveling back and forth each day. For the few days we spent there we felt it was worth the splurge to stay at a hotel on the Grand Canal. You can decide for yourself what you prefer.
We found a charming hotel right on the boarder of Tourist and Residential areas. If we walked out the front door and turned right we were right there on the Grand Canal in close walking distance between two the Vaporetto (water bus) stations, which are a great way to get around, and within a few minutes could be at St. Mark’s Square. If we turned left and walked a short way down the street we were in a delightful residential area with a pretty park. We saw lots of families out for walks, pushing strollers and enjoying the quiet evening.
Whichever you decide is best for you, Naples or Sorrento, the Lido or the Grand Canal, you will find Italy to be a country rich in culture and charm