Things You Should Know Before Visiting Italy

Visiting a new place can be a bit overwhelming, and even more so if they speak a different language. I’ve been to Italy several times, and each time was a different experience. The first time, I was with my high school Italian class, and had my teacher as a guide. The second time, I was alone and I was there “to live”. I learned SO much in the month I lived in Italy, and there was a lot I wish I knew. After that time, I traveled with my Italian cousins, who taught my brothers and I a lot about Italian culture.
I’m sharing some things I think would help a first time traveler to Italy: language, transportation and safety.

Language
Most Italians who work in cities like Venice, Florence, Rome or the Amalfi Coast speak some English. You’ll be fine if you don’t know any Italian. But since Italians are sharing their culture with you, it’s respectful and fun to at least try to speak a few basic phrases. I’m sharing a few phrases with you that I think will come in handy when doing everyday things like eating and buying tickets, including tips for pronunciation.

Hi / Bye                                               “Ciao!”
Goodbye!                                            “Arrivederci” (ah-ree-ved-er-chee)
Please                                                  “Por favore” (Por fah-vor-eh)
Thank you!                                          “Grazie” (Grah-tsee-eh)
Thank you very much!                        “Grazie Mille” (Grah-tsee-eh meel-eh)
Excuse me                                           “Scusa / Mi Scusi / Sucsa mi” (Scoo – sa – me)
To take away (drink or food to go)     “Portare via” (port – ar – eh vee – ah)
Where is the bathroom?                    “Dove al bagno?” (Do – ve al ba – nyo)
I speak English                                    “Parl’Inglese” (par – lin – glese)
Ticket (for a bus, boat, etc)                 “Biglietto” (beel – yee – etto)
Still or Sparkling (water)                     “Naturale” or “Minerale”
Bus                                                      Autobus (out—oh—boos)
Train                                                    Treno (treh—no)

How to say city names in Italian:
Venice:                                                Venezia (Ven- ets – ia)
Milan:                                                  Milano (Mee- lan – o)
Rome:                                                 Roma (Ro—ma)
Florence:                                             Firenze (Fee – ren – zeh)
Naples:                                                Napoli (Nah—po – lee

My favorite conversation: COFFEE

Enjoying a cappuccino in Italy

Typically in Italy, coffee takes the form of espresso. In the off chance you find a place offering “iced coffee,” it’s most likely a frozen, frappuccino-type drink. It’s nearly impossible to get an “iced coffee,” like you may be used to in North America. Some cafes offer drip/filter coffee, but they definitely won’t have it cold. If you’re like me and can’t imagine drinking a hot coffee under the sizzling Venetian sun, you can ask for a cold espresso drink, like an iced americano or iced latte. Ice is “ghiaccio,” (pronounced ghee – ah – chyo) but when you order, you’d order like this:

Cold Americano                                  “Americano freddo”
Americano with ice                             “Americano con ghiaccio”
Cold latte                                            “Latte freddo”
Latte with ice                                      “Latte con ghiaccio”
To go (To take away)                          “Portare via”

Safety

If you’ve read anything on the internet about traveling in Europe, you’ve likely already heard about the prevalence of pickpocketing. Pickpocketing in Europe is REAL and it happens daily to all different types of travelers. I was pickpocketed in Venice. I watched pickpocketing take place in Pisa. And I had a friend who was pickpocketed in Rome. I do not suggest wearing a bag that is our of your sight, like a backpack. If you choose a crossbody bag, just make sure you’re wearing it with the zipper forward so you can see or be touching it at any time. I absolutely love my Madewell Transport Zip Tote. It’s beg enough to fit what I need for the day: camera, wallet, kindle, water bottle, but comfortable enough to carry. Scott actually travels with one of those super thin fanny packs that he keeps our passports and cash in. Despite my jokes about about his “tourist” status, I’m actually grateful that I don’t ever worry about those things going missing.
Just be aware of your surroundings, hold your belongings close, and don’t let your phone or wallet out of your hand or your purse. Within your accommodations, I would say your belongings are most likely safe, but I still wouldn’t leave passports or cash.

Transportation

The Preferred Mode of Transportation in Florence

Transportation is super intuitive in most European countries, but especially Italy. If you use the Google Maps, and you enter in your destination and choose directions by public transport, you’ll be able to see the train and bus times in real-time and for longer journeys, you can find a link to buy tickets online. In Italy you can buy a general ticket from point A to point B, or a specific ticket for a specific train and time. If you buy the general ticket, it MUST be validated before use. If you get on the train without validating your ticket, you could be charged a large fin. The validation machines are small little ticket-stamping machines at the entrance to most trains, buses or ferries. If you don’t see this or you aren’t sure, just ask someone “Necessario convalidare?” but if you’re in a train or bus station, they likely speak some English and will know what you are asking.

As you probably know by now, Italy is my favorite country. I think you should definitely go to Italy. Go to Florence and see how the Renaissance influences design, architecture and culture for nearly 500 years after. Go to Rome see how the Catholic church influenced the state to build an entire city around the Pope. Go to Venice to see how Italians live in symbiosis with the sea.

If you have any questions about visiting Italy, drop a comment and reply by email, or just DM me on Instagram at @mimiinthesea.

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