Can you really afford a trip to Italy next year?

When money is tight, the last thing you want to hear is someone planning the trip of a lifetime to a budgetingMediterranean location.  If you’re like most people, you end up dreaming of the day when you can actually afford to go on a picturesque Italian vacation – or, fit it into your schedule.  But, this perspective is laced with a hint of deception. Yes, on one hand it costs money to travel, but on the other hand, most people (without knowing it) can travel through Italy on a shoestring budget. I find that most people don’t know where to start cutting costs in their budget, and mostly assume the trip will cost far more than their budget allows, in the first place.  There are five guiding questions that can help you better calculate the cost of a trip.  If you address each one of these questions it can dictate how much money you will save, and ultimately make the difference in affording a trip to Italy.

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7 Things That Can Ruin Your Experience at The Vatican City

 

To experience the Vatican City is one of the most incredible feelings in the world.  The Vatican City (or Cittàvatican del Vaticano, in Italian) houses one of the most famous churches in the world – Saint Peter’s Basilica.  To most, this place seems very self-explanatory (the church is located in Vatican City (within Rome), you go there, and see the church) but in all actuality it’s not like that.  There are tricks of the trade that most people miss when allotting time to see this city. More often than not, travelers make mistakes along the way that costs them time, money, and just a bad experience.

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The Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Add Sicily to Your Itinerary

This is a guest post by Rick Zullo. He is an American writer, traveler, and part-time English teacher. Rick lives in Rome with his Sicilian wife. He enjoys exploring the hidden areas of Italy, and blogging about the expat experience. Rick is also the author of the book, Teaching English in Rome, Italy: A Guide for Americans, available on Amazon. You can connect with Rick on his blog, or on Twitter.

“To have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is to not have seen Italy at all, for in Sicily lies the key to everything.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

For millennia, Sicily (or Sicilia, in Italian) has been at the crossroads of the Mediterranean.greek ruins in siracusa Every society that has passed through or conquered the island has left fragments of their culture behind; much of which is still visible today. For the modern traveler this means that the last 3,000 years of western civilization is abundantly displayed and conveniently compressed into this 25,711 km2 (9,927 sq. mi) floating triangle at the very edge of the European Continent, making it an accessible microcosm of Italy in the extreme.

So if you’d like to experience this sumptuous adventure across epochs and cultures, what are some of the highlights that will impart the visitor with this sense of historical passage? The list is endless, no doubt; but if you start with these five things, you’ll have at least tasted a bit of it all.

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The Top 6 Navigate Italy Approved Hotels Featured on Jetsetter

Jetsetter is probably one of the most well known travel companies to come out of the last five years. Its IMG_0817website offers members exclusive deals on vacation packages. Most deals feature luxurious vacation destinations around the world. I love it, because it gives a distilled list of the world best hotels, and exclusive locations. For those who have the money to spend, or who travel a lot, it’s an amazing resource.  If you’re a travel nut like me, I’m always looking at what’s out there, and what the hottest destination are.  Jetsetter is a perfect fit.  Click here to view the Jetsetter website.

But, before I go any further, I have to disclose something. These hotels written about below were featured on Jetsetter in 2012. The recommendations and critiques do not reflect the options of Jetsetter, or does Jetsetter agree, or disagree, with my thoughts or options.  It’s completely a third party, non-biased, perspective.

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How to Give Yourself an Edge in Traveling to Siena

Tuscany (or Toscana, in Italian) is one of the most famous regions in the western world. You can hardly IMG_0503walk through a grocery story without seeing a theme influenced by this region. This region houses some of the most iconic symbols in all of Italy within its boarders. (I feel like I say that a lot, but it’s too true.) The capital city of the region is Florence (or Firenze), but most people, if given the opportunity, will venture further outside the city.  Amongst the hill towns and castles there is probably one city more famous than them all. Siena. I went to Siena for the first time a few years back. It’s an amazing city, and one I recommend seeing.  But, just like everything in Italy, getting there was not very self-explanatory.

This post calls out three things to help clear up any ambiguity in the process of traveling from Florence to Siena.  None are earth shattering, but are all things I wish I knew before I set out on my journey.

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The Unexpected Places Not To Miss In Rome

Rome (or Roma in Italian) is known as the eternal city across the world.  Not that people IMG_0727actually have heard of the city, or anything. I mean, what’s there to do in Rome, anyway?

(Insert sarcasm here.)

This past year, I really came to understand the reason why. Why? Because, it’s all there.  The streets are dripping with history, and it has everything the western world could desire. I have been coming to Rome for over ten years now.  And, every time I leave, I get that reaffirming feeling that one day I might not leave.  There are few cities in the world that beg you to set up shop and attempt to survive, or better yet, thrive amongst its people and culture.

There are many reasons people stop off in Rome…

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How I Navigated My Way to Lake Como and How You Can Too

Lake Como (or Lago di Como, in Italian) is one of the most beautiful places in the world.  lago di comoThere are few places in the world where it feels like God actively spends his free time.  Especially when we are talking about Italy, the place where beauty is born.   The lake is everything it’s cracked up to be and more. It’s a peaceful mountain top retreat, accessible through a sleepy passage of cottages, and small cities.  Looking back on this trip, there’s a reason why a Las Vegas casino, George Clooney, and artist throughout the ages, claim this lake as part of their identity.

Here are five tips to consider when navigating your way to Lake Como.

  • Getting to Milan. Wherever you are, I recommend getting to Lake Como (lago di Como) from Milan. Whether you fly into Milan, or take a train to get there, the city gives you the best launching point into the mountains. It’s a short forty-five minute train ride through the Italian alps, before reaching the edge of the lake.
  • Train to Como. The train to Como departs from several train stations in Milan. Not to mention, there’s more than one train with service to Lake Como. The main train station on the lake is called Como Nord Lago.
  • Cost: Of all the pricy train tickets in the country, the ticket to Como is very economical. The average ticket costs €4,50 for a forty-five minute trip.
  • The lake towns and beyond. Como, is the gateway town the lake is named after. There are several other cities on the lake, accessible by the roadways around the lake, or directly by ferry. There are two types of ferries that service the lake. The lake is serviced by a hydrofoil (the fast) ferry, and a normal (slower) ferry. The difference in ferries is time and price. Both ferries are not cheap – as far as ferries are concerned.  The normal ferry is €28,00 for an all-day pass.  The hydrofoil cost €15,00 for each one-way trip. (Stepping off the dock at one station and stepping onto the dock at the next station.)  For example, a round trip ticket, on the hydrofoil, from Como, to Bellagio, is €30,00. While the all-day pass will carry you to an unlimited amount of cities. Click here for ferry timetable.
  • Set your watch. The atmosphere around the lake is intoxicating, and often, time seems to fall by the way side.  If you spending the evening in one of the cities around the lake it’s a great feeling of bliss, but for those returning to Milan be sure to keep an eye on the time.  When I was there, I had not secured my spot in Milan, and almost didn’t get back before the sun went down.  Trying to find a place to spend the night, in an unfamiliar city, in the pitch black, with full luggage, is not a recipe for success. (Although, often a recipe for adventure. However, due to my timeline, I was not in the mood.)

These five tips are taken directly from my travel notes.  If you find any other suggests would be helpful, please leave them in a comment below.

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How to Get to Capri By Ferry

One of the most famous islands in the world, Capri, needs to make your bucket list! If you have the time, put this island in your itinerary.  For those who have yet to make it to the island, navigating Naples will be your biggest obstacle.  There are several groups, guides, and agencies eagerly pushing their services toward this island. The truth is, you can get to the island on your own, with out their help.

Here are things I have observed at the ports, and train stations, in Naples.

  • Many tourist groups.
  • Many “helpful” Italians dragging travelers to their destination.
  • Travelers waiting.
  • Angry travelers.
  • Impatience travelers.
  • Pick pockets hunting travelers.
  • Tour guides frantically trying to find their patrons.

However, here are four steps to get you from Naples to Capri.

Arrive at Napoli Centrale.  Wherever you are coming from you must, or it’s recommend, you end up at Napoli Centrale – the central station.  From there, purchase a train/bus ticket from a tabaccheria in station, and walk directly out the front doors to Piazza Garibaldi. Take the metro (bus and metro tickets are interchangeable) and get off at Mergellina.  Head toward the water, and the port will be to the left.

Find Molo Beverello.  When taking the hydrofoil to Capri, you must embark from porto Molo Beverello.  It is not located outside the central train station. There are several ports in Napoli, but I recommend using porto Molo Beverello to get to Capri fast.

Buy your Ticket.  There are two types of ferries that service Capri – and therefore, two prices. There is a regular ferry and there is a hydrofoil (or fast ferry).  Both types of ferries leave from porto Molo Beverello.

Suggetion:  The ticket lines for the ferries are deceiving.  There are around 30 + ticket windows all with different companies and offers. It’s overwhelming.  To put you at ease, most all the ticket counters sell every ticket for every company.

Observation:  Often, two of the ticket windows’ will have extremely long lines, because the travelers believe their ticket can only be purchased from a specific window. Not always the case. Don’t hesitate to walk in front of the crowds, a few windows down.

Manage your recourses.

  • Cost: The average cost per ticket on a hydrofoil is €20.
  • Timetables: There are several ferries that leave throughout the morning, and evening, but only a few in the afternoon.
  • Money:  The food on the island is expensive. If you are going for the day, or weekend, buy wine, and a picnic lunch a head of time.

Suggestion: bring a great pair of walking/running shoes, and your trunks!

Arrive in Capri.  When the ferry docks in Capri, you have several avenues in which to see the island. All avenues are accessible from the information centers right next to the harbor.

Capri is one of the most beautiful islands in the world. I strongly recommend everyone visit at least once.

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Why Italo Is The Best Ticket in Town

Today, in Rome, I was finishing some things on my to-do list, and planned on leaving tomorrow for Bologna.  My plan was to  take the bus up north, as research for a future blog post, but as I was investigating the bus timetables, an advertisement caught my eye. The ad featured the new train system called Italo.  The train is the first privately owned, and operated train system in Italy. The train is pioneered, designed, and built by Ferrari.

(Click here to access the Italo site.)

The new service caught my eye and I couldn’t refuse the opportunity to ride. To be completely honest with you I’m writing this blog post while on the train.

Here are the 6 reasons Italo is the best ticket in town, and why you should test drive.

  1. Luxury. The train is nice, very nice.  Every seat is uniquely designed to provide each passenger with amenities unseen by any other train system in Italy. For those passengers who ride in the first class (Prima) food, coffee, and other services are provided.  There is also free wifi, tv, and movies, onboard. Lastly, the train is very clean. The clean factor really does set Italo a part from the Trenitalia’s bullet train the Frecciarossa.
  2. Comfort. Each seat is larger and gives each passenger more room. The train and seats absorb most of the shock from the railway lines. Result: leaving each passenger with a smooth and comfortable ride. Lastly, Italy passengers can enjoy the comfort of the Italo lounge at most, if not all, train stations.
  3. Design. The train has a noteworthy designed.  The same attention to detail expected from Ferrari is reflected in the train. Everything is clean, and is an expression of Italian modern design.
  4. Silence.  The train is very quiet, and smooth. Even at our top speed of 300 kmh (or 186 mph) the “silence factor” is remarkable. Again, noticeably quiteter than the Frecciarossa – Italy’s other fast train.
  5. Convenience.  The ticket purchasing process was the easiest experience I have ever had in Italy.  I bought the tickets online, it took about 7 minutes, and the tickets were emailed to me immediately.   The Italo team is strategically located throughout the train station and surprisingly egger to help. On the platform there are staff members directing people to the location of their train car while answering questions.
  6. Price. The most striking thing about Italo is the price.  The base, or economy, tickets run between €20 – €25 each way.  Business class tickets run about the same as the second class tickets on the Frecciarossa – about €45 each way.  I wrote a blog post on the advantages of the Trenitalia’s Frecciarossa last year. Click here to view the blog post, The Cost of Train Tickets.

The train is a great new way to get around Italy.  It will be there first high speed train system to reach Venice (no more Harry Potter trains). In the back of my mind, I wonder if Italo can keep their service, and amenities fresh with consistency.  Only time will tell. However, I bet it will be the new standard in Italian railway travel.

The call to action, you must take it for a test-drive!

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The 5 things to keep in mind when riding the metro or bus

This morning I took a very long walk around downtown Rome – about 12 miles. By the time I finished my trek, I was so wiped I decided to catch the metro back to Basilica S. Paulo, before hopping a bus to a friend apartment in the suburb of “Roma 70.” The journey provoked a list of things to mind when using the bus or metro.

Here is my list of five things to keep in mind when riding the metro, or bus, across town.

  1. Where you stand. On every metro, or bus, there is a right place to sit – or stand – and a wrong place. In Italy you never know when a group of 30 people will fill the space around you. Make sure you have enough space to get you, and what every cargo, through the door when it counts.
  2. Number of stops to your destination. It seems like a no brainer, but in the chaos of the public transit experience you can forget where you are and where you want to go.
  3. Bag placement. This is key. You always want to make sure you keep purses, or for the guys “satchels,” and backpacks in front of you. It is easy to slip and have your carrying items drift behind you. This is perfect placement for quick pick-pocket.
  4. Fellow passengers. Keep an eye on your fellow passengers. Italians often don’t require much personal space, and can get friendly. However, always be cautions if people start getting too friendly.
  5. Traffic. Just like is San Francisco, New York, Seattle, or Los Angles, major cities in Italy have a rush hour. Public transit will get slammed with people and make it difficult, and timely, to bet from a to b – especially with bags. Keep an eye on the clock, and avoid the 4 P.M. to 6:30 P.M. time slot.

These are all things I forget get to do with out fail just about every trip. They are really good reminders and can save you a lot of time.

Please feel free to comment on if you agree with this list, or disagree with this list. I would really like to hear traveling wisdom from others.

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