Here are a few general thoughts and observations from our trip. Things we wish we would have known and things we did or didnt love
First of all , Italian street signs blow. They really only even put signs on about 50% of the streets so it’s half guess work anyways. It’s always super special when what looks like two straight roads completely connected (on a map) is actually two streets connected with a slight left onto another street and then a slight right on to the actual street. If there are no street signs it becomes even more fun.
Italians aren’t like Americans when they give directions. When we asked an Italian how to get to our hotel in Milan (showing him on a map even) he quite literally gave us the opposite directions of the hotel (“down a couple lights and take a left” … It was a right, and it was 3 lights.) . We asked an American in Florence how to find something, she gave us directions we understood (” down this road, through the piazza, cross by the carousel, on your right” ) . When we were at a restaurant and the hotel was full, they gave us directions to another restaurant, ” walk straight and it’s by the Trevi fountain” …we just ignored those, there was no way in hell it was happening.
Pre-book everything. Dinner? Museum? Pre book. We missed out on one restaurant and two museums because we had no idea that in Italy you have to book everything in advance. I didn’t do this in Germany or London and it was fine but I would not recommend it for Italy. We still did 95% of everything we wanted to do but we paid more than average for a couple things to get a tour to skip the 3hour lines or so. This I recommend. Some tours are ok but not always worth the price.
It’s hot. The Roman sun is intense!
There are a lot more gypsies and beggars here. Getting on the train a woman will help you with your luggage and then demand a euro. Sorry lady, you weren’t that helpful and I didn’t need the helps you offered. Stay away from the guys dressed like ancient roman soldiers unless you want to argue or pay for the picture you thought was free. Nothing is free.
“ciao Bella” does not work on me. I was called “Barbie Princess.” I don’t know if that works on Italian women but I gave the guy one of my nastiest looks. If he was closer I would have hit him. Ugh. Being pushy and calling me pet names will not get me into your restaurant.
Speaking of restaurants, the menus are very similar in all of them. This is good because you can trust they are standard Italian but it’s kind of hard to tell which is the best when they are all lined up in a row… We liked to look to see if the menu had at least one creative item that caught our eye or we would look places up online and read reviews and then find the restaurant. We found our favorite coffee and gelato place this way.
Drink coffee standing up. If you sit at a table the price of your espresso/cappuccino/ any drink doubles. Literally. Same drink, twice the price. You are paying to “use the table”. Same if you just want a snack in the bar/cafe.
The subway and bus system is not nearly as efficient or clean as in Germany. Germany may have been a fluke in how impressive their transportation system is but it’s pretty incredible. We only used the metro 3 times in Italy and were not thrilled any of those times. Luckily we were able to walk everywhere which brings me to another point – bring good walking shoes. If you want cute shoes, make sure they have support and a good sole. I had incredible rainbow brand sandals that had amazing support and cushion and then reebok easy tone shoes. I pretty much only wore those and I was fine. Lilly however was not so lucky, there were several times she seriously considered paying for new shoes…the price was the main deterrent.
Oh speaking of prices, in case you didn’t know, Europe is expensive. A lot of things may be similar in numerical price to American things except it’s euro. So take the number and multiply by 1.6 and that’s how much you are really spending. It’s not bad if you trick your brain to thinking euro and dollar are the same…but it’s not nice to your bank account…we stuck to only buying one meal a day with gelato, coffee, maybe a snack on some days and the. Everything else was museum tickets and souvenirs.
Italians don’t listen. They talk but they don’t listen really. I can’t tell you how many places I would say “pasta senza glutine?” which is asking if they have gluten free pasta. I would ask in a clear voice so my words wouldn’t blend and they would all be like “si si of COURSE we have pasta” looking at me like I’m an idiot. I would repeat myself “senza glutine??” and would generally get a “ah, no no.” sometimes it feels like they will say “no” so they don’t have to think about your question, ie ticket questions or direction questions.
Do not interpret this blog in a negative way. We enjoyed every moment of our trip in Italy and would change very few things if we did it over. We accept the above blog as parts of the Italian culture that set it apart from America and other places. They are merely our observations and thoughts that may prove either useful or humorous to anyone reading this now or in the future.