Welcome Back to our New Blog Series: Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s, where our favorite Travel Planning Aficionado shares her wealth of knowledge and experiences about traveling the world! After every trip to a new destination, Jamie gives us her perspective as both a traveler, and a travel advisor, through a quick but comprehensive list of what to do or not do at each vacation location!
Since, as many of you who follow along know, Jamie recently returned from her Incredible European Adventure to France and Italy, we will continue recapping that journey by focusing this installment on Italy!
So Let’s Go to Italy! But First…
Table of Contents
Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s for Italy
Top Favorites and Jamie’s “Must-Do” Experiences
Disclaimer: Jamie had such a fabulous time on this trip that she could have done a Top Favorites and “Must-Do” List for every city visited, and it was difficult to narrow down ALLL of Italy to a relatively short list. So if you want any more information or specifics on any of the cities, comment below, or email me or Jamie!
Venice simply cannot be missed, it’s like no other city in the world. Though any visit to Venice belongs at the top of this list, there are a few experiences you should seek out while there. First, take a walking tour of the city to learn the history of why and how Venice came to be. Then, wander the streets on your own to really soak in and notice the details of everything you learned on tour. Next, definitely spring for the quintessential Venetian experience of going for a Gondola ride; it’s one of those touristy things that is absolutely worth it! And, if you are spending a few days in Venice and have the time, take a boat ride to some of the other Venetian Islands: Murano, Burano, and Lido Beach; these islands are generally less crowded and operate at a slower pace than Venice.
Guided Day Tours, Especially of the Big Cities
Famous landmarks, like the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, and the Duomo in Milan, are incredible to behold when you stand before them, but in order to really appreciate these and other world renowned sights throughout Italy (and also anywhere else, too), knowing the history of why these places exist, what went on at each place, and how they became so famous takes your experience to a whole new level. The Guided Day Tours Jamie and her family took in Rome and Milan gave them all a deeper appreciation of all the landmarks they saw because of the history they learned along the way.
Visit the Little Cities, Too!
Some of the most authentic Italian experiences come from the smaller towns, filled with more locals than tourists (don’t get me wrong, seeing the most famous sights and doing the typical touristy things shouldn’t be missed, as mentioned above). While marveling at the ancient ruins that still stand in the midst of a bustling city like Rome is one experience not to be missed, so is wandering down the cobblestone streets lined with shops filled with locally made treasures, and restaurants serving dishes made with local ingredients. Cities like Assisi and Orvieto make great day trips or stops along the way on your journey through Italy!
Go to Lake Como!
So many people visit Italy for the famous sights in the big cities, but there is so, so much more to Italy than Rome and ruins. As mentioned above, the smaller towns are the place to experience authentic everyday Italian life, but what about authentic vacation Italian life? When Italians seek the perfect getaway, they head to picturesque places like Lake Como. Jamie suggests at least one full day in Lake Como, or, more ideally, a few overnights to get the full experience this gorgeous place has to offer. Also, be sure to take a boat ride from one village to the next to truly get that Lake Life energy!
Top Tips that Jamie Learned Along the Way
Pre-Plan Your Tours
If you are hoping to get that perfect blend of culture in the big cities and relaxation in the small and/or lakeside towns, definitely plan (or have your favorite Love of the Magic Travel Agent help you plan) the big city tours before you arrive. Even with the most extensive tours, you will still have time to explore the cities on your own if that’s important to you. And you’ll be much more well informed about what and where you want to explore after starting with a tour to give you the history and lay of the land. There are even tours that will help you make the most of your time in the smaller towns, as well!
Try a Fully Guided Small Tour Group
Although some people balk at the idea of being part of a group on vacation, if it’s something you’ve never tried, you should absolutely give it a chance at least once. And Italy is the perfect place to give it a try because it is so steeped in history and so rich in culture. The knowledge and perspective you gain from guided tours will make your trip so much more meaningful than simply snapping pictures of a list of landmarks without knowing what makes each one so famous.
Spring for the Front-of-the-Line Tours
Are you starting to notice a theme with the tours? I’m sure you’ve realized by now that touring is the way to go in Italy, but even more specifically, try to get as many Front-of-the-Line Tour Tickets as you can. In Disney, many people opt for Genie+ and/or Lightning Lane purchases to get as much out of their time in the parks as possible, and the same concept applies in Italy. The Front-of-the-Line Tour Tickets allow you to bypass the packed entryways with hours-long wait times, and spend that time enjoying the sights, or exploring on your own instead. If you have a Fully Guided Tour, many of those already include Front-of-the-Line Entry, but if you are booking tours yourself, opt for the Front-of-the-Line Tickets as often as you can (and of course, your Love of the Magic Travel Agent can help you with finding the right Fully Guided Tour, or putting together your own a la carte tour as well).
Top “Must-Don’t”s, or Things Jamie Would Do Differently
Do NOT Wing It!
You saw this one coming, right? Once more for the people in the back: Do NOT arrive in Italy without a plan! You must must must have a plan in order to have an enjoyable experience in Italy, which, of course, your LOTMV Travel Agent can help you with. The most sought after sights require tickets, museums are closed certain days (that vary from place to place), churches have specific rules for visitors (which also vary from church to church), there are certain hours of the day when shops close for a few hours, and there are even whole months that some places may be closed. You do not want to spend the time and money traveling to Italy only to be denied entry to places you wanted to see because of incorrect wardrobe choices (yes, that’s a thing), or be faced with a town full of closed doors because all the Italians went on vacation for a month (yes, that’s a thing, too). Do your research, or have your LOTMV Travel Agent help you research, so that your Italian Vacation is everything you want it to be!
Don’t Try to Do It All in One Trip
Even if you plan to visit Italy once in your lifetime, don’t make it all about seeing everything you’re “supposed to” see in that one trip. Seeing every major landmark in every major city is just not going to yield the most enjoyable vacation experience. Choose a couple or a few big cities, and intersperse those with a few small towns, and anywhere on the water, so that you have a mix of culture and relaxation to round out your Italian adventure. One of the major upsides of choosing a guided tour is that most tour companies understand this balance and plan for it so visitors have the best experience possible. Plus, if you’re anything like almost everyone who visits Italy, you’ll be back to see whatever you missed the first time around.
Don’t Stick Out as a Tourist
As with any travel to a country (or even city) that is not your own, try not to make yourself stick out as a tourist like a sore thumb. Large cities anywhere in the world are known to have pick-pockets who target tourists, and in Italy, watch out for them specifically in the big church squares (ironically). Be smart with where and how you carry your wallet, travel documents, and camera equipment (if you have an expensive/fancy camera you like to use and travel with).
And…That’s a Wrap on Jamie’s “Do”s and “Don’t”s of Italy!
Ready to Plan?
Now that you have Jamie’s Expert Tips for Italy, are you ready to plan all the “Must Do”s for your Italian Vacation? Contact your Love of the Magic Vacations Travel Advisor today or email hello@LOTMV.com