SUSAN VAN ALLEN’S
TOP 10 TIPS FOR ITALIAN TRAVEL
100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go)
1. Lie about when you’re leaving and returning. Tell yourself and those in your world you’ll be away the day before and the day after whatever it says on your airplane ticket. It’s not really lying. Mentally you’re in Italy those pre- and post-travel days. This helps me to not leave packing until the last minute, and spares those around me from being with getting-on-the-plane-to-Italy-obsessed Suz. The day after you return, you’ll be on an Italy high, unpacking, and will get no sympathy with your “I’m jet-lagged, just got back from Italy” spiel. Consider these border days gifts to yourself, to ease in and out of the journey. If you do tell anyone your real return date, have it be a masseuse.
2. Get psyched. Your destination has probably been featured in movies or You Tube videos to watch and books to read to enhance your experience. Before you get on the plane, use them to familiarize yourself with your chosen region’s history, art, and cuisine. And though the natives you’ll encounter in the major cities will most likely speak English, learn at least some words of the beautiful language—buon giorno, buona sera, grazie. You’ll be thrilled with the Italians’ cheerful reaction to your efforts to speak even a little bit of their language.
3. Spread the Word. Tell your friends and family through your social media circles where you’ll be traveling, and inevitably they’ll have a friend, someone they met when they were going to school in Florence, or a kind cousin once removed who lives in your destination. Make contact in advance and enjoy time with a local. It’ll be a treasured part of your trip.
4. Go Solo. Italy is a fantastic place to wander solo, following your very own desires. As Italians are such wonderfully social people, you’ll rarely find yourself feeling lonely. Even when I’m traveling with my husband or girlfriends, I love having time on my own during the day to explore at my own pace—it makes dinner times more fun, when we join together to share our separate adventures. If you are on your own and would like to break up your solo time, log on to Connecting Solo Travelers Network (www.cstn.org) to find out who else is around that you could meet up with or join Women Welcome Women (www.womenwelcomewomen.uk), an organization that provides hosting and companionship for women travelers. You could also join a group tour that’s focused on an active adventure, sightseeing, or a workshop that focuses on your interests. In other words, “I have no one to go with,” doesn’t have to be an obstacle to your Italian travel dreams.
5. Flirting. There’s a shrink in New York who prescribes a trip to Italy for women who need a boost to their self-esteem. Italian men have mastered the art of flirting—it’s one of the country’s masterpieces. Females of all ages are adored here. Enjoy, without taking it too seriously. It’s all in the spirit of: You are women, we are men. We are alive! And what a fun game we play! If you get harassment rather than flirting, a loud “Vai Via” (”Go Away”) is the age-old stopper, and it usually works.
6. Take a Guided Tour. I resisted this for many trips, with visions of traipsing behind a screaming person hoisting an umbrella. At the same time I had the frustrating experiences of waiting in line for the Sistine Chapel while tour groups were ushered through in front of me, being baffled in the Forum where nothing is marked, and so on. It’s great to join a small tour group—two of my favorites are Context Travel (http://www.contexttravel.com), and Walks of Italy (www.walksofitaly.com). Also, in Rome, if you can get any time with the exquisite guide, Iris Carulli (http://www.imcarulli.com), you’ll have a golden time.
7. Stay Healthy. You’ll inevitably be in crowds of coughers, so starting with the airplane, take Airborne or loads of Vitamin C and bring along anti-bacterial hand wash. And (God forbid), know the number to dial for an ambulance is 118.
8. Bidets are found in almost every hotel room. Even in a simple convent where I stayed, there was a spigot gizmo attached to the toilet to serve the bidet purpose. Answers to most frequently asked questions: (1) you can sit either facing the faucet or not, (2) Use after your normal toilet routine. To avoid surprises, test it out to see if it’s the basin type or has squirting jets.
9. Keep an Eye on Your Stuff. Please don’t become a paranoid traveler, but the truth is, as in many cities worldwide, there are expert purse-snatchers out there, who target tourists in places of major distraction: public transportation, outdoor markets, and crowded sights. Get your offensive style down, so it becomes second nature, and then you can roam around comfortably. While some prefer a secret money belt, neck pouch, or bra stuffing, I copy the native’s style. Stand back and observe for a moment, and you’ll catch on. I carry a shoulder bag tucked under my arm, always closed, on my inside-of-the-street arm, to avoid whizzing motorini thieves. At sidewalk restaurants, keep it hooked to you or your seat. You’ll get extra warnings regarding the fantastic city of Naples—warnings that made me feel like I’d be robbed the minute I stepped off the train. Instead I met the kindest people I’ve ever met on earth in Naples and fell in love with the city. So don’t miss Naples, but like anywhere you travel, use common sense, don’t flaunt expensive jewelry or large bills, and leave what you don’t need back at the hotel.
10. Experience Il Dolce Far Niente—The Sweetness of Doing Nothing. Though you’ll have “must sees” on your itinerary, take time to escape from an agenda and simply be in the moment in Italy. It may be sleeping late with the sound of church bells in the distance, lingering at a caffè while beautiful-people-watching, or meandering around a vineyard—such bliss! Ideally, plan a “vacation from your vacation”—at least a day or two outside a city where Il Dolce Far Niente peacefully awaits.
Find out lots more about how to make your Italian Dream Vacation come true in
100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go…CLICK HERE TO BUY THE BOOK!
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