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Italy Travel Tips

Italy travel tips on money saving, personal safety, sightseeing, and enjoying your trip to the fullest from InfoHub suppliers and community members.

An undiscovered Tuscany South of Milan
Submitted by M21305
Though frequently called the Tuscany of the North of Italy, the Oltrepo Pavese in Lombardy is fairly unknown abroad. This is a pity as the Oltrepo really offers something worthwhile for almost every tourist, especially food and wine lovers. The area offer several attractions: smooth hills, medieval villages and castles, panoramic views, authentic Italian food and local wines. The Oltrepo happens to be the largest wine producing area of Lombardy. The landscape is scattered with vineyards that are freely accessible ... view more for hikers or even mountain biking. The Oltrepo Pavese is part of the province of Pavia, in the southern part of Lombardy. Oltrepo literally means “on the other side of the Po”. The Oltrepo is situated at the foothills of the Ligurian Alpes and Apennines.

Hardly any tourist business has developed here, which means, fortunately, that people are enthusiastic to serve you their local traditional food and wine at all of the little family restaurants that populate the area. The food that is served is the food that Italians want to eat out, it has to have "mama" quality! Prices are ridiculously low. Particular of the area are the local sparkling wines, the "vivace", "frizzante" and also "spumante" wines. Reds and whites sparkle without being just sweet. The most famous local wine, the Bonarda is fruity but not sweet, in contrast to the Lambrusco e.g. A local, more classical wine is the Buttafuoco, the production of which is restricted to a small area in the North of the Oltrepo. A typical sweet red wine of the area is the Sangue di Giuda. The regional champagne-like spumantes have made it to the Italian DOCG category. Regional dishes are simple but very effective. Using the seasonal ingredients like mushrooms and tartufi and the local meats of rabbit, wild boar and the likes, delicious dishes are prepared.

Florence- The best place to live the Renaissance
Submitted by M05950
Do you love art? Are you awed by the sculpture, frescoes, and paintings of the Renaissance masters? Would you like to experience some of this work first hand?
Then, we would like to invite you to a journey into the past. With our art history teacher you will visit church, museums and historical places that will allow you to experience art history first hand, and to see with your own eyes some of the masterpieces of the greatest Italian artists. You will be introduced into the lifestyles and philosophy of artists ... view more like Giotto, Masaccio, Botticelli, Brunelleschi, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael. Artists are reviewed in terms of their working environments, life events, and their personal styles and characteristics. The social context of the period will also be considered in order to better understand the development of the artists' culture and way of thinking.
Experience the Best Florentine Steak in Florence
Submitted by M17211
Florentine Steak is one of the well know dishes in the world. I experienced an unforgettable T-Bone steak at Taverna del Bronzino in Florence.
Is crime really a problem in Rome?
Submitted by M19813
In contrast to of the multitude of warnings by guidebook publishers, in our opinion Rome and Florence is a very safe place... and we live here. Like any city, there is a criminal element, but that is mostly pick pocketing, (especially on the 64 bus in Rome.) It is very rare to hear of muggings, and violent crimes right in the historic city center where most visitors stay. The area around the Train Stations is where we suggest avoiding after midnight. Just remember to use your common sense, money belt, and to keep ... view more your bag in front of you at all times.
Art Supplies: Airport Restrictions
Submitted by M19813
1. Zip lock your art supplies in their own compartment of your suitcase. Make sure the excess air has been forced out of the Zip lock bag.

2. Make sure that you avoid bringing any combustible, or flammable liquid, gel, or aerosol paint. Non-flammable liquid, gel, or aerosol paint in 3 ounce or smaller containers can be carried-on to airplanes. Larger containers of liquids and gels must be checked before boarding.

3. Artists' oil colors contain no solvents and are based in vegetable oil so they are not ... view more hazardous. Do not carry-on palette knives and do not travel with solvents and mediums. We suggest that you print out a Materials Safety Data Sheet, (MSDS) available from your local art store, or from the manufacturer of your supplies. Bring the MSDS with you to the airport in case security is unfamiliar with the items that you are bringing.

4. The international traveling community follows the TSA's 3-1-1 Rule for liquids. Countries around the world support TSA's rule for liquids that passengers can bring in their carry-ons. The rule limits the volume of liquids, gels and aerosols to bottles 3 ounces or smaller (or 100 ml), in 1 quart-sized zip lock bag, and 1 bag per traveler.

For a complete list of prohibited items and to determine carry-on vs. checked art supplies, please visit the United States TSA webpage at.

Transportation: How do I keep from getting ripped
Submitted by M19813
There are unofficial taxi drivers hustling for your business as soon as you step out of the airport or train station. We do NOT suggest using these drivers. Registered taxis are available at the designated Taxi Stands around the city and at the airport. Look for the white cars with the "Commune di (City Name)" sticker on the side.

A taxi ride across Historic Rome or Florence should not cost anymore than 8. or 10 EUR, between 8:AM and 10:PM. A taxi from the airport is usually between 40. to 50. EUR.

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When you get into the cab, simply look at the meter, it should read around 2.40 EUR, or 3.50 EUR if it is a Sunday or Festival Day. If the driver knows that you are you are reading the meter, honesty usually prevails. A tariff of 1. EUR may be applied to each suitcase the driver must load into the trunk, and a 0.10 percent tip is expected.

Using city buses and the underground metro will require a fair amount of studying upon arrival. Metro/bus tickets can be purchased at nearly every Tobacco (Tabacchi) shop. Daily, hourly or weekly passes are available. The pass is validated the first time you use it by inserting it into the yellow validation box, which is located on the bus or metro turnstile. The pass does not need to be stamped again, and may be used as many times as you like within the day, week, or hour.

Getting around Italian cities like Rome and Florence by foot can also be a great way to see the city and its charming side streets. Sometimes getting lost brings the most wonderful discoveries. Except for around the train station at night, there are not really any dangerous neighborhoods to avoid in the Rome and Florence.

Buying Train Tickets In Italy
Submitted by M19813
Waiting in line at the windows at station is a lesson in patience, especially with the line cutting locals and summer heat. The stations in Italy usually have large yellow, electronic ticket kiosks at the station. The multi-lingual touch screens make them easy to use, however the signs indicating which kiosks take only credit cards, and which ones take Euros are poorly posted, and you may have to try a few kiosks in different areas before you find the one that uses your preferred payment method. While using these ... view more kiosks you will surely be pestered by beggars and pickpocket types hoping to take advantage of you while you are busy reading the on-screen instructions.

If you have your travel plans in order before you depart, or a day before you plan to travel. You can pre pay for your train reservations on-line by using TrainItalia’s user friendly website. If it is more than 60 days prior to your departure; you can view the train schedules, but you cannot purchase tickets through the website until your departure date is less then 60 days.

If you are making your reservation from an internet point in Rome, make sure to ask if the printer is working, otherwise you will not be able to print your electronic ticket, and then you’ll have to wait in line at the station to get the ordeal straightened out.

Tip or not to tip in Italy?
Submitted by M19813
At restaurants in Italy the general rule is that you do not tip, because most restaurants include a 10% service fee, or a charge for the tablecloth, or bread. If you receive stellar service at a restaurant and want to show your gratitude, you can leave an additional 10%.

Taxi drivers expect a 10% tip, and they are usually satisfied if you round up to the nearest Euro for short trips inside the city. Make sure that you hang onto the 1 and 2 EUR coins, and 5 EUR bills. Taxi drivers can rarely offer change back if ... view more the amount due is more then 10 EUR.
How to Bring Meat Products From Italy
Submitted by M19813
How to bring Meat Products: Italy’s famous cured prosciutto ham and other meat products cannot be brought into the US by travelers unless the meat product has been packed at a facility that is approved by the USDA. In fact items containing meat products, such as bouillon, soup mixes, etc., are not permitted. This leaves most of us with no other choice but to return home with nothing more than savory memories.

The regulations on importing meat products change frequently because they are based on disease ... view more outbreaks in different areas of the world. APHIS, which regulates meats and meat products as well as fruits and vegetables, encourages travelers to contact them for more information on importing these items.
Bringing Wine Food and Cheese Home From Italy
Submitted by M19813
We receive many questions from guests about bringing home wine and food from Italy. Below is some basic info to help with your questions:
- Cheese and Bakery Items: You may bring bakery items and certain cheeses that are vacuum sealed from Italy into the United States.
- Olive Oil & Vinegar: As a general rule, condiments, vinegars, oils, packaged spices, honey, coffee and tea are permitted from Italy into the US.
- Wine & Alcohol: Federal regulations allow you to bring back more than one liter of ... view more alcoholic beverage for personal use, but you will have to pay duty tax and Internal Revenue Service tax.

While federal regulations do not specify a limit on the amount of alcohol you may bring back for personal use, large quantities will draw suspicion that you are importing the alcohol for resale. Customs officers are authorized to seize imported items that they believe are for commercial purposes, and may require you to obtain a permit to import the alcohol before releasing it to you. If you intend to bring back more than a 6 bottles of wine for your personal use you should contact the Customs port where you will be re-entering the country, and make prior arrangements for entering the alcohol into the U.S.

Be aware that State laws may limit the amount of alcohol that you can bring in without a license. If you arrive in a state that has limitations on the amount of alcohol you may bring in without a license, that state law will supersede and be enforced by US Customs agents. We recommend that you check with the state government before you go abroad about their limitations on quantities allowed for personal importation and additional state taxes that might apply.

Choose The Right Italy Cooking School Tour: Tips 3
Submitted by M05151
These tips tell you how to sift through the huge choice of Italian cooking tours and find the right one for you, so you experience a dream trip, protect your investment in your trip and avoid disappointment.

Ask yourself these 10 questions in these three tips articles.

7. What level of cooking teacher and class do I need?

You can enjoy unique experiences with great home cooks on their farms. If you're a gourmet cook, you may prefer professional level cooking lessons with restaurant chefs. Check ... view more cooking teachers' qualifications.

Ask about class level. Most classes are geared to tourists, from gourmet cooks to beginners. If the idea of cooking with people who can't separate eggs gives you nightmares, gather a group of good cooks for a private cooking tour.

8. What kind of cooking lessons do I like?

Hands-on lessons where you put your hands in the flour, or demonstration style classes where you watch the chef's expert moves?

9. Where do I eat on my cooking tour?

Do you want to eat in a variety of local restaurants, so you get a real flavor of different cooking styles and see more towns?

Or do you prefer meals at your country property, where the chef feels like a family member?

Less expensive cooking tours feature most meals at home, while more expensive ones take you to more restaurants.

10. What is included in the price of my cooking tour?

Some tour itineraries don't make it clear what's included. Some say "optional" excursions or lunch "on your own" which mean you pay extra. Some say "evening at leisure" which means free time and dining on your own.

11. Ask for references!

To feel reassured you've chosen the right Italian cooking tour, ask the tour operator for names and e-mails of past tour clients. Contact them to find out if the itinerary delivers on what you want to experience.

Choose The Right Italy Cooking School Tour: Tips 2
Submitted by M05151
These tips tell you how to sift through the huge choice of Italian cooking tours and find the right one for you, so you experience your dream trip, protect your investment in your trip and avoid disappointments.

Ask yourself these questions in these three tips articles.

4. What kind of excursions do I want?

Is this your first time in this Italian region so you prefer sightseeing? Are you a foodie hungering for gastronomic adventures or a wine lover thirsting for winery tours? If you’d like a bit of it ... view more all, how much sightseeing and how many food and wine visits do you want?

Often cheaper tours offer mostly sightseeing where you explore and shop in medieval towns and admire beautiful country views. More expensive tours give you exclusive gastronomic visits where you watch artisan producers making cheese or tour wineries with owners who give you special tastings.

5. When do I want to travel in Italy?

Are you keen on the wine harvest? Food lovers swarm to Italy for the harvest in September and October when you have a lots of cooking tour choices so reserve early.

Is warm weather important? Generally in most parts of Italy, mid May to mid October are warm to hot. July and August in some parts of Italy may be too hot for you.

Would you like a quieter time when chefs and winery owners can give you more personal attention? You'll find a good choice of cooking tours in May and June.

In steaming mid August most Italian businesses shut for annual summer holidays. Cities empty out. Masses flock to the mountains or beaches. You'll find less cooking school choice in August.

6. How many people in my cooking class?

Six or eight? You'll get to prepare the whole menu. Ten or more? You'll join the "eggplant" or "tiramisu" team and not learn how to make the other dishes. But the more the merrier! A larger class also may give you demonstration style, not hands-on lessons. Which do you prefer?

Questions continue in Tips 3 in this tips list.

Choose The Right Italy Cooking School Tour: Tips 1
Submitted by M05151
These tips tell you how to sift through the overwhelming choice of Italian cooking tours on the Net and find the right one for you, so you experience a trip of a lifetime, protect your investment in your trip and avoid disappointments.

Ask yourself these 10 questions in these three tips articles.

1. What is important to me in my Italian cooking tour?

List what's important to you in your cooking tour. Read tour itineraries critically. Here are examples of what may be important to you and what to ... view more look for in tour itineraries.

A. Lots of cooking lessons? How many lessons are in the itinerary?

B. Lots of wine visits? How many winery visits and wine tastings are in the itinerary? Where do they take place? In wineries with the producer? In wine shops with a knowledgeable staff member?

C. Lots of stimulating food visits? What kind? Cheese and olive oil producers? Truffle hunting? Make sure the itinerary has visits that make your mouth water.

D. Immersing yourself in Italian life? How many different local people do you meet and how many different towns or locations do you visit?

E. What kind of Italian cultural experiences delight you? Meeting an artist in his ceramic studio? Cooking in a family's home and dining with the family? Are these events in your tour?

2. What is my budget?

Tours generally run from three to seven days with prices from budget to luxury. Educate yourself on Italian cooking tour prices by looking at sites with a good choice of tours and decide on your price range.

3. What kind of accommodation is best for me?

Some people are happy in simple, clean rooms in B & Bs because they're rarely in the room. They prefer to spend their money on special food and wine experiences. Is this you?

Others want beautiful, four star hotels or country villas with magnificent views and historical charm. Is this you?

Questions continue in "Tips 2" in this tip list.

Experience Family Life In Italy: Cooking Lessons
Submitted by M05151
Take cooking classes in a cooking school tour or a one day cooking class with a family in their home kitchen and learn to cook their everyday and traditional dishes with them in their kitchen.

After your cooking lesson you dine on your creations with the whole family around their dining table and share laughs and good talks. You feel like a new friend in no time!

On some cooking school tours, you cook with the same family for all the lessons in your three to five day tour so you get to know the family well ... view more in a short but intensive sample of their every day lives.

On other cooking school vacations, you cook with three or four families on the same tour so you meet a wide variety of families and experience many slices of local life. For example in Tuscany you may cook with a couple with five kids on their farm who raise or grow most of the fruit, vegetables and meat they eat as well as making pecorino cheese or a charming woman and 80 something mum in their 14th century house in San Gimignano.

A cooking class for a day typically lasts for the morning with lunch of your creations or for the afternoon with dinner of all your plates so you have more time to do other non food activities like visiting museums, shopping or simply hanging out.

If you're traveling to many regions in Italy, why not take a cooking class with a family in each region so you experience different cuisines and family cultures?

Experience Family Life In Italy: Homestay Student
Submitted by M05151
Take a course and ask the school for home stay accommodation.

In 1996 I took a month long Italian language course in Rome and asked the language school to get me a room with a family where nobody spoke English.

They matched me up with Lucia, a 45 year old high school art teacher, architect and single mother of two kids, aged 8 and 16 in their apartment near the Vatican. My room was small and plain. I used a cramped second bathroom that Lucia and her friendly kids used a bit, but I was open to new experiences ... view more and didn’t mind.

At first Lucia was surprised to see a woman her age arrive, not the usual 22 year old home stay student. In our month together, we discovered we had a lot in common, had many long conversations in her kitchen and became friends. For 12 years, I’ve visited Lucia, shared many meals around tables with her friends and taken trips to Naples and her country home in Le Marche with them.

Take a course and stay with a local family in your favorite Italian city! You never know what lovely surprises may come out of the experience!

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