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  • Writer's picturesbcrosby .

Top 15 List

Updated: Aug 6, 2023

For our last post, we wanted to share our Top 10 list – things we learned along the way. Well, it ended up being our Top 15! I apologize for the length of this post.


Every person’s experiences are different and are based on so many variables. We hope you take this in the spirit in which it’s being offered – our opinions are only based on our experiences. We also know that many of our friends have traveled far more than we have. Still, we hope there is a nugget or two of good info on this list for everyone’s future travels.


Top 15 Things to Know, Plan, Do, or Avoid on a Multi-City Trip to Italy!

15. Wear What You Want! When everyone tells you, “Don’t pack jeans – no one in Italy wears jeans and you’ll stand out like a tourist,” don’t listen to them. Except for the old Italian gentlemen in their slacks and charming hats, locals in every city were wearing jeans. Trust me, the camera around your neck and guidebook in your hand are bigger giveaways that you’re a tourist! If jeans are comfortable for you, then pack them. But keep in mind, you have to lug your luggage everywhere and jeans weigh more than lightweight pants.


14. Walk, Then Walk Some More! There is no better way to prepare for this type of trip than to walk several miles a day before you go. We did this for several weeks and still weren’t prepared for the level and type of walking; concrete is much easier on your feet than walking on uneven basalt stone streets for miles.


13. Start with Venice! We regret ending our trip in Venice. It’s a more difficult city to navigate – trains, water buses, bridges, etc. and we were exhausted by the time we reached it. It’s also the most expensive city. Had we started out there, we would’ve had less sticker shock in every city that followed, and would’ve likely had more patience and energy for the logistics of it all.


12. Study Up! While you don’t need to be a Rosetta Stone graduate, it would be helpful to know the basic “travel” phrases, including numbers, in Italian. We found most everyone spoke or at least understood English. But they sure appreciate it when you make an effort to speak their language.


11. Rick Steves Really is King! Buy Rick Steves’ guidebook (latest version so it’s current) and carry it with you. In almost every instance where we referenced something, his advice was spot-on. He offers great insight and recommendations. Plus you can download his free podcasts for self-guided walking tours of most major museums, basilicas, and sites.

10. Don’t Play Everything by Ear. Most major historical sites are jam-packed with tourists. It’s best to schedule a guided tour in advance for the most important sites on your list. We had educated guides and avoided the long queues. If not a tour, at least reserve tickets in advance.


9. Cash is King. We found ATMs to have the best exchange rate and transaction fees compared to credit cards. And they are readily available in airports, train stations, etc. Most hotels and many retailers will give you a better price if you are paying in cash. Keep in mind, the U.S. dollar is soft and everything is more expensive in Europe.


8. Less is More! We underestimated the intensity and activities of each major city we visited and, in hindsight, we probably should’ve eliminated one of the cities from this trip. It would be hard to choose since they were all incredible in their own right, but it would’ve given us a little more R&R time.


7. Those Boots Were Made for Walking! There is nothing more important in your suitcase than comfortable, good walking shoes. I stressed out over this (as my friends Amy and Kyla can attest!), and I’m glad I did. I spent weeks trying on various shoes and finally landed on a pair of Clark’s walking shoes and wore them almost every day. We can proudly say we went 14 days with not one blister or Bandaid! The ungodly smell that came from Mark’s shoes on day 13, now that’s another story. Add odor eaters to your packing list…just saying!


6. Pack Your Bags, Then Unpack and Pack Again! We took our friends’ advice and packed enough clothes for half the number of days of our trip. Honestly, we still packed too much. When you’re lugging everything around the streets, onto buses, trains, boats, etc., you will regret having any extra weight. Lose the hair dryer. We stayed at five hotels and they all had perfectly acceptable hair dryers. Plan to do a load of laundry mid-way through your trip. We did this and managed just fine with what we had. And two-gallon sized Ziploc bags are the best for packing tightly – you can pack each outfit in its own bag and you’ll be amazed at how much more you can pack in a small suitcase and how easy it is to unpack/pack from city to city (thanks again, Amy!). Sorry Container Store, but we don’t see any need for the specialized and expensive travel bags.


5. Think Like A Boy Scout: Be Prepared. In this case, I’m referring to toilet paper! My very smart and well-traveled mother-in-law suggested that we save a few rolls of toilet paper as they near the end of the roll (about a ¼ inch of paper left on the roll) and flatten in a baggie for our daypack. This was a lifesaver in several cities where most public toilets – if you can even find one – are dirty and paperless. Best advice ever and one we’ll remember for future travel.


4. Eat Gelato Every Day! It’s good for the soul and you’ll walk enough to walk off the extra calories. The Italians have this down to an art form and it’s the best treat for a long, warm day of sightseeing.


3. Eat Where the Cops Eat! We saw local Rome police coming out of a pizzeria and decided to give it a try – best pizza ever! If the cops like it, it’s got to be good and cheap! To that point, look (and listen) for locals eating at restaurants – eat where they eat. Avoid most restaurants that are next to major attractions, especially if they have Italian waiters trying to coax you – in English – into their seating areas for the “best Italian food you’ll ever have.” Unfortunately, we’re speaking from experience! By they way, if you are wanting an outdoor café overlooking a piazza, make sure they don’t charge a service charge for these tables – many do. And lastly, many restaurants charge a service fee or cover charge (coperto). We did not feel the least bit guilty counting this amount toward the tip.

2. Stop Photo Amnesia! Take the time to review your photos at the end of each day and document them, especially those of specific monuments, statues, museums, cathedrals, etc. The sheer volume of sites you see can be overwhelming and it’s easy to confuse things from one city to another. It’s also a great way to relive the day with your travel partner and enjoy the memories you captured.


And the number one thing to know, plan, do or avoid on a multi-city trip to Italy…


1. Be in the Moment! Put the guidebook and camera down and enjoy where you are – be present for it. It’s easy to get caught up with, or even stressed at, the overwhelming sights, sounds, smells and crowds. Remember, you are in a foreign country. It should look, feel, smell and act different than home. That’s why you took the trip in the first place – to experience something different! Appreciate these differences – you’ll be so glad you did in the long run.


We sincerely thank those family members and friends who gave us such great advice in planning for this trip. If we can “pay it forward” and offer the same to you, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with your questions.


And thank you again for your comments, posts, emails and texts – they meant so much! We did this blog for us, but it was so fulfilling to know many of you were enjoying the journey with us.


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