This post is inspired by a question from Josephine, a dear friend and member of our Petit World Citizen community.  In response to recent posts about our family vacation to Italy, she asked if I could spend some time discussing the practicalities—such as learning the language, obtaining a visa, and exchanging and handling money—for travel to Italy. Great topics, thanks for your questions!

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Language
While searching for a new music program for my baby last spring, it so happened that I found a children’s music class that was being offered in Italian.  It immediately piqued my interest and I enrolled right away.  I suspected it would be fun for both of us to try something different and it turned out to be great fun!  This was really an Italian music class.  My son and I were the only non-Italians in the group, talk about full immersion!  It was a great introduction to such a poetic and melodious romance language.

Prior to the class, my Italian vocabulary consisted of pizza, cappuccino and gelato.  Okay, so I exaggerate… but aside from the typical phrases—ciao, buongiorno, grazie and arrivederci—I didn’t know very much more.  Admittedly, already knowing some French and Spanish provided me with an ear for it but the music class motivated me to learn more Italian in order to better communicate while on holiday.  I not only learned the words to the songs in the class but also went to a bookstore and bought an Italian phrase book & CD.  When I took short trips in the car I listened, repeated and learned a few essential phrases.  For some reason, one phrase that stuck in my head and became one of my favorites was, dove posso trovare un taxi? (doh-veh pohs-soh troh-vah-reh oon tah-ksee?  (Where can I get a taxi?).   I loved how it effortlessly rolled off my tongue like droplets of water falling from a leaf.  I was sure to use it while in country, and I did!

Although I am still far from speaking Italian fluently, it was rewarding to use the little I had learned.  If you’re interested in traveling to Italy, I’d suggest at least getting a small phrase book to learn the essentials.  I’m sure your efforts to speak Italian while in country will not only be noticed, but also greatly appreciated.

Visa
As an American, I did not have to obtain a visa.  If you are unsure if you need one, visit the website of the Italian Diplomatic and Consulate representations in your country of residence.

Money
When I travel I normally bring some US dollars, a credit card and a bank Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) card.  If possible, it’s always best to have some local currency before your arrival in country.  You should be able to exchange some currency at your local bank, before your trip.  Although there are ATMs (Bancomats) at all Italian airports, sometimes, the airport ATMs might be empty when you land, or if you land on a weekend, the machines might not be scheduled for refill until Monday.  This could put you in a bind if you need some money to continue to your onward destination by train, taxi, etc.

In Italy, as in most of Western Europe, the official currency is the Euro.  At the time of this post, the conversion is approximately: €1 (Euro) = $1.33 USD.  Major establishments take major credit cards but many smaller, family owned businesses prefer cash only payments.  For more tips on currency while traveling, visit my Travel Tips on Currency.

Packing
Ahh, the proverbial quest to pack light!  I truly hate to over pack so I constantly strive to find more ways to efficiently pack my bags. I was in Italy when the weather was very warm so I found it easy to pack light.  I just brought a few summer dresses, one pair of sandals and not much more.  For more tips on packing, view my post The Art of Packing or my Travel Tips on Packing.   If you have any questions or would like to share your own tips, please let me know your questions and comments.

Thank you Josephine for your great comments and questions!  If there are other readers who have more questions or tips regarding travel to Italy or simply traveling in general, please don’t hesitate to share and let me know! Ciao! 

I viaggi formano la gioventù
Les voyages forment la jeunesse.

One thought on “Buongiorno: Practical Tips for Travel to Italy

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