You’ve booked your flight, your itinerary is set, and you’re ready to savor each and every day of beautiful Italia. But before you leave, there’s a few things you’ll need to prepare to help you have the best trip possible. From the language to your cell phone to power outlets, here’s what to do before you go to Italy:
Learn Some Language Basics
If you want to communicate directly with the locals, don’t worry – you might be surprised how many people will know English as you travel through Italy. But don’t let this stop you from learning a bit of the beautiful Italian language, as it’s a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture, even with some common greetings and basic phrases. Everyone knows Ciao and Grazie, so why not use them? Or, go a step further and add the more formal buongiorno and buonasera to your repertoire for morning and evening salutes. Scusi goes a long way when asking permission, trying to get attention or simply apologizing and of course, cono or coppa is a must-half for your daily gelato-run!
Before your trip, sign up for a free language-learning service to practice some of the key Italian phrases – Duolingo is one popular option. For a deeper dive into the language, the Ciao team loves the Pimsleur method. If you’re not fluent by the time you arrive in Italia, don’t despair! There are translation apps that you can use on-the-go to look up an unfamiliar word on the restaurant menu or respond to a friendly shopkeeper. These range from basic English-Italian dictionaries to apps with audio translations. Check out iTranslate for Apple products or Italian Translator on the Google Play Store.
Prep Your Wallet and Carry Cash
The best way to pay for un cappuccino at the local bar is with a handful of euro, the currency used in Italy. Carry cash to use for souvenir shopping and other small payments such as the daily city tax charged by most hotels. You can use the ATMs in Italy to get cash, as they typically have a good conversion rate. Check with your bank first about flat fees versus percentage-based fees on international ATMs.
If you prefer to arrive in Italy with a full wallet, you can also get euro from your bank or another financial institution in the U.S., Canada or U.K. However, you’ll typically experience a higher exchange rate than you’ll find in Italy, so we recommend only withdrawing a few hundred euro, maximum.
Most restaurants, stores, and establishments in Italy will take credit cards, especially those with a chip. Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted cards; American Express can be used at some locations, but not all. Before you leave, tell your credit card company that you’re traveling to Italy so you won’t be surprised with a denied card; if the credit card company thinks your card has been stolen, they’ll freeze it.
Make Sure Your Passport is Valid
One lesser-known tip travelers to Italy should keep in mind involves your passport. Italy requires that a passport must be valid for 6 months after the end of the trip, so it can’t expire five weeks after your adventure ends. Make sure to double check the date before your departure!
Prep Your Phone for International Travel
Bringing your cell phone abroad doesn’t just mean remembering to take it with you! Before you leave for Italy, call your current phone carrier and let them know that you’ll be travelling internationally. Most carriers can easily switch your plan to include an international data plan, and potentially a calling or texting plan, for the duration of your trip.
Even with an international plan, using cellular data can get expensive quickly. Be on the lookout for WiFi if you need to use your phone while in Italy, and turn data roaming off when you aren’t using it. If you’re not sure how much data you’ll be using when abroad, don’t worry; you can easily monitor it during your trip and upgrade if necessary.
Get an Adapter
While vacationing in Italy is the perfect chance to ignore your inbox, you’ll want to keep your phone fully charged for taking photos and looking up the Italian words for “more gelato please.” Power outlets in Italy are circular, with two or three cylindrical prongs in a row. An electronic adaptor will allow you to plug in your devices anywhere in Italy.
Some appliances that deal with motion or temperature, like a hair dryer or electric razor, will also need a voltage converter. Check the label or check online to be sure if your appliance is compatible with wall outlets in Italy. You can buy the correct adaptors and converters online or in stores such as Best Buy, Target, and B&H.
When deciding what to pack for your Italian adventure, consider the time of year you’ll be travelling. To really go in-depth, check out the best tips for what clothing to pack for your Italian vacation compiled by Cristiana, our very own Italy expert.
In general, pack light, neutral colors that you can layer and comfortable shoes, but also keep in mind if you’re planning activities that require more elegant attire. If you’re planning any nice dinners, be sure to pack long pants or a dress in addition to your shorts. Some fine dining establishments may require jackets for men – if you’re unsure, it never hurts to ask! You’ll also need outfits that cover your shoulders and your legs down to your knees in order to enter into Italy’s beautiful churches and basilicas.
Finally, make sure to pack comfortable shoes, but to best blend in with the locals stick with your favorite pair of flats, boots or walking shoes. In most cities, you’ll find people selling umbrellas on every corner – especially when it rains – so feel free to leave yours at home and get a small one only if needed. Instead, bring sunglasses in the hopes that you will be wearing them every day with beautiful sunny weather!
Read, Watch and Get Inspired
In the months counting down to your Italian adventure, consider reading books, watching movies or binging shows that will best prepare you for your trip – be it the delicious food, beautiful sights, rich culture or friendly locals.
For a romantic and hilarious trip to the Italian coast, dive into the book Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, about an almost-love affair between an Italian innkeeper and a Hollywood actress. Elizabeth von Arnim wrote her novel The Enchanted April in Portofino, following four English women – all strangers – on their tumultuous vacation in Portofino’s Castello Brown and their journey to find beauty and tranquility together on the coast.
Pop some popcorn for the classic film Roman Holiday (1953), featuring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck as the unlikely lovers in the midst of Rome. The Trip to Italy (2014) follows two friends on their hilarious culinary road trip from Piedmont to Capri. For a shorter adventure into the cuisine of Italy, watch the first episode of Netflix’s Chef’s Table, featuring Massimo Bottura and his innovative food, which he serves at Osteria Francescana in Modena. Aziz Ansari also dines here during season 2 of Netflix’s Master of None, which features Dev’s trip through Modena to learn how to make pasta.