5 Rules You Should Always Break When Traveling in Italy

5. Never Drive in Italy

Contrary to popular opinion, driving in Italy is not an extreme sport. Italy has an excellent network of motorways and if you are comfortable driving in the States, exercise common sense and be aware of your limitations based on language skills and itinerary you should be fine. Like all road trips you need to be flexible and have a sense of adventure. Expect to get lost even with a good GPS (mandatory). If you want to get off the tourist flow, travel like an Italian and see the country from the ground up, consider driving. Just remember do not park in a space marked Divieto di Sosta (No Parking) and follow a few helpful tips that I have learned driving in Italy.     ciao

4. Don’t Bother Visiting Milan

At first glance Milan can be a little intimidating. It doesn’t have the historical familiarity of Rome, the Renaissance art of Florence or the landscape setting of the Tuscan hill towns and for this reason many tourists tend to avoid spending time there. But that would be a pity because Milan has a style all its own, a style worth taking the time to see and get to know. Here is a list of must do’s for first time travelers to Milan. Sights and sounds they need to take the time to see and savor. I call it the M-List.

3. If You’ve Seen One Church in Italy You’ve Seen Them All

Each church in Italy is a time capsule of the art and history. Hidden meanings and messages that reveal themselves to those who take the time to explore them. Not only the great churches in the guidebooks but the small churches and chapels in the towns and villages contain works of art that are the envy of the greatest museums in the world. Each church has a architectural backstory and a sacred personality.

2. You Don’t Need to Know Italian

Of course, many Italians do speak English but if you will be traveling to little known places in Italy, outside of the tourist “comfort zone” you will need to understand and speak some Italian. That way you can experience all that Italy has to offer. Take some time before your travels to learn some basic Italian including verb conjugations. Phrase book Italian is confining and is a little like speaking from a script. Learning vocabulary is good but limited. Commit to a program that builds on more than rout sayings and idioms to carry on a conversation or you may end up like this.

1. Thinking That Traveling in Italy is Like Traveling in the States

You will be happier and more satisfied with your travels in Italy if you remember that you are traveling in Italy, a European country with a different monetary system, mindset and culture. Italians in Italy are not Italian-Americans. They are not stereotypical caricatures of the American media or even the same as our Italian-American relatives. They eat Italian food not Italian-American food. They don’t put Parmesan cheese or even call it Parmesan on seafood pasta or cut their spaghetti with a knife. They live in a political-economic system with different social mores and although there are more similarities than differences between us, respect and embrace the differences and you will have a more enjoyable time.

Engage in a mindful travel experience; actively attentive, aware (never order a cappuccino after 12 o’clock) open to the possibilities. Deliberately keeping in mind that you are a guest in their country and an ambassador of ours.

Fish Gelato

Learning the Italian language is a little like learning to ride a bike. It seems simple at first (after pizza and pasta, bella and baci, ciao and grazie what else do you need to know). It is a relatively easy language to read and speak because it is phonetically spoken, meaning that you sound out the letters speaking it the way it is written. And if you believe everything you read on the Internet Italian must be the easiest language to learn. Almost every Google search for learning Italian brings up the following

  • Easy Italian Learning
  • Learn Italian in 10 days
  • Learn Italian in 10 minutes
  • 10 Ways to Instantly Learn Italian

But like learning to ride a bike it does take time and a dedicated effort and if you lose your balance you’ll be sure to take a fall, like my friend did when he tried to order a cone of gelato in Italy.

The set up – When ordering gelato in Italy you will be presented with a staggering array of flavors and colors displayed like works of art. It is easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer number and variety of flavors with names like lampone (raspberry), limone (lemon), stracciatella (chocolate chip), gianduja (chocolate hazelnut) frutti di bosco (“fruits of the woods” –wild berries), mela (apple), pera (pear) and pesca (peach). And here is where my friend lost his balance. “Vorrei un cono  con  pesce gelato per favore (I should like a cone with FISH gelato). Of course he meant pesca (peach) gelato. The Italian word for peach (pesca) is very close to the Italian word for fish (pesce). He lost his balance over a word ending and everyone laughed in good fun.

Italian Apps

Travel or bring Italy home with phone apps that ooze “la dolce vita”. From ways to expand your Italian vocabulary with mobile flashcards to i Carmina, a web application that displays a different classical poem every day (in English and Italian), you’re just a browser away from total Italian immersion. 

Extensive data bases, navigation capabilities and advanced graphics make today’s upgraded phone apps insanely popular.  Here is a list of a few to further your Italian Education.

Traveling overseas? Look for self-contained apps and be sure to check with your provider to find out how to avoid enormous roaming charges when you get back from your trip

AccelaStudy uses a flashcard-like approach and audio pronunciations to familiarize you with over 2,100 Italian words in more than 60 subject areas. You can test yourself in English or Italian and save your progress between study sessions

Italia Oggi for Italy’s daily news

Tour 4D Milan , the city’s most significant landmarks viewed at different angles for a 3D view of the city

MuoviMi connects you to Milan’s public transportation system with time tables, Metro and tram lines

Florence in My Heart, one of several different audio guides to some of Italy’s most traveled cities

Rick’s iPhone App, Rick Steves’ personal interactive, multimedia guides with commentary and suggested restaurants, hotels and WC along the way