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General Italy Travel

Detroit, Michigan
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93 posts
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General Italy Travel

Hi everyone!

Our two-week trip to Italy is four weeks away and I had a few questions about general best practices.

1. How should we handle money? I learned that my Chase credit card has hefty foreign transaction fees after ordering my train tickets. At the same time, carrying around thousands of Euros makes me a little nervous. What's the best way to go about this?

2. Does anyone have any recommendations for learning the basics of the language? Are there any books that you would suggest we purchase before our trip?

3. Should we plan our restaurant destinations in advance or simply wing it? We will be in Venice, Florence, Rome, Sorrento, and Capri. If you think we should plan, do you have any recommendations for "must-haves" in these areas?

4. We have a general idea of the places that we'd like to go while in these cities: Gondola ride, Colosseum, Vatican, Fountain of Trevi, Blue Grotto, St. Mark's Square, etc. Are there any other must-sees that you would recommend? Any places where you would highly advise having a tour guide (we have one for the Vatican already).

5. How do cell phones and Internet work in Italy? I have Verizon cell phone service in the USA, but I don't think that this will work overseas without astronomical roaming fees. What would be your suggestion for being able to access Internet while we're walking around for maps, addresses, etc.?

Thank you very much for the help. We're incredibly excited!

Edited: 18 May 2013, 23:06
Australia
Destination Expert
for Pompeii, Herculaneum, Naples
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1. Re: General Italy Travel

Hi there Jeremy

Point 1. - Can you get a pre-loaded cash passport ATM card? They look and work just like a regular credit /ATM card but are pre-loaded with your cash before you leave home and have zero transaction fees. They can also be topped up from your bank account while you are away. Your bank will know about these.

Point 2 - There are some free apps for Italian language available if you have a smartphone - check iTunes. Alternatively, if you have a guide book, they normally have a bank of phrases and words up the back of the book (Lonely Planet guide books have this and it's very helpful).

Point 3 - Sorry I never make reservations - I just roam around and stop where it looks nice and affordable - menus are usually on display at the front of restaurants.

Point 4- How long are you in Sorrento? I would also recommend a visit to Pompeii and/or Herculaneum if you have the time. It's easy to access both places from the train. Schedule posted here:

eavcampania.it/web/…sorrento_0.pdf

Be aware that sometimes the Blue Grotto closes due to choppy conditions on the water, so have a Plan B for Capri in case this happens.

Point 5 - I notified my carrier before I left home and purchased a data pack - $900 worth of data for about $150. Your carrier will probably have something similar. Alternatively you could see about buying a SIM card at FCO but I've never done this so I can't advise on that further.

Have a wonderful trip!

New York City, New...
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38,687 posts
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2. Re: General Italy Travel

Even with the fees charged by your bank, you will still be paying less for your euros using ATM machines than if buy all your euros here (horrible idea -not only because you will pay more for them but because of how out of luck you will be if you lost them somehow).

The Italian ATM machines do NOT impose any fees; the fees will be from your bank only.

I have made just a few reservations in all my trips. I too like to scope out places and decide based on the menu. Sometimes I have found places that I think look good and will duck in and reserve for that night if I know I will be in the area. But, mostly not.

Edited: 18 May 2013, 23:26
Sydney, Australia
Destination Expert
for Train Travel
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3. Re: General Italy Travel

1. The pre-loaded travel cards available in Australia and USA are mostly very poor value for money, as they have high fees and/or a poor exchange rate. Use a debit card at ATMs to get money out of your usual bank account, just like you do at home.

Australia
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for Pompeii, Herculaneum, Naples
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4. Re: General Italy Travel

Nick - my pre loaded card from American Express had no fees and the same exchange rate as a bank. They're not all to be dismissed - some are really worthwhile.

Sydney, Australia
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for Train Travel
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5. Re: General Italy Travel

Some of the exchange rates offered by banks are poor. The only way of getting the true picture is to find out how many euros you would get on the card for $100, and then go to Google and look for "100 AUD IN EUR". You may well find that the difference is as much as 5%.

san diego...
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593 posts
5 reviews
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6. Re: General Italy Travel

Look into CapitalONE also. My credit card does not have any fees. It was a blessing in London and Ireland because that 3% can add up fast.

Kentucky
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49 posts
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7. Re: General Italy Travel

My husband and I just returned from Italy. We would recommend the Secret Itinerary Tour at the Doges Palace in Venice. It was amazing! The other tour we would suggest is the Underground Tour at the coliseum in Rome. Fantastic! Both need to be reserved in advance.

As far as money goes, we used our US bank debit cards at ATM's with no problem at all. Just make sure you notify your bank at home. We suggest taking out the maximum amount each time you get money as your bank will charge a transaction fee for each withdrawal.

Edited: 19 May 2013, 04:34
Philadelphia...
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3,508 posts
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8. Re: General Italy Travel

"We suggest taking out the maximum amount each time you get money as your bank will charge a transaction fee for each withdrawal."

That varies by bank. My credit union does not charge per withdrawal.

"2. Does anyone have any recommendations for learning the basics of the language? "

I'm generally a fan of the Radio Lingua podcasts. Sadly, they don't have as much on Italian as others, but the Daily Phrase series should be a good start for some basics. The BBC Languages site is not bad either: www.bbc.co.uk/languages/italian/lamappa/menu

pittsburgh
Destination Expert
for Rome
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9. Re: General Italy Travel

I have also found that a lot of banks charge a fee to reload more money on those passport cards. For me, I've never found them to cost less than using an ATM while in Italy. My bank doesn't charge a service fee and neither do the banks in Italy. I always get the best exchange rate while in Italy simply using my existing debit card.

Donna

Le Marche, Italy
Destination Expert
for Rome, Marche
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10. Re: General Italy Travel

At least in the US, those preloaded ATM cards may have no fees, but they usually more than make up for it with a horrible exchange rate (in their favor, of course). Be sure to check the exchange rate, as Nick suggests above, except using USD instead of AUD.

If you have only four weeks, I don't think it's worth getting a book, which doesn't help with pronunciation, anyway. You should learn to say the most common greeting and polite phrases, and the very useful, "Parla inglese?" PAR lah in GLAY zay ? (Do you speak English?)

The other important words are

Per favore [pear fah VOHR ay] (please)

Grazie [GRAH zee ay] (thanks)

Mi scusi [mee SCOO zee] (Excuse me)

Buon giorno [bwone JOHR noh] (Good day, general greeting until about 4 PM)

Buona sera [bwone ah SAIR ah] ) (Good evening, after about 4 PM)

Use the first three frequently, for example, "Mi scusi, parla inglese?" When you enter a shop or address a sales clerk or ticket agent, or anyone else, you should always start with either "Buon giorno" or "Buona sera". In Italy, people don't just walk into shops and ask, "Do you have bus tickets?" They start off with "Buon giorno."

Here is a web site where you can hear a native speaker pronounce the above phrases and others, although without the word emphasis that would be used in a conversational situation:

transparent.com/learn-italian/….UZidVqpH50s