Italy is America’s favorite travel destination with an overwhelming 46 million people visiting Italy in 2012. With Americans having the shortest vacation time in the Western world, it’s important to make the most of your time and money while on holiday, especially in Italy. If you can avoid Italy during the peak summer months, you will minimize the oppressive heat and crowds. My favorite times to visit are either Spring or Fall. If you are limited in time or can only travel during the peak summer months, why not travel smart? I suggest the following time and money saving tips during any trip to Italy.
Avoid crowds, long lines and save time by making reservations to key sights. For some sights like Da Vinci’s Last Supper (Milan) or the incredible Borghese Gallery, reservations are compulsory. While the Uffizzi Gallery & Academia (Michelangelo’s David) do not require reservations, I strongly advise reservations (and well in advance). These top museums and must-see sights can easily be booked online or by phone. Visiting either museum without a reservation can be frustrating and waiting in line can be a huge waste of precious time. Reservations make sightseeing much more time efficient and less complicated. While booking online may be easier, often reserving by phone will give you a wider option of availability.
Book A Tour/Hire A Guide/Small Group Tour
Hiring a recommended guide or booking a local tour can have its time saving perks. The Vatican Museums have a special entrance for guided or small group tours. Often, officially sanctioned tour guides and small groups have pre-selected entrance times similar to a reservation. Specialty tours, like the Pope’s Private Gardens or the Scavi Tours, provide speedy access and a unique perspective on the must-see sights.
Get A City Pass
Roma Pass: This handy pass is valid for free entry into 2 state-run museums or archaeological sights. In addition, it includes 2 days free use of the city’s public transport (Bus & Metro). This pass allows holders to enter the Coliseum through a reserved turnstile (a huge time-saver). The Combo Colisseum ticket counts as 1 sight and includes the Coliseum, the Palatine & Roman Forum (Price €12). Price of Pass: €30. Available at the airport, Termini train station and several subway ticket offices including the Spagna stop near the Spanish Steps.
Florence Card: Admission to the major museums, villas, churches and historical gardens in Florence. This means priority access with no reservation requirements. Valid for 72 hours. Also provides free public transport on city buses & trams. Pricey at €72.
Know the Ropes and Go Local
Save time by investing in a centrally located hotel. For example, about 25 million people visit Venice every year, 6.4 million actually spend at least one night in or around Venice and only 60,000 Italians call Venice home. Avoid the hordes of day-trippers and cruises by going local. Go to St. Mark’s Basilica for 9am mass instead of waiting in line for the Basilica to open at 9:45am. Stay on the main island, walk the small backside streets and wait until the tourists go back on their ships. You will have a different less-crowded city than the masses that shuffle between the Academia & St. Marks.
Eat Like A Local
Eating like a local can lead to memorable and unique culinary experiences. Sit down for a coffee and relax. In Venice, enjoy the various cachet bars. Cachet bars are the pre-dinner local spots that serve lots of friend nibbles direct from the catch of the day. Accompany these with a nice Aperol Spritz or Bellini. Throughout Italy, go local during appertain time (the local happy hour). During apperativo time, the local bar puts out tasty local food to nibble on while you enjoy your process or glass of wine. Lastly, try your best to assimilate your eating time schedule to the local’s and it will help avoid overcrowded restaurants.
For more information on traveling smart through Europe and other destinations, visit AngelsTravelLounge.com
Angel Castellanos is an intrepid traveler that is passionate about where the next journey will take him. Traveling to over forty countries on four Continents, Angel draws on his experiences to teach “Smart Travel” and equip travelers with skills to make their trips easier and more enjoyable. His love of travel has motivated him to give hundreds of motivational travel talks throughout the country. Angel has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Travel & Adventure Show Series.