Lou’s Clues to Italy

I dedicate this to all who travel to Italy with a passion for experiencing a new culture, history, art, wines, fine dining, sightseeing, adventure and unique accommodations and location.

Before you go, know..

A few Italian words will take you through Italy like a pro.

In the Italian culture it is important to greet people in stores,

restaurants and market places.  A smile and a pleasant greeting

will make a great first impression.

Buongiorno = Good day – used morning and afternoon

Buonasera    = Good evening – used in the evening

Prego      = You are welcome – try to respond with this when someone bids you Buongiorno or             

Grazia     = Thank you (much like Spanish)

Scusi      =  Excuse me

Ciao          = Hello or Good-bye of a friend using their name-

                        like Ciao Maria

                      This is normally used with a name or sometimes

Just as we say “Good-Bye Good-Bye” they say

“Ciao Ciao”

Money - One of my clients gave me a good suggestion-

that couples should carry different credit cards just in case one is lost or stolen.  ATM machines are everywhere (well almost everywhere)

Many of my clients use them on a regular basis in Europe, others

prefer to carry additional US dollars in a money belt.  Travelers checks are seen less and less and may not be accepted everywhere, but banks and larger stores still accept them.  Take a few personal checks.  You will be surprised at the places that will take a check.  Purchase some Euros before you leave the US. You will need money right away for taxi, tipping and small purchases.  In Grand Rapids you can walk into the Fifth Third Bank on the corner of 44th and Patterson and purchase Euros.   If your bank is Fifth Third, this is a good choice, but may be pricey if you are not a bank member.

Always call ahead to verify the charges for exchanging dollars for Euros.  Your own local bank will also order Euros for you.  The location that I also use is in the international airports.

You will find a currency exchange booth selling currency for anywhere in the world.  All sellers of Euros make money on the sale of currency one way or the other.  Either they charge a fee for the exchange or the rate or exchange is a little higher because it included the extra money.  Another place that I use to exchange money is in hotels and if you are in the Plaza by the Trevi Fountain in Rome, the hotel Fountaina usually has a good rate.  Please don’t spend all your time looking for best rate; you have more important adventures to participate in than Euro searching.  The worst rate that I have seen is in the Rome airport.

Security of passports, credit cards, travelers checks and money You will hear me say over and over again “wear a money belt”

The best are the light mesh, with a light waist belt and zipper pocket.  If the zipper pocket has a little plastic lining, all the better.

You can purchase these in most luggage stores, some book stores, airports or in Grand Rapids in the Woodland Mall. Many of your hotels will have a room safe and can be trusted, but I like to have things with me and a money belt meets that need.

 Make a copy of your passport and put the copy in your luggage or anywhere separate from your real passport.  If you lose your passport this will not get you back into the US, but it will help you reduce the time of getting proper papers from the US Consulate.  It is also a good idea to give me your passport information so I can record it in your personal travel record.

Before leaving the US contact each provider of your credit card and bank card and let them know you will be using your card in Europe.  In the case of your ATM card, verify that it will be usable in Europe.  Also ask what, if anything, they are charging for the currency conversion or the number of times you use it.  Know what your daily withdrawal limit is for your ATM card.

Airline, Airport, Security, Luggage- go figure – these change everyday. Please talk to me about the latest situations or browse our website for the latest information.

Day Tours – If we have not completed your daily tour selection you may see many good ideas and make reservations by visiting the sightseeing section of our website.

Rome – This exciting ancient metropolitan city has so much to offer that one visit is never enough. 

Getting around Rome – Walking is the very best way to experience every moment of your journey, however when time is limited or you just want to go somewhere more quickly, you do have choices.

The bus system is very good and you can buy a bus ticket at the little news stands along the street.  When you get on the bus there

is a machine for you to insert your ticket.  They also have a metro system that stops at the main points in the city.  If you use this option, purchase a day or multiple day pass at the metro station and insert it in the turn style machine on your first entrance to the metro. On each time after this you don’t need to go through the turnstile, just walk through the open gate.  Don’t be worried if they ask to see your pass while you are on the platform, sometimes they do a random check.  This is an area where pickpockets seem to work. Keep an eye on everything.  Pickpockets are everywhere in Europe.  Italy seems to have more than their share.  I have never known of anyone getting mugged (as you might be in New York).

Don’t have anything in back pockets, and ladies if you must carry a purse, put it under your arm and have another hand on it.  If you put money in your front pocket and you are in a close crowed area or you just sense something is just not right, put your hand in your pocket.

To take a taxi from one area to another is often a good idea.  There are taxi stands along the street.  Look for the signs on the poles along the street.  You cannot hail a taxi, you must go to a taxi stand and the next taxi available will stop for you.  I have had some success in hailing a taxi, but I had to just about jump in front of him and he was not happy with me when he stopped.  Only use a taxi that is metered and always ask the cost before you ride.  The Italians seldom tip a taxi driver, however a 5% tip is always appreciated.

A good night walk is from the Spanish Steps to the Trevi Fountain down the Via Corso or to the Piazza Navona, where the artists can be found.  There is a special magic to Rome at night with the fountains lit.  Most of shops are open until 7pm.

For a full list of very good day tours including the Coliseum and Vatican see the Sightseeing section of our website.

Tipping –About 10% in restaurants is ok for tipping.  In many places they include a service fee (tip).

If this is the case your server gets very little of this, so leave an additional small amount if the services are good.    Luggage handling should be taken care of with a tip.  Tour guides do expect 3 Euros for short tours or full day guide is 5 euros per person.  Tour bus driver are tipped 3 euros per day per person.  Much of their income is from tips. 

Public Restrooms (Toilettes)- Many have a small dish for tips or a person at the door, or even someone selling toilet paper. Have a few coins in your pocket for this.  However remember that 1 euro is a coin, so watch what you leave.  It is also a good idea to have a few tissues with you just in case…

Have a few tissues in your pocket for possible use in restrooms.

Hotels in Italy- Due to the age of most of the buildings, your hotel room may be too large or really, really small.  In hotels the rooms are not all the same size.  You should expect clean and neat rooms, but please be understanding of size and décor.  Some will be wonderful old European décor and others will be plain and simple.

This is all part of the enjoyment of being in a different culture.

At each hotel ask for a street map from the front desk and ask them

to mark their hotel on the map for you.  I also recommend that you take business card from the front desk (if they have one).  If I have provided you with the hotel business card, please have it with you. This is a big help if you want to ask directions or to show to a taxi driver.  Even if the person speaks some English, you may not pronounce the name clearly enough for them.

Contact your Italy specialist at Breton Village Travel for planning your escorted or personal custom tour.

Watch for later additions of Lou’s Clues for other areas and cities.