If you plan to travel to Italy, here’s the No. 1 most important travel tip: Eat gelato as often as possible. Italian gelato is one of the greatest delights in the entire country. Referring to gelato as ice cream is borderline blasphemous.
If you want to “experience” rather than just “see” the country, the best advice is don’t try to see or do too much. You can’t experience everything Italy has to offer in a week or even a month. First decide what and where you are most interested in exploring and then choose the locations. Concentrate on seeing a few things and seeing them well. Take your time and relax. Consider staying in one place for a few days. You’ll get a better feel for the locale. Don’t make checking an item off your to-do list a substitute for enjoying the essence of a place.
Consider getting up early. Crowds usually don’t arrive at popular sites until well after breakfast. Have a refreshing afternoon nap during the heat of the day and then stay up late to enjoy the social interaction of the local community. Italians eat late, usually around 8 p.m.
Plan to get off the beaten track. That may mean getting away from large cities, but you won’t regret it. Don’t totally dismiss the popular tourist attractions, but a few days in the Tuscan countryside can build some great memories, too.
If you’re interested in an inexpensive place to stay and a way to gain an appreciation for how people live in rural Italy, you may want to try an agriturismo vacation. Agriturismo is a combination of the Italian words for agriculture and tourism. It is a style of vacationing in country or farmhouses that is similar to bed and breakfast accommodations. An agriturismo vacation is suitable for the whole family and in some places can be very romantic or luxurious.
To get on an Italian’s good side, learn a little Italian. To get a flavor for the local cuisine, eat where the locals eat. To save money on incidentals, shop local supermarkets. In general, in order to get a feel for the country and its people, experience Italy as the natives do. The Italians you meet will be pleased that you’ve at least tried to fit in to their culture and you may just experience the vacation of a lifetime.