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Sunday, February 28, 2010

What advice would you give someone who is traveling to Italy?

My mom and I are going to Italy in two years after my first year in college. What advice would you give us as far as when we should go and what we should see? Also, what should we take with us, and what's the best way to travel around once we get there? What did you enjoy/dislike the most about your trip?

ANSWER: Since you still have 2 years to plan, think about what kind of experience you want. By that, I mean do you want to spend your time on organized tours or have more of a spur of the moment adventure?

I'm assuming that you'll be going in the summer, so here's how/what I'd recommend packing: Travel light with a carry-on only (one with wheels and a handle); skip the jeans and shorts - opt for wrinkle-free dresses, one pair of capris and 5 tops in the same color scheme; a swimsuit; flip-flops; one pair of heals for the evening; a pair of stylish but broken in walking shoes; your own feminine hygiene products if you think you'll need them (the stuff over there is not the same); 2 washcloths (almost no hotel has them in Italy); small shampoo & conditioner and pump hairspray (by 2012 you may be able to take up to 3 0z bottles in your carry on, check the airline website for the latest rules. PRODUCT NOTES are based on my inability to find them there). Most hotels have blow-dryers, so don't bother packing yours. If you do, it'll likely blow up the first time you use it unless you take a power CONVERTOR. I say skip the convertor and pick up a couple of little adapters at your local travel shop - for your cell phone charger or whatever other electrical devices you take along. Oh - cell phones - every travel guru is going to say get your phone unlocked before you go then buy a sim card for Italy. Don't waste the money on that or phone cards. Just call your cell phone company and add international calling to your account for the month (with AT&T it's $4) then only use your phone for emergencies. If there are things that you and your mom can share, split them up and only take one between you.

Travel: Every city has hop-on hop-off tour buses. Tickets are usually about 20-30 Euros each, but they're good for 24-48 hours. They'll give you a good lay of the land and you can use your pass to get around as long as you choose one with frequent WELL-MARKED stops. I love the trains in Italy, but you'll need some detailed advice about how to use them the first time (travel guides didn't really prepare me for this).

What to see? Rome, the Cinque Terre, Pompeii, and the Amalfi Coast are some of my favorites.

Map tip: Every hotel has city maps with the local attractions highlighted. They're free, so pick one up when you get there.

Feel free to email me anytime. I'd gladly help you and your mom with any other questions you might have about safety, travel, whatever...

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