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PackitUp Travel Guide
Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC
Once again, Southern Europe! We are going to Italy this week and the whole PackitUp team is stoked about it. We spend a lot of days researching, preparing and then publishing these blog posts and we all get super excited about each and every aspect of our content. Italy was specifically hard because it is such a gorgeous and culturally rich country, you want to take off immediately and go on a long vacation.
Italy is home to some of Europe’s most important historic sites, most beautiful beaches and most iconic landscapes. Anyone who is planning to go around Europe has to have Italy on the list.
From the canals in Venice, to Vatican City in Rome, to truly countless iconic art pieces (Michelangelo in the St. Peter’s Basilica and his David, Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper, the Wonky Tower of Pisa) Italy has enough potential for discovery to cover weeks and weeks of traveling.
Next to the busy streets of Rome, Venice, Verona, Bolongna and Naples, there are dozens of hidden gems in the countryside, beautiful little villages in the Alps and small, secluded beaches along the coasts.
About the same size as California
Rome (Technically, San Marino and Vatican City are landlocked countries within Italy)
1 USD buys 0.88 EUR
Standard European plug with 220V to 230V with a frequency of 50HZ
ATMs & Cash
The bigger cities will have ATMs widely accessible and most stores accept credit cards as payment. In smaller cities and towns cash will be necessary, especially with smaller purchases. Make sure to figure out the cheapest banking solution to withdraw money or pay with cards.
Italy is a very safe country but travelers should be aware of pickpockets, especially in big cities with crowded tourist locations.
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There are a lot of ways to get around Italy, each one with its ups and downs. You should consider different means of transport for every stage of your journey to get the most convenient and budget-friendly experience.
- Flights: Short-distance flights can make sense in Italy, keep in mind that you have to get to and from the airport, check in, go through security and be at the gate well before boarding, so it could actually make more sense to take trains or the bus if time is a factor. Both EasyJet and Ryanair offer domestic and international flights in Italy, starting from sometimes just a few Euros. Of course keep the baggage restrictions in mind with those airlines.
- Trains: The national train system is called Trenitalia, there is also a private company running a few lines called NTV (Italo). Getting around between cities by train is a good idea in Italy, make sure to check both companies. Also, their fast train is called Frecciarossa, which already sounds awesome.
- Bus: FlixBus is by now an established option when getting around Europe, offering super cheap fares. You also don’t give up too much comfort, there are outlets, WiFi, regular stops and they are mostly on time.
- Car Rentals: If you want to drive, make sure you have an international driving license. Find out how to get those at your local public authority. Keep in mind that gas prices vary significantly from country to country, so do some math beforehand. Also be cautious on Italian roads, especially in the Alps. Very windy situations with massive busses coming around corners at light speed.
- Public Transportation: Buses, metros, cabs, Ubers, all very reasonably priced and not much different to other European cities usually. That means not always on time, hard to understand for out-of-towners and you’ll go the wrong way first.
- Car Sharing: Definitely a recommendation when going from city to city. Check out BlablaCar. You might just meet some awesome people and get from A to B fast and cheap. Not that unusual anymore.
BUDGET AND COSTS
The costs vary immensely, depending on if you are far out in a small town or in the center of Venice. Make sure to look up prices of restaurants and hostels/hotels beforehand to get a feeling for the price level of the place where you are going.
- Accommodation: Hostel dorms vary between 15 and 30 Euros per night and you get hotel rooms usually between 50 and 100 Euros. That of course depends on the level of luxury and how fancy the place is. An Airbnb can be as low as 20 Euros a night for a room and about 50 a night for an apartment.
- Food: Eat as much as you can! Eat all the time and anywhere, you will not regret it. The food prices are pretty standard for a European country. If you are in a city you will have to look around a bit to find reasonably priced places. You can have very lavish feasts and pay a weeks salary on it but looking around you might find something for around 15-20 Euros. Also consider going to markets and get some groceries to cook for yourself!
- Activities: Most museums cost between 10 and 20 Euros, plus whatever guide you desire. If you are going to go to a lot of tourist places, museums or sights that have a cover charge, consider buying some kind of tourist pass. That will save you some money.
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- BlablaCar: Honestly, this is not a bad option. So far I have only had positive experiences (but I also don’t mind if the driver has a heavy foot).
- FlixBus: Yes there can be smelly people and yes you are very very close to the person next to you but in my experience it has always been alright and just sooooo much cheaper than the other options. (Wait, am I the smelly person?)
- Cook your own food: Go to a farmer’s market, get some veggies, then off to the fish market, grab a super fresh fish, back to the Airbnb (yeah, this plan is conditional on having a kitchen) and cook away! Alternatively, why not go on a picnic?
- Drink tap water: You can of course be the guy who asks if the water is drinkable in any city outside of your hometown or you just drink tap water. Anywhere.
- Get a day/week/weekend pass for public transport: Those are really popular in Europe and usually provide a really good discount on fares. Like, really good.
- Couchsurfing: Also very popular in Italy. But make sure to learn Italian perfectly before going there or work on your gesture-communication-skills.
- Free walking tours: In bigger cities you can easily find those tours. Look for them on Facebook or Google it. They tend to change regularly.
- Buy local wine: Cheap and delicious. Combine that with an Italian countryside, beach or in a historic city part.
WHEN TO GO
This is a worth a good amount of consideration. During peak season, summer, June to August roughly, cities can get very, very, very full and equally expensive. Temperatures can be super hot too, so if you asked me, I would recommend May or September. It will still be nicely warm but overall it will be a lot more of a relaxed experience. Italy gets cold in winter but don’t forget the Alps! Skiing, Christmas markets and festivals are worth a trip too!
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