Italy Top Travel Apps & Tips
After returning from a month traveling in Northern Italy, I am realizing that I have been sharing a lot of “broken record” advice to friends headed there, so here’s my advice in one quick post just to make it easy:
Install this app for an as-good-as-it-gets train travel experience between cities. This train app accepts major U.S. credit cards (cards that don’t always work when purchasing tickets in person). And those paper tickets don’t give the clear information that this e-ticket provides (e.g. route number, etc.). Here’s what an e-ticket looks like when you purchase it with the app:
2. City Card
Before you leave home, check out the selection of city card apps and purchase an e-ticket to those cities that you know you are going to explore to the best of your ability. The Firenze card app is especially important to consider if you are wanting to visit as many museums as possible in Florence. The app has a great built-in navigation feature that shows you just how close you are to each museum. It is important to note that with the Firenze card you can only visit each museum once and the card is only good for 72 hours after it is first scanned. Be sure to keep your printout receipt after your QRC is scanned for each museum since you usually are required to present the receipt as proof of scanning. It is wise to make your reservations to visit the Duomo (if tickets are available at the main office) after you visit your first museum.
The app gives also you a history of the museums you have visited, which is nice to look back on.
Experienced travelers frequently use this app when English and hand gestures are just not enough to understand someone or get understood by someone. You may visit places in Italy where English is not widely spoken, so you are smart to download this app, practice using it, and have it ready to go when you need it.
It won’t hurt to learn a few words in Italian even if your visit to Italy is short. Duolingo is a fun and easy language learning app to use. Start using it about a month before you leave and you will learn some basic vocabulary and pronunciation of common words you will be hearing. If nothing else, it will bolster your confidence and give you a sense of satisfaction in knowing that you know at least a few Italian words and phrases.
If you want to set yourself up for a good cultural immersion experience, then read a good Italian novel during your visit. And since WiFi is not always available, be sure to have the novels downloaded on your Kindle reading app so that you can pick up where you left off during travel between destinations. I read My Brilliant Friend, the first book in Elena Ferrante’s wildly popular Neapolitan Novel Quartet series that is now on HBO. I am planning to read the remaining books in the series before my next trip to Italy.
This is the app that could save you an hour or more of waiting in line to re-enter the U.S. It is in use at most major U.S. airports. Just scan your passport information into this app and you can bypass the line of travelers who are waiting to have their passports manually inspected. I couldn’t believe how many travelers did not have this app installed and ended up waiting in long lines. It’s quick and easy to use but can be overlooked when you are busy getting other pre-trip tasks checked off the list, so my advice is to download and install it before you leave home so that you know you have it ready when you need it.
Some of the most important advice though is to check with your phone carrier for data plans before traveling to Europe. T-Mobile offers a plan for $10.00 per day to cover data needs. It really is worth it if you want to be able to stay in touch and post your photos to Social Media to share with your family and friends at home.
Also, you will be surprised at how quickly your phone battery can drain during travel. Before you go, delete all unused phone apps, disable notifications, switch to lower power mode, and use airplane mode, anytime you don’t need to be connected.
IMPORTANT: Purchase at least one (preferably two) external battery chargers to bring with you on your journey. Be sure to power these chargers up each night while you are sleeping (using your U.S/Italy power adapter). Oh and don’t forget to bring THE CORD to attach your phone to your battery, otherwise a recharged battery is of no help!
I just can’t resist passing along some other miscellaneous travel advice that will help you prepare for your journey to Northern Italy.
Nope on luggage: If you can travel with just a backpack, do it. Speaking from experience, there is nothing worse than schlepping a suitcase up and down the streets and bridges of Venice at 4 AM when you are trying to make your way to the bus to take you to the airport for that early morning flight home.
Mosquitoes: The mosquitoes in Italy are a force to be reckoned with! Buy and use mosquito repellent as soon as you arrive, otherwise you could end up with some monstrously nasty and irritatingly itchy bites—an annoyance that can easily be avoided.
Air conditioning: Try to book accommodations with air conditioning when traveling in the summer. Tossing and turning because it’s too hot to sleep and not being able to open the windows (because of mosquitoes and the absence of window screens) could spoil your next day’s travel experience. If this turns out to be unavoidable and happens to you, then recharge your morning with a caffe’ shakerato.
Exploring Cities in a Day: It is definitely possible to cover some of the smaller cities in just one day. Top on the list of those cities are Vicenza, Verona, and Pisa (which really can be easily covered in a half-day).
Not getting lost: Instead of relying completely on a maps app (e.g. Google Maps), when you arrive in a city figure out the major landmarks and make your way to your hotel and other attractions based upon the location from those landmarks. For instance, it is really easy to get lost in Venice, so if you find yourself confused as to your whereabouts, look for the signs to the 3 major landmarks: Piazza San Marco, The Rialto Bridge, and Piazzale Roma (the train station). If feeling lost, head back to one of those landmark areas to reorient yourself to your surroundings.
That’s it. Buon viaggio (have a safe trip)! Ciao!