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Episode #205: Best Ever Tips for your 2024 Italy Trip

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Planning a trip to Italy in 2024 and beyond? As you gear up for an unforgettable adventure, meticulous planning can be the key to transforming your dream trip into a reality. To help you navigate planning a memorable trip to this enchanting country, we have 10 tips for getting organized, fast-tracking your activities, accessing the finest recommendations, and tapping into expert trip planning. Discover ways to help ensure your Italian escapade is not just a vacation but an experience tailored uniquely for you.

Show notes

The holiday season and new year are a great time to start planning and getting your ideas in motion for a trip to Italy. The weeks all too easily start to fly by and before you know it you’re packing your bags and heading to the airport. In this episode, Untold Italy founder Katy talks about planning your adventures for the year, things to consider in your planning and finding expert, personalized trip planning for Italy in our newly launched Italy Trip Planning Services.

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What you’ll learn in this episode

Long-time listeners of the podcast will know that we at Untold Italy are huge advocates of being super organized and booking in advance. Unfortunately, we have recently seen a lot of disappointed people in our Italy Travel Planning community on Facebook who have not been as organized with their planning as you really need to be when traveling to Italy these days, as despite already being one of the most popular places in the world to visit, the main destinations in Italy have gotten even busier!

Tip 1: Get organized and book now if you haven’t already

Italy is incredibly popular as a travel destination for people from all over the world. If you have your heart set on a particular hotel or activity and you’re traveling between Easter and the end of October it really is best you book those now if you haven’t already. 

The most popular places to visit are Rome, Florence, Venice, the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento, parts of Tuscany, Capri and the Cinque Terre. Be careful of day trips to these places because this is when you’re likely going spend a lot of time stuck in transit amongst the 1000s of other day trippers. We strongly suggest staying overnight. Linger a little longer and you’ll catch these places at their best. 

An extra element for 2024

The Olympics are on in July and August in 2024 in Paris. It is likely that many travelers to the event from outside of Europe will extend their trips further around the continent, including Italy. This will add to numbers as what is already peak time. 

Tip 2: Build in buffer time

In the peak seasons make sure you’ve built in plenty of buffer time into your itinerary to account for delays in transportation and availability of taxis etc. It’s well known that there are simply not enough taxis or a comparable Uber service in Rome and Florence as there are in other major cities around the world. If you’re concerned about making your onward journeys stay close to where you need to be the following day (eg the airport or train station) or book a transfer. Your hotel will usually have a company they work with that can assist you with that.

Italy’s main airports are very busy – particularly before 11 am when most of the larger international flights depart so make sure you get there with plenty of time to check in particularly if you are traveling in coach or economy class.

Katy finds transit activity particularly stressful so aims to minimize it for her own trips. The best way to do that is by spending 3-4 days in any place to minimize transfers. When you’re checking in and out of hotels you’re missing out on exploring and enjoyment time. 

Tip 3: Don’t follow the herd – forge your own path

Travelers seem to have moved on from a checklist of sights to checking off experiences – cooking classes, food tours, wine tasting, golf cart tours etc.

There are so many things you can see and do – with 1000s on activities so choose, but aim to choose ones that will actually bring you joy. Cooking classes are fun if you like cooking but i you don’t – just skip it and eat at a nice restaurant instead. The same with boat tours – people may wax lyrical that that is the thing to do, but there’s no point forcing yourself to do something if it makes you sick.

When it comes to cooking classes, choose a class that teaches you:

  • dishes you’re likely to cook when you return home
  • dishes from the region you’re visiting. If you want to learn carbonara, do that in Rome as that’s where it’s from. Pizza making – do that in Naples the birthplace and master of pizza-making

Tip 4: Mix up your experiences – not everything needs to be an organized activity

One of the best things Katy did in Rome on her last trip was taking an early morning walk around the major sites before grabbing a coffee at a favorite cafe. The sights and experiencing walking in this incredible location never gets old, even if you’ve done it 100 times before.  Katy also likes going for a wander around Trastevere or in the Oltrarno district in Florence, in search of excellent gelato.

Out in the countryside or along the coast, a hike over the hills can be as relaxed or strenuous as you like and there are many many opportunities to do this in Italy, a country whose citizens are as interested in the great outdoors as they are about their food, wine, history and culture. You can combine all of this by wandering along an ancient Roman road, stopping to admire churches and castles and then enjoying a relaxing bite to eat and a glass of wine at a local trattoria. You can’t top that for the perfect Italy combo of experiences!

If you mix up your experiences you’ll also appreciate everything on a much deeper level. Whilst Katy is a dedicated history lover and museum nerd, she still gets fatigued after a few days of full-on immersion in art and culture.

Tip 5: Plan on walking… a lot!

As a minimum, you will probably do double your usual steps. This is for a few reasons – you are not sitting at a desk and you sometimes have no choice but to walk, when limited taxis and slow public transportation come into play. It’s surprising how easy it is to clock up 15,000 – 20,000 steps a day when traveling in Italy.

If you’re not used to walking a lot it’s time to build up some stamina so you can enjoy your time in Italy as best you can. Even if you have mobility issues I strongly recommend pushing yourself a little harder so you’re prepared for longer walks and uneven ground. Katy’s father bought walking sticks with him on their recent family trip – which were invaluable. 

It is definitely beneficial to break in your sneakers. There is nothing worse than hobbling about with blisters when you’re on vacation and new shoes, no matter how good quality, new shoes can be painful on the first few wears. Sneakers are probably your best option during the day because of the amount of walking. Katy has some comfy sandals for summer but sneakers are her go-to in cities and are suitable for any weather. 

Tip 6: Carefully consider the climate

W all know we can’t predict the weather – and so that needs to be considered in your trip to Italy too. The last few years have been unseasonably warm but there have also been torrential downpours on occasion. 2023 was hot from May to the end of October in Rome and southern Italy – over 30 degrees centigrade/85 Fahrenheit. That’s comfortable if you’re lounging by the sea but can be deeply uncomfortable when you’re out and about in cities and exposed historic sites. 

If you are someone who can become overheated and are bothered by too much sun and heat, plan your outdoor activities around the morning and early evening. Leave gentle walks, shopping, napping and lounging in cafes for the middle of the day.

Make sure you book tours and activities that are appropriate for the heat and book early or late if you can. Carry and drink plenty of water and apply sunscreen when you’re out. Tour operators have told us they are quite concerned about the number of unprepared people visiting large sites like Pompeii and the Colosseum affected by heat and sunstroke.

Whatever the season, pack a light rain jacket because you can never be sure when a downpour might hit.

Tip 7: Try somewhere new/different

We encourage everyone to try something new or different – especially if you’re traveling on a classic Italian itinerary following the route from Rome, Florence and Venice. We all want to see the classic sights like the Colosseum and Vatican museums but you can get such a kick out of doing something your friends and family likely haven’t heard of. It could be an incredible rooftop view in Rome, an amazing country restaurant for a lazy lunch with amazing views or a secret wine bar in Florence adorned with amazing frescoes.

Take a detour, even if it is for a day, to somewhere special and unique

  • Florence is ideal for this with great train links to lesser-known towns and cities under an hour away like Arezzo, Prato and Pistoia
  • Naples is also a great place to do take day trips from. Of course, you can go to Pompeii, Capri or the Amalfi Coast but what about Caserta – a magnificent Palace, rivaling (if not beating) Versailles which you can learn more about in episode 112, or Herculaneum – another town destroyed by Vesuvius with way fewer other tourists
  • The beautiful island of Ischia is a stone’s throw from Capri but with way fewer visitors. The island is famous for its beautiful castle, seafood and thermal baths. Katy spent some time there on her last trip and you can hear more in episode 197

Not only will these places delight you but you’ll lessen the load on some of the popular sites that are struggling to cope with so many visitors. 

Tip 8: Have a plan to deal with crowds in the popular places

Many people have been shocked at the crowds at Italy’s major attractions this year. It has without doubt been on a whole other level compared to previous years judging by official visitor numbers. We don’t know if that’s going to continue into 2024 but realistically, Italy is always going to be a popular destination it is best to be prepared for crowds.

We’ve talked previously about visiting lesser-known sites but here are some other ways you can avoid crowds:

Stay overnight

We heard in our recent podcast episode 203 with Holly who lives on Capri, that the island is swamped by day visitors. If you stay overnight you’ll have the island to yourself from late afternoon to around 10 am the following day. This is true for other places too like Positano and Ravello on the Amalfi Coast and the villages of the Cinque Terre.
Facing the same has led to Venice, later in 2024, introducing a city tax for day visitors. 
If you really want to experience popular places, stay overnight and enjoy them at their very best. 

Get up early

Katy is an early riser and is usually out and about by between 7 and 8 am which is a great time to experience cities and popular locations crowd-free.
Things usually start to get really busy around 10 am and stay that way well into the afternoon.
In the case of the Trevi Fountain, you’re looking at a 5 – 6 am start in peak season to avoid the crowds – though there will be others there as others have cottoned on to the idea

Book private tours and take advantage of early starts

Crowds can literally squash your enjoyment of the main sites. The services of a guide at the main sites are invaluable. Not only to hear the amazing stories and tales that bring these places to life but also in terms of sheer logistics of getting around, locating everything and even getting in. 

Book ahead for restaurants in popular areas and cities

There is nothing worse than wandering around tired and hungry, and then settling for terrible food. Winging it rarely works somewhere like Rome or the Amalfi Coast. 

Venture away from the well-worn path

Always try, at least once on your trip, to go against the grain and head somewhere away from the mainstream tourist locations. That could be in the big cities, to head away from the touristy center to a more residential district – like Testaccio in Rome, or into the countryside and lesser-known towns and villages. There are even many regions of Italy where few venture. Katy always finds the most joy when she takes this approach.

Tip 9: Pay for trip insurance.

We hope this doesn’t happen to people, but during Katy’s get-together with family and friends in Italy in September, there were 2 hospital visits – both for very different reasons. Thankfully everything turned out ok and they were able to continue with their journeys but not everyone is so lucky.

A simple trip on a cobblestoned road can land you in hospital unable to resume your trip and needing to rearrange flights home and other logistics which always comes at a cost.

The biggest one is if you need to be medically evacuated. That’s a life-changing financial event if you don’t have trip insurance – to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars. We had a guest on one of our Untold Italy Tours who needed to return home for a family emergency and booking last-minute flights and transfers is a costly exercise that can be covered by your insurance.

Make sure purchasing insurance is on your list of trip things to do. It’s usually a very small amount compared to the cost of your overall trip and so worth it if the worst happens. Working out which one to buy can be confusing. Our article can be a useful starting point.

Tip 10: Get some help

Planning trips is fun for some people, whilst others find it extremely stressful. Even if you enjoy it you may not have time to spend hours scrolling through content on the internet, listening to podcasts or watching YouTube videos.

Katy does a lot of research herself and enjoys it, but having been in the travel industry for many years she knows where to go to tap into expert resources that she trusts.

There are lots of lovely, beautifully made YouTube videos or Instagram posts that sell you the Italian dream, but just because someone can put together gorgeous-looking content (which is a skill and fair play to them!) does not make them an expert on visiting the location. Learning and building expertise in anything takes time and effort and I’m looking for people who have made mistakes, learned from them, gone back to the destination multiple times and looked at their travel experiences from several perspectives. 

Do get some help when you need it. Katy always does when she’s going somewhere new – even in Italy. She will always tap into her network when going into the regions she’s not so familiar.  Apart from getting insider access to the best things to do and places to eat, you can also learn valuable insights about logistics and planning. She did this on her recent trip to the Dolomites where she had some incredible support from friends and experts on the ground so there were no logistical surprises. Particularly useful in regions like this which there is less information about. 

Untold Italy Resources

How can you access this help? At Untold Italy we have many podcasts and articles available on our website and on your favorite podcast apps. Our podcast features guests with many years of experience in many aspects of travel – from hyper-local experts in the 20 regions of Italy to tour operators and fellow travelers.

Katy has a team of people making sure the information is as up-to-date and correct as possible. There is a huge range of topics and locations – if you want to know the Best place to stay in Rome (one of our most popular posts). We also have articles on How to buy Vatican Museum tickets and the Best agriturismi in Tuscany. Not sure where to start? Our Italy trip planning guide is great for getting you started.

If you’re not a big fan of trawling through information we have some quick-fix options in the form of our digital travel guides and trip and city planners in our shop. These summarise our best tips and recommendations for popular destinations in Italy. They are digital downloads you can access quickly and will give you a head start on all the trawling – restaurants, sights to visit etc and you can take them along on your trip.

Untold Italy Trip Planning Services

For those of you who want personalized assistance and access to our very favorite places to stay and visit, we have just launched our very own Untold Italy trip planning services. Our amazing team of Italy travel experts on the ground in Italy and around the world are ready to help you plan your dream Italian trip. You can choose from a service that helps you refine your itinerary or even help you start if you’re feeling completely overwhelmed.

We can advise on logistics and transport and get you all organized for an amazing time in Italy. We can also help build a complete day-by-day itinerary plan. That would include mapping out a personalized itinerary for you including timing, activities and accommodation.

This set of services has been a long time coming as we only wanted to offer them if we felt travelers could access maximum value for their Italy trips by engaging us. After some great feedback from our Untold Italy Tour guests, we’re now ready and excited to open this up to a larger audience. You can find out more and book a consultation at untolditaly.com/services.

Click for more on our Italy Trip Planning Services

Untold Italy Tours

Ever wondered what it would be like to experience authentic Italy beyond the mainstream tourist sites – finding hidden gems off-the-beaten path in Italy, but were not sure how to go about organizing such a trip? Let Untold Italy Tours take care of it for you and help you discover an Italy that many visitors don’t get to see. Journey to untold regions and discover places, cuisine, histories and people which will create memories of Italy that stay with you forever.

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Transcript

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