You Can’t Call an Uber in Florence, and Other Top Italy Travel Tips
Heading to Italy soon? Not sure what to expect? Don’t worry, we break it all down for you here with our top Italy travel tips.
After years of trial and error, we have perfected the vital skill of arriving in Italy with minimal jet lag. Italy is 8 or 9 hours ahead of the US West Coast depending on the time of year. If you time your flights right, you can adjust quickly and enjoy every minute of even a brief visit to Italy. For example, if traveling from California to Florence, we suggest booking a flight with an evening departure and a European layover. If you board the plane around 7pm, chances are you will eventually be tired enough to get some sleep. You’ll arrive in Europe (e.g. Frankfurt, Paris, Amsterdam) in the afternoon of the following day, and then take your short flight to Florence, arriving around the same time of day as your original departure. Now it’s evening and you don’t have to force yourself to stay awake long. Enjoy a dinner and walk before bed, and wake up refreshed the next day. Be sure to drink plenty of water on the flight, as hydration is key to staving off jet lag.
We love almost everything about Florence, but one catch is that Uber and Lyft do not operate there. You also can’t hail a cab from the street as one might in New York or San Francisco. Instead, the city’s map is dotted with taxi stations. There’s one in almost every major piazza. Typically there will be several cabs lined up waiting for customers. On occasion there is a line of people waiting, but I have never waited very long. You can also call a taxi service and have them pick you up wherever you are (try +39 055-4242 or +39 055-4390). Tickets and schedules for the local bus service can be found in every Tabbachi (convenience store) around town, and the trains work well for travel to cities outside of Florence. The bullet train to Rome takes only 1 ½ hours, compared to a drive of three hours or more. And finally, your best mode of transportation around Florence is always your own two feet. Florence is a very walkable city. Unless you’re venturing out, for example, to take in the views from the hills of Fiesole or the baths of Montecatini Terme, all you need is a sensible pair of shoes.
What to pack
Weather in Italy can be variable, especially if you visit during my favorite times of year- Spring or Fall. Layers are key, as well as a light rain jacket and umbrella. Though Italy is very fashion-conscious, don’t be afraid to pack (and wear) your sensible shoes. You’ll be doing a lot of walking and it seems to me, after years of observation and study, that only native Italian women can navigate the cobblestones in stilettos. Speaking of shoes, be sure there is room in your suitcase for some purchases. My favorite shoe store in Florence is NeroGiardini, small and boutiquey yet reasonably-priced. We recently wrote an article about what to pack, which you can find here. Remember to bring your phone charger and a plug adaptor suitable for Italy, but leave the hairdryer and other simple electronics at home. They are generally not surge-protected and will burn out even if used with an adaptor. But don’t worry, all of our properties come equipped with hairdryers. Lastly, check that your passport has at least 6 months remaining before expiration.
Know a Few Italian Phrases
Unless you’re really venturing off the beaten path, most folks you’ll encounter in Italy will speak English, or at least enough English to get through the relevant conversation with you. Also, most Italians are very polite and patient about your struggles with their language. However, it’s always nice to arrive prepared with a few key phrases. When greeting someone in the morning or anytime before noon, buon giorno (“good morning” or “good day”) is the perfect thing to say, and will be reciprocated in kind. From about 2pm onwards, you’re clearly in buona sera territory (“good afternoon” or “good evening”). To be honest, no matter how many times I’ve been to Italy, from around noon to 2pm I’m still a little stumped. The fact is that you can get by with either greeting. Buona notte (“good night”) is reserved for a farewell at nighttime, such as on your way out of a restaurant after dinner. Come stai or come va are ways of asking someone how they are doing, or how it’s going. The answer will hopefully be a resounding bene! (“good” or “well”). Just for fun and to sound a bit like a local if someone asks you come va?, you can say non c’e male (“not bad,” pronounced “non chay mah-lay”). For more, check out our list of 99 useful Italian words and phrases here.
Now that you’re ready to go, contact us to book your trip!