Lots of travel bloggers share their ideas and tips that should help you make your trips a more enjoyable experience. And they do the right thing, but I decided to share my trip to Italy to show you how not to travel and I sincerely hope that you will not repeat my mistakes.
Back in 2013 me and my friend launched on our epic (I thought it was epic, oh, god, how wrong I was!) trip to Italy. And everything about that trip went wrong from the very beginning. Here is our plan:
- Rome – 3 days
- Florence – 3 days
- Venice – 2 days
- Milan – 2 days
- Verona – half a day
- Bologna – half a day
I guess you already see what was wrong with this trip. All our planning efforts concentrated on how many days we should spend in a city, not on what we would do or where we would go. I thought that we would figure out everything on site. And you know what? We didn’t figure out anything! If lying on the beach is not your perfect vacation, then you will have to come up with a plan.
Italy is an amazing country, and we wasted our opportunity to enjoy it. We used to wake up in the morning having a very vague idea about what to do, where to eat, and how to get to the destination. I had some paper maps with me, some we took at the tourist information centers, and just followed those tracks.
Of course, that was a total disaster. We had no idea how much time we needed to get to the place and spend there, we didn’t have internet connection to check it out, so we just hoped it would work out. We planned half a day in Bologna, but when we got out from the train station, we didn’t know which way to take! And strangely it was empty around, no people to ask. It took us some time and heated argument to finally find our way.
When you think of Rome, what comes to your mind? Of course, Vatican, Colosseum, and Fontano di Trevi. But there are so many other wonderful places that we missed because we came unprepared, and it happened in all six cities that we visited in Italy. We went to the Roman Forum, and just stared blankly at the ruins having no idea what they were: even the plaques with descriptions did not help. The temple of Saturn? Cool! These rocks tell so much history, and we can easily read those stones (sarcasm here)! When at Vatican, I learned that tourists could climb up to the dome just because I saw another queue and asked what they were waiting for. I knew nothing about Florence except the Ponte Vecchio and Uffizi Gallery. Big thanks to the guy who hosted us and gave us a map with the most interesting – in his opinion – sights. Venice for me was only Piazza San Marco, and I had no idea how many interesting places surround the square.
I learned my lesson the hard way, you don’t have to repeat my mistakes. So, here are my final conclusions:
- If you truly want to experience a city, do your research, make a rough plan, or at least a list of things you want to see and do.
- Don’t think – like I did – that 3 days is more than enough for cities like Rome or Florence.
- Make sure you have a map before you arrive at the city: if you are a budget traveler you won’t get taxi all the time. Google Maps shows public transportation routes, so take your time to check it beforehand: that’s what I do now.
- Don’t forget about the language: don’t expect everyone to speak English (or whatever language you deem people have to speak to understand you). My basic Italian was very helpful when we arrived late to Vicenza, and there were no buses at that time, so you had to text the driver your station and basically notify him that you need a ride. Sending the text isn’t difficult, the problem is to understand what you have to do.
I am smarter now: I know how not to travel. I have an amazing offline map that is connected to the GPS on my phone, and when I turn it on I can see myself moving on the map, which is really helpful. I check transportation options before I travel, I make solid plans with things I want to do and see including their opening times, prices, and ways to get there. And you know what? I never follow those plans 🙂 But it comforts me to know that I have a backup if something goes wrong.
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Well, in any city you travel, you have to stay somewhere 🙂 When I search for accommodation, I always use two options: it is either AirBnB (click here for a discount on your first booking with AirBnB) or Booking.com.
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