Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fall Travel Tips to Italy (or Europe in general)

Since I've been to almost fifty countries, I've learned a few things over the years about travelling (and packing) well. I thought I'd share some tips as well as a few photos from our recent trip to Italy. I really like travelling to Europe in the fall. Its  the 'shoulder' season where there are fewer tourists in general, but the weather can still be very nice... even nicer than summer, when it can be sweltering. It can also be cheaper.

Europe, and Italy, in particular is known more for fashion than we are in the US, where flip-flops are often a common footwear of choice (and I must admit that I can usually be found in flip-flops in summer 90% of the time). I'm not extremely into fashion (although the one tv show I have to watch each week is Project Runway). Whenever I travel, however, I like to blend in as much as possible and if you wear flip-flops, shorts, a sweatshirt, or white sneakers you are sure to be targeted as a tourist (and more likely to be pick-pocketed).

When travelling in fall, the main thing is to wear layers. You may think this means that you need to bring a lot of clothes, but this isn't necessarily true. When I pack, I like to lay out my clothes and have them mostly color co-ordinated and stay away from too many prints. Then I can layer printed scarves if I want for color, which are both great for warmth and for fashion. Europeans wear a lot more scarves too, so you'll blend in. For this past trip, I chose neutrals, greys, blacks, and some muted oranges. I also threw in a little turquoise to mix it up a few days. I brought one wool sweater and one light weight jacket. I also ended up wearing a thicker jacket on the plane and I'm so glad I did, as it was fairly chilly in northern Italy. I wore a pair of boots as well. It's always good to wear your bulkiest items on the plane, to save space in your suitcase.

When you pack, roll your clothes like the photo below. You'll save a lot of room and you clothes won't be as wrinkled when you go to wear them. I fit all my clothes in a carry-on size suitcase and I still had outfits I didn't even wear for our 12 day trip.  

Before you go, determine what size suitcase you will take and don't go any bigger. You'll always be happier if you pack light. A few years ago we took a two month trip around Europe and we over-packed, meaning that the tiny trunk of our rental car was too full so we put some things in the back seat. I was saying to my husband about two weeks into our trip that I thought we brought too much. Later that day, we came back to our car when we were in Barcelona, Spain to find that we had been robbed of pretty much everything, save a few stray items of clothes. Although at first we were upset, we were able to wear just a few items of clothes over and over again for the next month and a half with no problems. It was very freeing in many ways.

As another travel tip, be very careful in Barcelona. We came to find out that thievery is very common there. And you should never leave things showing in the car in most places in Europe.

On this past trip, one thing that I did when packing (which I will definitely do again) was to put all the clothes in a small bag (below) and then put it in the suitcase. This way I had an extra bag that I could just grab to bring into the hotel each night. I also brought an extra duffel bag so that I could bring things back (gifts etc). Both of these bags were very useful for the return trip. Many airlines are now cutting down both on the weight restrictions and on how many bags you can check. I hadn't realized before going, but Alitalia only allows one checked bag. Fortunately, on the way home, I checked the duffel bag, and my husband carried on my small suitcase as a carry-on and I carried this striped bag as a carry-on, so we could bring back much more without paying any extra.

Another packing tip (which I didn't take any pictures of) is to use zip-lock bags for underwear, socks etc. You can keep dirty and clean items separate this way. I also use zip-lock bags to keep necklaces, earrings, hair items, shampoos etc. separate. 

And now for a few travel photos...

Here we are in Lake Como. It was cold and I'm glad I had my jacket.

One of my favorite necklaces for travelling is the kind you can shape into all kinds of different patterns. I got this in Portugal, but I've seen them in the malls as well.

To go into churches in Europe, your shoulders and knees must be covered. Even when its hot, I like wearing cool skirts and dresses. Some don't care as much about the shoulders, but its nice to be respectful and that you are a visitor to their country. Some churches and monasteries will provide skirts for women or long pants for men to wear over their clothes.

Bergamo, Italy

In Ravenna. The most amazing byzantine mosaics I have ever seen! (I will post on this later)

In Florence at the Boboli gardens.

In San Gimignano, Tuscany/ Chianti

On the Amalfi Coast. It was much warmer here, and I'm glad I brought a light-weight dress, as well as more 'summery' turquoise.

at the ruins of Pompeii. Again, I have a nice light-weight dress. This one is strapless though, so I wore the light jacket over it, as it wasn't that warm... although I did take it off for a while in the car, so it was nice to have that option.

in Rome. I had a short sleeve shirt on, with the jacket when it was chilly.

at the Tivoli gardens outside Rome. I had a nice printed tank top, but again, it was nice to have layers.

on top of the Duomo in Milan. Again, it was colder in Milan, so the heavier jacket was great.

shops in Milan

Also, as you may have noticed, I like to carry a neutral medium-sized bag, for the camera, travel guide book etc. Since its not too 'girly', by husband doesn't mind carrying it as well... always a plus!

Anyway, hope you enjoyed these little travel tips and they will help you in future travels.

Travel is one of the best things you can do in life. It opens up so many doors to understanding and appreciation. I always encourage everyone who can to travel. Make it a priority. You'll never regret it!


Krystal said...

50 countries?? wow! great traveling tips!! I've been to the lake como part in switzerland - but just a drive through, i definitely hope to get back to stay :)

Melissa Blake said...

hi there -- thanks so much for visiting my blog!

Pip Pip Hooray said...

what a fabulous entry! Wow... you're a traveller alright :) I'm jealous.

Really enjoyed your post - wonderful ♥


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