Places to Stay for your Italy Vacation When you travel to Italy you can be rest assured that accommodations will not be a problem. Remember that this is one of the biggest tourist destinations of the world so there is a healthy helping of hotels, villas, inns, and bed and breakfasts to choose from. You may be on a budget, you may want to live in luxury, you may want to experience Italy in the home of an Italian or you may be traveling in a group and prefer to stay at a place that can accommodate everyone. All the largest international hotels chains have a place in Italy so if that is what you prefer then there will be plenty of choices for that especially in Rome. During your vacation to Italy you will find that there is something to suit everyone's needs. However to completely experience Italy on your vacation it is recommended that you stay at a small bed and breakfast if you can. Most of these are family run and you will hear all kinds of stories, folklore and little known facts that may not be in any of the guide books you may have with you on your Italy vacation. Some of the bed and breakfasts will even offer you a price to include a roundtrip ticket from London. If you are traveling in style and you are visiting Venice, you may want to consider staying at the Novecento Boutique Hotel. It is a chic bed and breakfast that is family run and offers luxurious accommodations. 30 minutes from the airport and offering free internet services, this hotel is modern but still maintains the old Venetian feel to it that will be appreciated by even the most discerning visitors. It is very close to many of Venice's main attractions and with only 9 rooms, it is most suited to smaller groups or pairs. Most of the rooms have antiques collected by the owners through their own world travels and the bathrooms are especially large. The food here is said to be excellent and this boutique hotel is noted for its peaceful setting even for being as close as it is to all the action in Venice. This is the perfect place to stay if you are in Venice for your Italy vacation. If you are visiting Florence, you should consider staying at a place called The Artist's Residence. Florence is the seat of Italy's artistic soul and this bed and breakfast is the perfect place to experience the renaissance. It is in the middle of old Florence and is furnished with 19th century sculptures created by Giovanni Dupre. The present owners of the bed and breakfast are his descendants. You will find original florentino tiled floors and even the bar counter was a confessional from 1500AD. Some bedrooms have terraces and you may be able to see the courtyard gardens from your terrace. Breakfast here is also said to be excellent and there are numerous restaurants close by to choose from for your other meals. There are 45 air-conditioned rooms here and also a gym and a solarium. This hotel also provides access to the internet if you cannot go without it on your Italy vacation. Sightseeing on your Italy Vacation You cannot go on an Italy vacation without doing some sightseeing. In fact this is one of the most cited reasons for visiting Italy. The country has a rich culture and a rich history. All over Italy are historic buildings, monuments, museums and all kinds of places to visit that will make your Italy vacation truly eventful. Italy is also a center for high fashion and along with the great food, friendly people, wine and the Catholic Church this may be one of the best sightseeing vacations you have ever been on. It is important to make sure you see the most important sights before you leave. So where do most people go to when they are on an Italian Vacation? When you go to Italy you must visit Rome. There are several popular places here for sightseers. The Colosseum is a very famous landmark in Rome. It is a huge open air theatre that was built by Emperor Titus in AD80 for games and gladiatorial battles. When many people see the Colosseum the movie "Gladiator" comes to mind. Another magnificent sight is the Pantheon in Rome. It is a huge temple built in AD120 and up until 1960 it had the largest dome in the world. Rome is also the home of the Pope in Vatican City, another popular destination for sightseeing on an Italian Vacation. Other cities in Italy that are popular for sightseers include Milan, Venice, Naples and Sicily. Pisa is a smaller city but it is world famous due to the Leaning Tower. It is a bell tower in the Pisa Cathedral that is made up of a group of 4 beautiful white marble buildings. Construction on this started in 1173 and went on for 200 years because of a lot of interruptions. Since the construction took so long, the bell tower started to lean hence the name. If you are a savvy sightseer or traveler and know some Italian you may be able to arrange to see all these sights for yourself. But you may want to consider having everything arranged by someone else because you don't want to miss any of the important places and you will benefit greatly from a guided tour. There are several sightseeing companies that offer tours for visitors. Guided tours will usually follow a pre-set route through a city or town during your Italy vacation. Not only are the guides fluent in English but they also have a wealth of information on the historical sights and there are opportunities to ask questions. Some tours on your Italian vacation will allow you to get off the tour vehicle to explore and then catch another tour vehicle from the same company later on. Or if you prefer not to walk, you can just sit back and enjoy the ride without leaving the bus. Sightseeing tours on your Italian vacation range in price. There are luxury tour coaches, full day tours, night tours and also several tours for vacationers on a budget. Cheap Italy Vacation For the budget conscious traveler an Italian vacation may seem far out of reach. But many people are surprised to find that visiting this destination may be well within the cards. One of the most expensive aspects of a vacation is usually the airfare and hotel. So what are the options available for those who want to enjoy Italy and save at the same time? Well for starters you may want to go on your vacation to Italy during the off season. This will mean that you will find cheaper airfares. There are great prices to be found for airfare especially if you plan to fly directly from a major international airport such as New York or London. All airfare rates drop dramatically after the summer. Hotel rates per night will also be more affordable. After the summer many hotels are recovering from the large numbers of people that came through their doors. You will find out that during your cheap Italy vacation most places are happy for customers that provide them with business during the off peak season. Service could be even better simply because there are fewer people to serve and focus on. The lines are also shorter for almost everything. Peak season is the summer months of June through August. So why not plan to go in September if you can? You will still enjoy all the sights and the remnants of great summer weather. For example Rome in July can go up to 92 degrees but may be 80 degrees in September. The advantage of going on your Italian Vacation during the off-peak season is that the crowds are not there, the weather is slightly cooler and Italy becomes more of itself. You can really experience Italy and its people if you go in the off season and you will save some money too. Not only are hotels and airfares cheaper in the off season but you will also find discounts available for guided tours and concerts. Another way to save on your cheap Italian vacation is to take public transportation whenever possible rather than a taxi. Of course this needs some planning in advance or you could spend numerous hours lost and wasting valuable time. But with an adventurous spirit and an Italian pocket dictionary in hand it can be done! Italy is well known for its extensive rail network. You can get a rail pass or buy tickets as you go. Either way this option will help you save if you are on a budget. Another great tip for a cheap Italy vacation is to forgo the hotel altogether. Rent a house or an apartment for a few days if you are in a group and you will save tremendously. This is especially true if you also factor in the presence of a kitchen that can allow you to make some of your meals rather than rely on dining out for every meal. Even if you have to stay at a hotel you should also consider fixing some simple meals such as sandwiches when you can especially if you come across a grocery store during your cheap Italian vacation. Italian People and your Italy Vacation One good reason to go to Italy for your vacation is the people. With over 58 million people in an area about the size of the state of Arizona, Italians are said to be some of the friendliest people in the world. Their love of life, food, people, art and their great culture steeped in thousands of years of history makes an Italy vacation a great choice for leisure travel. You will find that the people are charming and charismatic. They love family life and music and tend to be freely giving of their affection. During your Italy vacation you will notice that Italians are proud of their heritage and are passionate about everything they do. They are very welcoming to strangers and quick to share their food and offer their wine or even a joke or a story. So who are some of the famous Italian people that may be featured at some of the sites you may visit on your Italy vacation? One of the most famous Italian people is Leonardo da Vinci. Not only did he paint perhaps the most recognizable picture of all time "The Mona Lisa" but most people around the world have heard of him because of his painting "The Last Supper." This has become the source of several controversies such as the one portrayed in the book and the movie "The DaVinci Code." During your Italy vacation you will undoubtedly come across several places that are tied to the name of this famous Italian. For example he was born and spent much on his youth around Florence in the Tuscany region and later on moved to Milan. Unfortunately you will not find the Mona Lisa on your Italy vacation but the Last Supper is found in a famous church called Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. Galileo is another famous Italian also from the Florence area known for his contributions to math, physics and astronomy. You can visit the University of Pisa during your Italy vacation if you are curious to know where things began for Galileo. You can also visit the bronze chandelier in the Cathedral of Pisa that is said to be where Galileo first started thinking about his swinging pendulum theories. He is said to have timed the swings with his pulse while sitting in this cathedral. Marco Polo is another famous Italian. He was a Venetian who traveled and explored the world. He was buried in the Church of San Lorenzo in Venice and the house that is said to be his actual birthplace in Venice also exists and is frequented by people on vacation in Italy. Michelangelo is also a famous Italian whose name will come up during your Italy vacation. As a painter and sculptor he was said to be a rival of Leonardo da Vinci's. "The Last Judgment" is a huge mural he took 6 years to paint that is on a wall at the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican City. It describes the apocalypse or second coming of Christ. Michelangelo also designed the dome of the St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City which you will be able to see on your vacation in Italy. Seeing Art on Your Italy Vacation Italy is one of the art centers of the world. This is the home of the Renaissance and the world famous greats like Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael. During your vacation in Italy you will find that art here has strong ties to religion. Several of the greatest painters also painted numerous religious subject matters and were often commissioned by the Church to paint murals. If you are in the Tuscan city of Florence while on vacation in Italy, you may visit the Leonardo da Vinci Museum in the town called Vinci where he was born. The museum is in a medieval castle called the Conti Guidi Castle. The purpose of the museum is mainly to serve as a biographical memoir of the great artist and to describe his hometown and places of interest. There is also a great library here that holds almost everything that has ever been written about Leonardo da Vinci as a man, as an artist and about his pieces. You can get a guided tour of this museum if you happen to be in Tuscany for your Italy vacation. If you are in Florence you must also go to the Uffizi Gallery. This place holds the greatest collection of paintings from the Italian renaissance period. Many of the painters from that time lived in Florence. This town has beautiful landscapes and rolling hills and it is no wonder that the great artists were so inspired by living in this region. An Italy vacation in this area will allow you to visit this museum and see famous works of art such as Michelangelo's "Doni Tondo" Leonardo da Vinci's "The Annunciation" and Raphael's "Maddonna of the Goldfinch." An Italy vacation here will be a true feast for your artistic soul as you will not only get to see the masterpieces of the greats but you will also get to walk the streets that they walked on. If you are in Milan for your Italy vacation, you may want to visit the church called Santa Maria delle Grazie. This is the church that houses the famous mural painting of Leonardo da Vinci's called "The Last Supper." His other famous painting "Mona Lisa" sits in the Louvre Museum in Paris. The Santa Maria delle Grazie church is protected by UNESCO as a world heritage site of outstanding cultural benefit to humanity. It also has some very unique and beautiful architecture designed by Guiniforte Solari in the 1400s. It is said that during World War II one of the bombs dropped by the British and American planes hit this important church but the famous mural was saved because the whole wall had been sand-bagged. Although it does not feature art in the traditional sense of the word, the Archeological Museum of Naples is one of the greatest museums in the world of its kind and holds some of the most important findings from Pompeii and Herculaneum. You should strongly consider visiting this museum for a guided tour if you are in Naples for your Italy vacation. Seeing Architecture on your Italy Vacation During your Italy vacation you will find that architecture here has had strong ties to religion through the ages. Many of the great architectural pieces are religious buildings such as churches and chapels. Just walking around the tourist attractions and in the country side you will come across several chapels and churches with great and unique architectural design. There are numerous other pieces to see in the architectural center of the world. But as with many things when you are on vacation you will draw more out of a tour if you have a guide. You guide will be able to provide you with the history surrounding what you are seeing and its significance. He or she will be able to accurately describe the architectural style and point out important details. Although a lot of architecture is surrounded by religion in Italy, nothing says a great piece of ancient architecture like the Colosseum. This is one of the most popular destinations for tourists on vacation in Italy and also the world but the name of its architect is unknown. It is the huge stadium that was built for sporting events and is now infamous for the gladiator games that took place here. It could seat 50,000 people and had 80 entrances! During your Italy vacation you can enter the Colosseum by yourself or with a group for an unlimited time but you can take a guided 45 minutes tour which will only cost you a few dollars more. You will probably get more out of your visit by taking the guided tour option. An excellent piece of architecture that you may be able to see if you are in Venice while in Italy for vacation is the Il Teatro del Mondo. This translates to "The Theatre of the World." It is a more modern piece of architecture designed by Aldo Rossi that opened in 1979. Modeled after the floating theatres that were in Venice in the 18th century, it was constructed in a shipyard and then carefully towed across town. Using steel beams for support the builders welded the beams together to create a raft that now sits on the water. The architect Aldo Rossi had a dream to recompose Venice and as you will see during your Italy vacation here he managed to bring old Venice into the new. If you are in Florence, Italy on vacation, you should probably see the Pallazo Vecchio. It is huge gothic town hall with a famous copy of Michelangelo's David statue. At one point in Italy's history, this building was the seat of the government around 1865. It is now where Florence's city council holds its offices. Each room, courtyard and entrance features beautiful architectural designs. There are private rooms and studies and each room is named after an architectural feature in the room. During your Italy vacation, you can take a guided tour of this huge building or you can walk through it at your leisure to marvel at the amazing ceilings and beautiful designs. What you must know about Italian Language for your Italian Vacation When most people are planning a vacation to a different country, language barriers that may exist are a big concern. Some people even shy away from going to a foreign country for that very reason even if they can afford it. Going on an Italian vacation does not mean you need to learn to speak Italian first. However, you will need some basic vocabulary to help you get around and make sense of signs or even to ask for help or directions. If the person you ask for help does not speak English at least they may be able to point you in the right direction if you can say "bus stop" in Italian. Another reason to learn some of the language is to enhance your experience. The words you know before you leave for your Italian vacation will serve as a basis for you to learn more words when you get there and expand your vocabulary. Italian is considered a "Romance Language" because it is derived from Latin. It is said to be one of the closest to Latin and uses the Latin alphabet. Italian language is characterized by the stressing of certain syllables. There are formal ways to say things and informal versions. For your needs when traveling, the informal versions would probably be most appropriate. One of the most important reasons to learn a few Italian words is if you plan on using public transportation. Many guides, taxi drivers and hotel employees are fluent in English and most speak at least some English. But there are a few scenarios where you may need specific words during your Italian vacation. There are some basic words that you need to know. These are all the informal versions. Most people are familiar with the Italian word for "Yes." It is Si. No is simply No. If you need to say "Hello" it is Ciao. The word Ciao can also be used for "Goodbye." "How are you?" is Come stai? During your Italian vacation, everyone will agree that you need to know how to greet. Italians are very friendly people and to immerse yourself in the culture you must be able to respond when you are greeted or offer a greeting first. "Good morning" is Buon giorno! "Good afternoon" is Buona sera! "Good evening" is Buona sera! "Good night" is Buona notte! And that is in reference to sleeping well. For your Italian vacation it is important to learn how to say "please" and "thank you" These are Per favore and Grazie! Italian words that you will need to help you get directions include "Where...?" which is Dove...? This is a great word to know because it will help you make all kinds of sentences such as dove la toeletta? Where is the bathroom? If you plan on using public transportation at the very least make sure you carry around with you a card with words for "left, right, north, south, east, west, bus stop, train" etc. Or if you can, carry along an Italian dictionary. That will also be a big help on your Italian vacation. Visiting Venice for your Italy Vacation If you go on a vacation in Italy it is almost necessary that you visit Venice. Everyone who has ever been to Italy has an almost classic picture of them in a "vaporetti" or a "gondola" with a canal for a backdrop. This famous Italian city found in the north is also sometimes known as the city of water, the city of bridges and the city of lights. Vaporetti are motorized buses used by Venetians for transportation around the city's canals while the gondola is a Venetian boat that is now used mostly by tourists and sometimes for weddings or funerals. The city is made up of several small islands, 118 to be exact hence the need for water transportation and the many bridges. There are 150 canals and 400 bridges. There are also several art galleries and all together these make for an exciting experience when you are on an Italy vacation. You can get a Venice card which allows you free access for seven days into the museums and casinos. You will also get free waterbus or vaporetti services plus a free boat trip from the airport with this card. The airport in Venice is on the main land and is newly renovated. You can go to the train station from here to get to other parts of Venice. If you are driving on your Italy vacation you can also get to Venice by car but you will need to take a Ferry boat. The least expensive garage in Venice is the Tronchetta garage so you can park there and take a public boat or hire a private water taxi which can be expensive. You will be able to get one way vaporetti tickets, all day passes or if you are spending more time here for your Italy vacation you could also get a 72 hour pass. If you are in Venice you must tour the city by a gondola. There are several tours available. For something really different during your Italy vacation in Venice and if you are really in the mood for it, perhaps you can even take what is called a serenade tour. The tour is accompanied by a singer (usually a baritone) and a guitarist or someone playing the accordion. Several of these tours leave from piers near hotels in Venice. Your trip will probably be a little under an hour and you may see landmarks such as the Church of Santa Maria Formosa and the Bridge of Sighs. This bridge received it name because it is said that prisoners would get their last view of the City of Venice from here when on their way to confinement. If you are in Venice for your Italy vacation with a significant other make sure you take a gondola trip that will be going under this bridge under sunset. Legend says that lovers will be assured eternal love if they kiss under this bridge at sunset. Venice is usually crowded with tourists in the summer months so if you can, visit during the off season. Or you can simply opt for a private gondola tour which may be more expensive but will be away from all the crowds. Visiting the Vatican City during your Italy Vacation One of the most popular destinations for people on a vacation to Italy is the Vatican City. Most people do not know that this is a sovereign city-state. This means that it makes its own rules and has its own governing system independent of the Italian system. The Vatican City is a walled state within the city of Rome. It is the smallest independent state in the whole world with only a little over 100 acres. It was formed in 1929 under an agreement between the Kingdom of Italy and the Holy See. The Holy See refers to the central governing system of the Catholic Church headed by the Pope. The Pope is also known as the Bishop of Rome. The Vatican City houses the official residence of the Pope and it is visited by millions of people each year on an Italy vacation. You can enter the Vatican City through the famous St. Peter's square. This square is characterized by great Baroque architecture from the 1600s to include symbols of the church motherly embracing its people in its arms. St. Peter's Basilica is another place you can visit in the Vatican City while on your Italy vacation because it is also found in St. Peter's square. It is the most notable building in the Vatican City and this church's dome can be seen for miles around Rome. St. Peter's Basilica seats 60,000 and is said to be the largest building in the Christian church. It is noted for being the burial site of St. Peter who is said to be the founding father of the Catholic Church by being the first Bishop of Rome. The discovery of his tomb was announced in 1950 after a decade of archeological research. Catholic tradition says that St. Peter is buried under the altar of this Basilica and therefore all the Popes since then have also been buried in the Basilica the most recent being Pope John Paul II in April 2005. At the entrance of the Basilica are statues of Christ, St. John the Baptist and 11 of the 12 apostles. You can enter the Basilica for free during your Italian vacation if you are properly dressed with no bare shoulders or knees. If you would like to attend mass you should go to the Basilica on a Sunday. There are several other places to see here during your Italy vacation. The largest museum in the world is also found in the Vatican City. It has over 1400 rooms and galleries that represent 3000 years of art. The Sistine Chapel is also found here and is known for being the private chapel that the cardinals go to when electing a new Pope. So what is the best way to see all the sights that the Vatican City has to offer during your Italian vacation? There are guided tours available that can be taken for half a day or longer. You can take a guided tour of just the museum or a guided tour to include all the important places of interest in the Vatican City and this will ensure that you don't miss a thing here on your Italian vacation. Visiting the coast for your Italy vacation If you are like many people you need to see some water to feel like you are truly on vacation-lots and lots of water! Italy boasts some of the most beautiful beaches and resorts in all of Europe. The Amalfi coast is just south of Naples and you may want to visit this area as part of your Italy vacation. Amalfi is a resort town also known for its lemon trees. Not only do you get the sea here but this is the region that has the famous cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum and also the Mt. Vesuvius volcano. During your Italy vacation here you will find that public transportation is very easy to use especially around the Bay of Naples. If you do decide to drive around here on your Italy vacation you must remember that the roads along the coast tend to be narrow so you have to be very careful. There are several beach hotels and resorts and along with the sandy shores and green-blue waters this promises to deliver a beautiful Italy vacation. If you would prefer a seaside vacation away from most other tourists you would do better to visit the old fishing villages along the Italian Riviera. The Italian Riviera is a portion of the Italian coast that lies between the Liguiran Sea and the mountains. The capital of the Liguria region is Genoa. During your Italy vacation in the area, you will find that fishing is a huge part of the economy here. The fishing village of Portifino is world famous and tends to be visited by many tourists but it will not be as crowded as the Amalfi Coast. Here you will find the Statue of Christ of the Abyss placed about 17 meters under water to protect the fishermen and divers. Beach resorts in Japan and Orlando, Florida have been built to recreate the details of the Portifino Harbor on the Italian Riviera. For more beautiful coastal scenery during your Italy vacation, you may want to visit Bordighera. This is also a fishing village along the Italian Riviera. There will probably be fewer crowds here and this place is known for being a vacation spot for the wealthy in Europe. The palms used on Palm Sunday in the St. Peter's Basilica in Rome are from Bordighera. If you love seafood, you will have plenty of opportunity to indulge in delicious delicacies while you are visiting the coast for your Italy vacation. Seafood is a big part of these regions and you will be able to taste the freshness in the meals prepared by the restaurants you eat at along the coast during your vacation. Some of the best seafood restaurants in Italy will be found along the coastal regions. During your Italy vacation here you will get the chance to sample some mouth-watering herb-crusted shrimp, scallop linguine and traditional halibut fish with leeks. Olive oil, garlic and Italian sweet parsley are widely used in seafood dishes here along with other Italian herbs such as basil, oregano and rosemary. Transportation for Your Italy Vacation When most people travel, transportation is a primary concern. How do you get from the airport to your hotel? How do you see all the sights that Italy has to offer? What if you are traveling in a large group? What about public transportation? On your Italy vacation there are several options for transportation. Many international flights arrive in Rome so in planning your transportation needs you need to start from there. When you arrive at the airport you can rent a car from one of the several car rental companies. In addition to local companies there are the international names such as Hertz and Enterprise Rent-A-Car so you should be able to reserve your vehicle online in advance and have it waiting for you at the airport. There are 2 airports in Rome and they are called the Fiumicino and the Ciampino Airports. Buses and shuttles depart from the airports' arrivals areas about every hour and can take you to the Termini Station which is the central train station. From there you should be able to connect to all other parts of Italy. Public transportation although it requires some advance planning, is always the cheapest option for your Italy vacation. You may also want to learn some Italian words in case you get lost and need directions or need help. If your hotel is near the airport or is in Rome, you may also consider taking a cab. They are known as "taxis" here and most drivers speak English and can even serve as your tour guide if you choose. You may take a taxi out of Rome if your Italian vacation is starting outside the city. If your budget allows there are limo services at the airports that can serve your transportation needs when you arrive. If you are traveling in a large group you probably want to rent a van at least to get to your hotel from the airport. After that you can plan to join a guided tour as a group but its best to reserve tickets or space in advance if you want your group to stay together. To see all the sights that Italy has to offer, you will do best by signing up for a guided tour. With very knowledgeable and friendly tour guides, your Italian vacation can be greatly enhanced by choosing this option. There are walking tours, full day tours and night tours. Budget tours and luxury tours. If you are in Italy for a very specific sight you would probably want to do a walking tour. The tour guides on those tours give a more detailed presentation as you walk through the sight and some of them know little-known facts that are hard to find or read anywhere else. Non-Italian speakers will be happy to that the tour guides speak English. Also becoming famous are "transportation-included" visits to Italy. For your Italy vacation you may choose to visit a small village if you want to see Italy without the crowds. Many inns and bed and breakfasts provide options that include transportation around the village. Health and Safety Tips for Traveling Abroad for your Italy vacation When traveling abroad for your Italian vacation there are some tips that you should be aware of. First of all you must familiarize yourself with all the locations you will be visiting. Read as much as possible about the cities and towns you plan on visiting. If you are taking a vacation off the beaten path in Italy it is best to try to limit yourself to places that friends or families have recommended especially if this is your first time out of the country. The US Department of State strongly suggests that you register your travel before you leave. This applies to your vacation to Italy. Registering your travel will allow you to be contacted by family members and friends in case of an emergency. This is also especially important in case of a crisis in the country that you may be visiting. The Office of Overseas Citizens Services maintains a database of registered Americans out of the country so that you can be contacted if necessary. It is also strongly recommended that you leave a copy of your travel itinerary and copy of your passport photo page with a relative in the US before you leave for your vacation in Italy. Many countries have regulations as to what can be brought in or taken out of the country with regards to food, pets, medications and other items. You will need to check the website of the Italian embassy for an updated list before you leave for your vacation to Italy. You may visit their website at www.ambwashingtondc.esteri.it Many people planning a vacation to Italy may be concerned about what they can do if they get sick. Remember your US health insurance will be useless abroad and if you decide to have yourself evacuated back here for medical treatment it could cost you about $50,000. It is good to know that there are several insurance companies that provide insurance for short term travel abroad. This will probably suffice for your Italy vacation and will provide you with the peace of mind you need to enjoy your travel. Such policies are usually offered through travel agents so that may be a good place to start if you are interested in this type of coverage. At the very least you should be able to get information on what to do at the US embassy in Italy if you need to during a health emergency. They keep updated lists of doctors and hospitals in Italy. If you have a pre-existing condition be sure to carry a letter from your doctor describing your condition and history as well as any advice he may be able to provide Italian doctors if you should find yourself in such a situation. Your doctor's letter should also include a description of any medications you are on as well as the generic names of your medications. Many people going on a visit to Italy will be glad to know that there are no specific vaccinations required for your Italy vacation but be sure to check on the embassy's website in case anything has changed before you leave. Taking your Italy Vacation in Tuscany You may be wondering where you can go for your next vacation. Maybe you have already been to Hawaii, London, and Paris. Its time to try an Italy vacation. You may have even been to Rome already and disliked the crowds and the "touristy" feel. If you prefer the countryside and don't mind the beautiful scenery you should go to Tuscany for your Italy vacation. You should also go to Tuscany for your Italian vacation if you are interested in art and architecture because this region boasts some of the best in those categories. There are twenty regions in Italy and Tuscany is a region found in central Italy. It has some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world and many famous artists have achieved some spectacular pieces of art using the Tuscan landscape for a backdrop during the Italian renaissance. The capital of this region is Florence. In fact 350 out of a 1000 of Europe's most important artists of the 2nd millennium lived in Florence. Six places in Tuscany are UNESCO protected sites. That means that they have been placed on a list maintained by the international World Heritage Program that aims to name, catalogue and protect sites that are deemed to be of outstanding cultural value for humanity. There are 851 such sites worldwide and you can see 6 of them on your Tuscan Italian vacation. These include the historical centers of Florence, Siena, San Gimignano and Pienza. They also include the Val d'Orcia and the square of the Cathedral of Pisa which is famous for its leaning tower. The historic centers of the cities you may visit on your Tuscan Italian vacation are protected sites mainly for their magnificent architecture. The Duomo is a cathedral in Siena that represents great Italian Romanesque culture. In Florence you must visit Santa Maria del Flore which is another cathedral with beautiful architecture. The Ponche Vencho Bridge in Florence is an amazing old bridge held up by stilts but has several shops built along its edge. San Gimignano is a small town on a hilltop. It is a walled town and is known for its medieval architecture. Its fourteen towers may be seen from several miles around. Through wars and disasters, San Gimignano has been able to keep its beautiful fourteen towers and you will be able to see these works of art on your Tuscan Italy vacation. The Val d'Orcia gained its place on the list of protected sites because it truly exemplifies beautiful landscape. With rolling hills and small quaint villages you must make sure you see this area when you go on your Italian vacation. Another reason why you may want to visit Tuscany and specifically Florence is that this was the place where Leonardo da Vinci was born and spent his youth working in the studio of a well known Florentine painter. Most known for the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper it is said that his landscapes and artistic style came from growing up in this region. You will be able to visit the hamlet near the hill town of Vinci where Leonardo da Vinci was born on your Tuscan Italian Vacation.
Renting a Villa for your vacation in Italy Villas are becoming an important part of planning for a vacation in Italy. In Roman culture a villa used to be a luxurious country house built by a member of the upper class as a second or third residence. It was not the main place of residence and city folks usually had 2 villas. One of the 2 villas could be easily reached from Rome if needed and the other was seasonally used and had servants permanently there to run it. After the nineteenth century, villas came to be used in reference to any type of single detached house that stood on its own with its own compound and unattached to any other homes or buildings. As with all the architecture in Rome there are some famous villas that you could visit during your Italy vacation. But villas are also now rented by tourists all over Italy. Villas allow the privacy you may want away from the crowds during your Italy vacation and also allow you to cook and enjoy fresh locally grown Italian produce. Most villas are also close enough to shops and restaurants that if you choose to immerse yourself back into the hustle and bustle with everyone else, nothing is still too far away. Today visitors to the Tuscany region will find a wide selection of villas to choose from if they prefer this option for their accommodations. Salogi Villas offers villas and farmhouses for rent. They have villas in Tuscany but also in Venice and are able to help you locate the perfect villa to suit your needs. Many people traveling in a large group take the villa option simply for the space and flexibility it offers. It can also turn out to be cheaper per person if your group stays in a villa rather than a hotel or even a bed and breakfast during your Italy vacation. Salogi Villas may be contacted through their website at www.salogivillas.com Another option for your group if you will be traveling in Italy is the Piemonte Villa. It is 2 hours away from Milan and one hour away from Torino. Now this villa has 3 bedrooms and 3 baths so its maximum capacity is 6 people. It is 200 years old and surrounded by over 3 hectares of land. It is close to a small village and is high up in the hills. This house it the perfect place to enjoy the landscape on your vacation to Italy due to its amazing views of the Alps if the weather is clear. There are several vineyards you can visit in the area and great places to see. If you are concerned about having some kind of a modern feel to your stay here you may be happy to know that this villa was completely rehabbed this year. All bathrooms, electrical and plumbing systems are new and the management here has succeeded in combining modern conveniences such as high speed internet with furnishings true to this villa's history as an old farmhouse. The kitchen is also fully updated with everything you may need and they even have 2 extra bedrooms available if you must bring a larger group. Your Honeymoon and Vacation in Italy Italy is said to be one of the most romantic places to visit for your honeymoon. If you are planning a vacation to Italy and never had a honeymoon or recently got married, this is the perfect place to go. Venice is the most popular destination for lovers and there are several companies that will help you plan your honeymoon as a vacation in Italy. Venice-Honeymoons.com is one such company that provides a one stop shopping experience. If you want to be in Venice for a winter honeymoon they have a package that includes skiing in the Dolomite Mountains. They will fly you into the Venice airport and you will spend 2 nights in Venice and then 5 nights in the mountains in a beautiful chalet. A courtesy bottle of champagne is given to all visitors and all breakfasts are included. A half day guided tour will be given privately and you can decide where you want to go on this walking tour. When you are in the mountains, you will get 3 day ski passes and a 3 course meal will be provided along with wine for dinner each evening. You will also be given a 1 hour sleigh ride. If you are planning your honeymoon vacation in Italy a ski trip to Venice may be one of the most romantic getaways you could try. If you visit Venice in the warmer months one of the most romantic things you can do is to go on a private gondola ride. Be sure to kiss under the Bridge of Sighs because it is said that lovers who do so at sunset are assured of their eternal love to one another. For a romantic honeymoon Italy vacation in Florence, try Perillo Tours. They offer a great 4 night stay in this beautiful city surrounded by some of the most amazing scenery and landscapes in the world. You will spend the 4 nights at the Santa Maria Novella hotel and breakfast will be included in your stay. This specific tour is also provided in the off season and makes for a great getaway and a chance to truly experience Italy without the crowds. Venice and Florence are not the only places to consider going to for a romantic honeymoon vacation in Italy. Rome may also be the perfect venue for this. This city is also known as the Eternal City and there are several castles that you could stay at to experience the feeling of eternity. Most of these castles are over 300 years old and many honeymooners like the thought of staying at these ancient places. You can walk on the same small streets that Caesar did and explore this beautiful city together as you begin your new life during this Italy vacation. You can view the sunset from your hotel room looking over buildings that could be a thousand years old or museums that hold works of art by some of the greatest artists in history and take in all the culture and history you are surrounded with. So if you are planning a honeymoon vacation don't forget to explore options in Italy. This country has coasts, rolling hills, beautiful mountains, historic architecture and amazingly beautiful landscapes and may be the perfect backdrop to represent a new beginning. Music and your Italy Vacation If you are musically inclined or just simply interested in Italian music, a vacation to Italy may be just the perfect vacation choice for you. Italy is famous for opera and classical music but has various other types of music to include traditional music, religious music and popular music which is both native and imported. The culture of Italy is deeply rooted in music and it is very important to the people. Therefore it would be impossible to go on an Italy vacation and not come across some great musical performances if that is what you are interested in. Over the centuries Italian music has taken on elements from foreign sources that may have ruled or influenced the people. Classical music is especially important in Italy and it has taken forms in opera and sacred music. Opera music began in Italy in the late 1500s and sacred music is of course a dominant presence due to the base of the Catholic Church being in Italy specifically in Rome. So if you are on an Italy vacation, and you are interested in exploring this rich aspect of Italian culture you are most definitely looking for places to go to for concerts. Italy has many music conservatories that hold concerts in virtually every city you visit. There are also several opera houses and symphony halls to choose from where you could see well-known orchestras from Italy and other parts of the world. Open air operas are also held in amphitheatres across Italy. If you are looking for something a little less formal you may want to try going to an international music festival during your Italian vacation. There are several that are organized each year for classical and opera lovers. The most well known include the Festival of Spoleto and the Wagner Festival in Ravello. You will find that some of these international music festivals offer you a chance to enter and win music competitions during your Italy vacation. Some of these competitions are geared towards young composers and allow them to produce and stage their entries. Not only could you win money but your music would be performed at the festival. For people looking for more modern forms of music specifically pop and rock fans, an Italy vacation also provides for several concerts that occur throughout the year. Some theatres also hold Italian translations of American musicals but for a true experience, try an Italian musical comedy. If you only know a few Italian words, these are still great if you want to immerse yourself in the culture. Since Italy is the home of the Roman Catholic Church, religious music will show up in many ways during your Italian vacation. There are several parish bands all over the country and they can range in size from 4 to 30 members. They are found performing in religious festivals in honor of patron saints of different towns. Religious music is also found in Italian Christmas carols so if you go on your vacation to Italy during that time of year you may find yourself learning the Italian versions of "Jingle Bells" and "White Christmas." Italian Wine and your Italy vacation During your Italy vacation you will find that wine is very important to the country. It has some of the oldest vineyards in the world and some of the best wines are produced here. About 20% of wine in the world is produced in Italy. While you are on your Italy vacation you will find that wine is drunk with every meal and sometimes in-between meals. It will be offered to you almost everywhere you go because grapes are grown all over Italy and wine is made by everyone from the villagers to the large commercial wineries. It is said that there are one million vineyards in Italy! So what are some of the wineries you should visit on your Italian vacation? The Enthusiastic Traveler offers winery tours in May, September and October. This tour is in the Tuscan region which is the home of the Super Tuscan. Super Tuscan wines do not follow the rules of wine making. Blends are made using non-traditional methods of combining certain grapes which are not normally combined. The tour will take you to a farm called Castel Pietraio in a beautiful hillside town near Siena for a simple wine tasting of wines made by squeezing grapes in barrels. Other vineyards are visited and many people on an Italy vacation that come here say they smell the wine in the air. There is also a visit to an ancient castle complete with a wine making baron who has discovered some very rare grapes to use in his wines. For your vacation in Italy "The Enthusiastic Traveler" may be contacted through its website at www.theenthusiastictraveler.com Ca'Bruzzo Italian Winery is found in Northern Italy close to Venice. They grow 5 varieties of grapes here and produce about 20,000 bottles a year. This is a small family owned winery and they believe their close physical contact with the vines make for their especially tasty wines. During your Italy vacation you may want to take this tour because not only do you get to taste wine at its different stages of development and see the wine cellar but the family will also teach you how to make wine and care for a vineyard. There is a lot of focus here on the benefits of organically grown grapes for wine. If you enjoy this vineyard during your vacation in Italy, the Bruzzos can even ship their wine to you so you can continue to experience the amazing taste. This winery can be contacted through its website at www.cabruzzo.com One of the most memorable wines that you may come across during your Italy vacation is called "Est! Est! Est!" It is a semi-sweet white wine from Montefiascone. It has some effervescence and a mildly fruity flavor. It is said that this wine got its name from the story of a German bishop who needed to go to Rome and sent someone ahead of him to mark on the doors of inns serving the best wines along the way. He marked the doors with the word "Est!" in chalk and when he got to Montefiascone he liked the wine so much that he marked the inn door with "Est! Est! Est!" Going on an Italy Vacation to Milan Milan is one of the largest cities in Italy and one of the most highly developed areas of all of Europe. If you like to be in a city when you go on vacation then you must visit Milan when you are in Italy. It makes for a great combination of a city vacation amidst cultural and historic relevance. There are over one million people living in Milan. Not only is this where you will find Da Vinci's famous painting "The Last Supper" but this city is also one of the best shopping centers of the world. Many fashion designers have their houses here and you will find opportunity for a lot of window shopping or real shopping while in Milan for your Italy vacation. The Galleria Vittorio Emanuel II is said to be the oldest shopping mall in the world. It was designed and built in the 1800s and features a huge glass and steel arch covering a long street. At its center is a large glass dome and to this day the oldest shopping mall in the world continues to be a bustling retail center with shops selling everything from books to haute couture and numerous restaurants serving tourists and residents of Milan. During your Italy vacation in Milan you will find that the Galleria Vittorio Emanuel II connects 2 of Milan's most popular attractions. These are the Duomo and the Teatro Ala Scalla. The Duomo is the cathedral of Milan that you may visit while on vacation in Italy. This is where the Archbishop of Milan resides. With its amazing gothic architecture this cathedral played an important role in establishing Catholic traditions and spreading the Catholic faith. In Italy, the only church that is larger than the Duomo is St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City in Rome. Most guided tours of Milan will feature a visit to the Duomo and you will get a chance to see this beautiful feat of Italian history. The Teatro Alla Scala is a world famous opera house in Milan that you must visit on your Italy vacation. It was built in the late 1700s after a carnival fire destroyed the previous opera house. It was known to be the gathering place of the rich in Milan and had a gallery area above the boxes where the less wealthy were allowed to come to also enjoy the opera performances. After much controversy the theatre was renovated a few years ago. Most of the controversy was regarding a concern with whether the historical details would be lost. But during your Italy vacation here if you see the Teatro Alla Scala you will find that an excellent job was done in preserving the history of this great opera house. When in Milan on your Italy vacation, you must also visit the Sforza Castle. It took 10 years to build this in the 1300s. It was built to be a defensive fortress and has undergone several reconstructions, additions and transformations over the centuries. There are several museums here that you can visit on your Italy vacation and most of them feature castle art such as defensive armor and furniture from its royal inhabitants. This castle also holds Michelangelo's final work of art, a marble sculpture known as the Rondanini Pieta. Fashion and Your Italy Vacation Along with London, Paris and New York, Milan and Rome are on the list of the famous fashion centers of the world. When you are on your Italy vacation you may not be able to help yourself but to indulge a little in this aspect of Italian culture. By all means make sure you visit the rolling hills of Florence, take a gondola trip through Venice and visit a vineyard in Tuscany. But don't forget that you are in the country of the likes of Armani, Versace, Fendi, Prada and Valentino. If this at all interests you do find out if your visit coincides with any fashion exhibits or public fashion shows in Rome or Milan. When you are in Rome make sure you visit the Vatican City but you must go to the original stores of all the Italian designers. You will not only see little old ladies in Italian villages while on vacation in Italy but when you arrive you will quickly realize that Italians have a very high fashion sense, care very much about their looks and are very sophisticated especially in Rome and Milan. You must visit the famous shopping strip Via Montenapoleone in Milan. Here you will find boutiques for Chanel, Dolce e Gabbana and Fendi along with numerous others. Even if your budget does not allow you to purchase anything, this will make for an unbelievable window shopping experience during your vacation in Italy. Many of these boutiques are open from 10 am till 7 pm Tuesdays through Saturdays with shorter hours on Mondays and are closed on Sundays. Italy is especially known for its high fashion industry or "haute couture" and the runway fashion shows that the designers use to debut their new collections each season. The houses of Valentino and Fendi originated in Rome while the houses of Prada, Versace and Armani originated in Milan. With near perfect craftsmanship, Italian fashions are said to rival those of France and many people even feel the Italian fashions are superior. During your Italy vacation you may hear of AltaRoma, an organization that has been responsible for putting Italian designers on the map over the years through its yearly fashion shows. These fashion shows feature established designers as well as new designers. They are closed to the general public but AltaRoma also organizes another event that is open to everyone. If your Italy vacation is in mid July the Donna Sotto del Stelle is worth catching. It means "Woman under the Stars." It is an open air fashion event that takes place at the Piazza de Spagna in Rome and features several newer designers. To further take in the couture culture during your vacation in Italy, you should also visit the most prominent fashion school in Rome. This school has produced some very talented new designers and usually has fashion exhibits and shows open to the public. Valentino also opened a fashion school in 1990 which also hosts some fashion and art shows open to the general public. Eating Italian Food during your Italy vacation Italian food will be very important to you during and after your Italy vacation. Most people are usually surprised by the diversity of food in Italy especially if they expect to eat pizza, pasta and spaghetti during their Italy vacation. You may get your fill of these classics while you are in Italy but you will also want to make sure you get your fair share of local delicacies too. Make sure the food you eat is made from locally grown ingredients and make sure you pair the food with some great wine and you will be experiencing Italy at its best. Italian food is classed into 3 regional types. Northern, Central and Southern. While visiting Northern Italy during your Italy vacation, you will find that the food here is less "Italian" than you would expect. For example they use less olive oil and more butter. They also eat more rice and corn polenta here than pasta and tomato sauce is not used very often. Northern Italian food also includes a lot of use of wild game found in the countryside. These include wild fowl, rabbit and quail. Northern Italy also has some coastal towns and some towns and villages near streams and rivers. So if you visit Northern Italy during your Italy vacation you may eat a lot of seafood and fish. What we know as "Italian food" comes from Central Italy. Olive oil, cheeses and rich tomato sauces all hail from central Italy. The coastal areas here are also well known for seafood. Italian cooking was said to have been born in Tuscany which is a region in Central Italy so to be sure to visit this area during your Italy vacation. Some of the best olive oil comes from Southern Italy. But very little of it is exported so make sure you sample the olive oil here during your Italy vacation. Naples, a city in this area is well known for its pizza and southern Italy as a whole grows a lot of citrus fruits and has many vineyards. Some of the best wines in the world come from Southern Italy. You may eat at several local restaurants during your vacation in Italy. However one of the best ways to sample some of the different food that Italy has to offer during your vacation in Italy is to take a cooking class or make your vacation a culinary one. Many of these classes and culinary vacations include going on a winery tour or wine tasting events. Cooking classes can range from a few hours to half a day and they range in price from about $150 to $250. Many of these are hosted by families in homes or small inns and bed and breakfasts. Some of these classes are taught by excellent chefs many of whom have written Italian recipe books and manage restaurants. They will teach you which food goes with which wine to make for a delicious meal. During your Italy vacation you can learn how to make your own homemade spaghetti and authentic tomato sauce. Cooking Italy Vacation When we think of going on vacation most of us see ourselves lying on a beach somewhere or gazing into a sunset. Most of us do not think about going on a cooking vacation. But if you are looking for something different to do this year when you travel this may be just the thing for you to try. There are several places in Italy where you can learn how to cook on a cooking Italy vacation. Who knows you may even be the next Rachel Ray when you return home! A place you should know about if you want to try a cooking Italian vacation is a small family owned bed and breakfast called La Locanda del Prete. It is found high on the hills of Monte Amiata in a place called Arcidosso in the province of Grosseto, Tuscany. Arcidosso is found outside a small medieval village and is two and a half hours away from Rome. This family owned operation has welcomed visitors from all over the world. The owner's name is Carlo Innocenti and he is also the master chef. La Locanda Del Prete will provide a genuine Tuscan experience for you on your Italian vacation. It is far away from the normally busy and sometimes congested popular tourist destinations so this cozy little bed and breakfast on the hills promises a wonderful experience. Over the years the owner has operated or managed several Italian restaurants and has also been teaching Tuscan cooking. Some of his students have even included other chefs from all over the world who wanted to learn traditional Italian recipes handed down through the generations. Carlo and his family will teach you authentic Tuscan cooking in an authentic Tuscan environment. Carlo is also helped by his son Romeo who is also a great Italian chef with a vast knowledge of Italian seafood recipes and the pairing of food with specific wines. If you need help Romeo is also a great tour guide who is fluent in English. Romeo handles their Tuscany Wine Tasting and Vacation Tours. These tours are a fantastic addition to your Cooking Italian Vacation because Romeo will take you through Brunello wine country. You will also be wined and dined while you learn about the culture. They also allow time for you to tour the area and perhaps re-visit some sights that were particularly interesting to you. This bed and breakfast is open from mid-May and has 2 packages to choose from. You can stay for a week or for half a week (3 nights). The one week cooking Italian vacation is perfect for small groups of four to ten. You will stay with Carlo and his family for 6 nights and all transportation is included. For those of you who do not see themselves on vacation without the sea, this package even includes a visit to an old seaside fishing village. As part of this Italy vacation, you will receive an apron and recipe book and spend a morning learning how to cook Tuscan food and then you get to enjoy your own cooking for lunch. La Loconda Del Prete has a website to help you plane your cooking Italian Vacation at www.lalocandadelprete.com. Attending Sporting Events on Your Italy Vacation Sports and Italians go together like spaghetti and meatballs! The most popular sports are soccer, rugby and cycling. Winter sports are also very popular during that season. Italians are serious spectators and fierce competitors. During your Italy vacation you may decide to look up which sporting events are going on that you may be able to attend. You will definitely experience Italy culture and the passion that they bring to competition. With soccer the passion is very understandable because Italy has won the World Cup 4 times and is actually the current title holder after the 2006 World Cup Series. With their 4 total wins they hold the record of being the second most successful team since the championship began and are second only to Brazil. If you are a sports fan you may be interested in seeing a match during your Italy vacation. Select Italy is a company that will allow you to experience this. They can arrange tickets for you to see Series A and Series B games in some of the major cities in Italy. You can request a specific city on their website and they have staff who will confirm pricing and other details with you after they receive your request. If you would rather see something else while you are in Italy on vacation they can also arrange tickets for you to see anything from auto racing to basketball to tennis. Tickets obtained through this company will be up to 25% higher than their face value as the company adds on fees and processing costs for providing travelers with this great service. Select Italy may be contacted through their website at www.selectitaly.com/sports.php If you are going to see a soccer match in Italy during your vacation you may be concerned about what you have heard about the dangers and sometimes violence at these events. Italians as you know are very competitive and passionate about their soccer. It is best to make sure that you either wear the colors of the Italian home team or something else that is not in line with the opposing team's colors. Companies like Select Italy will advise you which colors to wear if you want to support the Italian team and which colors to stay away from depending on which match you want to see. Another thing to remember is that many of these Italian soccer matches have a designated area for their die-hard fans. If a fight would break out it would be more likely to be between someone who sits in that designated area with someone who supports the opposing team. As a visitor you would probably feel most comfortable sitting in a neutral central location. Select Italy will not insure you or assume any liability for anything that may happen at any of these matches that they help you attend. If you are interested in seeing sporting events when in Rome for your Italy vacation, you can always find out what is going on at the Flaminio Stadium. It was built for the 1960 Olympic Games in Italy and now has all kinds of sporting events going on from rugby to equestrian. It is very accessible from many hotels in Rome. All about photography and your Italy Vacation Taking pictures when you go on vacation is extremely important. It will allow you to re-visit all those fond memories and also make for great conversation pieces when you return home. On your Italian vacation there will be many opportunities to take tons of pictures. The country is famous for its beautiful architecture, amazing landscapes and friendly people. There is a photo opportunity every corner you turn. You will want to remember what the Vatican looked like when you first saw it or the huge Colosseum. If you visit Tuscany, you will see architecture at its best and you will be able to take pictures of all the wonderful buildings and structures like the leaning tower of Pisa. Even quaint chapels and little Old Italian ladies make for perfect shots that cannot be missed during your vacation to Italy. There are a few things to remember if you want to be able to take great shots each time. Make sure your subject matter is within the frame of your shot. You must always check the corners and edges in the shot before you click. This will reduce the chances of amateur mistakes like missing top halves of heads. Also look for patterns and symmetry especially when shooting buildings on your Italy vacation. For example if you are taking a picture of a street scene, try to have all the buildings in your shot on an angle. Simple patterns and simple subjects also make for beautiful shots especially when you use natural light. The best times to shoot for the best shots are early in the morning or late in the day. This is because film or digital sensors in digital cameras are much more sensitive to light than your eyes so what may seem to be a normal bright day could show up in your prints as too bright and washed over. You will do best to also always make sure the light is behind you unless you are shooting people. If you take pictures of people who are looking into the sun you end up with squinted eyes in your pictures. You can also avoid this by taking pictures early morning or late in the day when the sun is not as powerful. Another technique to use for your photographs during your Italian vacation is to change your point of view from the subject. For example shots looking up usually turn out beautiful so try taking some pictures on your knees. Other variations include taking close ups rather than always trying to get too much into the frame of the picture. Also, to make for some great photography during your Italy vacation, try one of the most powerful techniques that professional photographers use. Avoid placing all your subjects in the middle of your frame. Have the subject on an edge or in a corner and click. It is important to remember that even amateurs can take great looking pictures and an Italian vacation presents tremendous opportunities to practice taking pictures. All about passports and visas for your Italy Vacation When traveling to Italy there are several things you must have. The least of these are a passport and maybe even a visa. If this is your first time traveling out of the US you will need to apply for a passport. You may also need to apply for a passport if your old one has expired, is damaged or lost. Applying for a passport is a fairly simple process which may be as simple as a trip to the post office but be sure to start early so you can be ready for your Italy vacation. There are stories of people who have had to cancel vacations because their passport was not ready. You don't want to do this as it will be very disappointing and also expensive especially if you have reserved an airline ticket or some sort of package vacation. The US Department of State asks that you allow six months for them to process your passport application however some travelers have found it only took a few weeks for them to receive their passports. You can apply online however first time applicants must apply in person. The main supporting document that is required is a valid original US birth certificate. Passport applicants are sometimes surprised to find that their original birth certificate needs to be submitted to the Department of State with a promise of it being mailed back. Many people tend to be leery of this especially because they have found how difficult it is to get a replacement birth certificate. However, most report that within a short period of receiving their new passports, their birth certificates arrive in the mail safe and sound. For all the details on where the 9000 passport application accepting facilities are and how to apply for a passport for your Italy vacation you can go to www.travel.state.gov/passport If you are a US citizen you will not need a visa to go on an Italy vacation. However you must show that your airline ticket includes a return back to the US. If you are planning to travel to Italy for reasons other than a vacation the requirements are different and usually stricter. When on vacation in Italy you can stay for a maximum of 3 months at a time but remember that this is a combined period to include any time spent in several other European countries. Italy has an embassy in Washington DC that can process visas for non-US citizens. They must go to the embassy for personal interviews. If you are going to Italy for a vacation the prime concern of the Italian government is that you plan to return to your country. Therefore they always ask for proof that you have a full-time job especially if you are a non-US citizen. The Department of State recommends that during your Italy vacation you register your presence there with the US embassy. This is important in case someone needs to contact you for an emergency home or in case of a disaster abroad so your whereabouts can be confirmed. All about Money and your Italy Vacation If you are traveling to Italy for vacation, you need to be aware of some basics about the currency. Travelers are usually concerned with several questions. What is the currency conversion rate? Where can I change my dollars into Euros when I arrive? Can I use my travelers' checks? Are ATM machines readily available? What if I need a larger amount of cash and I need a bank? Can I use my major credit card at many places? What about tax-free shopping? These are all great questions to ask before you go on your Italy vacation and each one has an answer that will be addressed here. First of all it is important to know that Italy uses the European Euro. There is no "Italian currency." One dollar ($1) is equivalent to approximately 0.70 euros. The currency conversion rate can fluctuate daily so it is best that you check for a more accurate figure before you leave for your vacation to Italy. You can find the most current exchange rate at The Universal Currency Converter website which is www.xe.com/ucc/ How can you get Euros once you arrive in Italy for your vacation? There will be an exchange office at the airport when you arrive. This is usually most accurate if you are arriving in a main city. Exchange offices may also be available at railway stations in the main cities. You can always also get Euros at any ATM or bank. This leads in to the next question about the availability of ATMs. There are ATMs all over Italy mainly in big cities but also in some smaller towns. But you need to know that in Italy ATMs are called "bancomats." During your Italy vacation you will find that these bancomats work just like they do in the US and you will get the chance to select your language of preference from the screen when you begin. You can use your credit or debit card to get money (euros only) out of the bancomat as long as there is a Cirrus or BankMate symbol on that machine and your card. You could always find out from your Credit Card Company or bank if their cards can be used worldwide before you leave for your vacation to Italy. Most businesses accept major credit cards in Italy and you should always look for the credit card signage stickers on doors of shops just like there are in the US. Travelers' checks are also widely accepted in the major cities. If you need a larger sum of cash than the bancomat will provide during your Italy vacation you will find that there are banks all over Italy especially at the main tourist attractions. Most Italian banks close for about an hour and a half for a lunch break during the week and are closed on Saturdays, Sundays and National Holidays. People taking an Italy vacation will be glad to find out that non-resident visitors may claim a refund for the tax they pay on many of their purchases. You can go to www.globalrefund.com to pursue a refund.
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