There is plenty of information on the web about planning a trip to Italy, but most of it focuses on what you should do. We even have an Ultimate 10 Day Italy Itinerary that tells you what to do and how to plan. But this guide is different. This is going to tell you what you should AVOID doing when planning a trip to Italy. Don’t worry, it isn’t all as scary as you may think. Italy is an easy-going country to visit, but there are a few things to keep in mind when planning your Italy itinerary.
We have been to Italy countless times at this point and have made countless mistakes. This [unfortunatly] has given us first-hand knowledge on what you should NOT DO when planning a trip to Italy. Italy was one of the three countries we visited on our first trip to Europe ever [along with France and Ireland] and we have since been back many times. From the prettiest islands in Italy to the villages of Cinque Terre, these tips apply to everyone planning a trip to Italy!
7 Big Mistakes To Avoid When Planning A Trip To Italy
Mistake #1: Spending Too Much Time In Rome
Don’t get us wrong, Rome is an absolutely amazing city to see. When we were planning a trip to Italy for the first time, we were warned not to spend too much time in the city. Did we listen? Of course not! We spent 4 days in Rome and it was bordering on too much. There is a TON to see and do in Rome like all the famous monuments and the Vatican [our favorite part] but some people plan to spend between 5-7 days in Rome and sacrifice seeing some other fantastic parts of the country to stay here.
Spending too much time in Rome is a common mistake people make when planning a trip to Italy. While Rome does have a lot to see and do, it can feel quite touristy very quickly if you aren’t careful. If you have a shorter amount of time in Italy, we beg you to not spend half of your trip in Rome. Go for a quick introduction and then head out to see the rest of what Italy has to offer. While there is a lot to see and do in Rome, you would be giving up a chance to see Italy at a slower pace. When planning a trip to Italy, consider spending between 2-3 days in Rome for a good first-time experience without feeling too rushed.
Mistake #2: Trying To Do Too Much In One Trip
Another huge mistake people make when planning a trip to Italy is trying to pack in too much into one trip. Again, how do we know this? Because we did it too and constantly see others doing the same thing. Italy may look small on the map, but it is actually quite big when you have to explore the whole thing. There is also so much to see and do. This is why we have been back to Italy so many times! We have never been able to see and do all we want in one trip so we have to go back.
When planning a trip to Italy, we highly recommend NOT burning out. By burning out, we mean trying to do way too much in a short amount of time. We recommend choosing a few things to do and spending longer at those things than choosing a lot of things to do and only getting a few hours at each. Of course, whatever type of trip you want to spend is completely up to you, but slower travel will really let you know more about Italy and it will be much more enjoyable.
While you are planning your trip to Italy, we recommend choosing your highlights and then going from there. Choose the places you must see and make those a priority. If they are all spread throughout the country and you have only a short amount of time, you may want to rethink your Italy itinerary.
Sometimes it is better to do the top half or the bottom half of the country if you only have a short time, say, 5 days. If your main reason to visit Italy is to see some fantastic scenery, then make that your priority and don’t try and fit in the beach and museums and wineries all in a few days. This will make you feel burnt out and at the end of the day, you really won’t enjoy the nature that you traveled all the way to Italy to see.
Mistake #3: Being Scared To Use/Not Understanding Public Transportation
Many Americans who are planning a trip to Italy [us included] are very confused about the Italian public transportation system. We are from Florida and public transport here are some crappy busses that don’t run on time. The best experience many people in North America get with public transportation is seeing it in a big city such as New York City or Toronto. That makes people like us not understand what public transportation is all about in Italy.
When planning a trip to Italy, public transportation is widely available and affordable! On our first trip to Italy, we took the train [yes, the train!] all the way from Rome to PARIS! That is really far in case you didn’t know and it didn’t cost that much. We stopped in a few cities along the way but the point was to show you how connected Italy really can be.
Let’s say you fly into Rome. There are affordable public transportation options to get you from the Rome airport into the city center. When you are in Rome you can either take the bus or the metro [underground/subway] around the city. When it is time to head to say, Florence/Venice/Naples/wherever, don’t worry! You will catch a local bus/metro to the larger train station. You will find your train and ride it to your destination. Once you arrive in that destination such as Florence, you will walk out of the station and there will be local public transportation HERE for you too!
Even the smaller towns in Italy have great local transportation options and are very affordable. When you are planning a trip to Italy, keep this in the back of your mind, especially if you live somewhere that doesn’t rely on public transportation for transit. You will not show up at a train station and then be left with no option to connect you to your hotel or the city center. Italy isn’t like North America and this country is well-connected to the max! It was an easy, affordable, and enjoyable experience.
Mistake #4: Spending Too Much Money On An International Cell Service Plan
Luckily, with Sprint and T-Mobile, we get free international data and text messages so we don’t have to pay for a pricey international plan like others who have AT&T or Verizon. If you have a phone carrier with an expensive international plan, DO NOT GET IT when planning a trip to Italy! You don’t need it. Spending too much money on a pricey international cell phone plan is one of the biggest mistakes people make when planning a trip to Italy. We were spared from making this mistake because our plans had it included, but know so many people who don’t know this simple trick we are about to share.
We highly recommend getting a LOCAL sim card in Italy. You can simply take out your sim card from your phone and pop in a local one. This allows you to use local 4G networks just like the local Italians do. We love using sim cards from local countries as they allow you fast, easy, and affordable network connection. When buying a sim card, you can usually purchase one in the airport or in any downtown metro area.
The best network for sim cards in Italy is TIM. This sim card costs around $25 for 30 days of usage and comes with 4G speeds and 15GB of data usage. This is a WONDERFUL deal and oftentimes much cheaper [and way faster!] than using your own plans international data. Plans such as Verizon don’t really exist in Italy which will cause your experience to be frustrating and slow. Plans such as TIM do exist and are the main network used in the country so you can be sure to have an enjoyable and affordable experience. We highly recommend looking into a TIM SIM [heehee] when planning a trip to Italy.
WORD FROM THE WISE: Make sure that your smartphone is “unlocked” for International SIM card usage. This involves calling or tweeting your cell carrier to ensure that it is unlocked for SIM additions. Simply tell them you are traveling abroad and want to get an international SIM and that you need your phone unlocked. This is one of the easiest tips we have for you when planning a trip to Italy because it makes getting around so much easier.
Mistake #5: Only Traveling To Italy In The Summer
Most people think that they can only plan a trip to Italy during the summer. Why? Because that is when it will be the best weather and when the experience will be most enjoyable. We are here to tell you that this isn’t exactly true. You can plan a trip to Italy at any time of year and we highly recommend visiting during the off-season. When we visited during the summer or warmer months, the entire island was crowded as locals were off work for holidays and the heat made hotels without air conditioning unbearable.
When we visited Italy in the off-season, we had a fantastic time every single time we visited. The weather was cool and pleasant, the tourist season was low, prices were cheaper, and we didn’t need AC in a hotel. We planned a trip to Italy once in the early spring and the experience was just great. The weather was beyond fantastic and there were hardly any other visitors. On the other hand, when we visited in mid-June, we were fighting with crowds of tourists and everything was overcrowded and super hot.
That being said, if you are planning a trip to Italy and want to head into the Dolomites/Italian Alps, then the winter/spring will not be the best time for the experience because they will be buried in snow [unless you want to ski!] If you want a lighter tourist time to visit the Dolomites in Italy, consider visiting at the end of summer or during early fall. You will still get the same stunning experience but it won’t be nearly as busy as visiting during peak season. Just don’t try and visit the Dolomites in early spring and expect them to be free of snow!
If summer is the only time you have when planning a trip to Italy then please, feel free! But we just want to let you know that summer isn’t the ONLY time you have to plan your trip. Italy is essentially a year-round destination and we have had great experiences visiting when the air is cooler and more pleasant outside.
Mistake #6: Completely Writing Off Renting A Car In Italy
Another mistake people make when planning a trip to Italy is completely writing off renting a car. This is a HUGE MISTAKE when planning your trip to Italy because renting a car will provide you with so much freedom. If a tour is more your style then that is totally fine and there are some great tours in Italy that will take you around with ease if you are only in Italy for a few days. As we mentioned above, Italy has some FANTASTIC public transportation that you should 100% use. But great public transportation can only take you so far.
We personally love renting a car as often as possible! From Iceland and Peru to Alaska and Ireland, we have rented cars all around the world and love the freedom they provide. We have often used public transport in Italy and while it is great, you still must stick to a schedule and the busses and trains only take you so far. We are photographers and hikers and love getting deep into the landscape and renting a car in Italy allows us to do just that.
For example, when we rented a car in Trentino in the Italian Alps/Dolomites, we spent 5-6 hours a day driving up to the tip-top of the mountains, seeing quaint villages, driving past cliff-side vineyards, finding random castle ruins and more. When we rented a car in Milan, we drove down the coast and spent days exploring small Italian seaside villages. Although there are indeed trains and buses that go to these places, a car provides us with way more freedom and it is a really fantastic way to see Italy if you are up for it.
A WORD FROM THE WISE: While renting a car in Italy can be affordable, some tolls are steep! We are talking $25 a pop. If you choose to rent a car while planning a trip to Italy [and we highly recommend it] budget at least $200 for tolls, especially if you are driving anywhere out of Milan. Some parts of Italy have more expensive toll roads while others are much more affordable.
Of course, we understand that renting a car in Italy isn’t for everyone! If this is your first trip to Italy and you just want to see the highlights such as Rome>Florence>Venice then you really won’t need a car because the trains and buses are great. On the other hand, if you are looking to easily visit far-flung Italian villages and photograph the sunrise from a vineyard on your own schedule, then renting a car will be the better option for you. We have done trips to Italy where we 100% relied on public transport and we have done a trip to Italy where we jumped between renting a car and using public transport. The choice really is yours!
Mistake #7: Only Visiting The Tourist Hot Spots And Nowhere Else
We will be the first to say that we LOVE touristy locations. Why? Because they are usually touristy for a reason such as for the Vatican in Rome or the canals in Venice. That being said, a huge mistake people make when planning a trip to Italy is JUST visiting these touristy locations and nowhere else! How do we know? Because that is exactly what we did on our first trip to Italy! Since then, we have been back additional times and have purposefully did a blend of famous and lesser-known spots which was a much better mix that allowed us to get a feel for “real” Italy.
So, what is touristy in Italy? Cities like Rome/Florence/Milan/Naples/Pisa are tourist hotspots for obvious reasons. While we would never suggest you plan a trip to Italy without visiting at least one of these cities, we highly recommend getting out and seeing different parts of Italy. For example, if you are planning on visiting Florence, consider taking a look at this Tuscany Road Trip Itinerary we created and go visit a sleepy Florentine town. There are so many amazingly quaint towns just 30-45 minutes away that so many people planning a trip to Italy miss.
While the large tourist meccas are popular for a reason, we highly recommend taking time to visit smaller towns or natural places in Italy that not everyone visits. Even if you choose to skip a HUGE tourist center for a smaller tourist center that is okay as it still takes you to a smaller town in Italy you may have missed. Of course, this isn’t a hard and fast rule, but just something we hope you consider when planning a trip to Italy. Not seeing the lesser-known parts of Italy IS indeed a big mistake because you will miss out on some of the best parts of the country!
We hope this post helped you figure out a few mistakes to avoid when planning a trip to Italy. Italy is one of the first places that we visited abroad and remains one of our favorite countries without fail. We can’t wait for you to experience it and we hope that these tips help you when planning your Italy itinerary. They aren’t meant to scare you, but to make you “think” about a few alternative mindsets!
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