“Single Friends” 2013 Italy Trip

I’ve set up this site to collect my research on places to see in Italy. There are the dates for each city, links to handy sites such as transportation schedules or ticket booking, and my current planned itinerary. The itinerary is a current guess since things often change once in-country.

Helpful Hints

– Power is 220v 50 Hz. Most small electronics will work on this power with only a plug adapter from US to EU plugs. If there is a switch associated with the outlet, make sure it is turned on. In some hotels in Europe, to conserve electricity, the lights and power to room outlets are switched off when you leave the room; I don’t know about these specific hotels.

– I bring a short extension cord with me so that I can plug the cord into the wall (using the plug adapter) and then plug 2 or 3 chargers into the extension cord. Generally US extension cords are rated for 600v so should have no problem handling 220v, just be careful about plugging in your chargers. This also means you only need 1 plug adapter for your various chargers.

– Make sure you notify your credit card company (not necessary for AMEX) and debit-card issuer (bank) you will be in Italy and Sicily.  US credit cards will generally NOT work in automated machines (because a signature is required); but will work where there is a human handling the transaction (e.g., train station windows & restaurants). So I make sure I have bills for the ticket machines.

– Pickpockets and other scams are rampant in Italy, especially in crowded areas such as bus stops, train stations and packed trains/buses, and tourists are viewed as an easy mark.  I always put everything but a few Euros in a money belt. Purse snatching is also common, including thieves on mopeds that grab purses while driving down the street; so always carry purses away from the street. This is advice about pickpockets in Palermo from a New Yorker:

“Warnings about pickpockets on [bus line] 389. MORE THAN WARNING. Have nothing in your pockets. Have anything valuable zipped up in a zipped bag and clutch it to yourself. Forget the validation machine. When you sit down – write the day and time on the ticket (that’s all the machine does). And don’t be fussing with your stuff at the bus stop at Piazza Independenzia. I think the thieves are around there, sizing up their potential victims. They come out of nowhere. You will find that it seems more people try to crowd on to the bus than you saw waiting for it. And they are probably off the bus by the time it leaves the Piazza.”

I have read other comments that indicate that pick-pockets will watch for someone to buy something and notice where they put their change. Pick-pockets will spend 30 mins or more until the right opportunity provides itself and they also work in groups where one person distracts you and another takes your things. Be very careful taking cash from ATMs in train stations, for example, since they know you have quite a bit of money and train stations can be crowded.  Others have said that their wallets were stolen from front pants pockets, normally a safe place.  So, expect anything of value to be stolen when you leave the hotel, your purse to be ransacked, and of course, don’t wear jewelry of any value.  The train from Sorrento into Naples is an especially bad place, especially at the Pompeii stop (because of the tourists) and the Naples main station.  This is NOT Germany or even Spain or Greece.

Not to be alarmist or spoil the trip, but be aware so you have only good memories from going to Italy.  These are professionals so don’t think you can out-wit them. On the other hand, serious crime is generally not a problem.

Another interesting scam is to give you a Lira coin in change because it looks similar to a €2 coin. Of course, Lira are worthless.

And finally, when giving a large note (say a €20 note or more), announce that fact so the person doesn’t switch and then pretend you gave them a €5 or €10 bill.

And on a related note, in tourist locations, I’ve had a cashier give me the coin change, then wait several seconds to see if I would walk away, before giving me the rest of the change in bills. If you expect more than €10 in change, generally wait until some bills are produced! As is usual, leave the change on the counter until the cashier has given you everything you expect so they can recount it if you’re not sure.

– Though not illegal, some cab fares can be very high (e.g., €20 for a ride from the Sorrento train station to a Sorrento hotel–5 minutes drive).

– English is much less commonly spoken in Italy and Sicily than in Greece or Germany, especially when you get outside the tourist areas. Be prepared, maybe with a phrase book or menu translation application.  Anyone fluent in Italian?  When we went to Spain we had several women fluent in Spanish. 

– I find getting Euros at the ATM at the airport easier and cheaper than buying travelers checks or Euros in the US.  But because of the pickpocket threat (see above), don’t use ATM’s in busy train stations. We will be in airports 3 times–when we arrive and when we go to Naples.  Since the hotel in Rome is in a non-tourist area, it should be OK to use an ATM there.

– After you buy your metro or bus ticket, ALWAYS use the (separate) time-stamp machine to validate it (or just write the date/time on it in pen)! (Just like we had to do in Athens & Germany & Austria if you used the subway/trams.)  Traveling without a time-stamped ticket can result in a large fine. Ignorance or not knowing the language is no excuse to the plain-clothed transit police (this happened to someone who worked for me). 

– Italian society tends to be a bit more formal in dress, especially in the evenings.  In Spain, I always changed into long pants for dinner (which is always after 8pm) and will do the same here. And remember to cover your shoulders and knees when entering a cathedral. Or do like Patty and just wrap a newspaper over your shoulders and then pass it on to someone else in line.

how-to-drink-coffee-in-italy

Flights

  • Mon 9/16/2013 3:30pm – AZ 649 ORD->FCO (Airbus 332) (seatmap) connecting to AZ 1785 FCO->PMO (Airbus 325) (seatmap)
  • Sat 9/21/2013 8:50am – AZ 1202 PMO->NAP (E75) (we are on the single class version of this small plane-no seatmap)
  • Fri 9/27/2013 10:00am – AZ 628 FCO->ORD (Airbus 332)  (seatmap).  Arriving 1:40pm

(I have downloaded and installed Chrome and then configured it to automatically translate Italian into English using Google Translate since many of the sites don’t have English versions. If a site does have an English version, I then switch to it.)

Currency Converter

Palermo – Weather Forecast

We are staying at Hotel Europa (Via Agrigento 3) in the “New City” area 7 blocks from Piazza Castelnuovo & Piazza Politeama. Map.

  • Tues 9/17 – land at 11:10 am and arrive at hotel by noon. Early dinner and crash.
  • Wed 9/18 – 
  • Thurs 9/19 – Erice and winery excursion (private group bus)
  • Fri 9/20
  • Sat 9/21 – pack and fly to Naples

Naples/Sorrento Coast (Vico Equense) – Weather forecast

We are staying at Hotel Mary (Via Filangieri 132, Vico Equense). Map (note that the Google Map places the red dot wrong; the hotel is towards the bottom left of the screen). After staying here, I highly recommend it as a nice but inexpensive option (since it is a walk to the train station and then a train hop to Sorrento).

  • Sat 9/21 – land at 9:45am and arrive at hotel before noon. Dinner in Naples or Sorrento?
  • Sun 9/22 – 
  • Mon 9/23 – 
  • Tues 9/24 – pack and leave at 9am for Rome by bus (~2 hrs plus a stop)

Rome – Weather forecast

We are staying at the City Guest House (Viale Opita Oppio 76) (TripAdvisor) located southeast of Rome in Tuscolana area.  Map.

  • Tues 9/24 – arrive at hotel around noon.
  • Wed 9/25 – 
  • Thurs 9/26 – Colosseum evening tour
  • Fri 9/27 – pack and fly home.  Arrive in Chicago at 1:40pm