When my family and I ventured through three cities in Italy (Rome, Florence, and Milan) a month ago in June, I made sure to compile a list of tips that might be helpful for others who might be traveling to the same locations. Keep in mind that when we went, it was the end of June and therefore, 1. It was very hot for someone used to mild Southwest Washington summers and 2. The typical tourist attractions were very busy. You can check out more at my blog!
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Bring a water bottle. We quickly discovered that the first city we visited, Rome, was full of public drinking fountains from which fresh, cool spring water flowed. This was a godsend in the aforementioned summer heat.
Eat food. Yes, this is obviously going to have to happen eventually, but I still feel the need to point it out. Legitimate Italian food contrasts with typical food in America in that it has a light, simple, clean flavor; perfect for someone like me who doesn't eat their salad with dressing.
Be careful when you're crossing the street. Pedestrians don't seem to have the right of way at crosswalks in Italy and if they do, the drivers certainly don't heed it. If you're poised to step out into the street, don't assume that traffic will stop for you.
Don't forget to look up. The outsides of buildings are often beautiful, impressive, or at least very different from what you might be used to seeing. And inside buildings, particularly cathedrals and other monuments, the ceilings can be covered in paintings or other ornateness that you could miss just looking straight ahead.
Eat gelato. It's ice cream, but better. There are gelato parlors on virtually every street and it comes in all kinds of delicious flavors (my favorites were lemon and pistachio). And, of course, it helps to beat the heat. However…
If you want gelato, don't sit down. Take it to go or you will be charged extra for sitting down at a table.
Take the elevator up to the cupola. The cupola is the dome on the top of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. If you go up, you have the option of taking the stairs or the elevator. However, the elevator only takes you to the bottom of the dome. To go all the way up, you still have to climb more than 300 steps. I also wouldn't recommend going up those 300 steps if you're claustrophobic. When the stairs aren't infinite corkscrews, the walls are narrow and slanting with the dome, a somewhat surreal experience.
What to do if you get bored in an art museum. One of the sites we visited in Florence was the Uffizi museum. While the paintings and statues were incredible, it didn't take long for them to become boring. To solve this, have fun making up dialogue in your head for the people in the paintings.
Don't take birdseed from strangers. Milan's Piazza del Duomo is full of pigeons. There are people who will offer you seeds with which you can feed the pigeons and they'll even take your picture. What they don't tell you is that afterwards, they will demand payment from you. It might be fun to get mobbed by hungry birds, but if you're not willing to pay, don't accept the seed. This applies to any other individuals who seem to be gratuitously giving away goods.
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