Although most of the planning and preparation is taken care of for you, there are still a few things you should know and some details you should take care of to ensure your comfort, safety and peace of mind. Please review the following information before your departure to ensure that any surprises along the way will only be pleasant ones.
Passports and Visas
It is each traveler's responsibility to have a passport valid for at least 6 months after the date of travel and a visa if required. IMPORTANT: Visa are generally not required Americans traveling to the European Union. Passport applications are available at most U.S. Post Offices, as well as at regional Passport Agencies. Passengers requiring visas, whether obtained in advance or locally upon arrival, should ensure that their passport has un-stamped visa pages.
A little pre-planning can make your trip go a lot smoother. Several weeks before your trip, make a list of what you will need to take with you. Make sure your personal documents (passports, visas, driver’s license) are in order and that you have enough prescription medications to last through the trip. We suggest that you make photocopies of passports, visas, personal ID and any other important travel documents and pack them separately from the originals. Pack a list of medications including dosage and generic names. If you lose the originals while traveling, you'll have copies for easier reporting and replacement. You may consider bringing a small supply of over the counter medications for headaches and/or anti-diarrhea pills (especially when traveling outside of the USA and Western Europe). Due to security reasons, many museums have restrictions on the size of bags that can be taken inside and backpacks, carry on bags or large purses may not be permitted. It is recommended to bring a small shoulder bag or purse to use in these situations instead. Avoid placing valuables such as cameras in your checked luggage. Airplane pressure can cause similar pressure in your body, most notably in ears, as well as liquid tubes and bottles. Your physician can suggest medication for decongestion. As for the liquid containers, we suggest that you squeeze out excess air from those containers and place into Ziploc bags to catch any leaks.
Cell Phones & Calling Cards
You may wish to carry a cell phone while traveling. Check with your cell phone provider if your phone will work in the destination(s) you are visiting or if you can pick up a short Italy plan. U.S. service is dominated by the CDMA technology standard, while most of the world uses the incompatible GSM standard. Some U.S. providers do offer GSM, but you may incur high international roaming fees. With GSM, however, you can often choose to have your phone unlocked and then add a local SIM card for lower fees. If you can access the Internet as you travel, you can take advantage of email or a Skype Internet telephone (VOIP) account for the best value. Alternatively, you may investigate renting a cell phone before you leave or buying an inexpensive phone locally. Some US carriers now have a daily European plan for as low as $10 per day!
When calling the U.S. from a foreign country, you may also use a prepaid calling card; normally, the only additional charge (besides the prepaid long distance charges) is a local fee of a few cents and possibly a connection fee if you are using your card at your hotel. It is best to check with the hotel’s reception desk prior to making phone calls to avoid unexpected charges.
Making Telephone Calls from One Country to Another
When dialing a number from one country to another, you should proceed as follows: dial your country's Exit Code + destination Country Code + Phone Number.
Wireless Internet Access
Passengers traveling with WiFi enabled devices (such as a personal computer, smartphone, tablet, or digital audio player) may be able to connect to the internet via a wireless network access point (or hotspot). WiFi access in hotels and/or cruise lines often involves a fee which, in some cases, can be very expensive. Availability of WiFi varies by country, hotel and/or cruise line. Even if WiFi is available, signal strength is subject to local conditions and not guaranteed. Internet availability on cruises is unpredictable due to the ship frequently changing locations while sailing through multiple countries. Passengers requiring internet access may seek out internet cafes or may be able to locate free WiFi hotspots such as libraries or coffee shops. Hotspots can often be located and planned in advance via an online search. Planning ahead may help avoid unnecessary fees.
Staying Healthy While Traveling
All travelers should familiarize themselves with local conditions, such as high altitude or required immunizations, which could affect their health. We recommend you consult with your personal health-care provider, the Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov) and/or the World Health Organization (http://www.who.int/en/) for their recommendations.
There are several easy steps you can take to stay healthy while traveling which may help prevent contracting an illness while away from home.
Watch what you eat. Try new foods in modest quantities, and depending upon your destination, you may want to avoid street foods, salad bars, raw vegetables and fruits, unless they have thick peels like bananas or grapefruit.
Stay hydrated. Drink bottled water and avoid consuming ice cubes made with tap water.
If you have allergies to foods, medications or insect bites, or have any other unique medical issues, consider a medical alert bracelet and/or a physician’s note detailing required treatment should you become ill.
Wash your hands regularly and carry hand sanitizer.
Where appropriate, pack sunscreen and insect repellent (for both active and warm destinations).
You may also want to bring a small first-aid kit with band-aids, antibiotic cream, pain killers, bug bite cream, digestive aids like anti-diarrheal or anti-bloat medications, antacids, and cold medicine. This is in addition to any prescription medications which should be adequate for the entire trip.
Many of our guests enjoy reading about their destination - either in advance of their trip or while traveling - as a way of adding context to their visit. Whether reading a traditional guide book, learning about the history and culture, or simply enjoying a fictional novel set in the destination, a good book can add greatly to your experience. Similarly, a good movie set in your destination helps set the mood before you travel. The following does not constitute an endorsement of any authors, books or films listed, it is merely a collection of guests’ recommendations.
La Bella Figura: A Field Guide to the Italian Mind or An Italian in Italy by Beppe Severgnini
Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy or In Tuscany by Frances Mayes
A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome by Alberto Angela
The Little World of Don Camillo by Giovanni Guareschi
Caesar: Life of a Colossus by Adrian Keith Goldsworthy
The Garden of the Finzi Continis by Giorgio Bassani
The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
A Room with a View by E.M. Forster
Inspector Montalbano novels by Andrea Camilleri
The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
The Agony and the Ecstasy: A Biographical Novel of Michelangelo by Irving Stone
Roma: The Novel of Ancient Rome by Steven Saylor
Italy for the Gourmet Traveler by Fred Plotkin
Michelangelo A Tormented Life by Antonio Forcellino
Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance by Paul Strathern
Why Italians Love to Talk About Food: A Journey Through Italy's Great Regional Cuisines, from the Alps to Sicily by Elena Kostioukovitch