The second edition of one of my favorite travel books, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go, has just been published, with updated chapters, budget tips, and on-line resources. Whatever your gender, don't head for Italy without it! In this guest blog, its author, Susan Van Allen, shares some advice for making the most of your journey.
My Top Travel Tips
by Susan Van Allen
1. Lie about when you’re leaving and returning. Tell yourself and those in your world you’ll be away the day before and the day after whatever it says on your plane ticket. It’s not really lying. Mentally you’re in Italy those pre- and post- travel days. This helps me not to leave packing until the last minute, and spares those around me from dealing with my I’m-going-to-Italy-tomorrow-obsessed self. The day after you return, you’ll get no sympathy with, “I’m jet-lagged, just got back from Italy.” Consider these border days gifts to yourself, to ease in and out.
2. Go solo. “I have no one to go with” should not be an obstacle to your Italian travel dreams. Italy is a fantastic place to wander solo, following your very own desires. Since Italians are such welcoming people, you’ll rarely find yourself feeling lonely. Or you can join one of the many group tours to Italy, where you’ll be traveling with kindred spirits. I even enjoy solo time when I’m traveling with my husband or girlfriends. Exploring at my own pace during the day makes dinner times more fun, when we share our separate adventures.
3. Flirt. There’s a shrink in New York who prescribes a trip to Italy for women who need a boost to their self esteem. Italian men have mastered the art of flirting — it’s one of the country’s masterpieces. Enjoy, without taking it too seriously. It’s all in the spirit of: "You are women, we are men. We are alive! And what a fun game we play!" If you get harassment rather than flirting, a loud “Vai via!” (”Go Away”) is an age-old stopper that usually works.
4. Take a guided tour. I was resistant to this for many years, with visions of traipsing behind a screaming person hoisting an umbrella. At the same time I had the frustrating experiences of waiting in line for the Sistine Chapel, being baffled in the Forum where nothing is marked, etc. It’s great to join in on a small tour group. My favorite is Context Travel, a company that runs tours in Italy’s major cities with limits of six participants.
5. Keep an eye on your stuff. Please don’t become a paranoid traveler, but the truth is there are expert purse snatchers who target tourists in places of major distraction: public transportation, outdoor markets, and crowded sights. Get your offensive style down, so it becomes second nature and you can comfortably roam. While some prefer a secret money belt, I carry a shoulder bag, always closed, tucked under my “inside” arm to avoid whizzing motorini thieves. At sidewalk restaurants, keep your purse hooked to you or your seat.
6. Experience il dolce far niente (the sweetness of doing nothing). Though you’ll have “must sees” on your itinerary, take time to escape from an agenda and simply be in the moment in Italy. This may be sleeping late with the sound of church bells in the distance, lingering at a caffe while beautiful people-watching, or meandering around a vineyard — such bliss!
Excerpted from 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go, Second Edition.
Join Susan Van Allen for a Golden Week in Tuscany, an inspiring adventure designed for female travelers to enjoy Italy at Harvest Time (November 3-10). Some spaces are still available, For more information, click here.