Italy: Travel Skills – Rick Steves Travel Talks

Italy: Travel Skills – Rick Steves Travel Talks

This video is an excerpt from a much
longer Italy Travel Talk. To view other topics, or to watch my Italy Talk in its
entirety, visit, or check out my Rick Steves YouTube channel. Enjoy. Thank you for being here, I’m
Rick Steves and I’d like to share with you a little insight
and some very important practical skills on my favorite country
in Europe, Italy. My mark of a good traveler is how they enjoy Italy. If
somebody goes to Italy and they say, “It was just temper tantrums, traffic jams,
people ripping me off, stray hairs, body odor…” I think that person would enjoy
Denmark a little more. I think that when you go to Italy, you have to accept it on
its terms. It’s a rough-and-tumble country. It’s a country a little more
demanding on travelers than other places, but when you know how to travel smart
in Italy, you’re gonna find it’s the greatest place to travel. Again, you have
to understand Italy to enjoy it smoothly. Now, part of the challenge for
us, is to actually melt into that society I mean, look at these people here. One of
them could be a tourist, probably not, but one of them could be a tourist, that could
be you. And that should be your goal. I love to talk to travelers in Italy
who are becoming temporary Italians, equipping themselves with good
information, and expecting themselves to travel smart., and that is important. One
of the keys of Italy is to connect with the people. You gotta make it happen. I
was tooling around the countryside in a car one time, I came upon a cheese
festival. When you find a cheese festival in the countryside of Italy, stop your
car. Get out. Eat some cheese. It’s that simple. You’ve
got to reach into the society in order to enjoy it. the Italians are great at sitting on a
nice chair and watching the world go by, you can do it to. You are more than
welcome to pull up a chair and join these retired Italians, and enjoy that
river of life flowing by. Italy has a great joy of its civilization, it really
does. I mean you come into a little town here, every summer there’s a
festival where the older kids are teaching the younger kids how
to make a good ravioli. It’s a beautiful thing, and you can be part of that scene. A great way to connect with Italy is to understand that the most important
religion there, in a lot of ways, is futball, or what we would call soccer. Go
to the soccer stadium, go to the futball stadium. It could be a little tiny
stadium in a tiny town, or a big huge game, but you’ll learn a lot about Italy
when you go to the national pastime. Italy is two-thirds the size of
California, with sixty million people in it. It’s well-organized, believe it or not,
you can get around in a hurry, and there is so much to offer. In a lot of ways, the
north has a lot of the charm of Italy without the intensity of Italy, and you go
farther south and it gets a little more emotional and a little more, I think,
exciting in a lot of ways. When you get around Italy you’ve got the trains, and
as I said, in the old days, the trains were kind of a fiasco, but these days
trains are very good in Italy. You need to use the schedule smartly, you need to
make educated guesses on the language barrier. Here we see trains in the
departure mode. Thankfully, they’ve got the word for “departure” in four languages
below that. So, you can always look around and hope that they’ve got the
multilingual aids for you, but even if that wasn’t there, I think you could
figure that out. And when you look at that schedule, you don’t need to know the
word for “destination,” or “departure time,” or “track,” you can pretty much guess which
one of those columns is for that category. Now when you’re dealing with
the trains in Italy, it is important to remember that things don’t always go as
smoothly as they might go in Germany, and you’ve gotta roll with the punches. When
I come into a train station in Italy, the first thing I want to see is this reader
board, because this tells me exactly what the time is. You see in the bottom it
says 14:50. So, it’s 2:50 right now, and if you look at the train departure schedule,
at 2:45 there’s a train going to Nettuno, right, and that is leaving on track 14.
And you know something, that was five minutes ago, and you know something, it’s
still in the station, isn’t it, because if it’s on that board, it’s still in the station.
There’s an example of just heads-up travel. The average traveler
might come in and say, “oh, we’re five minutes late, we’ve missed the train.” Forget the
printed schedule, forget what anybody else told you, go there, look at this board, and you’ll see you’ve
still got the train-you better hurry because it’s probably takin’ off any
minute, but scamper on down to track 14, assuming you’re going to Nettuno, and
you’ll be on your way. Even the boats in Venice now have electronic reader boards
for their schedules and their departure times. A few years ago that
would be inconceivable. Now, even the boats in Venice are going on schedule. One
thing unique about transportation in Italy is, a ticket is not a ticket until it is validated. You can buy a ticket, you can be honest, you can get on
a train, and you can get a ticket for stealing and not using the ticket system, if
you don’t “ka-chunk” it first, right. I love that sound, “ka-chunk.” If you’ve been to Italy you know
that sound. You’ve got to “ka-chunk” your ticket, and then it says it’s used, it’s right now, and
the conductor is fine with you. Be on the ball that way. One of the key
words in Italian for me is “sciopero.” “Sciopero” means “strike.” I don’t think
I’ve ever been to Italy when there’s not a strike going on. Now for some people,
“it’s a strike, I’m miserable, everything’s falling apart, what am I doing in this horrible
country.” No, this is Italy, it has strikes, that’s part of the fun, right. Now,
they’re not strikes like in the United States, where for two weeks somebody’s on strike, they are generally “nuisance strikes.” They’re scheduled in advance, and
the train workers are upset about something, and you know, this says it
right here, “from 9:00 on the 14th of April until 9:00 on the 15th
of April, we’re gonna be on strike.” That’s four days away and they’re already
announcing it. That just means you gotta kinda go, “oh, the train guys are upset,”
and you gotta either leave early or leave late. Or, if you’re during that day,
there’s still trains but they’re just ignoring the schedules. I’ve worked my way through
a lot of strikes all over Europe. And what you do is, you go to the station and you
take anything departing in that direction. You just kind of work your way to your
ultimate destination, and it’s an adventure, and you’re right there with the local people, but ya’
gotta roll with the punches in Italy, it’s the mark of a good traveler, very
important. Driving in Italy is both fun and
frustrating, and I would say when you’re planning an Italian trip, to not try to
do all of it by car or all of it by train. Give yourself the freedom and the
efficiency to do it half and half. Remember, you do not want a car in Rome,
Florence, Venice, the Cinque Terre, or Naples. Horrible places to drive, okay. You
want to do that by public transportation. By train very easy, and remember, when you
want to rent your car, you simply get on the freeway and you go to where you want
to be. It’s not a huge problem to do it in one overly by train, and with another
overlay by car. I would say do the big cities by train, and if you want the
mobility of a car for Tuscany, and exploring Umbria, and getting up into the
Dolomites, the mountains, you know, and so on, that’s fun to have. One of the favorite
days for me in Italy, is the day I turn in my car. It’s just, it’s a headache to be driving
around in Italy in the big cities and the traffic, and for a lot of people, public transit is a great thing. On the other hand, if you want to get a car, again, you want to
use it in places where it makes sense for a car. Just last year I picked up a car
at the Perugia airport, and I dropped it at Pisa. Very easy to do, very cheap, and it
worked for me very well. I will remind you, there’s no economy for having a car
for a long time, a two-week rental just costs double what
a one-week rental costs, so, you know, you can take a short car rental, and then
supplement that with your train tickets, and go where you should go by car, and
where you should go by train. The key in Italy for getting around in a hurry by car, is to pay the money, and use the autostrada, okay. It’s not gonna break
the bank, its gonna save you time, it’s gonna save
you gas, and it’s going to be safer to travel on the super-freeway, okay. Every 15
or 20 minutes, you’ll stop and give some money to the toll station, and then you’ll carry on. It’s like the autobahn in Germany, except you gotta pay for it every once in
a while with toll booths. Know your signs when you’re driving in Italy, know your signs in
general in Italy. Counter-intuitively, a red circle, even without a slash across
on it, means don’t go. It’s a “zone traffic limited,” do you see what I mean. You just want
to be able to read the signs. Here’s a sign, with a slash on it, that means no
parking, and that means no parking on, you see the
cross, that would be Sunday or holidays, from eight until 20, that would mean eight
in the morning until eight at night, the 24 hour clock, and that says, “except
residents or people with authorization,” you see the words under that. Now I don’t
know any of those Italian words, I’m just faking it here, and just go with me.
When you fake it, 90% of the time you’re right, of the 10% of the time you’re wrong, half the time you’re wrong you didn’t know it, so it didn’t matter, that gives you 95% correct ratio, and then you just bull right ahead. Down below, “P” for parking I
would imagine, the hammers crossed is the opposite of the cross, the cross is your
holiday, holy day, and then the hammers crossed is like “hammer and sickle” that’s
workers, those are your work days. Monday through Friday, or maybe Monday through
Saturday, depends from country to country, You gotta be careful about parking from
eight till eight on work days, and that little clock below means if you have a cardboard
clock in your clock-in your car, you set it to the time you arrive, you put it on
your dashboard, and it says it’s good for two hours. So that’s kind of fancy
communication, but that’s sort of faking it, and I think most travelers can
confidently guess their way through a lot of the challenges. You do have “carabinieri”
and “polizia” on every corner ready to help you out. And it’s good with a
country like Italy, as crazy, and densely populated, and full of fun, and
surprises, that there are police keeping order. You will find a lot of regulations,
a lot of bureaucracy, and it’s just important really to try to understand
what’s going on, for your own safety and convenience. Italy is really crowded. The
beautiful thing about Italy is, it’s, in my estimate, the greatest place to go in Europe. What comes with that is, it’s the most crowded place in Europe. And, when it
comes to Italy, all of us are wanting to go to the same five places. Rome, Florence,
Venice, Siena, the Cinque Terre, we all want to go to the same places. That’s
where all the tourists are. Now, should you not go there? No. Those are the best
places, you should go there, but remember, 80% of Italy has almost no
tourism, and its gonna be a third cheaper than the most popular places. And
the places you want to go to, within those places I just mentioned, everybody
want to do the same things. When you’re in Rome, you want to
go to the Vatican Museum and see the Sistine Chapel. Well, that’s the crowd
right there. That’s not a special day, that any hour it’s open, it’s that crowded.
It’s gonna be a shuffle like this. A lot of people say, “this is just, you know,
insulting, this is dangerous this is stinky, this is, I don’t like it.”
Well then don’t go there. It’s tough, that’s just the way it is, emerging
economies are able to travel now, you got a hundred million travelers in China,
hundred million travelers in India, they want to go to Italy, and they don’t want to go
off the beaten path, they wanna go where everybody wants to go, the most famous
places. So you need to be on the ball. There’s a lot of very important sights in
Italy where you can get tickets in advance. Whenever you can, get tickets in
advance, it really is worth your trouble. Any good guidebook would certainly tell
you where you should get tickets in advance. When there are crowds, there are
people picking pockets, right, don’t be paranoid, just be not vulnerable. I love
crowds in Italy, I like it when everybody’s just rubbing against
everybody else. But I’m not worried about my wallet, because my wallet is not in my
back pocket. My wallet is buttoned in here, or zipped down there, or I’m wearing
money belt or whatever. If your your wallet has important stuff in it and it’s in
your back pocket, if you’ve got a purse just hanging down there, you’re
vulnerable, and thieves are going to target you. In Italy, the thieves target
Americans, not because they’re mean but because they’re smart. Solve that problem
by not having anything valuable in your purses or wallets. You’re gonna be in
crowded situations, when you’re in crowded situations be on guard. Street
thieves, in Italy especially, they come off as beggars but they’re not beggars, they’re pickpockets. Seems a little harsh, but I think you got to assume that
because they hang out where the tourists are. I mean I can-in my book I say,
“watch the thieves work the crowds at the Uffizi Gallery, and so on.” You want to wear a money belt, that’s the
key thing. A money belt, you tuck it in like your shirt tail, and you are not
vulnerable to petty theft pick-pocketings and purse snatching. Eating in Italy is
one of the joys of all of Europe, really. I just- Italy has such a wonderful cuisine
culture, Italy loves to eat, Italy loves to cook,
Italy loves its ingredients, it just embraces life via the kitchen. I call
this woman “Auntie Pasta,” and she just is symbolic to me of this wonderful joy of
food. I like people-to-people eating. I like to eat in the funky little
mom-and-pop places with no pretense. I love to eat down and dirty with the locals.
I like a restaurant that’s only open Monday through Friday at lunch. There’s- some
of my very favorite restaurant are only open Monday through Friday at lunch, what’s the
deal? They’re just for workers and they’re only open when workers are looking for
lunch, you see. Now having said that, it is fun to go to nice restaurants, fancy places.
And in this case, if you can find a restaurant which is personality driven,
it’s got the man’s name, I mean, this is him, you know, it’s, you know,
Pepe’s Trattoria or whatever, you know Pepe cares about this. His mom’s cooking
in the back, the kids are serving and washing, it’s just a family show. And for
me, the big luxury in Italy, anywhere for that matter, is to be able to trust the
chef and say. “I’d like to spend 50 or 60 euros, and just give me a meal I
will never forget,” and let him bring what he wants. It’s such a beautiful thing
to be able to do that and he’ll, if it’s a good, honest chef or restauranteur,
they’ll take very good care of you. My Italian friends love to go out and eat
well, and what they’re interested in doing is eating with the region, and with
the season. Italians know, if you go to a good
restaurant, you can look at the menu and you can know what month it is, and what
part of Italy you’re in, by what’s on the menu. And if you’re going to Italy and
you’re hell-bent on having, you know, mushrooms, well you should go in the fall. And if
you are there in the spring, it’d be better for you to eat asparagus. Whatever
they’re serving, I think that’s smart to eat, you want to go with the seasons.
Another thing very popular in Italy these days, is what’s called a zero
kilometer meal. Zero kilometers means everything’s right there, raised in that village, raised on that
farm even, I’ve had some literal zero kilometers meals and they’re rustic, but boy they are good. And there’s something about the terroir, and about how everything works
together in the heritage, and everything, and in Italy they call it-it’s a
“good marriage,” if you have the wine from this field, where the prosciutto came,
from where the cheese came, and everything, right there. It’s the
tradition, it’s the soil, it’s the sun, it’s the name of the family on the label
of the wine bottle. And the daughter is pouring it while grandmas looking on, just
beaming with pride, as this traveler from the other side of the world is drinking
the fruit of their labor that has been produced on that farm, by that family, for
ten generations. That is really quality, you see. There’s something about that, that
anybody here could have, if they go to Italy, and they eat in the right places. A
fun thing about eating in Italy is family style, and I’m a big fan of eating
family style, in fact I like the first courses, they’re smaller they’re more
creative, they’re less expensive more variety. And I like to get a gang of
friends together and just spread the dishes around. Don’t worry about being a
sophisticate, if you’re a tourist you’re not really a sophisticate, and if you try to be
a sophisticate you just look goofy. Be honestly curious about the culture,
respectful of the culture. Your goal is to be steep learning curve, to eat your
way through that menu. The chefs gonna love it, and if they notice you’re
sharing meals, and sharing plates, and cutting it up, and trying it all, they’re
very likely to bring you some extra plates just so you can complete your
experience. That is really a success in your travels. Lunchtime. If you like a
salad bar here, the equivalent there is an antipasto bar, with all these wonderful
vegetables, and cold cuts, and so on, you just feel the plate up, one simple price, it’s
very fast, it’s very nutritious, and it’s very local, and it’s gone, okay, it is
gone in a hurry. What you don’t want to look for is a big
English language sign that says, “no frozen food,” on the most expensive square
in Rome. Everything’s wrong about this. With a menu that’s printed, so it’s the
same all year long, in four languages. Wrong, wrong, wrong, right, too much rent,
too many cliches, too much of a focus on tourists. What I want, is a handwritten, small menu, in one language. Handwritten,
because it’s shaped by what’s fresh the market this morning. Small, ’cause they’re just cooking up what they
can sell profitably for a good price and, in one language, the local language,
because they’re targeting not tourists, but locals. Tourists are more than
welcome, but this is for locals, and you can bet, with a local clientele in a
low-rent place away from the main square, with this kind of a menu, that’s
gonna be a good value. Again, a small, handwritten menu in one language, a hole
in the wall place, mom-and-pop, and if has an enthusiastic local clientele filling the
place, if it just feels successful, you can sit down without too much worry and
know, that’s a good value. At lunchtime also, I walk around and at-a-glance you
can see where the popular places are, because all the workers are taking their
lunch break, and they line up for this guy’s sandwiches, or they’re down at the market and
everybody’s at that stall for the soup, and fish, or whatever. You can pretty much
go with the local specialties and do yourself a huge favor. I’ve also found in
Italy there’s a lot of expensive, fancy grocery stores that have a deli section,
and in the deli section, the local office workers will go for their lunch, and it
is beautiful, home-cooked kind of food, and you eat it
right there, on a stool, watching the street action. That is far better than
your fast food option if you wanna quick, cheap, lunch. Marketplaces in Italy are a
delight, the produce is as tasty as you can imagine. They’ve got laws that say you
gotta say where the produce was from, grown, so people aren’t mistakenly
consuming stuff that had to be shipped, or frozen, and so on. Again, they want to eat
with the region, and with the season. I love a restaurant that is really
thriving and successful. I don’t want to go with whatever crowd-sourcing service
that Americans use when they’re traveling says everybody wants to go to,
I could just feel the vibe, and ask at my my restaurant(hotel), or talk to people in the
street, where a good place to eat is, and I’ll remind you. if you’re going to good,
popular places in Italy, they’re gonna be booked out. You need to make a
reservation. It’s just smart. If you’ve got an idea for a restaurant, drop in in the
afternoon, choose a table, give em’ your name, or make a phone call, have somebody at your
hotel make the phone call, but grab a table, get it nailed down in advance. In
Europe, especially in Italy, they don’t worry about turning the table. If you go
early to a restaurant, it’s likely to feel like a touristy place. You
can go back later on in the evening to the same place and it would feel like a local
favorite, because Americans eat early and Italians eat late. This is my favorite
steak house in Tuscany, and they’ve got two seatings, one at seven and one at nine,
and its full all the time, you need a reservation because this guy is just-he
is famous for his beautiful beef. You’ve heard of the Italian beef and so on, and it is
just-Italians love their red meat. And he comes by with his big hunks of beef, you
look at it, and you ask which one you want, and he tells you how much it costs, and then he takes it back there’s
really no choice, it’s seven minutes on this side and seven minutes on that side,
and then, “whack,” you hear a big hunk being chopped off the carcass that’s back there on
the gurney, and its into the into the oven, and then a few minutes later on
your plate. Not a friendly place if you are a vegetarian I’ll tell you that, but
she’s no vegetarian, and that steak’s gone, and she’s got a lifelong memory. Pasta is a big
deal, I love the pasta. I have a tough time, frankly, in American-Italian restaurants
’cause I don’t have the ambiance. Our pasta can be great here, they can do it
all right, but one thing good about eating in Italy is, you’re in Italy. You’re
surrounded by all that chaos, and that noise, and that ambiance, and you know
you’re eating local produce with the season, and that comes with pasta also.
Know the pastas, know the specialties. If you’re in a port, you wanna have seafood, if
you’re not in a port, you might not wanna have seafood. What is it, on Mondays
nobody wants seafood because-they probably don’t even serve it-because nobody’s
fishing on Sunday, and the markets not open, and its old seafood. Know how to get the
fresh food. If you want a maximum experience, a fun little trick in Italy
is to ask for “bis,” B-I-S, because that would be one serving, but split between
two different dishes, and restauranteurs are happy to do that,
and then you get that chance to maximize, double, your taste treats. I like to eat
with a little group of people, because then we get “bis” anyways, because we all
order one, and we spread it around, and four people can share each dish. When you’re traveling in Italy, the
courses are really important, more so than in other countries. You’ve got the
appetizer course, the “antipasti,” and then comes the “primi piatti,” or the
first course, that would be your pasta or your soup. After that, “secondi,” main
course, meat and fish, and then you’ve got your “dolci.” The “dolci vita,” the sweets. Now, I
like to stay away from the “secondi,” to be honest, I don’t want to have a big, full blown, four course meal, it takes too much time, it’s too much food, and it costs a
lot of money. The most expensive dish is the “secondi,” I find the most
interesting dishes are the “antipasti,” the appetizer dishes. These are really local
style, traditional, and affordable. And with a group of people, I like to get a
mix of “antipasti,” and a few pastas, and call that the meal, okay. There’s nothing
wrong with that, and there’s nothing wrong with sharing either. Wine, boy oh
boy. I like to go with the local recommendation. We all know a few names
of famous Italian wines, small productions with a huge demand, and
name familiarity, and that jacks the price way up. Sure, you can get “Brunello Di Montalcino,”
but if you go with the local recommendation, it could be arguably as
good as that, but not as famous, and maybe more local, and a better experience for
you, and half the price. So, don’t get sucked into all the big-name wines, even
though they are great. Be able to venture out and try some of
the local recommendations. A fun part of eating in Italy is food tours, and there are
a lot of food tourists. I was in Rome recently, and this was my guide, and she
took six of us around, and we visited eight different little hole-in-the-wall
foodie artisan shops in Testaccio, which, for two thousand years, has been the
pantry of Rome. It’s where the big-market has been historically, and so much fun
food culture there. You learn a lot when you take a food tour, it’s a long lunch
or a long dinner, it cost about 80 bucks but figure it’s $40 meal, and a $40 tour, and
a real education, a lot of fun. If you like food, and if you like culture,
consider those food tours. Also, in Italy very popular, is cooking classes, and
there’s plenty of that kind of entrepreneurial kind of activity going on for
tourists. One great reason to tune into
TripAdvisor, is to find out what are the new businesses going, as far as things to
do, and experiences to have. I’m not a big fan of crowd-sourcing web sites like
TripAdvisor for eating and sleeping, but I’m a huge fan of them to find out
what’s going on there in the way of small tours. If there’s a new zipline,
if there’s a new bike tour, Segway tour, a cooking class, anything very
creative and off the wall, it would be listed in TripAdvisor, and then you can
look it up and see if it’s good for you. Just last year I met one of our tour
groups in Florence, and we were learning how to cook, and what was really fun, we
prepared it, we cooked it, and then we sat down and we ate it, and it was “delizioso,”
I just gotta say that. The chef was right there beaming, as all of his students
went right from making the pasta to making the tiramisu, and then eating it all.
And it was a beautiful experience. That’s one of the hits on our tours, and you can
do it on your own too, if you like. I’m not a big happy hour, cocktail kind of
guy, but when I’m in Italy, it’s a very important part of the customs and the
culture. And early in the evening, people sit down, as the sun is down it’s cool,
the people are out, they’ve made their money, there’s a nice conviviality. Sit
down on the most expensive piece of real estate in town, buy a cocktail, it comes
with little sandwiches and munchies, it could even be a late dinner for the cost
to your drink, but for six or seven or eight dollars you’ve, got yourself a nice
hard drink right there on the greatest show in Italy, in this case that’s the
“campo,” the main square in Siena. This aperitivo thing is a tradition. It
started in Milano, and bars would compete by having a whole buffet of little munchy
food that could really put together a plate, and you know be a late meal if you
wanted it that way, and it’s free if you buy a drink. And that’s been so
successful in Milano, that now, you find it all over Italy. All over Italy,
aperitivo time, early in the evening, bars compete to get customers by putting out
free buffets of food that you’re welcome to, if you simply buy a drink. Another fun thing about Italy is the
spritz. These squares would be filled with market stalls in the morning, just
work-a-day for most of the day, and at night, the little bars and cafes spill
out into the street, the students gather, and the sun shines through that golden
kind of spritz glass, and it’s a beautiful scene. Buy a drink, strike up a conversation, and remind
yourself, you are a very interesting person. You’re a fascinating person. You speak
only one language, you come from the other side of the world from a land that’s
only 250 years old, and you’re venturing now, and you don’t even
know the name of the thing you’re drinking, you barely know what the coins
in your pocket are worth, and you’re standing there, willing to talk to these
people. Be bold, have fun, connect with the people,
and it helps to have a drink in your hand, alright. That happy hour time is just
great. Another dimension of fun on the streets
is the gelato, and I think it might make sense to skip the dessert in the fancy
restaurant, and have a mobile dessert. I like to not go with the crowd sourcing
or the guidebook, but just talk to local friends and say, “where’s the best gelato these days?” Everybody’s got an opinion, and you go in there, and it’s sort of an
art form in itself, and the cool thing about it is you get a cup or cone, you
get your favorite flavor, and then you stroll, doing the “passeggiata” up and down
the streets. A lot of different flavors, remember don’t
get attracted to the garish colors, and the big mountains of fruit, and
different exotic flavors, that’s generally fake food coloring, and so
on. Go with the locals, it’s a little more
understated, and find the artisan gelato shop, and you’ll find the quality is
amazing. As far as accommodations go in Italy, I really want to stay right
downtown. It’s really important to me to step out in the morning, and be where the
action is. Every time I end up getting a hotel that was lined up for me by
somebody else, or some booking service, or something like that, I find myself on a
big highway, way out in the suburbs, and I just-there’s no character
at all. I think location is critical That’s one thing you’ll find in all my books,
the location is really the driving factor on which hotels are going to be
listed. In Italy, a double bed is usually two
singles put together, you can make it up as a double bed, or you can make it up
as single bed. You’ve got friendly, fun people at the desk, this is a great
resource for you to get some advice. I would remind you that it’s important to
have a safe, and quiet, and central refuge, because it’s exhausting, it’s intense
you’re out in the streets it’s kind of a battle, it’s overwhelming, and when you
need a siesta, you need a siesta, and that’s what your hotel room is for. One
reason I like my hotel right downtown, is it provides that place just to let my ears
stop ringing, and let my mind just calm down a little bit, because I’m gonna
go out again later on. By the way, take a siesta if you have to, but it’s very
important to be out in the evening hours in Italy. It’s important to pack light
because you’re gonna be carrying your luggage a long way. In Italy, more than any
other country that I can think of, you can’t get the tour bus to your hotel,
because the old city centers are nowadays not letting buses in, so, you’re
gonna need to be able to walk with your gear. And like anywhere in Europe, if you
stay in bed and breakfast, you get double the culture intimacy for half the price. This, in Italy, is “camera affitti,” and
here you’re staying with Mama Rovati. For $100 you got a double room two blocks
away from Michelangelo’s David in downtown Florence, and you’re a guest of
this woman’s. It’s a beautiful experience. Italy is hot. It’s very hot in the summer.
You need air conditioning if you’re there in the summer. In the winter it can be
cold, and in the fall and the spring, they don’t let you heat or cool the rooms, so
you need to either have a sweater or get down to a tee shirt, depending, on you
won’t be able to turn on the air con all the time. So, just be warned, energy is
very expensive in Italy, and the government prohibits people from even
heating or cooling during those corner times, and dress accordingly, it’s pretty
important. A lot of old-fashioned rooms come with a bidet. This is my little
daughter Jackie twenty years ago demonstrating a bidet, and a bidet,
the Europeans will tell you, is designed so you can wash things that rub together
when you walk. That’s what they say. And it’s just-you’ve got to not
use it for any more than that, it’s just for sponge baths, and they’re kinda handy,
and it’s important when you find that strange piece of plumbing in your
bathroom, that you know how to use it. Cruising is a big part of Italy, and when
you think about it, the main ports, the main cities, of Italy, Venice, Florence,
Rome, and Naples, all are served by cruise ships. Now, Naples, the boat just-the ship just
parks there. Venice, the ship parks right there. Florence, it’s about an hour or two away,
and Rome, it’s about an hour away depending on Civitavecchia or Livorno. Also,
cruises that stop for Florence can side trip up to Pisa, or to the Cinque Terre. I’ll remind you there’s sort of a scandal going on right now with cruise
groups inundating the Cinque Terre. If you’re on a cruise ship, you should not
opt for the Cinque Terra option, because you’re gonna go there with all the other
cruise groups and it’s literally dangerous to walk on the little paths
when you’re there with thousands of blitz cruise visitors. It’s just bad
style, and I think it’s unprofessional for cruise ships to send their people to
the fragile little Cinque Terre villages because you can’t do a little bit of
cruising, it’s just thousands of people or nobody at all. Venice, Florence, and Rome, can handle
their cruisers very easily. Pompeii, Amalfi Coast, Naples, they can handle their
cruise ships fine also. This is a ship docking right in Naples, and
when you get off the boat, wherever you get off your ship, you’ll find buses
waiting to take you on tours, you’ll find local information offices, and you’ll
find, especially in Italy, small-time operators ready to take you on a private
tour. In-the-know cruisers line these up in advance, and
for the cost of four people on the big cruise tour bus, you could hire your own
driver guide, with a car, and have a private tour, which would make, I think, a
lot of more sense. We’ve written the most popular, best-selling, cruise port
guidebook in the United States for the Mediterranean, and it’s just designed
like all of our guidebooks except with no hotels, and it’s designed for people who
have eight hours in each city, and that would cover Italy very thoroughly. If you’re going
to Italy via cruise ship, it’s really a lot of fun, but you need to have good
information so you can use your time smartly. The biggest part of our business,
and we employ a hundred people just down the street here in Edmonds, is our tour
program. Last year was our best year ever, we took more than 20,000 people on eight
hundred different tours. That’s about 30 different itineraries, and my favorite
statistic is, about half of those people were return customers. I’m so proud of
the work our tour guides do, and all of our friends in Europe that help
us with our buses, and hotels, and restaurants, and I know that our return
customers, they have very high bar expectations, and we exceed those
expectations. Our tours are different than most, because there’s half as many
people on the bus, 25 people on a 50 seat bus, instead of 50 people on 50
seat bus, and, really important, our guides are fully paid up front, the best paid
guides in Europe, and there’s no way they can make any more money off you over the
course of your trip, because they’ve already got their pay, they’re on your side. Sightseeing is included, there’s no
kickbacks on your shopping, there’s no tipping allowed, your tour guide is an
expert, and he is your biggest fan, making sure you have the best possible trip. For
25 years I guided these tours, and for the last ten years, I’ve realized my guides do
a better job than I ever could, they’re the specialist, I’m the generalist, and for
the last ten years, every year I take one of our tours. it’s just a lot of fun for
me just to relax on the tours, and I cant really advertise this, but I’ll
tell you, the people that sign up on our tours are of the joys of the tours. Any
company, cruise ship company, tour company, whatever, shapes the clientele by how
they advertise their tours. We advertise our tours as rugged, experiential, you’re
gonna become a temporary local, if things aren’t to your liking, change your liking are characteristic hotels are really
characteristic, you’re gonna carry your own bags, that kind of thing, and you can imagine,
the kind of people that join us are really a lot of fun to travel with, so
it’s something I’m proud of and if you’re thinking about taking a tour, you
might want to check our tours out. This is one of our tours in Florence, and the
biggest part of our tour program is in Italy. This is our guides here, we have 100 different guides, great guides. This is Alfio, one of our Italian
guides, on the first night, giving people a little bit of a language lesson, singing a
few songs in Italian, before going out for a walk around town in the evening. I
was-every time I cross paths with one of our groups I love to pal around
with them for a while, and it’s just so much fun, all of us guides, to give people
the lay of the land while we’re there, so they’re more confident in doing their
own thing, and breaking away from the group as well. We’ve got a lot of
different itineraries, and if you look at our map of all of tour routes, Italy is by
far the most dense with all those little lines, because that’s-Italy is the most
popular destination for us, and we have lots of different ways to do Italy.
I’ll take just a minute to go through these itineraries, and even if you’re not
considering one of our tours, remember that these itineraries are really smart
itineraries, and you could do them on your own, quite easily. So learn from
these itineraries, and if you’re independently, minded let that be a
suggested way for you to tackle this much territory in that much time. This is
our flagship itinerary, The Best of Europe in Three Weeks. It’s heavy on
Italy, ’cause we think Italy is the country where you get the most value out
of having a tour guide and a bus, and it’s eight days in Italy. You’ll notice on
these tours, very few one-night stands. One night stands are inefficient. This is
our Best of Europe in Two Weeks tour, which starts in Paris and ends in Rome.
And this is our Best of Italy in Seventeen Days tour, this is essentially,
well this is the best of Italy, and we used it in 22 days, but Americans have
the shortest vacations in the rich world, so we have to cut down the time, in order
to have anybody who can afford to take our tour with their vacation allotment.
But here you see, flying into Milan, two nights for every stop, and finishing in
Rome. if you just have a short amount of time and you want intense Italy, if you
got ten days, imagine this itinerary. Venice, Florence,
Rome, three nights in each place, fly into Venice, fly home from Rome, a three
hour bus ride or train ride connecting the cities. Now, this would be great even on
your own, this is probably such an easy thing to
set up on your own. If you get a ticket into Venice and out of Rome, don’t worry
about the train connections just buy those when you’re there, get on the internet and book three hotels,
three nights each. Read your guidebook and know what you should book in advance for
admissions to famous sights that are gonna be crowded or inaccessible,
otherwise, hire a couple of private guides. Load up or download my app, which
has self-guided tours to all the most important sites in Venice, Florence, Rome,
and then enjoy. There’s a guidebook for each of those stops, and you could do
that on your own, very, very reasonably. This is the most popular itinerary of
the thirty itineraries that we offer at Rick Steves Europe. Now, if you want the
core of Italy, this is this is called The Heart of Italy, and it’s Florence and Rome,
the two great cities plus time on the beach, and time in a hill town. My favorite
beaches are port towns, the Cinque-Terre, and my favorite hill town,
Volterra. I took once, this Village Italy tour, and I was attracted to it because I
didn’t know any of the names of those places that we’re stoppin’. It’s really
interesting to go to Italy, and to stop in places that are, you know, obscure, and
meet artisans, and do hands-on cultural activities, and this is a very popular
tour it’s called Village Italy. I mentioned we used to have a 22 day Best of Italy tour,
people don’t have 22 days mostly so we broke it up, we got the 17 day Best of
Italy, and then we have a South Italy tour in 13 days, and, Sicily. I don’t
write anything about Sicily, but I’ve made a TV show on Sicily, and you can look at
any of our TV shows anytime you like at We have 16 TV shows, eight hours of coverage on Italy, that you can view for free any time, simply by
going to the TV corner in our website. To learn more about our tour program,
obviously you can go to Now, the guidebook that covers Italy
originated as the handbook for Italy tours, and I realized people wanted to do the
tours without me, so I decided to put everything I knew about doing the tour,
into the guidebook. And today, this Rick Steves Italy book is the best-selling
guidebook in the United States to any destination outside of Disneyland. I
can’t compete with Disneyland, I’m sorry. But, I’m very proud of this book, it’s
been a labor of love for twenty years, updating it every year, and this gives
you all the practical details, so you can do our tour without us. That’s Rick Steves Italy, so
travel with that for all of that details. I spend four months a year in Europe, and much
of that time is in Italy, visiting all these places in person, taking careful
notes. I just love to develop a personal relationship with my friends who run
hotels and restaurants in Italy. And, I think I’ve got more friends in Italy
than any other country, there’s something about Italy where you just connect with
the people, and it’s a lot of fun. This is Nico, he runs one of my favorite hotels in
Venice, and I just love dropping by and and reconnecting. So, in our program, we’ve
got plenty of information if you’re planning a trip to Italy, we’ve got of
course the Italy guidebook, we’ve got guidebooks for each of the cities, Venice,
Florence, and Rome, and the Florence guidebook includes a lot of Tuscany. We’ve got a
phrasebook, so you can connect with the people, and, you know, Italy, more than anywhere
else, I find local people want to connect with you, and they’re so excited to hear
you try the language, and with that phrasebook it provides a way to connect.
We’ve got 16 TV shows in two DVD sets, and we’ve got a map. So, lots of information to help
you out. I should also mention that we have an app, absolutely free, Rick Steves Audio Europe. And my passion
is to take the tours that I gave over 25 years, I just loved taking groups through
Venice, Florence, and Rome, and then I put those tours into the guidebook, but I
just think it’s tiresome to read, and look up, and read, and look up, so what I
decided to do, was take those included tours from the guidebook, and really beautifully produce an audio
file. And offered for free on the App Store, so now you can have the tour in your
ear, and just be lost in the wonder of the Pantheon, or St. Peter’s Basilica, or the
Sistine Chapel, or the Uffizi Gallery. These work really well, and again, they’re
absolutely free, and before you go to Italy, if you like my style, if you wish
you had a private guide, download that app, and use the tours to Pompeii, Rome,
Florence, and Venice, it’s Rick Steves Audio Europe and, oh, one person’s used it, thank you. No, when I go to the Pantheon its
really fun for me, ’cause there’s a good portion of the people in there that-they
have me in their ear, I can tell ’cause I know just what they’re looking at, and I do
the same thing. It’s been a lot of fun to make our TV shows over the years, and as
I said, we got 16 shows, there’s plenty of information. I wanna just very quickly
review for you, the top, most important, itinerary in Italy. You would fly into
Milan, and from there you would go to Varenna, which is the freshwater Cinque Terre, really. It’s on Lake Como, a wonderful place to get over jet lag. From
Verona, you could hit Milan if you wanted to, the most important, big, no-nonsense, city, and then you would head over to the Dolomites, the Dolomites. Those are
the mountains, the Alps of Italy, then down to Venice. In Venice, from there
you’d cut right across to the Italian Riviera, the Cinque Terre, scoot from
there, visiting Pisa on the way, to Florence, then you go into Tuscany and
Umbria, with a stop at the two most important cities in those regions, Siena
and Assisi, then you’ll go into the countryside of Umbria and visit Orvieto, and
near Orvieto is my favorite hill town, Civita Di Bagnoregio. From there, if
you’re doing the full blown Italy, you’d bypass Rome, go down to Naples and
Sorrento. Make Sorrento your home base, because it’s more comfortable for most
of us, and side-trip into Naples, which is a rough-and-tumble urban jungle, and you
would from Sorrento, also visit Pompeii, and the Amalfi Coast, then you would
return to Rome, finish your trip with the finale in Rome, and fly home from there.
That would be a beautiful, complete, Italy, and if you’ve got a month for Italy on
your own, that’s how I would spend it. It’s very important to recognize that
Italy is the most rewarding country, in my estimate, in Europe, but it’s also the
most challenging country in Europe. You need to take the preparation time
seriously, so when you get to Italy, you can enjoy it on its terms, because
there’s only one way you can experience Italy well, and that is on its terms, okay. Thank you very much. If you’ve enjoyed this video, you’ll find
lots more at, and on my Rick Steves YouTube channel. Happy travels,
and thanks for joining us.

86 thoughts on “Italy: Travel Skills – Rick Steves Travel Talks”

  • Elizabeth Ziska says:

    My husband and I are preparing for our trip to Europe in a few weeks and we were so happy to stumble upon this video. One of the biggest things we were worried about is finding the best food places, since we have only a short time in each country, and your tips were so helpful. We also purchased some of your books. Thanks for the tips as usual!

  • Yes, embrace Italy , i had so much fun, I met a lovely young lady in a market, she spoke to me in Italian , i said sorry i don;t have much Italian-thats OK she said we can speak english and she spoke it and understood as if her native tongue.
    The young ( under 30) have a much more global view than their parents, if you want answers speak to the younger generation
    Trains are only way to travel, but book 3 months in advance for BIG discounts
    You can go to Maranello and drive the latest Ferrari for e300, i really suggest thats worth the trip, as is a visit to the Ferrari museum.
    You only need to know One word of Italian……Bongiorno you greet everybody with this & they speak back in english they pick your accent, see that you are making an effort & help you out, as Rick says eat what the house speciallity is, Food is king in Italy

  • Carlo Defilippi says:

    I like very much the way Rick Steves talks about my country, I think he's like a modern day's Lord Byron. Always great and accurate videos!

  • My family and I are going to spend Christmas in Italy this year (2017)! We will be visiting some relatives in the Caserta area.Any thoughts in particular on what we can expect that time of year in that area? I really want to visit Pompeii…..a lifelong dream………..I read that weather that time of year isn't too bad….mild winters? We hope so! I know many things will be closed but we hope to do some sightseeing. I don't mind cooler weather and less crowds.

  • svrnrrkumar chimalakonda says:

    Hello Mr.Rick
    Your video is good but ,your thoughts about India is not good. What do you know about India and Indians?

  • I think you should include Mantova, the Ville Venete, Ferrara, Bologna, and…and… everywhere you go, remember, there is something wonderful: even italian people sometimes are surprised about their land. Some years ago, I went to Pontremoli, in the castle I found the Stele.. the most ancient and mysterious heritage of this land! Bye bye, you are always welcome!

  • David C. Miller says:

    Hey Rick, nice vid, thanks.   Do you happen to have videos of "secrete places to visit"   Italy or France?    I know you won't read this, but anybody else have any ideas.  Southern France and  Florence north??

  • My husband and I traveled alone to Spain madrid, Barcelona then flew to venice, took a train to
    Florence and Rome using all Rick Steves books as our guide. All the advice is spot on, we made reservations at Ristorante Aroma in Rome a very famous michellin star restaruant overlooking the Colosseum. Best food and wine I had anywhere in Europe. We have traveled alone in Europe many times using his guides and have had excellent experiences each time. We are just not into the tours but find his books to be the best on the market for traveling advice when traveling on our own.

  • I don't Know The reason But i Know and i see in My city Roma only Americans rude And with little knowledge and culture about Italy . So i hope That americans follow These tips Of mr Steves . He doesnt know my country very well ( but he believes That is an expert ! ) , but his imprecise culture can Be good and useful for common american standard . Don t come in Italy If You Have only few days .. This is the first tip .

  • Christopher O'Rourke says:

    I was in the Navy in 1972 & 1973, did 2 Mediterrian cruises. I visited Naples & Genoa I liked Genoa, great city to walk around in, nice people, I was going on 20 in 1973, I was treated very well by the women in Genoa, better than a lot of American women, they have class, the same with Spain. I liked the architecture of the older buildings in Genoa, the clean city parks there.

  • I had stayed in florence for 8 months yeah ıtaly is very nice and wonderful country  but ı don.t like comparing italy with  america. but  ı think america is the most beautiful country on the world.  florence has got a little bit disadvantages because there is no sea in florence  but in the other hand  lots of american tourists are coming to florence for  vacation, and sightseeing.  and ı was so lucky and ı had spoken american english with beautiful american tourists in florence that was really so enjoyable.

  • Amaury Brito says:

    You are incredible Rick Steves, there will be one time in my life that I will travel to Italy with you, it will be very fun and so many learnings.

  • Allison Chiliak says:

    HOLY CRAP I'm craving a fresh Italian street-side cafe cappuccino and a nice little bowl of fresh pasta with cream sauce now… I miss Italy so much!!!

  • For your first trip to Europe,take a Cosmos bus tour that visits 6-7 countries. Then return to the places you liked best for extended stays.Their tour guides are the greatest, you will learn as you ride. My first tour was 3 weeks long, in October, no crowds.

  • Peter Fairhurst says:

    Spot on Rick. I'm half Sicilian with relatives all over Italy, Sardinia, Sicily. Excellent, very accurate advice. Off to the Aeolian islands in May and came across this.  Watch your wallet, avoid main tourist restaurants, immerse yourself with the locals. Don't try and drive in Rome.   Pete  (England)

  • Thanks so much for sharing! Loved your shows for years and we're planning to go back to Italy, this time Sardinia and Sicily, in a couple months, and plan to stay in B&B's most of the time and try to experience both islands the way the locals do. Your advice is always sound and well appreciated.

  • My husband and I will be celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary this year and we will be touring Italy as per Rick's final suggested tour. Dolce vita!

  • Although the guy talking sounds like a really nice guy with good intentions, it sounds like he's giving advice for ignorant people who have never been outside their yard or country at least..

  • Rosette Madrid says:

    Does anyone know the name of the steakhouse he mentions in this video? He says it is located in Tuscany but he never says the name of the chef or steakhouse. Help!! 🙂

  • Are there any native Romans on here that can give me some recommendations on places to eat in Rome, mom and pop restaurants? I will be visiting in may cant wait, Thanks!!

  • Andy Waughlen says:

    Body odour? Oh come on, most Italians are sticklers for cleanliness. We had running water, public heated baths, flushing toilets and double glazing when most ‘Europeans’ were still living in mud huts. And what about bidets? I’m constantly having to explain to foreigners what they are and what they are used for. Italians abroad know how awful it is when they can’t find one in hotels or private homes. You can’t step into the shower every time you use the toilet, can you?

  • Idea… Photo copy passport. Leave original in hotel, walk about with the photo. If you loose this, so what, original is in room!

  • Learning homie says:

    Homie just said the American continent is only 250 years old (26:40)… Maybe he meant European occupied and colonized for 250 years with a mono linguistic society that omits any other "foreign" language. Look at the 1920s when Italian immigrants were forced to assimilate

  • I'm glad I visited Cinqua Terre back in 1986 when it was relatively unknown. What a drag to try to enjoy it with a whole cruise ship being there!

  • Davey Givens says:

    We're going in few months.We have two weeks and like to spend a lot of time in Rome since I have a keen interest in the art and architecture. But we'd also like to take in a few other major cities. -Does it make sense to just stay in Rome (base) and take day trips to other places?

  • Leonzio Travelz Betty Rangiwai says:

    Thanx important information! Great talk on fact to learn stepping overseas…
    Amazing Love xo Betty

  • francesco salsiccia says:

    Thank you Rick for this video this is the best video i've ever seen to explain my country i avdice you to visit my city Palermo you'll love it!

  • As much as I love Rick, forget what he said about German trains! They are late, they are crowded, they tend to break down or just come to a halt in the middle of nowhere. And even I as a traintravel experienced German nativ speaker often dont understand their announcements on platforms. If you hear a "Wichtige Durchsage"and the people start running down the stairs, don't worry, it's not a terrorist attack! Just grab your suitcase and follow. The Deutsche Bahn just announced that the train everybody has been waiting for is now departing on another platform.

  • lemondrizzlecake says:

    I don't even know why I'm watching (I'm Italian, I know all this) but it's making me smile so much!! The love for my country can be heard through each word. Thank you!

  • Here is a Fabulous tip! If you are thinking about making a trip, how about during that time, learn the Language of the country you are traveling to. Not fluently, but it will give u peace of mind.

  • Why this american obsession about Italy and desire to judge my country? We dont have the same obsession about USA !! Whats up ?

  • I was pickpocketed once in Germany. What they didn't know was the fact that my wallet contained no cash or anything till they looked inside. I did place some red chalk inside but I didn't see anyone walking around with red hands. Oh darn!

  • Where is the sandwich shop where everyone's lining up? Going there in a couple of months and would love any suggestions on good (NO TOURIST) places that are inexpensive, but delicious!

  • I am a native from Rome, after many years in the USA I will move back to Italy soon, I love Steve’s informations and love for my country.

  • This has me so excited about my trip to Milan & Stresa next week. It’s a long flight from Australia, but can’t wait to live & eat like a local in Italy. Anybody have recommendations on where to eat like a local in Stresa, Italy?

  • 39MercFlathead says:

    I saw a huge sign on a restaurant in Riva del Garda while visiting a former exchange student that said "Frustuck", German for breakfast. We didn't eat there. Our favorite area is Lecce in the heel of the boot. Few crowds, very little rush, no Germans and no Americans. There are few English speakers in the south, so a little language helps. Any romance language helps and the local language is probably not standard Italian anyway. In Gallipoli I spent an evening speaking Portuguese with an elderly gentleman speaking the local dialect for many hours. It worked great. Spanish probably would have worked as well. Oh, and no Americans and no Germans also means no pickpockets. They aren't Italian anyway, they're usually from Eastern Europe and prey on tourists in dense crowds.

  • I'm an American, living in Bologna Prov for 40 years. Most of the travel vidoes in Italy, generally by young students (sorry) are lousy, poorly informed, bad pronunciation and sometimes just bs. To the contrary, this video by Rick Steve is full of sound and practical advice. I give similar advice to my American friends when asked. But Rick Steve does it better, with a good eye for detail and a healthy appetite!!

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