Saturday, July 21, 2007

Tips for Italy

Street artist

See my pictures of italy on flicker.

This will be my last post on the subject.

I will summarize the few tips I've picked up during the trip.

Travelling with Children

Travelling with children has its advantages and disadvantages.

The disadvantage is that they tire easily, so you have to plan a lot of breaks in between your activities. They also get bored really quick, so prepare something for them to do, like a drawing book they could doodle in. I let my kids use the camera once in a while to capture things they wanted to capture. We had numerous thumb wrestling matches while waiting for food. Last but not least, be firm when it comes to gelatos. They will ask for it every day, and at almost EUR2 per cone, you could really burn a huge hole in your wallet!

The advantage is that they have a perspective and view that are different from adults. They notice the most unusual and interesting things, like door knockers. Or how much fun it is to chase pigeons. And some of their questions could lead you to the most interesting discoveries, like how they transport animals and gladiators from the basement to the middle of the colosseum, and that on the floor of St.Peter's square, there are mosaic circles pointing to North, South, East, West, etc. and the dots are not blemishes, but the constellations. :)


Most restaurants would customize their dishes for you and even bring you items that are not on their menu, so don't be shy to ask. Remember this phrase: "Niente Maiale", which means "No Pork", and "Niente Carne", which means "No Meat", and you're set. As I mentioned before, there were two halal Kebab shops near the Santa Maria Novella Church in Florence, and a halal Lebanese restaurant near Santa Maria Groce Church. So if you're craving for meat, you know where to go.

But even without meat, you could definitely survive on seafood and vegetables. Their tomatoes were so yummy! (In fact, taufik scoffs at saudi tomatoes now that he has tasted italian ones). Most respectable restaurants serve a bread basket with EVOO and balsamic vinegar with every meal, so you can also survive by just eating that and a salad.

(By the way, the best bread we had was in Cafe Pitti in front of Palazzo Pitti, Florence. Their brown bread had sunflower seeds in them. so so yummy)


Exchange all your money before you come here because the exchange rate and the comission is a killer! Or, pay with your credit card whenever you can. Or take out cash from the ATM (the exchange rate is better).

Some roadside stalls even accept credit card payments, but not all. Save up your small change to give to the street performers.

What to bring

Your spare glasses (spectacles) and contact lenses. Izani broke Taufik's glasses a week before we left for Italy, so Taufik wore his spare glasses on our trip. Izani kicked off his glasses when he was carrying the boy on his shoulders and it broke to pieces on the pavement. Contact lenses cost EUR95 for a box of 6 pieces! (It only cost between RM75-80 on malaysia).

For your camera : spare batteries (4 AA batteries costs EUR4), memory cards and a thumbdrive just in case you need to transfer pictures. We took almost 500 pictures and used 2 memory cards.

Bring or buy an international adaptor - damn those weird sockets! Whoever could standardize the plugs and sockets all over the world should receive the nobel prize or something.

Sunblock sunblock sunblock!!!

Comfortable shoes.

Analgesic eardrops for that annoying ear pain on the plane.


I was warned about this before I went. So we avoided carrying a lot of cash when we were out. Just enough for expenses and food. We kept them in deep pockets. I carried them in a zipped sling pouch that I kept in front of me at all times. We also avoided taking public buses and was very cautious in crowded places. Taufik carried our backpack on his front when ever he felt there were too many people around us.

Alhamdulillah, nothing untoward happened to us.


Bottled water can be very very expensive. You could be charged between EUR1 to EUR1.50 for a small bottle at the wrong places (small stalls, restaurants and gelaterias). Buy your water at a local grocery store or supermarket. A huge 2 liter bottle only cost EUR0.80.


The public transportation is really good. I did not take a regular bus during my stay, but I saw there were many buses and their routes and schedules are prominently displayed at all bustops.

Always take the metered taxi to avoid getting overcharged.

I cannot rave enough about the hop-on-hop-off tour buses. I think they're a great way to go sightseeing. It comes with commentaries that are usually very informative and helpful, and it's really value for money.

If all fails, you could always walk! The streets are pretty safe and there are many other walkers with you. The tourist police are also very prominent and helpful around Florence and Rome.


There are a lot of acommodation choices that are available to you, to fit your style and budget. If I had had my way, I would have stayed in a rented villa in a farm or a B&B. If you plan to be walking about, I don't see the point of staying in an overly posh room. A comfortable bed anywhere would've been enough for me. Then I could've spent the extra money on other stuff.

There are a lot of information and booking engines available on-line, but I would suggest going to the proprietor's own website if they have one. They are usually more lenient in terms of cancellation fees and such.

I found online booking sites to be very useful when you want to compare prices and to read other people's review on the place and it's surroundings.

Helpful Links

Here are some the sites I went to in preparation for this trip:

Yahoo Travel - i researched on hotels, things to do and created an itinerary here. From here you can get on online hotel booking sites that would also include hotel reviews. - Lots of real information from fellow travellers. I particularly like their "Off The Beaten Path" section, where other travellers give you ideas that are out of the ordinary tourist's itinerary. - everything to do with food! - A guide to halal eating in almost every country in the world.

IBBP (International Bed and Breakfast pages) - where I looked for a bed and breakfast to stay in Tuscany, before I found out I had to stay in hotels.

last but not least,

Podere Fraggina - this is where I want to stay in next time!

Hope you find my tips useful! :D

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