You've planned, saved your money and now your dream to travel Italy is almost a reality. But there's more to vacationing in old Italia than purchasing plane tickets. The following are a few pointers that can help make your trip a grande successo.

Get a Travel Italy Guidebook

Available at most bookstores, travel guides contain a wealth of information for first-time visitors. Make sure the travel Italy guide you select has maps of both cities and accompanying metros (subways). Also, many travel guidebooks offer advice on where to go, how to get there and what to do when you arrive.

Learn the Language

Although many people you meet while you travel Italy speak English, there are many who don't. Without some basic knowledge of Italian you may find simple tasks cumbersome and frustrating.

You can buy an Italian phrasebook-helpful in a pinch-but these do little to help you with translation and offer even less help for pronunciation. Another alternative is an electronic, talking translation device, which translates words and then pronounces them for you. But be ready to spend between $100 and $450 for such a device.

The best option would be taking advantage of "Learn Italian" Software , which teaches you how to speak, read and write in Italian. You'll have the skills to deal with unexpected problems and gain greater understanding and fulfillment as you travel Italy.

Keep Your Cash Concealed

Unfortunately, pick pocketing and purse snatching happen in Italy, so you'll want to invest in a quality money belt that fits underneath your shirt. You may also encounter an occasional beggar as you travel Italy, so it's best to keep your money out of plain sight.

If you're not from a country that uses Euros, you'll want to take advantage of the many automated teller machines (ATMs)-readily available in larger cities and near tourist attractions. ATMs are a handy way to retrieve money and convert it to Euros at the same time.

Use Trains and Buses Instead of Taxis

Although taxis are convenient and may be the best choice to get you from the airport to your hotel, trains are a less-expensive option that should be explored.

Buses are an economic way to get around too. Many tour buses offer an all-day, "hop-on, hop-off" ticket that allows you to come and go as you please anywhere along the bus route. Most buses offer a complimentary map of routes with tourist attractions well-marked. Some tour busses even offer earphones, which you can use to listen to historical and interesting tidbits about landmarks the bus passes in several different languages.

Dress Modestly When Touring

Although not necessary at all tourist locations, special dress is required at some venues. Some churches and religious sites will not let you enter if your bare back, chest, shoulders and sometimes knees are in view. Other attractions, like museums, also enforce dress codes. Some venues may not admit you if you're dressed-in whole or part-in your bathing suit. It's a good idea for women to bring along a large scarf for these situations if they plan on wearing revealing clothing.

In general, you'll find days warm and nights cool when you travel Italy, so dress coolly for the daytime and take along a light jacket for evenings. You'll also want to carry an umbrella to shade you from the sun or protect you from rain.

Pack Light, Shop When Needed

You can find just about anything you need in Italy, but it can be expensive-so pack smartly. If you're traveling from the US, you'll need to bring a power converter to run any electronic devices you bring, like a laptop computer.

Medicine is easy to find when you travel Italy; the basics are available from local pharmacies. (If you're in dire need and willing to take a gamble, some pharmacies can provide you with prescription medicines-such as allergy drops and pills-without a doctor's note.)

Stamps are available at most tobacco shops, and although they don't let you run the machines, Laundromats are handy to make the most of your travel wardrobe. Coca-Cola and other American products are pricy in Italy, but can be found for less money in soda vending machines if you need a Coke fix. Restaurants are generally expensive; grabbing lunch from one of the many delis that line Italian streets can save you money.

Don't Take Offense at Italian Men

Culturally, the men in Italy are quite open with their opinions of women they find attractive. Women should consider communications from Italian men more as compliments than come-ons. If you're not interested, the best thing to do is ignore the man and walk by without acknowledging him.

So, whether you're going for an once-in-a-lifetime vacation or the first of many European tours, following these tips will help your visit to the cradle of modern civilization more comfortable, trouble-free and well civilized.

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