Destination Italy: A couple of things you should know before you get there. (And we jet off).

Spoiler alert: for travellers who would most like to find out these facts on their own, I would suggest then that you don’t read any further.  

Ok, so this post is not so much a story as it is an introduction for anyone planning on, or getting ready to go on a holiday to Italy. But as you well know, the adventure in anyone’s travels is definitely the ability to just jump into the wild and discover these little gems on your own or with your family.

Flying tips: Just so you know.

Bookings and transport:

Book quite far in advance through the web or through a reputable travel agency. They will almost always have specials running and with the extra bucks saved you could enjoy your holiday that much more.

And on that note double check how many airports there are at your final destination.  We should’ve for at our stop, the city of Milan, there were three. And as fate would have it we would land at the farthest: Malpensa airport. It’s approximately 40 km outside of Milan and is in the opposite direction to where we needed to be; Bergamo. So this meant we had to bus it from there to Milan and then again for another 40 km onto our base camp: Nembro, Bergamo. And after 16 hours of flying it’s was the last thing we wanted to do. But hey it was in some shape or form all a part of the adventure.


Be sure to pack a change of clothes into your carryon luggage. Why? Well for in the unlikely event your luggage gets misplaced. And you find out two weeks into your trip that it’s travelled more around the world than you have in your entire life. You will then at least have a clean change of clothes to shop in for more.


Preferably exchange your Rands in RSA or if you’re lucky in Munich (if that’s a stopover for you). For in our case, it was almost impossible to exchange our Rands in Italy.  Oh, and rather try to avoid Amex money cards for unlike what the consultant at Amex in RSA told us, they hardly work anywhere in the Italy.

Italians: A few things you should know about the locals.


They don’t like it much when you pat their dogs. (This could be due to the fact that if you get bitten etc, then they don’t want to get sued.) So politely ask before manhandling their little critter. Oh and by the way pets travel just about anywhere with their masters. So don’t look surprised when you get on a bus in Italy somewhere and the passenger sitting next to you is a big ole doggy hanging his head out of the window.

Expect to wait at the local cafe for service as they converse incessantly with each other as if you never walked in. But take it easy, for as impatient as we South Africans can be here’s a handy tip. Just relax and enjoy the atmosphere. And if you’re bold enough why not jump in with a few words.  You never know, you just might make some new friends while at the same time improving on your terrible Italian.

Store hours are generally 7 – 12 and resume again from 3 to 7pm.  Sometimes earlier, sometimes later depending on where and what their business concern is. So plan accordingly, as to avoid getting frustrated if nothing is open when hunger strikes. But if you’re lucky you just might catch the family – who own the restaurant – as they sit down to lunch and be welcomed to join. Oh, and most museums, monuments and churches stick to the same timetable as well and are closed on Mondays. Giving you the day to go out into the countryside and explore.

Walking and Driving:

Italians are the kings of speaking on their cell phones whenever, wherever possible especially while walking, so watch your step.  And don’t hesitate as they are on the move and will not stop if you get in the way.

And this goes for their driving as well. Italians are not the – how do I put this – most courteous of drivers. So if possible practice driving with restraint and on the right hand side of the road if you decide to rent a car or such while there. Or not, your bad driving just may well save you from their bad driving. Alternatively you could use their public transport system. It is of EU standards and is in most cases a lot more fun to use.

Both these previous points could create the impression that Italians are quite pushy as the nudge and honk their way past you. But as it stands, it’s probably because they are almost always in a rush to get somewhere.  And that along with the amount of Espresso they drink everyday could well be the catalyst. So stay calm and do not drive like a tourist.

Food and Drink:

Breakfast traditionally consists of an Espresso or a Cappuccino accompanied with brochette – a sweet pastry of sorts. There is unfortunately not much in the way of bacon and eggs but hey when in Rome.

Ordering coffee will be much cheaper if you just drink it at the bar as they tend to charge more for sitting down and/ or takeaway. Oh, and don’t bother looking for a Starbucks as none exist, and for good measure you’re in Italy for Pete’s sake.

House wine is complimentary at just about every restaurant along with the breads whereupon a small service charge is levied as tips are traditionally frowned upon. So do try to hold back and rather enjoy your time in the company of genuine Italian hospitality.

Gelato (Ice – Cream) is eaten all year round. And in a quaint Tuscan town called San Gimigano if you time it just right you may well be in for more than just a treat. (More on this later).


Generally, most Italians will try to speak English if asked anything by an English speaking tourist. But be polite by always trying to at least learn a few Italian words and phrases. Here’s an easy one for you “Lei parla inglese?” which when loosely translated means “do you speak English?” It will never go unappreciated and 9 out of 10 times they will reciprocate with their limited English.

Well, there you have it. Was it helpful? We sure hope so for as they say, “travelling is the only expense that makes you richer”. And I know we here at the Nomadic Existence could never put a price on the memories and experiences we have accumulated form all our travels thus far.

So if you enjoyed reading this and thought this post was helpful in any way then why not continue the journey with us as we road trip onward to our first destination:

Montepulciano, where the wine flows freely and the morning mist is broken with a medieval smile. 

Until then.

Yours in travel.

Nomadic Existence ( And don’t forget to check out our route map below).

By Slippery Joe Lyzard © (Writer for Nomadic Existence)

Photography: Nomadic Bug © 

Nomadic Existence 2015 ©

 Explore. Conserve. Discover.

Our route map: (soon to be a photo blog). 

Below you will find the route we took for our trip across the numerous regions and provinces in northern and northwest central Italy. We did on occasion stop off at some towns but due to time constraints drove through a whole lot more. However, other than a few obvious choices we did stop and/ or stay over in a few that most tourists would not have likely done. 

Symbol Meanings:

! – drove through

!! – stopped and explored

!!! – stayed over and explored


  • Bergamo/ Nembro (base camp)
  • Brescia !
  • Cremona !
  • Piacenza !

Emilia – Romagna

  • Parma !
  • Modena !
  • Bologna !


  • Florence !
  • Chiuso !
  • Montepulciano !!!
  • Chianciano !
  • Pienza !
  • San ‘d’ Ouri Coco !!
  • Siena !!!
  • Monteriggioni !!
  • Poggi Bonsi !
  • San Gimignano !!!
  • Certaldo !!
  • Castelfiorentino !
  • San Miniato !
  • Pisa !!

Lombardy: Lake Garda

  • Bergamo/ Nembro (base camp)
  • Lake Garda (drove all the way around)!
  • Desenzano !!
  • Sirmione !!
  • Brenzone !!


  • Bergamo/ Nembro (base camp)
  • Vicenza !
  • Padova !
  • Venice !!!
  • Verona !!

Lombardy: Milan and Lake Iseo

  • Bergamo/ Nembro (base camp)
  • Milan !!!
  • Lake Iseo !!
  • Iseo Town !
  • Sulzano !!
  • Monte Isola !!

By Slippery Joe Lyzard © (Writer for Nomadic Existence)

Photography: Nomadic Bug © 

Nomadic Existence 2015 ©

 Explore. Conserve. Discover.


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