Italy is an exhilarating place to travel, but during high season, it can also be challenging at times. Just in time for those summer trips, the following bits of advice will help you maximize the fun of your Italian escape.

It’s Going To Be Crowded...and Hot

There's no way around it: Italy will be packed this summer. As the surge in European travel continues picking up steam, you certainly will not be the only one searching for a slice of La Dolce Vita. And with the Olympics in Paris and the European Soccer Championships in Germany also taking place, you can expect people from all over the world to add a trip to Italy to their once-in-a-lifetime summer vacation.

In addition, there is no reason to think that the temperatures aren't going to soar again this summer, as oppressive heat waves have become the norm recently. 

But You Can Avoid the Worst 

The fact that it's sweltering hot outside and packed with people shouldn't put a damper on your trip if you use a few of the following bits of advice. 

First, get up early and stay up late. Europeans who live near the Mediterranean don't schedule too much activity in the middle of the day when the sun is at its strongest, so do like the locals and lay low for a siesta after an early start. Speaking of that early start, you'll beat the crowds and thoroughly enjoy early morning strolls around a city, no matter what the mercury is set to rise to later in the day. Schedule downtime each afternoon where you can just relax or enjoy a long lunch.

Also, skip exhausting day trips (adventures that will see you out touring in the middle of the day) and instead spend the night in places like the Amalfi Coast, Cinque Terre and Italy's hundreds of romantic hilltop villages where you can enjoy the less crowded and cooler evenings and early mornings. 

Never forget that you should book ahead where you can as the last thing you want to do on a hot day is stand in line. 

These days, a general rule of thumb is: if you can book ahead, book ahead. This is vital for A-list sights like The Colosseum, Accademia Gallery, Pantheon, Vatican Museums and St. Mark's Cathedral and you won't regret it for other sights, either. 

Last but not least, remember that you can also go to a beach town for a day or two. Italy is full of lovely stretches of sand, and it's always a few degrees cooler by the water than it is in the city center. 

You Might Have To Pay an Entry Fee To Visit Venice

At long last, Venice has launched its pilot entry fee program, which will see the lagoon city charging day trippers a €5 fee ($5.36) to enter the city on 29 selected dates (most weekends and holidays) this summer. You are exempt from paying if you are staying the night in the city, but you'll still have to log on to the system to acquire proof of your exemption. The rollout of the fee has been a bit clunky and may not stand up to potential legal challenges, but for now, it's the policy. 

You’ll Love Speaking the Language

While "Ital-ish" might get you by, particularly in tourist hotspots, where's the fun in that? Listening to Italian being spoken is a fun experience, conversing in it yourself is equally gratifying. Take the time to pick up a few phrases before your trip, and rest assured, you'll likely find yourself beaming every time you utter "grazie" during your trip—speaking Italian is just that enjoyable.

Regional Pride Runs Deep

When traveling in Italy, it's always important to remember that the country comprises 20 regions, with five enjoying semi-autonomy. Many were once independent and beam with regional pride, offering unique experiences in terms of dialect, cuisine and way of life when traversing between them. 

Broadly speaking, the northern regions exude a more Western European ambiance, whereas the southern locales embody a more Mediterranean vibe. French is spoken by some in The Aosta Valley, German is an official language in Trentino-Alto Adige, Sicily has been influenced by Northern Africa and the city of Trieste in the northeast sports a Slavic influence. These are just a few examples that show how every region is different and each one is full of local pride and local traditions. 

Dress The Part

Italians hold their fashion in high regard and even in the heat of summer, aren't generally seen walking around their cities wearing shorts and flip-flops, except at the beach. So, you know what they say about when in Rome, right? The same goes for trains, as I have never felt more conspicuous than when I entered a first-class train cabin in Italy wearing cargo shorts and a worn-out white t-shirt. Learn from my mistake: opt for collared shirts and trousers for most occasions (breezy linens are perfect in summer), and if you're traveling on a first-class train, dress as if you're going to a nice dinner.

Eating 101

All the hype you've heard about Italian cuisine is true: it's sensational. Anticipate flawlessly cooked pasta coated in just the right amount of delectable sauce and mouthwatering meat and fish. And the veggies? The tomatoes and zucchini will blow you away, and the gelato is destined to become your new favorite after-dinner indulgence. And that's only scratching the surface.

However, amidst the plethora of superb eateries in Italy, there are also numerous places coasting on serving mediocre fare to tourists. It's wise to conduct some research beforehand, strike up a conversation with a local or even join a food tour to minimize the risk of a disappointing meal.

(One trick on gelato: if the banana flavor is yellow, give it a miss, if it's more gray/beige, then it's probably quality stuff.) 

When it comes to dining in Italy, formal eating establishments are usually categorized as trattorias, ristorantes or osterias. Ristorantes are akin to formal restaurants with printed menus and professional service; trattorias offer a more laid-back atmosphere and traditional takes on food; osterias traditionally focused on wine, but today offer a modest selection of food, too.

But there's plenty more: enotecas are casual wine taverns with snacks, bars serve coffee, cocktails and light snacks while friggitorias specialize in fried snacks. 

While dining out, keep in mind that Italians tend to eat later than Americans and enjoy lingering over their meals. Translation: don't expect the bill to be rushed to your table. Last but not least, be aware that tipping is indeed a thing in Italy, just not as big as back home. Generally, if you've received good service, it would be normal to round your bill up to the next 5 or 10. 

Cash Still Reigns

Credit card payments are becoming more and more commonplace, but you're still going to want to carry around some cash for small payments and tips, because often you won't be able to add the tip onto a credit card. 

Cash might also come in handy for the occasional trip to a public toilet too, which typically charges customers a small fee to help with the upkeep. 

You Will Be Walking

It's always good to remember that even though public transportation is robust, a majority of city exploration is going to be done on foot. So make sure to break in your shoes well before your trip and do some walking at home to make sure you're stamina is ready for your Italian adventure. A good baseline to shoot for? Being able to comfortably walk 45 minutes each way to a destination.

Get Travel Insurance

It's always a good idea to have travel insurance, but it's especially important when you're spending time exploring ancient cobblestoned cities and moving about in crowds in the beating sun. 

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