Headed to Italy? Here are tips that go “beyond the obvious”

by Contributed Content on June 16, 2013

Editor’s note: Menlo Park resident Madeline Jhawar is the owner of Italy Beyond the Obvious travel consultancy. A native of Canada, she’s lived in Europe, Boston and Chicago before migrating West.“My husband works in San Mateo and I can work from home, so we figured we could live anywhere on the Peninsula between about Burlingame and Mountain View. I started an in-depth school research project and identified about 10 school districts that I thought were excellent.

“Then I cross-checked rental properties on Craigslist. We found a rental on Gilbert Avenue in Menlo Park, sent our kids to Laurel elementary school (they are K and grade 2 currently), and we love it. We managed to buy a home in October after almost a year of searching and five offers, and we are here to stay!”

Here are Madeline’s tips for people heading to Italy this summer.

Book the beach

Italy’s beaches are busy in the summertime but don’t plan to show up with a towel and settle down on a free piece of sand. You must book a lounge chair — or two, or three — at a local stabilimento balneare. In addition to the lounge chair, your booking gets you bathrooms, showers, and sun umbrellas.  Or, if you just want to walk along the beach, that’s free.

Don’t miss the daily Italian passeggiata

From the island of Sicily up to the Dolomite mountains, Italians stop what they are doing in the late afternoon for the daily passeggiata or walk. It’s a slow amble, with no destination, and its main goal is to socialize, often with a gelato in hand.

Hire local guides

No guidebook can give a traveler the insight provided by a local guide. It’s well worth the money to have a someone show you the main sights or at least take you on an introductory walk and provide historical context which you’ll appreciate during the remainder of your trip.

Bring your water bottle to Rome

Rome has many fountains, and they all flow with drinkable water. So in addition to your hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen, beat the Italian heat and humidity by having a refillable water bottle in your bag.

Include an aperitivo in your schedule

After your Italian passeggiata, you could move right into the aperitivo hour. Participate in this pre-dinner ritual by sitting with a drink while socializing or people-watching. It usually starts about 6 pm and ends about 8.30 pm, which is Italian dinner time. Many places offer small plates of complimentary food when you buy a drink (and this can be a great early dinner for jet-lagged children).

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