Rick Steves is Awesome!

Before I started my journey abroad my employer loaned me some of his old Rick Steves travel guide DVD’s. They were fairly outdated, but I still watched and laughed at how dorky they were. My grandma owns the Rick Steves travel Italy book and she swears that it is the best. My mom suggested I download the app or the podcasts and listen along on his guided tours. “No mom, Rick Steves is for old people.” Well I’m here right now with a complete change of heart. I like Rick Steves a lot, and I think he’s a funny man and a great writer.

Have you ever gotten the audioguide at the museum and found yourself completely bored by it? Yeah, story of my life. Listening to a guy (usually british) talk way too long about something uninteresting is…. well, really uninteresting. What I like about the Rick Steves’ tours are that they are short and sweet. No nonsense, just get to the point and talk about things that people actually care about. Plus it’s guided! We did the Vatican Museum audio tour and we felt it really helped us not get overwhelmed by how huge the museum is. We were able to hit all the big things in the museum, learn a lot of interesting facts, and also LAUGH! Hardly ever have the audioguides included humor. Rick Steves and his female host are able to bounce dialogue off each other to create movement both in the writing and in the audio, so nothing becomes monotone. Sometimes Rick will say something weird.. something that a dude would say. Like “oh look at those pretty ladies (towards a statue)” and his female host (forgot her name) would be like “Rick pay attention! Those are sirens, they will lure you to your death!” Funny things like that. Makes for an interesting storyline.

We have only done some of the audio tours in Rome, including the one in Pompeii. We only had around 2.5 hours there, so listening along to him expedited our trip and allowed us to conquer at least some of Pompeii during our short time. We also used his audio tours to explore some of the neighborhoods in Rome, including the city center with the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, Campo Di Fiori, and all the cool things few and far in between.

I know he has several other tours for other cities in Italy, including Florence and Venice, and other for other countries as well. It is worth checking out, plus it’s free! You can check out his website at Ricksteves.com.

Taking the Train in Italy 

What trains are available

Italo – fastest trains between big cities

Trenitalia Freccia – Fast trains, multiple types with different speeds, destinations, and luxury

Regional – lots of stops, goes to the small cities and stops

Intercity – between main Italian cities stopping in the larger cities in between

Frecciabianco – “white arrow” fast trains between big cities with a few other stops in between. Offers 1st and 2nd class.

Frecciarosso – top of the line trains offering standard to executive seats and coaches. These trains usually have wifi, reclining seats, entertainment, and food carriages.

When should I buy my ticket?

For the regional or IC trains, whenever is fine. These usually don’t sell out and the price is the same months before and minutes before.

For the fast trains you should buy as soon as possible. These have tiers and the lower tiers are cheaper and sell out sooner

Deals

Sometimes train lines will have deals such as 50% off on trips to Milano, or 2×1 Saturday trains, etc etc. There are limited seats for the offer and they also sell out quickly

Loyalty cards

You’ll have to have an Italian address and contact details, but you can easily sign up for the Italo Più (Italo More) card. You get points for buying tickets and making purchases which can go towards future train tickets.

Cartafreccia – Get loyalty points for riding trains or using your card for purchases. You can redeem the points for train tickets or other items such as magazine subscriptions, toys, electronics, etc.

They also have special “cartafreccia days” where card holders can get extra special discounts on certain train journeys.

To sign up for a Cartafreccia you can go online or go in person to a Trenitalia office, located at main train stations. The difference is in person you don’t need to provide a passport or identity card, just an Italian address.

What are the trains like?

The trains in Italy are fairly nice. Some of the regional trains have really weird headrests, but are still tolerable. The trains tend to run late, but make sure you aren’t late! The one time you are late is going to be the one time that the train is on time. It happened to us, and it’ll probably happen to you.

The trains are WAY nicer than the bus, so if you can, spend a little extra to take the train, it is well worth it. Also take the fast train if it is available.

Steps to Visiting a New City

Traveling to a new city isn’t always the easiest thing, especially if their language and culture is very different than from what you are used to. I’ve travelled to a lot of different cities and began to form a quick pre-departure plan.

Google Maps App is a lifesaver
Google Maps App is a lifesaver

Step 1

Download the city and surrounding area on google maps. This allows you to access streets, some buildings and businesses, and more while offline.

 

Step 2

Research where you want to go in the city and how to get places. Even if you know what you want to visit, you never know what kind of surprises a city may hold. Continue reading “Steps to Visiting a New City”