Any itinerary for Italy is bound to be absolutely overflowing with things to see, do and eat. There is just so much to cover that it's impossible to do it all! Unfortunately, not all tourist attractions are created equal. While some completely live up to the hype, other's can leave you feeling totally unfulfilled while still costing you an arm and a leg.
Here are a few things you can skip in Italy, and some cheaper, more interesting alternatives to try instead.
The idea of a leisurely tour of the canals of Venice with an iconic gondolier is tempting. Until you see the price tag and realize that this allegedly traditional activity is aimed squarely at tourists. It can cost you upwards of fifty euros per person to ride in a gondola for just fifteen minutes! Plus, the experience itself is pretty corny and in no way representative of how actual Venetians get from point A to point B.
Instead: Take a Traghetto
If you're still longing for a shot of yourself on a boat in Venice, do what the locals do and take a traghetto, a water taxi. They are simply gondolas without the decorative touches and the singing oarsmen. For just two euros they will take you across the Grand Canal on one of seven different routes. Just look for a yellow Traghetto sign and line up.
Or in St. Mark's Square, or beside the Colosseum. You get the picture. It's easy to understand why these incredibly central restaurants are always packed: hungry tourists, amazing real estate and an English language menu. If you're eating directly adjacent to any tourist attraction in Italy however, you are almost certainly paying premium prices for subpar food. With a clientele comprised solely of visiting tourists, most of these restaurants have no incentive to serve authentic or even particularly good food.
Instead: Walk Down the Street
It really is that simple. Walk a few blocks in any direction and look for an unassuming restaurant, preferably one without any signage in English. You will save a few bucks, eat significantly better food and feel far superior to the lemmings down the street.
The area surrounding the Colosseum in Rome is absolutely filled with various vendors just dying to relieve you of some money: horse and carriage rides, cheap souvenir stands, guidebooks and more. Most noticeable are the fully-grown men dressed as Roman gladiators. Try to take a picture with one and you will most definitely pay, and probably quite a lot for the opportunity. Some demand as much as 10 euros per person for a photo taken with your own camera. If you don't pay, they will happily cause a scene.
Instead: Take a Picture Inside the Colosseum
Skip the Disneyfied show outside and head inside the ancient auditorium for no shortage of amazing picture opportunities. If you are determined to have a picture with the gladiators, just make sure you negotiate the price beforehand.
Yes, Christopher Columbus is from Genoa. No, he didn't actually grow up in La Casa di Cristoforo Colombo, a house museum that aims to capitalize on the famous captain's name. Six euros will get you entry into a small structure that may be similar to where Columbus might have lived. In truth nobody is quite sure where the man was born or lived, it was 500 years ago after all.
Instead: Visit Via Garibaldi
Christopher Columbus didn't grow up in any of these amazing Renaissance and Baroque palaces built during the 16th and 17th centuries either. However, unlike the Columbus House they are quite beautiful and worthy of the few euro entry fee.
What are your best tips for traveling in Italy?
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Stephanie Yoder is a girl who can't sit still! Since graduating college in 2007 she has either been traveling or planning to travel. She's lived on four continents and visited everywhere from the Great Wall of China to the Great Barrier Reef. She now writes and travels full time, blogging about her adventures on Why Wait To See The World? (formerly Twenty-Something Travel). Follow Stephanie on Twitter or visit her on Facebook.
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