The Umbra Institute hosts a travel workshop at the beginning of each semester to help students understand some of the best ways to get around Italy during their study abroad experience. Below are a few scenarios and a few preventative tricks that might keep you out of sticky situations.
You arrive to your hotel but the neighborhood looks sketchy, the staff is rude, and your room looks nothing like the photos online.
Google is your friend! It is good to thoroughly research a location before booking a trip there. Read online reviews from multiple outlets to get a well-rounded view.
Use Google Maps to check out the area. Google’s street view is a great tool to see if the area looks friendly or not. Check to make sure your hotel or hostel is near public transportation that runs during the times you will need it and see how far away you will be from other locations you plan to visit during your trip.
You fly into Rome on Sunday night but your flight is delayed and you miss your last train to Perugia.
Public transportation schedules in Italy can be tricky, and they don’t always run on time. Don’t forget to review the train and/or bus schedules before booking your flights. You want to make sure your flight lands before the final train or bus leaves for Perugia (or your destination city) so that you don’t end up stranded in an airport or train station far from home. Sometimes, it is best to try to catch the second to last train so that the last train is always available in case your flight is delayed.
It is always a good idea to review any train changes you may have to make during your trip, to make sure that you will have enough time to get to your next train (sometimes only 10 minutes is scheduled and any delay on your first train could make you miss your second!). Take a picture or write down the train numbers and exact times of arrival and departure for each one.
You are on a train and a man in a TrenItalia uniform starts yelling at you about your ticket.
In Italy, it is often required that you validate your train ticket before boarding the train. Italian train personnel will ask you at least once, per train ride, for your Biglietto (ticket); they will then check to see if it is validated and, if it is not, you may be eligible for a fine.
To validate your ticket, you are going to want to get it stamped by a small green and white machine. The stamp will keep you from getting fined €50-€60 during ticket checks.
If you buy your train tickets online, you do not need to validate your ticket.
Bus tickets do not always need to be validated but it is always a good idea to have the ticket available in case the bus driver decides to check it.
You visit a museum in Florence and see that a student discount is available. However, the attendant at the ticket stand refuses to sell you a discounted ticket.
Some museums, cafes, restaurants and other locations will offer student discounts to students under the age of 26. ALWAYS bring your student ID to try to take advantage of the great offers available.
Keep in mind that some discounts are only available to citizens of the EU, but hey, it never hurts to try!
It is also good to remember that, in Italy, most museums and some monuments offer free entry on the first Sunday of every month.
You get to your hotel in Rome only to find out that the front desk won’t let you check in and is insisting you find another place to stay.
Hotels and Hostels around Europe require that you show ID in order to stay the night. Even when you are in Italy, you should bring your passport for overnight trips. It is also a good idea to bring the credit or debit card you used to book your room (as proof of purchase) as well as some extra cash in case the hotel/hostel charges a small tax for staying the night (the tax is usually not included in your online bill).
In the end, traveling throughout Italy (and Europe) can be great fun! The best thing you can do is plan ahead and expect the unexpected. Travel is never predictable and it is always best to be prepared!
For current Umbra Students who plan to travel, do not forget to fill out the Umbra Travel Form online or in the student services office.