7 Tips for Future Travelers in Italy
Hi Travelers! Maggie here, from the blog The Artful Everyday. I am a former Rome Abroad traveler who spent three months in Rome, Italy and am making plans to return (yes, I loved it that much). I can honestly say it was the best three months of my life so far. Not only was it a great experience, but I grew so much as an individual and learned so much about the world and myself as a result. I studied abroad in Florence three years ago, so returning to Italy was inevitable for me. Through both of those experiences, I have definitely figured out how to make time abroad worthwhile.
I thought I would share some of this advice to future travelers, to help make it the best experience ever. Some of this advice is easy to follow, and others will challenge you, but it’s all about personal growth and putting yourself out there, right? Especially when you’re halfway across the world, and probably all by yourself. I cover everything from making friends (essential), to navigating social situations in a new culture. Follow along with the list and let me know if you have any additional advice in the comments below!
1. Be open minded and laid back.
Maybe not laid back when you’re with the kids, but I digress! When you are thrown into a completely new environment, you will always have a better experience if you are open to whatever happens. Don’t place expectations on what your life abroad will be like, but rather embrace how it all unfolds. It’s helpful to be laid back, especially when living with a host family. Learning to go with the flow will keep you sane, and your host family will appreciate this quality, to be flexible and open. By looking at every situation in a positive light, and not comparing to your life at home, everything will be an exciting new experience.
2. Learn the language.
I know this is not a requirement, especially because for most travelers the goal is to teach your kids English, but it will come in handy with blending into the culture you’ve been transplanted into. Because I am learning Italian, I’ve been able to have so many meaningful interactions with locals in Rome. It also came in handy when traveling to smaller towns, and Italians are SO appreciative when you try speaking their language. They may even tell you your accent is cute! One fun tip for learning any language is to download the Tandem app. You can practice your target language with native speakers, and you may even make friends out of it! There are also Facebook groups in many cities for language exchanges. It’s a great way to meet people and have a cultural exchange.
3. Remember, communication is essential.
Another reason I loved learning Italian was also because I could practice it with my host parents. But regardless, I found communication with them, in English or Italian, to be so important. Communication can be as simple as checking in with them in the afternoon or sending a cute photo of the kids, to chatting with them before dinner if something didn’t go smoothly that day. Be prepared to have conversations when you need to, about the kids or even about the city. My host family was a wealth of information about everything from taking the bus, to suggesting the park I ran in everyday, to the places I had to visit in Rome. A local’s perspective is always the best, so take advantage of it! Plus, keeping open communication about the kids and their activities will have everyone on the same page and hopefully help you avoid any confusion, especially because there will be cultural differences you may not be aware of right away.
4. Don’t overbook yourself.
Cheap flights and train tickets that cost less than 10 euros might lure you out of the city, but my favorite weekends were the ones I spent in Rome. I definitely booked a few too many trips, to the point where I was sad to leave Rome even if it was just for a few days. I had made new friends and wanted to spend more time just living in the city and experiencing regular life there. So, my advice is to definitely travel and see the country, but make sure you give yourself equal time to explore the place where you’re living.
5. Be realistic with your budget.
Along those lines, another great reason to stay put for the weekend is to save money! It’s tempting to eat out a lot (I mean, in Italy there is pizza and pasta on every corner), but your host family also provides meals for you. Plus chances are, at least one of your host parents is a good cook! I swear whenever I decided to eat out, my host mom made my favorite meal, haha just my luck. Another way to save money is to pack snacks when you’re venturing out into the city or going on a trip. In Italy, produce is very cheap so I always brought fruit with me (okay and a few biscotti, because who can resist?). If you do travel, stay at hostels or split an Airbnb with friends to save money.
6. Take all the connections you can to make friends.
Of course, the nice thing about traveling with Rome Abroad is the built-in friends, especially in a bigger city like Rome. You will automatically have some companions right away thanks to that! But don’t limit yourself. I met my best friend because our host moms connected us (our kids attended the same school). This was great because she lived near me and our kids had similar schedules. Then I was able to meet the friends she had already made, and just like that I had a whole network of people to hangout with! In addition, I got to know my host family’s relatives and our housekeeper, so I never felt lonely.
7. Don’t be afraid to order a coffee or go out by yourself.
My second Friday night in Rome, I had made plans with a friend for dinner. She cancelled because she had to stay with her kids (remember, be flexible!), and I was bummed out. But my host mom was so sweet and suggested I eat dinner at home, then I could go for a walk. So I did just that and ended up sitting at the place that would become my go-to caffe, drinking a Spritz by myself and reveling in this new journey I was embarking on. I had been dreaming of this exact moment for so long, I needed to take a minute to appreciate it. I did just that, even if I was alone. It was almost better that way (and Italians will never rush you, or judge you for being alone). Anyways the point is, doing ordinary things in a new culture can be intimidating if you aren’t sure what you’re doing. Ordering a coffee can be a paralyzing experience, I know. But once you do it, you will be fine. And as long as you try to do things right with a smile on your face, people will be willing to help you out.
For more tips on traveling in Italy specifically, check out my Ultimate Guide to Traveling in Italy. And if you’re looking at ideas on where to go in Europe, what to bring, or where to stay, I have ideas on all of that on my blog. Buon viaggio!!