Most places that make for interesting travel also have some frustrating quirks that just a small amount of advice can help you avoid. Italy is no exception. From shop closures to regularly scheduled transportation strikes, there are some easy ways to avoid common pitfalls that can mar your travel experience. Hopefully an Italian dream vacation is on your horizon and not a comedy of travel errors.
A difficult night can be avoided by verifying what time the hotel you will be staying in closes for check-in. Coordinating your flight to have a good cushion time in the event of a delay is vital if you are staying in a smaller hotel, especially in the smaller cities. Many of the smaller and boutique hotels do not offer check-in later at night, but with larger hotels this should not be a problem. A good resource for minimizing flight delays is to check with http://apps.bts.gov/xml/ontimesummarystatistics/src/index.xml , which is based on the US Department of Transportation statistics.
After you have settled in to your hotel and are looking for restaurants to satisfy your urges for consuming pasta, pizza and parmagiano until the smile of satisfaction on your face is permanent, check your watch. While the restaurants that cater to tourists stay open all day, most of the best food will be served in restaurants that have traditional hours. Lunch is normally served from noon until about 2:30, with most Italians beginning lunch between 1:00 and 1:30 so a 12:30 -12:45 arrival time gets you a good table, good food and good service. Dinner is served much later than in the US with most restaurants not opening for service until about 7:00, with most Italians not arriving until about 9:00. Bring cash, cash is king in Italy.
The afternoon shop closure concept is still alive and well in Italy and travelers may want to plan around this. While the city centers in Milan, Rome, Florence and Naples will have shops open all day, when you walk three steps outside of the tourist zones in the early afternoon long aisles of shuttered shops will greet you. The frustration that seeing the perfect unique item in a store window that will not reopen for another threes hours can only be soothed by the consumption of gelato. This rule applies to Sundays as well. It is actually forbidden for businesses to be open on Sundays without a special permit. Do not question this, it is the Italian way.
For the dreaded Italian transportation strike. For those that have traveled and experienced this or heard horror stories from those who have, you can avoid falling victim to il sciopero. YOU need not be the one stuck in an airport or train station crying on your luggage. If you head to http://www.cgsse.it/web/guest;jsessionid=Kq5+i+2S03PiMmBHDPsJWQ__ . And click on the calendar icon and then the Elenco Scioperi button below it, all upcoming strikes will be alphabetically listed by the occupation that is striking that week. Yes, the site is in Italian, but you need only know aeree and trasporti to avoid any of the misery. The upside if you do encounter one is that they normally only last between 4 and 12 hours, yes hours.
For many people traveling to Italy is one of the most memorable vacations of a lifetime. You can make it that much better with just a few precautions that will take less than an hour of your time. The times it takes to sit back and sip one glass of light sparkling Prosecco to celebrate your trip.