Author: Kacie Rose Travel LLC

Excited to Announce New Partnerships with Eating Europe, Get Your Guide

30 March 2024

New Partnerships with Eating Europe, Get Your Guide

Excited to Team Up with a Couple of My Favorite European Travel & Tour Companies

l have to briefly interject, press pause on the recent string of information-focused blog posts. The blog’s recent trend of informative content has been a conscious effort, providing me a long-form, written avenue to answer some of the most consistently asked questions I get online. You’ll see more of those types of posts in the future, but I’ve also got a couple fun ones upcoming too. This post, however, is probably neither–I’m just too excited to not highlight these collaborations/partnerships in some way!

Eating Europe, specializing in food tours, and Get Your Guide, sort of an all-encompassing tour guide website, are now official partners of Kacie Rose Travel. 

I’ve gone on more tours than I could ever count, all throughout Europe, especially in Italy. I’ve gotten to know some amazing people, seen some unique startups thrive firsthand too. That can make it hard sometimes to categorize someone, or some company, as “best”, “most trusted”, etc etc., because at the end of the day these are all individuals doing something they are passionate about–which I can totally relate to and respect.

Thus, when I say that I mean no disrespect to similar companies and services, you know its from the heart. 

The fact is that for a while now Eating Europe and Get Your Guide have been the two companies I recommend the most in consultations and online. So its only fitting that they are two of the companies that have a presence on this blog. 

The Companies

Get Your Guide offers you thousands of custom tours & activities, with the convenience & flexibility of a mobile app

Powered by GetYourGuide

I’ve gone on a number of tours booked through Get Your Guide and I haven’t been disappointed once. Of course, that’s what good tours, and good tour guides, provide. What sets them apart, at least to me, is for a company as vast as they are–seriously, they cover virtually the entire planet–they still have that “small business” level of customer service and response.

The functionality of their website and app is second to none, and their flexibility with bookings and cancellations is truly people-first. 

You have to check the site out for yourself, there’s no way I could even begin to cover the various activities and tours they offer. Feels like the first time I purchased a book online, on some new-kid-on-the-block website called Amazon haha.

Eating Europe (use code “kacie”) — Food Tours & Immersive Culinary Experiences

Eating Europe Code

If you haven’t read some of the previous “Street Food” blogs, you can check out ones covering Florence and Naples when you have the time. I maintain then and always that there is no better way to experience a culture than doing a street food tour. Honestly.

Eating Europe is in pretty much every major city throughout Europe. Not just “street food”, they offer a variety of tours, and they set themselves apart by the feeling of immersion they provide–it’s like a hands-on home economics classroom, with culinary geniuses and top chefs leading the way.

Still advertisement-free

You will periodically see small shout-outs to the various partners in blog posts. These are not “paid for” sponsorships or advertisements–this blog remains ad-free, and I hope it always will be. Rather these shout-outs (for lack of a better term) are also my personal recommendations, based on my experiences. I’ll never suggest, highlight, reference or otherwise promote a company or service that I haven’t used. 

In some instances, like my Amazon Storefront, I do receive a small percentage of sales from any clicks. That’s not earth shattering news, as its become pretty standard nowadays–and its the least intrusive way to keep blogs affordable to operate. 

But unlike some of those sites, you will never have to question what you see. If it’s on this website…it’s because I trust it.

So….Eating Europe & Get Your Guide, welcome aboard! 

@kacierose4 @Eating Europe yall set the bar HIGH with this one 😂 they do food tours all across Europe (including italy!) – link in my bio for 5% off! 🤍 #london #boroughmarket #londoneats #traveltok ♬ I'm Feeling Lucky (Instrumental) – Ellen Once Again

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A Guide to Spending & Currency in Italy (+Europe)

10 March 2024

A Guide to Spending in Italy: Currency Options & More

A Few Helpful Tips as You Prepare to Visit Europe & Italy

While preparing to visit Italy, and for that matter anywhere across Europe, a common question many Americans have has to do with money.

Or more specifically, currency, and how (and when, where) they can exchange some of their cash for another kind–like Euros. It’s related to what I think is a common fear, especially among those leaving the U.S. for the 1st time: being caught in the unenviable position of being in a foreign place without a way to pay for anything. It sounds like a scenario recreated in the opening scenes of a horror flick, lets be honest.

And although the adoption of the Euro has made travel across the various countries of Europe infinitely easier, when it comes to money there is no shortage of caveats, unique situations and cautious tales. Whether a first timer or a veteran of traveling abroad, there are several important things that Americans should know before their next trip across the Atlantic.

While I don’t have a “new American girl in Italy” nightmare to share–or one that wouldn’t bore you to death, at least–I certainly have learned a few things since moving here. And I’ve definitely picked up a few tricks & tips these past couple years. 

Let’s get to it, shall we?

This blog is broken down into three simple sections:

1) A guide to what currencies (and credit cards) are accepted throughout Italy & Europe

2) A review of how to best utilize exchange rates and where/when/how to make a currency exchange

and, of course…

3) Several tips & tricks, anecdotes, and nuggets of information covering everything “money”— from why you should avoid spending US Dollars even in places that advertise their acceptance, to why Travelers Checks that generations of people grew up with are no longer necessary…and actually can be more inconvenience than not.

So let’s get to it.

But before that…I leave you with a clip from an underrated comedy treasure.

Spending Money in Italy & Europe

Peaking inside your wallet to see what will be accepted, and what won’t be

  • Cash is King in Italy! Italy is pretty well known to be a cash-based society, even in comparison to close European neighbors. The biggest reason for this is that Italy is dominated by small villages and towns, and many of the most tourist-friendly places have economies built around independently owned shops, eateries, street vendors and more. 

    Like the rest of the modern world, the usage & acceptance of Credit & Debit Cards and “Alternative” Payment Apps is increasing rapidly. While many places might accept your card, just be prepared–have cash on you, or a way to get cash, at all times.

  • Credit Cards: Visa and Mastercard are the big two. If a place/store takes credit card payments it is virtually guaranteed these two are accepted. 

    American Express and Discover, however, are a different story. Discover, in fact, wasn’t accepted anywhere in Italy as recently as a decade ago. Major hotel chains and such, especially in cities like Rome, might take it, but it’s not a given. And it’s incredibly rare you will find many places in smaller resort towns and the various vineyards. 

    It’s similar with American Express, but not quite as drastic. If you broke it down by percent, of the places that accept card transactions, 99.6% (or more) take Visa/MC, between 45% and 55% accept AMEX, and 10-15% Discover. And for the few people that still have Diner’s Club cards…I swear, someone asked me that recently… those are now owned and operated under Discover (and only work through Discover card systems).

  • You can forget about most of the American payment “apps”, things like CashApp, Venmo, etc. PayPal has 91% of the market share in Italy as far as “online” banking/payments, but it is almost exclusively used for peer-to-peer payments. It’s just incredibly rare to find businesses that accept these types of things. Further than that, CashApp, for example, won’t even work for you in Italy (there’s reasons why you have to “share” your location when you download!)
  • One result of COVID-19 was the rapid growth of contactless payment, and the number of places that accept it. In major tourist hotspots like Rome and Milan a good number of places now have the capability, which also means that things like GooglePay and ApplePay are often accepted (provided they’re being funded via Visa/Mastercard, of course)
  • While some tour companies will accept US dollars in some cases, it’s very rare, and you shouldn’t assume you can use US dollars anywhere in Italy. Like much of Europe, Italy uses the Euro, represented with the € sign. Paper currency comes in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100€. Similar to the dollar, fractions of a Euro are called cents. Coins can be found in in 0.01, 0.02, 0.05, 0.10, 0.20 and 0.50 cent denominations, along with 1€ and 2€. And in contrast to the US$, 1€ and 2€ denominations are in Coin only

The “Common” side of Euro Coins–
Regardless of  issuing country this side is always the same

  • Sample 1 Cent Euro Coin


  • Sample 2 Cent Euro Coin


  • Sample 5 Cent Euro Coin


  • Sample 10 Cent Euro Coin


  • Sample 20 Cents Euro Coin


  • Sample 50 Cents Euro Coin


  • Sample 1 Euro Coin


  • Sample 2 Euro Coin


A few examples of Euro Coins issued in Italy
(Pictured: 1 Cent, 2 Cent, 1 and 2 Euro)

  • Sample, Italy Issued 1 Cent Euro Coin

    Italy 1 Cent Euro

  • Italy 2 Cent Euro Coin Sample

    Italy 2 Cent Euro

  • Italy Issued 1 Euro Coin Sample

    Italy 1 Euro Coin

  • Italy Issued 2 Euro Coin Sample

    Italy 2 Euro Coin

Examples of paper/bill Euro Denominations

  • Sample-Five Euro

  • Sample-Euro 10

  • euro20

  • euro50

  • euro100

Exchanging Your Dollars and
Having It Make Sense

Avoid Wasting Money with These Tips

Exchanging your US Dollars for foreign currency is simple in theory, but like everything else in life, in actuality gets complicated real quick.

There’s a reason why you see “Exchange Currency Here” signs seemingly everywhere when you get off a plane, train, ship…hell, you can do somersaults and back-flips across a sovereign border and you’re pretty much guaranteed to land within a few feet of one. And that’s because it’s “easy money” for the one doing the exchanging.  Places in high traffic tourist spots can take upwards of 10%(+) just for swapping one form of money for another.

So keep these things in mind when it comes to Exchange Rates and Spending Money in Italy:

  • The current exchange rate between US Dollars and Euros depends slightly on which direction ($ to €, € to $) the exchange goes. You can expect $1 to get you roughly .92-.93 cents in Euro. Conversely 1€ gets you between $1.08 and $1.09.
  • You should try your best to avoid the instinct to exchange currency right upon entering Italy/Europe, places like airports and train stations. Similar to how a bottle of water magically goes from a dollar at 7-11 to like 6 bucks at the airport, you’ll end up paying higher fees or commissions on any exchange, regardless of how they advertise their exchange rate. Transportation & tourist hubs charge those prices because, well, they can. And they don’t suddenly become altruistic when it comes to turning your $1 Bill into a 1€  Coin. Trust me.

    So how should you exchange / get Euro for your trip? 

    1). At Your Bank: The first and best place to exchange your money is right at your bank in your home country. This is where you’ll get the best exchange rate most of the time! Bigger banks in the US will likely have Euro on hand and can do the transaction immediately, however smaller banks and branches may have to order it. Your best bet (better safe than sorry!), is to go to. your bank and exchange money 2-4 weeks before your trip. 
    2) Small shops and cambios, which are kinda like small boutique shops for these types of services. Be aware that “tourist traps” like the transportation hubs still may apply, so this refers to more within villages and towns than meccas. I cover the way to approach this a bit more in the final section.

    3) An Italian ATM: The fastest and easiest way to get Euro is to simply use your debit card at an ATM when you’ve arrived in Italy. But not any ATM, because there’s naturally a caveat for that too!

    • You want to make sure the ATM is bank-affiliated (bancomat). Bancomats affiliated with one of the main banks in Italy do not charge fees. You will get the established government exchange rate without a commission fee, assuming you are using the ATM to withdrawal funds from your US checking account. You absolutely should avoid independent ATMs, the most popular being  EURONET. You know the type…the little ones you see in corners of random liquor stores and such. The fees from independent ATMs can be simply disgusting.
    • One thing you don’t want to use an ATM for is withdrawing cash off a credit card. This isn’t across the board, as their are a number of credit cards tailored to international travelers, but generally speaking credit card companies do one thing well: make money, usually with unproportionate fees–like ones for cash advances.

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Before You Go…

A Few More Things to Know

Some Last Pearls of Wisdom, Nuggets of Gold and I’ve run out of Money Puns

  • A good website for up to the minute exchange rate info, for any and all recognized legal tender, can be found here. Your local bank branch often provides printed rates upon request, as well, for a good idea of what to expect before you arrive.
  • Before leaving on any trip, be sure to contact your bank/debit card and credit card companies. Many banks put automatic fraud safeguards in place and you can be easily caught unaware until your card is declined. Chase Bank, for example, often denies ATM withdrawals over $25 if not done within a certain proximity to your billing/account zip code.  The additional layers of protection are generally great for account holders and consumers, of course…until they’re not.
  • While on the phone with the credit card peeps, ask for details on/if they have any sort of travel insurance/protection. A large number do, though you can expect a whole lot of fine print along the way. Whether its Rewards Points for airline travel, rebates for hotel chain bookings or custom travel insurance packages, you’d be surprised what you can learn from these calls.
  • Once in Europe…Keep a set amount of euro on you. As I mentioned, because of the predominance of small markets & shops, and the overall cash-dominant economy of Italy, it’s always smart to make sure you have local currency on you in case of unique circumstances or emergencies. But be sure to exchange them back to US Dollars before heading home! Especially the coins–you’ll be amazed how quickly change can accrue in your pocket when you’re dealing with a couple extra fractions of denominations, along with the lack of a 1 or 2 Euro bill. 

     Obvious Note: In the States it can be easy to just toss change aside or let it be buried within the couch cushions. It’s a bit different when you pay for a 0.70 cent candy bar with a 5€ bill and get your change all in coins!

  • I know some of the older generations will revolt at the mere thought, but Traveler’s Checks … are no longer a viable way to protect your money abroad. Most of Europe, especially Italy, it’s downright extremely rare to find a place that actually accepts them for purchases. Even most of  Italy’s official banks will not cash them. And even you do find a place that will honor the check, or swap it for euro, you can expect grossly exorbitant fees for their trouble.
  • Like many modern countries, you will find a lot of shops that accept US currency. It can be tempting, too, because its comfortable. It’s not advisable, however. “Rounding off” might not be a “fee”, but it’s not rounding for your benefit obviously. Small shops and eateries might charge you as much as 20% more if you pay with US Dollar, quite a bit more than the actual 7-8.5% difference in currency value.
  • It sounds simple and obvious, but you’d be surprised. Leave the weight at home! All those random store credit cards and pharmacy/grocery store rewards cards. Stick with one or two credit cards, your bank card and cash money. That’s it. Traveling, vacationing, especially with a family and kids, can be a smorgasbord of spending, of nickle and dimes. Keeping track can be a nightmare, even more so when dealing with foreign currency. Its easier to keep up with your budget, too. And honestly, the majority of everything else won’t be used or can’t be, and serves only as opportunity for those with ill intent like scammers and thieves. 
  • Be wary of Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC), or Cardholder Preferred Currency (CPC). These are merchant-provided services that let you see your foreign credit card transactions in your home currency at the point of sale. Fees for DCC are higher than those charged on regular credit card transaction. DCC is optional; do not let a store force you to do this if you dont want to. It’s akin to the “rounding off” and “currency surcharges” that the shops do with US Dollar payments. 

    From the website Investopedia:

    “Dynamic currency conversion (DCC) allows you to make point-of-sale (POS) credit card purchases in a foreign country using the currency of your home country; it is also known as cardholder preferred currency (CPC). While DCC makes it easier to understand the price you are paying—and lets you avoid doing the currency conversion math—it often comes with a poor exchange rate and other fees that can make the transaction more expensive than if you simply made it in local currency.” -jim brobasco on investopedia

That’s your guide to “Spending in Italy”! 

Hopefully it will answer some questions and give you some guidance if–sorry, when–you begin planning your trip abroad.

Check back periodically as this blog, like the previous ones covering Travel & Entry Requirements and What You Can Bring Home Through US Customs, will be updated regularly with updated information and fresh tips.

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Understanding What You Can Bring Home from Italy

10 February 2024

Returning From Your Visit to Italy

A quick guide to what you can bring home, going through US Customs & even how to keep your wine safe

The process of going through US Customs & Border Protection, US citizen or not, can be stressful. For vacationers coming back home to the states it’s an emphatic vacation’s over reminder. With a little preparation, though, it doesn’t have to be too painful–and there’s even a few ways to expedite the process as well. 

A couple of weeks ago I covered what you need in order to enter Italy, now and in the future. Now I will help you to understand what you can, and cannot, bring back from Italy (or from most countries, for that matter) so that you can be prepared for the moment you get the US Customs Declaration form…or more importantly you know what you shouldn’t bother to buy overseas in the first place.

After I cover going through US Customs, I’ll highlight the Department of Homeland Security Trusted Traveler Programs, which are like the Express Checkout Lanes for US Citizens returning from abroad. The pricing is surprisingly affordable, especially considering the application/fee is good for 5 years.

I’ll finish up the blog discussing one of my (not so private) fears: Opening a suitcase and finding my beautiful bottle of Italian wine in pieces, having turned my clothes purple. Personal experience may or may not have played a part in how I came up with my suggestions for how to best travel with your wine. (Whoever said rolled newspaper is a great insulator is full of it, by the way.)

So, without further ado, here is your quick guide to navigating US Customs, and what you can bring home with you from Italy…or from any other foreign country.

Going Through U.S. Customs

What You Should Expect & What You Should Know

Sign Directing Travelers Entering the US

  • All travelers entering the US, including citizens, must pass through US Customs & Border Control if they are arriving from a foreign country. There really isn’t any exceptions to the process, though US Government & Military personnel have slightly different rules & regs. The only alternative option for individuals is to take advantage of the Trusted Traveler Programs offered by DHS. I discuss each of those programs in the next section of the blog.
  • Each individual is required to complete a Declarations form, officially known as Declaration Form 6059B. You will fill it out in its entirety and provide it to US Customs upon your arrival & interview. (You can see a photo of the form at the end of this section).
  • Each traveler may bring back up to $800 in goods with them. Basically that includes everything you have with you upon your arrival in the US that you didn’t have when you originally departed it. 
  • The US has some of the world’s strictest policies when it comes to bringing in certain foods. Not Allowed: Meat, Poultry, Eggs & “Liquid” Dairy. Certain cooked and pre-packaged foods might be okay (think like Slim Jim beef jerky), but its not even worth trying, honestly.
  • Other foods Not Allowed are fresh fruits, vegetables and raw nuts. Canned fruit & cooked/candied nuts are probably okay but, to me, watching US Customs confiscate your canned peaches just doesn’t seem worth it
  • Spices, chocolates and candies? Allowed. So is most seafood, which I found surprising. I was behind a woman that had a fresh octopus bagged and checked-in her suitcase. Seriously. Mind: Blown.
  • Of course Italian cheese is world-renowned. The good news is that many types of cheese can be brought home, as long as they: 1) are sealed/vacuum packaged (most cheese shops in Italy will do this for you upon request) 2) not liquid/runny–aka no Cottage or Ricotta and 3) do not contain any meat (like bacon). A friend of mine has a good write up here
  • There are different rules for individuals bringing home goods under that $800 mark versus people bringing home a mass amount of a singular product for resale in the US. That’s when duties, taxes and all sorts of questions arise. In this blog you can assume I am speaking strictly about personal use laws and restrictions. 
  • Although strict, it also doesn’t mean immovable when it comes to restrictions. Customs agents are sensitive to an individual’s specific dietary needs, and to dairy allowances & formula for infants, for example. Just don’t try and hide anything–It won’t end well. Be straightforward.
  • You can bring wine back! 1 Liter per person is allowed duty-free, though as long as you are honest and upfront about the extra wine being for your personal use Customs will not tax it (if they do, its probably a couple bucks each bottle). Also, Remember: 21 and up. Regardless if you were able to purchase the wine as a 20 year-old in another country the US laws on alcohol stand. 
  • Wine, specifically, must be stowed with your luggage, as it cannot be carried on (due to TSA liquid restrictions). I offer some suggestions for how to best pack and protect your grape treasure below. You want to have a gameplan for your return trip; kind of like bringing an extra suitcase expecting to buy a bunch of souvenirs. Having to purchase luggage at an airport at the last minute never worked out well for anyone’s wallet.
  • Tell. The. Truth. full stop.
  • When it comes to authority, almost by default humans have a tendency to become protective and secretive when it comes to “our stuff“. Avoid this urge. It is always best to be 100% honest and upfront with US Customs. These are people who have seen & heard every lie, half-truth and packing trick. Its not even worth it, honestly…the fines/penalties for lying on Declarations forms outweigh any benefit, and chances are you are lying about something they wouldn’t have even cared or bothered with anyway! US Customs & Border Patrol agents have little interest in confiscating a gift and ruining the end of your trip.

US Customs Form 6059B 

  • customs-declaration-6059b

  • Form 6059B US Customs ThumbNail

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Trusted Traveler Programs

Homeland Security does offer a few ways to expedite your US Customs wait

Homeland Security's Trusted Traveler Programs

There is no escaping one undeniable fact: It is impossible to absolutely, 100% know all the intracies of the rules & regulations as you prepare for US Customs. That’s sort of the nature of the beast with a bureaucracy; you’ve got the strict laws of TSA, the always evolving restrictions from the USDA (they are always monitoring worldwide food borne illnesses and such), the complexities of the FDA and even the ATF setting standards…and that’s all before the IRS and State Department gets a say.

It underscores my last bulletpoint–just be honest and transparent and you should be okay.

While obviously experienced travelers may be more comfortable with going through US Customs, there are options for those who wish to expedite the process. Anyone who travels frequently, or anyone who wants to, for that matter, should check out the Trusted Traveler program operated by the Department of Homeland Security.

If you’ve been to an airport recently you’ve probably seen one in action. You know when you are in that long winding line, waiting for TSA to look at your ID and inspect your fancy shoes? Ever notice the people who seem like they are VIP status, going straight through off to the side? That’s the TSA Pre-Check, which is exactly like it sounds. It’s a “skip the waiting in line” pass for approved individuals. It costs roughly $80 and saves you some time & headaches. Like all the Programs, enrollment is good for 5 years.

Then there is Global Entry. The easiest way to describe Global Entry? It is the US Customs version of TSA Pre-Check. It’s basically a “skip the line” for Customs. Being enrolled in Global Entry also automatically enrolls you in TSA Pre-Check, so you don’t have to apply and pay for both. Global Entry eliminates you having to physically complete and submit your Declarations forms and paperwork; instead of waiting in line to meet with a US Customs worker  you can actually use a self-serve kiosk and skip the line entirely. Many of these kiosks are quite 22nd Century, if you will, with security features like facial-rec built right in.

Global Entry is obviously a little more expensive than TSA Pre-Check, but considering it includes both at $100 its practically a bargain. It can take up to 6 months to process your application, so signing up doesn’t do much for someone traveling very soon, but its a worthwhile endeavor for a lot of people–if you travel internationally once a year, even, I think its worth it.

Also, unlike TSA Pre-Check, Global Entry applies to individuals traveling via land and sea, as opposed to Pre-Check, which is air travel only.

A couple other programs to note, that don’t apply to Italy specifically, are the NEXUS and SENTRI programs.

NEXUS deals with travel to and from Canad only. Like Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check, it promises quicker border crossings for pedestrians, vehicles and sea travel, along with air travel between a US and Canadian city (NEXUS includes access to TSA Pre-Check in these incidences). It’s $50.

I should note that NEXUS differs from the “Enhanced IDs” available to those living in New York, Michigan, Vermont, Minnesota and Washington. Those are kind of your “US – Canada Passport”. NEXUS lets you skip the line to show said Enhanced ID.

The final program to note, SENTRI, is for US/Canada and Mexico. It is $122, and is similar to NEXUS except it does not include travel via sea. Not exactly sure why, but it is what it is.

Traveling with your Italian Wine

A couple of suggestions and products to consider
for protecting your vino

It’s kind of the nightmare scenario, right? You come home from your fantastic, amazing vacation to Italy, and open up your suitcase, prepared to study the bottle label one more time, or maybe uncork a bottle ‘cuz you’re so giddy with anticipation…only to see that despite wrapping the bottles in every hotel towel you managed to swipe your entire suitcase, all your luggage, is colored burgundy. It doesnt matter if it was turbulence or the burly baggage handler…your dreams are dashed.

This makes me think of the Bob’s Burgers episode where one of the kids breaks mom Linda’s wine bottle, and she sops it up with a dirty rag…only to then, in desperation, wring out a few drops onto her tongue. Oh I am literally LOL’ing at the thought.  

Oh…how we wine lovers can relate to that feeling, eh?

There’s hundreds of products you can find online, but trust me, they are not all the same.

If you plan to bring more than a bottle or two home…or, hell, even if you plan to bring one bottle home…I got your back. 

Like with every blog I post here, I’ve created a small list of Amazon Recommendations in my Storefront. Unlike, for example, my “Fur Babies Travel Too” blog and recommendations, there are only a few items in this one. But check em out if you need some packing ideas or inspiration!

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Understanding Italy’s “New” Travel Visa Rules

7 January 2024

Travel Visa Requirements for Italy in 2024 & Beyond

Guiding you past the rumors so you can plan your visit stress-free

OMG! I need a Travel Visa? What is ETIAS?!”

Of all the questions I get asked, the one regarding ETIAS and the mythical “Travel Visa” is by far the most frequent. Well, that along with anything regarding Travel & Entry Requirements into Italy, really. So this blog is probably overdue.

A few years back, around 2019, the European Union announced plans for the ETIAS program–aka the European Travel Information & Authorization System. ETIAS was intended to be user-friendly, built as an online database and website for easy applying. It would give travelers a “visa waiver” to be used in conjunction with traveler’s passport.

Unfortunately, for most people the only thing “current” with ETIAS is a general confusion and state of paranoia among travelers. While in the idea of uniting most EU countries (known as the Schengen Area) and adopting a program that increases safety, convenience and consistency in international travel is great, the launch of it has been anything but. And it has created quite a bit of confusion online (plus a few panic attacks, I’m sure). Especially on social media, where viral doses of misinformation spread wildly. Pretty wild considering that ETIAS still has not started and won’t until at least 2025.

In this post I’ll explain what (if anything) is new for 2024 regarding Travel & Entry Requirements into Italy, breakdown and explain what ETIAS is and what exactly it will eventually mean for travelers, as well as offer you some links and trusted online resources for more detailed information. 

This blog will be updated as needed.

What You Need for Travel in 2024, and Why the Confusion

Mythbusting & Rumor Smashing

Welcome to Italy, Vintage Passport Stamp

The majority of the current confusion regarding traveling to Italy centers around one simple question:

What do I need for entry into Italy?

The answer, for 2024, to be blunt: The same thing you needed for 2023, 2022 and so on (not counting any COVID-19 era vaccine mandates and such). And that is a valid US Passport

There’s two things I’ve seen creating confusion online.

The first is the near-viral online discussion about Americans needing a Travel Visa to enter Italy starting in 2024. This is not accurate and not true.

This stems from people mixing up short stay (or tourist) “visa-exempt” status given to many countries, such as the US, and a yet to begin EU program for its member countries  that will eventually require a “visa waiver” for travel to most of Europe

That program, of course, is the aforementioned ETIAS. It was supposed to start in 2024 (well…2020), but there’s been few updates, and everything we know about the ETIAS Program comes from the original announcement a few years ago. It defines an area called the Schengen Area, basically the EU countries minus Cyprus and Bulgaria (but also includes non-EU Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. In March 2024, Bulgaria and Romania will join as well).

Eventually, once in place, ETIAS will require anyone traveling to Italy (or inside the Schengen Area) to apply for a “visa waiver” or “travel visa waiver”–it will be mandatory. It’s sort of a pre-paid passport stamp for 29 countries.

I will discuss ETIAS in additional detail in the next section, but, as of now, the EU says it will be ready next year–but that’s been said literally every year since the original announcement in 2019. So I certainly would not stress about it.

Of course, describing & equating ETIAS as a “Travel Visa” is a little disingenuous, and makes it seem like its something much more complicated than it is. It’s really not that big of a deal, to be honest. The wording used with ETIAS is what creates the confusion and is compounded by…

The wordy legal jargon of government websites and an acronym like ETIAS itself. Then you get different versions of what ETIAS will entail in PR releases every year for 5 years, and you end up with a lot of only partially correct information floating around.

But man, legal jargon. It’s the worst, seriously.

A particular example is the requirement for US Citizens traveling to Italy needing a dichiarazione di presenza”  or declaration of presence. 

Well, fear and stress not. The dichiarazione di presenza is what that little stamp on your passport represents when crossing the border into Italy!

Be Sure to Check Out My Custom Amazon Recommendations Specific to this Blog! Personally Selected Items to Help Keep Your IDs, Passports, Travel Documents & More Safe During Your Travels!

You can also check out all the rest of my Amazon recommendations!

Screenshot of US State Department Website
Travel to Italy Quick Facts

US State Department travel information for Italy

Explaining ETIAS &
What That Means For You

Two Clicks, Ten Bucks, One Visa

Once ETIAS finally takes effect, while acknowledging anything “new” takes an adjustment period, the overall impact on future visitors to Italy will be minor.

ETIAS is a visa waiver that will screen travelers before they can travel to the region. So while people saying “OMG! I need a Travel Visa now?!” is, uh, kind of correct come 2025, it’s not quite accurate as the “Visa” is more of a simple waiver.

Think of it as an additional later of protection for all parties. It creates a uniform database of individuals travel and a second level of security for countries and their border/customs agencies.

From a personal standpoint, this will help fight things like identity theft and even human trafficking & kidnapping–which is an abhorrently growing problem for even the most industrialized nations. From the EU perspective, the benefits begin and end with national security for the member countries.

I suppose, in some ways the benefits could be a parallel to the “No Fly List” the TSA, FBI and FAA implemented in the United States post-911. 

Regardless of your citizenship you most likely will need to apply and submit for ETIAS.

All visitors who previously traveled visa-free to Europe, such as visitors from the United States, Canada, Australia, and many others, will need an approved ETIAS to enter any ETIAS member country such as Italy, France, Germany and Spain.

All travelers, regardless of age, will be required to obtain an ETIAS, and the authorization will be valid for 3 years or until the date of passport expiration.

The process will not be obtrusive or time consuming. It actually will be pretty easy, all things considered. 

For an ETIAS into Italy, these are the general requirements, though there are case by case exceptions:

  • A valid passport with a minimum validity of 3 months from the expected date of departure from Italy
  • Demonstrate to have sufficient financial means to support the stay in the country
  • To not appear on the “non-admission” list of the EU
  • International medical insurance (usually can be obtained or auto-included via cruise/airline, credit card, bank, etc, though most US health insurance plans have some sort of international protection
  • Accommodation or an invitation letter (IE documentation of your hotel plans, AirBNB, or a resident of Italy outlining your visit)
  • A round trip ticket

The application itself is standard fare for international travel. Who you are, Where you been, What crimes have you committed, you know, that whole bag (for some reason I just inner-monologued that in Dr. Evil’s voice, from his therapy session in the Austin Powers movie. I admit this reference is probably going over people’s heads. Sorry, my brain is weird sometimes!).

It will be all done online, and cost a nominal fee. Originally it was supposed to be like 7 bucks, then I heard ten. Either way, won’t be anything like a US Passport fee!

Screenshot from the ETIAS Italy website

Basic ETIAS process/requirements

The entire process for a ETIAS visa waiver will be done online. The application will cover basic questions such as travel history & criminal record, and once approved will be valid for travel to all ETIAS countries for 3 years, or until your US Passport expires.

Keep Tabs on the Latest ETIAS 2025 News

A tl;dr Recap & Sites to Bookmark

I’m sure you may still have a couple questions or uncertainty regarding ETIAS & the travel visa/waiver. Unfortunately, due to the fact that the entire system has been pushed back yearly since 2018/19, there isn’t a ton of definitive information regarding any aspect of the program other than the bold-faced talking points given in brief PR releases by Italy & other E.U. member countries.

That said, there is enough established to clear up the basic misinformation going around, and most importantly to relieve the stress & anxiety that this adds for prospective visitors to Italy & Europe.

For the “tl;dr” crowd, remember these key bullet points:

    • When ETIAS does take effect, the entire process will be done online. The application will be short, consisting of questions on travel history, criminal background & employment. In order to submit the application you will have to pay a non-refundable processing fee that can be paid only via a credit or debit card. 
    • Additional requirements for entry vary by country, and are separate than the ETIAS waiver. These are typically asked for at the entry point (for example, in the US, an airport’s Customs & Immigration). Italy’s established requirements are pretty standard, including establishing the financial means to support one’s self while there, travel plans/accommodations, and medical insurance.
    • Once ETIAS system is in place, an approved application will be good for a maximum of 3 years. It will be automatically be invalid upon your US Passport’s expiration date, regardless if you seamlessly received an updated one, as each ETIAS waiver is “attached” to the passport you have upon applying. Basically: New passport = New ETIAS waiver. 
    • An approved ETIAS application grants you entry into any country in the Schengen Area. This is essentially the EU countries minus Cyprus and Bulgaria, but also includes non-EU Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. In March 2024, Bulgaria and Romania will join as well.

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20 Travel Essentials for a Stress-free Trip

12 October 2023

20 Travel Essentials
For a Stress-Free Trip

Whether it’s traveling on a long international flight to Europe, boarding a city-sized cruise ship in port or embarking on a train excursion through the mountainside, there’s a couple of things that remain constant–travel, especially internationally, can be incredibly stressful & anxiety filled. And often times quite uncomfortable.

No one is safe from the infinite number of minor annoyances & aggravations that seem to seek out those traveling from afar. Newbie or a travel veteran, it sometimes can seem like they’re inescapable. Maybe it’s using your favorite hoodie as a pillow for your cross-country flight, only to realize it didn’t come off the plane with you. Maybe its realizing that your luggage seems identical to four other sets going around the carousel, only…wait, that’s not your luggage, is it? 

There’s a lot of maybes with travel. I mean, in packing a suitcase alone you are trying to predict what you will need or want in seven days, 2,000 miles from home! How crazy is that? So yes, of course, traveling can be quite stressful and often needlessly expensive. But the payoff…oh the payoff is way worth it.

With that in mind, below are 20 Travel Essentials You Need for your next out-of-town adventure. These are items that, individually or collectively, can help mitigate some of that travel stress & anxiety, increasing your comfort & saving you a few bucks along the way. 

You can see all of these items-and morein my full Essentials: Stress-free Travel & Comfort list on Amazon.

Please Note: This post contains affiliate links. I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you on any purchases made after clicking/following a link to my Amazon shop. I only promote products/services that I use & love myself. Thanks for supporting my blog 🙂

1. Motion-Sickness Prep

There’s only two times that I’ve felt the dizziness, nausea and general unease commonly referred to as motion sickness. The first occurrence was during my first cruise ship experience, which is quite common for those rarely venturing off the “dry land”. And despite dozens of times flying throughout the continental US, the second occurrence was on an initial long international flight from NYC to Europe. It can sneak up on you sometimes. I’m not a big user of OTC meds, so I was looking for an alternative to Dramamine. Despite initial hesitation–sometimes its hard to believe something seemingly so simple actually works–I was impressed with 369 Life Motion Sickness Patches. The best part is you can use them with no side effects, making them a preventative measure worth taking. 

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2. Jet-Lag Relief

While motion sickness doesn’t effect everyone equally, and sometimes not at all, Jet Lag isn’t picky and, to some degree or another, effects everyone. The human body has an inner clock, and without boring you (I’ll let Mayo Clinic-or just Wikipedia– do that), that inner clock gets all sorts of messed up when traveling long distances. Miers Homeopathic Jet Lag Remedy & Boiron Jet Lag Relief Kit are two of the more well regarded jet-lag relief options on the market.

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3. Flight Organization

In a way you could probably group #3 and #4 together, under some sort of “OMG that’s so obvious, why didn’t I think of that?!” category heading. This particular item, Airline Pockets “Tray Table Cover & Seat Organizer”, ironically reminds me of something that used to be a standard for the little back-of-the-seat pockets, right next to the “Your seat is a life preserver” cards (man are those terrifying to a first time flyer). I’m talking about the Skymall  of course! Those magazine-style galleries of Seen on TV products. Miss those. 

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4. Who Needs Tvs in the Headrests?

Yes, at first glance, the Perilogics Universal Airplane Phone Holder seems like a Skymall-worthy product, probably right next to the previous item on this list. But that would be disingenuous–and probably a little bit of a slight to both products. Like the Pocket Organizer/Tray Table Cover, this phone holder is something that seems so simple…yet necessary, in a weird way. Its obviously practical use during a flight might not be enough to get you to click ‘buy’, but its ability to contort & transform depending on the situation is well worth its inexpensive price (under $13/prime members). 

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5. Wrinkle-Free, Happy Me

True story: For a long time I had a small “travel” iron that I had stolen borrowed from my mom. I proceeded to take it on several trips, usually of the short weekend variety. It was handy, though I didn’t overwork it much…until one fateful morning in Ohio I had an awesome sweater with a weird clumpy wrinkle on it. I thus realized that: a) irons get extremely hot b) they also leak c) don’t have much for fancy functions-like alarms d) get really hot. I had to say it twice–because it literally burnt a smoldering hole right through not just my sweater but the hotel’s comforter, as it tipped over when I wasn’t looking. Moral of the story: Steamers like the NTAYDZSW Handheld Garment Steamer (yeah, that’s the co. name) are total difference makers. It has everything you need.

Bonus Pick: The Nesugar G3 Steamer doesn’t have some of the extra attachments, but it is lighter & heats up quicker. If I’m being sexist–this is the one for you, gents. 

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6. The Weight Game

Breaking news: Airlines will find a way to charge you for seemingly everything in their endless quest to keep the industry profitable. Some costs are hard to avoid, and some are just plain worth it–but then there are fees like “overweight baggage” that are avoidable, with simple solutions. The Etekcity Luggage Scale is pocket sized and capable of measuring up to 110 pounds (and even tell you the temperature). A luxury item? Maybe. Does the ten bucks save you five, ten times as much in the long run? It just might. 

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7. So Smart & So Clean

While I’d love to have a list chock full of new & exciting gadgets or accessories for travel, the reality is you can’t have a list of “essentials” without a few, well, essentials. Thus I give you: Tide Travel Sink Packets, quite possibly one the world’s inventions that made you say “You could make detergent into a little pod but it took how long to create this??” 

Now that I told you about the obvious option, let me highlight SinkSuds Travel Detergent. Similar in usage to Tide, SinkSuds is highly recommended for delicate fabrics but versatile enough for general use. 

Bonus Item: Tide’s Instant Stain Remover (pen sized for travel). 

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8. Travel Smart, Pack Smarter

As previously mentioned, airlines are known to find creative ways to increase revenues. There is no more blatant example than the checked-bag vs. carry-on bag fees. Packing has never been more of a cost-savings endeavor, and there a whole industry of luggage built upon this. The Lumesner Carry-On Travel Backpack isn’t just a TSA/Airline compliant backpack–it’s a suitcase in its own right, complete with packing cubes, USB cable, anti-theft lock and more. Stylish enough for business trips, with an array of colors to choose from, you will never want another backpack..err carry-on bag…err suitcase ever again.

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9. Adapt Anywhere

A lot of people aren’t aware of this–I wasn’t, neither, the first time I traveled to Europe–but electrical outlets are not internationally universal. Of course, now with cell phones, tablets, cameras, laptops, etc. being not just luxury items but absolute necessities when traveling, this has become more than a routine annoyance for millions of travelers. It’s big business, too, for hotels & airport gift shops, where the markup for adapters is insane. There are region-specific adapters like the Meta-Ant European Travel Adapter, but if you travel even semi-frequently you won’t find anything better than the Ceptics World Travel Adapter Kit.

Bonus: Ceptics also has a World Travel Power Strip Adapter for those who may need extra surge protection and such. 

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10. Keep Your Valuables Close

One of the stresses of traveling, especially internationally and far from home, is the idea of keeping things like IDs, money, valuables, etc. safe while in unfamiliar terrain. While the name may elicit an initial giggle, the various practical ways to use the Zero Grid Hidden Bra Wallet makes it a useful investment. And because apparently guys may feel uneasy purchasing a “hidden bra wallet”, I’ll also offer you the StashBandz Unisex Pocket Belt.

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11. The Do-It-All Pillow

Not much explanation needed. There’s a lot of different types of Travel Pillows, but where does one start when trying to choose? For my money, there’s three things important to me: Comfort, Ease of Travel & Functional Usage. The Dot & Dot Twist Memory Foam Pillow combines all three in a perfectly simplistic way. Its ergonomic, maleable to various shapes & uses, and, oh, yeah–comfortable. Say goodbye to the days of those nasty 6 inch bacteria trap airplane “pillows”.

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12-13. Thirsty First Aid

This can be filed in one of these packing categories: 1) Things you never think you’ll need, until you need them or 2) Things you think you should pack, but it’s impossible to pack everything. Simple first-aid readiness is something everyone should probably pack for international travel, isn’t it? But like most people I’m guilty of oversight too. Right until I find myself calling a hotel front desk pleading for a band-aid because I can’t use a travel iron correctly. 

“Bonus” (#13, actually): I’m calling this a “bonus”, because its more for camping trips and adventures into the unknown, like the Australian Outback, Yosemite or Staten Island (I’m hilarious, I know). but the LifeStraw might be the coolest gadget you never knew you wanted or needed.

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Please Note: As an Amazon Influencer, I earn from qualified purchases. 

14. Keep Cool, Keep Lit

A few facts about international traveling: 1) at some point you are going to find yourself on a plane, sweating, screaming at the air vent to start blowing 2) air-conditioning isn’t a common thing in much of the world 3) at some point you will drop your hotel card-key late at night and find yourself re-tracing your steps, trying to get the flashlight on your phone to work. Well,  Do-I-Have-A-Product-For-You! Haha. In all seriousness though, little multi-function things like the JISULIFE 3-in-1 Handheld Mini-Fan can be literally figuratively life savers.

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15. Waterproof isn’t Waterproof

If there’s one thing that drives me nuts about cell phone companies…okay, there’s probably millions, lets be honest, as much as I use mine…it’s the whole fallacy of our phones being “waterproof”. They love to promote this notion that the days of drying your phone in rice or setting it in front of a fan on high are over, but the reality is that “Water-Resistant” is definitely not Waterproof. The ProCase Waterproof Phone Pouch isn’t a revolutionary idea, and it won’t change your life. But what it will do is let you take some kick-ass photos and videos underwater. No more spending $20 for a cheap waterproof disposable camera! If you’re going on a cruise, or somewhere tropical…even if you’re going to a random Holiday Inn that has a swimming pool…it’s a pretty cool.

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You can see all of these items-and morein my full Essentials: Stress-free Travel & Comfort list on Amazon.

16. TSA’s Got Nothing on You

I’ll keep this short and sweet: You could go to the store and needlessly spend a bunch of money for “travel sized” items, you know, the little 1/5th size bottles that somehow cost the same price as the normal sized ones. Or you could buy the Tocelffe 18 pack Toiletries Travel Bottles.

Bonus: Seems like a good spot to recommend the Steripod Clip-On Toothbrush Holder with Essential Oils. Works better than shoving your toothbrush down the side pocket with your socks, especially when you didn’t bring enough Tide Packs for the return trip and the socks are smelly.

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17. The Pocket-Sized Lock

In this kind of new era of Airbnb and rentals, security concerns are increasingly valid. Yes, there are some complex solutions on the market–but some are just plain obtrusive, most are ridiculously cost inefficient. AceMining Portable Door Lock is small (literally fits in your pocket) and adaptable to pretty much all door types. Its an inexpensive solution to a burgeoning issue, and to be blunt, worth it for the peace of mind alone.

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18. Lockup the Luggage

There isn’t anything particularly amazing or groundbreaking about a luggage lock. However, the Sure Lock TSA  is operating on a whole different level. Stainless steel, its heavy, durable–with a lifetime warranty to boot. It also has an indicator to let you know if TSA has inspected the contents–each lock has a code recognized by the TSA, CATSA, and other security agencies. This code allows them to identify the appropriate secure tool to use.

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19. Save the Planet!

Okay, maayyybe using a SPECIAL MADE Collapsible Water Bottle doesn’t necessarily equate to saving the planet. But it does save you from constantly purchasing bottled water on a day to day basis. And specifically as it relates to travel, the convenience of always having a water bottle handy to fill up at drinking fountains, rest stops and even on the way out of restaurants can’t be overstated. Plus, I mean, its a water bottle that collapses like flattened Coke can. How cool is that?! 

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Please make sure to check out my full Essentials: Stress-free Travel & Comfort list on Amazon. There are almost Eighty additional items that didn’t make this 18 item cut!

Please note that Amazon links provided are built via my personal Amazon Influencer Storefront

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Fur Babies Travel Too! Searching Amazon to Help Your Pet


Fur Babies Travel Too!

Searching Amazon to help your pet(s) travel in style (& comfort)

It’s kind of ironic how things work out sometimes. For a little while now I’ve contemplated switching up the types of blogs I post–I have endless notebook pages chock full of scribbled (and occasionally detailed) ideas to attest to this. 

So one day last week, there I was, contemplating my next post, eyes glued to my computer screen as they often are, when my little munchkin kitty decided she wanted attention. As any cat owner (or any pet owner, really) knows, cats have only one type of attention-seeking move. While dogs may bark, or put their head in your lap, or bring you a chew toy, a cat…well a cat just doesn’t care what you are doing or where you are doing it. 

So yeah, she knocked the laptop off the table. Oooh, I was mad. So mad. But at the same time, like, how can you not respect that kind of bold determination? Don’t we all wish we could be that blend of arrogance & prissiness sometimes? 

So I laughed at her. Petted her. Gave her a treat.

We may have the size advantage, and opposable thumbs, but our pets are the ones in charge, lets face it. They have us by a leash. 

But if there is one thing that can test the limits of patience for pet owners–and even the pets themselves–it is travel. Whether its as simple as a 10 minute car ride or a quick weekend getaway by train, to the sophisticated planning of international air travel or a cruise ship, traveling with your beloved furry companions is simply a nerve-wracking experience.

I have two little kitties that can’t stand not having the attention of me or Dario. My brother has two little rescue dogs that are spoiled rotten. My mom has a Shih Tzu that she loves more than me and my brother combined. I know the struggle.

It’s simple: Traveling with pets is stressful. So, with the assistance of the online juggernaut that is Amazon, I’ve compiled a list of items that can help your beloved fur-baby survive the anxiety & fear that comes with traveling…and do so looking pretty darn chic & stylish too, I might add.

Oh, and that irony I referenced in this blog’s opening? It just so happens that this first “Searching Amazon” blog coincides with Amazon’s October Prime Days! How ironic, huh? In the spirit of Prime Days, all recommendations are “Prime”-eligible, and I’ve made sure to only include the best & most reliable brands in pet-care. 

Please Note: As an Amazon Influencer, I earn from qualified purchases. 

Before You Even Close the Door…

You can see all of the items listed here in one place, in a customized list, on my personal Amazon Storefront

Preemptively address some of your pet’s anxiety before your journey even begins. There’s a growing industry of “calming chews”–for dogs especially. Not unlike being in a retail store’s vitamin & supplement aisle, you need to read the label & ingredients carefully, however. Calming chews work great for many animals, and it’s a case where its better to pay a couple bucks more to know what your getting. The ThunderWunder brand is a favorite of my brother, and Healthy Solutions has never let me down. 

The Thunder line of anxiety-relief clothing is the OG. If you’re looking for something with a bit more style, or maybe looking for a brand specializing in felines as opposed to canines, the market has expanded in both size and scope. 

They really do have essential oils for everything nowadays, don’t they?!?

A couple other interesting items for anxiety. Full List Here.

Alright…Time to Secure the Package

Sure, if its a short car hop to a vet appointment, maybe you can get away with little Charlie sitting on a pillow or Peaches plopped in a tote bin. But that won’t work on Delta Airlines. Trust me. 

You can go with the basics…

But come on now, you don’t need me to talk up a plain boring black cage, do you?

These carriers, however, are next level awesome….

(Full list/recs available in my Amazon storefront)

Even though, as I said, our pets have us on leashes, once in a while we must turn the tables on ’em. But not all leashes are equal; some are like bungee cords–if you have a ‘puller’ when you take your pal for walks, you’ll love this design. Of course, some leashes have flashlights + secret compartments of baggies & stuff.

I didn’t really have a section to put the middle item in…but I really wanted to include it because (ssshhh) I think this is my brother’s christmas present (or his dogs’ present). I mean that’s, like, the ultimate doggie lunchbox. 

Personally, I’m a big proponent of the harness versus just attaching a leash to a collar. Too many bad things can happen, and a lot of small dogs have issues with collapsing trachs.  

Another little bonus idea in the middle–Its a pretty freaking awesome way for people who can’t lug huge crates, or fight with a leash, to more easily transport their pet.

Technology, I tell ya, its something else. 

(Yes, that was sarcasm. But even so, I mean, someone had to come up with the idea to attach a plastic shopping bag to a dog and make it work!)

Keep ’em busy

There’s a new trend that combines anxiety relief with toys & stuffed animals. There’s a lot of studies that show animals often attach themselves to a certain squeak toy, or a certain teddy bear, as their own “emotional support animal” albeit an inanimate one. 

These are a few highly popular–and recommended–options. 

Sometimes it’s as easy as food & water

Comfort…and Style

Seriously, any excuse I can find to look at photos of cute puppies and kittens in little outfits…yeah, I’ll take it. I’m not even a little bit ashamed.

Cold-hearted sonofagun and you don’t care about your pet’s outfits? I have a happy solution…

Introducing: Style & Comfort for Both of You 

bonus round


Ladies and gentlemen…I give you: Halloween


Not as important as cute kittens in Harry Potter costumes, but these wipes are pretty good when traveling with your furry babies.


Yes I did sneak a photo of a puppy in a Pope costume in between the wipes. 

Please note that Amazon links provided are built via my personal Amazon Influencer Storefront

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My Puglia Road Trip (Part IV) – Bari


My Puglia Road Trip [Part IV] — Bari

Over So Soon?!

puglia (apulia)

The region of Puglia (or Apulia), Italy

[from part 1]  
We embarked on a 9-day road trip throughout one of the most scenic–and criminally underrated & unheralded–regions of Italy. A coastal region in the southeast “heel” of the country, Puglia (also known as Apulia) remains a hidden gem of sorts as tourists flock to the more well-known cities. After meeting in Bari, our itinerary would take us to Polignano a Mare, Ostuni, Alberbello, Matera and finish with a couple of nights back in Bari.

As we drove back to where we started, the capital city of Bari, the realization that our epic road trip was nearing its end started to dawn on me.

Isn’t it kinda crazy how you can spend a week on a vacation somewhere, and even with some days feeling like they last forever (as you get up early and stay up late, somehow taking in both the sunrise and sunset lol), towards the end of the trip you inevitably think: “Wowthat week just flew by!”

Bari is an interesting city. To be honest, I have to admit that I kinda had preconceived notions about it, I just figured it was a port city like any other along this stretch of coast. Its old-world architecture, ample marinas playing host to schooners and sailboats and yachts, and idyllic weather combine to almost invite these notions…I mean, if you judged the “book by its cover” I think it’d probably get a one line review of “Peaceful, tranquil, boring.”

Of course, that’s why Meredith and I made it a point to not just let Bari be our roadtrip’s pushpin starting point on a map–instead ensuring this university and port city of a quarter-million people (nearly 1.5 million across the metropolitan area) received the time and attention it deserves. 

Bari is almost a split personality, one young and vibrant, one older and esteemed. The latter can be encapsulated by Bari Vecchia, the historic old town, a city center filled with countless trattorias, piazzas and shops. This invokes, for Americans like me, a sort of downtown “Main Street, USA” vibe…except it’s backdrop is picturesque lighthouses overlooking the Adriatic Sea and too many museums to count.

When you combine this sort of dual-personality with that idyllic weather, along with the sea dotted with boats large and small, it really seriously reminds me of Florida. I mean, palm trees? Check. Sunshine and cool breeze? Check. Seems boring yet peaceful when you first arrive? Yep. Perfect place for retirees…okay you get my point.

But even further than that, the way Bari can almost separate its identities, like with that downtown, historic setting of Bari Vecchia on one hand, and perhaps the nightlife near the Norman-Hohenstaufen Castle on the other…it feels like Miami, honestly.

So…the end is near. But not…quite….yet

We girls had 2 days left on this incredible journey. And as we entered the city, equal parts exhausted and excited, the anticipation that comes from getting to explore a new place for the first time fueled us (Well, that and caffeine, of course). No time to waste…Bari awaited us.


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The Food. OMG…The Food.

I mentioned Bari Vecchia, and the tons of little cafes, shops, trattorrias, etc etc. 

Well, by now you all know how I love me a Street Food Tour. 

You can see where this is going. 

We did this tour, and it was amazing. Our guide was knowledgable, and the food….well, let me just reiterate the OMG…THE FOOD headline now. 

[Side Note: AirBnB has really become an irreplaceable resource, especially for international travelers/vacationers. Obviously many people (like my brother) associate them with just “renting someone’s bedroom” (his words), but damn, they’ve really expanded their portfolio of options as the company has exploded worldwide. You can not only find some great accommodations, but some of the best walking and street food tours I’ve taken have come from using the site.]

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Strada delle Orechiette

In Bari there is a famous street called “Strada delle Orechiette”, where you can find a ton of Italian Nonnas (Italian word for grandmother), sitting in the street making a type of pasta called Orechiette. 

[Another sidenote…I was watching Friends the other day–I mean is there any where on Earth you can’t watch that show?!–and the episode with Joey Tribbiani’s grandmother was on. Now knowing “Nonna” means grandma was like a lightbulb moment watching the episode haha. Also….I’m thinkin I know where the usage of “nana” comes from…]

Yeah, so, anyway, you should definitely check the place out is all I’m trying to say.


For our accommodations in Bari we again went with an Airbnb. Close to shops, restaurants and within walking distance of many piazzas and photogenic destinations, it was exactly the kind of central–and most importantly, safe accommodation that really highlights some of the benefits of using sites and app platforms like Airbnb.

It’s Over? awww

Hopefully you got a little insight into Puglia through these posts. It is mindblowing how much culture and history Italy has to offer; I mean, its smaller than several US States and yet it feels like, one way or another, the entire history of man traces through this country at some point.

I sincerely hope you get a chance to visit this eden. Whether you opt for Florence, Naples, Venice or any of the other numerous visitor staples–Rome? Milan? There’s so many!–you simply can’t go wrong. Everybody needs, and deserves, to visit this country at least once in their life.

Remember that I’m available to help prepare you as you plan your Italian vacation…Or you could even travel with me on our next group trip!

And that wraps my Puglia Road Trip blog series! You can see some additional videos & photos on my social media pages, especially TikTok & Instagram.

Stay Tuned for more…Coming throughout the fall I’ll have new posts like Street Food Tours, Tips & Tricks, Shopping Guides and more!

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Puglia Road Trip III — Matera (Basilicata)


My Puglia Road Trip [Part III] — Matera (Basilicata)

puglia (apulia)

The region of Puglia (or Apulia), Italy

[from part 1]  
We embarked on a 9-day road trip throughout one of the most scenic–and criminally underrated & unheralded–regions of Italy. A coastal region in the southeast “heel” of the country, Puglia (also known as Apulia) remains a hidden gem of sorts as tourists flock to the more well-known cities. After meeting in Bari, our itinerary would take us to Polignano a Mare, Ostuni, Alberbello, Matera and finish with a couple of nights back in Bari.

Before we continue on to Days 6 & 7…
I should point out that Matera is actually in the region of Basilicata, to the southwest of of Puglia. 

Matera is in Basilicata, bordering Puglia to the south

Just wanna try and make sure I don’t offend or slight any lucani 😉

After thoroughly enjoying our Day 5 “lazy day” at the Trulli Ad Maiora –check out this Tik Tok for a peek at these gorgeous accommodations– it was time to get back in the saddle again (its a road trip, of course, but ‘back in the car again’ doesn’t exactly pop quite the same) and continue on this epic journey we had embarked upon.

We were headed south, to the region of Basilicata, a mountainous, Gulf of Taranto-bordering “instep” of Italy. 

[Random info I find funny… because Italy is shaped like a boot, the 3 southeastern regions of Italy are colloquially known as The Toe (Calabria), The Heel (Puglia/Apulia), and between them lies The Instep –Basilicata!]

Here we would visit Matera, currently home to the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in the region (although rumor has it there might be a couple more getting some recognition at some point). 

Not as populated as neighboring regions, Basilicata has a complicated past. It hasn’t been until relatively recent times that the region was even open to traditional tourists. And it didn’t happen overnight for the economically depressed area, neither. I mean, in the years after World War II the Italian Prime Minister Alcide De Gasperi actually referred to Matera, Basilicata’s capital city, as a national disgrace!

Oh how far we’ve come…

Matera, simply, is the oldest city in Italy, the oldest city in Europe, and one of the 3 oldest cities in the entire WORLD. No offense to Mr. De Gasperi, but any city with that resume gets a mulligan for a decade or two of disrepair. 

While still lacking easy accessibility, Matera is slowly gaining traction amongst vacationers for its absolutely one of a kind cave dwellings, aided by the 1993 naming as a European Capital of Culture by the EU. Known as “sassi”, these rock-cut & excavated habitations are believed to have been resided in as early as 7000 BCE –or even a few millennia before that! 

And, alas, a mere 900 centuries or so later the sassi are once again called “home” by some. The history of human civilization really does seem to often revolve around the regions of Italy (and Rome, of course).

Okay, history lesson over. Lets get to the good stuff.


Days 6…My-Oh-My, Matera!

The immediate feeling you get when you step foot onto one of the narrow, stone and brick streets throughout Matera is almost indescribable. 

For one thing, you literally feel the history around you. The awe-inspiring views cause almost automatic introspection…honestly it’d be a helluva place for some group therapy if it wasn’t for the panic inducing cliffs, heights and seemingly 90 degree drops around any random corner. 

It’s crazy to think a stone bench you sit on could have literally been sat on seven, eight, nine thousand years ago. The Sassi you walk in could have been inhabited by people that history doesn’t even recognize or know about. It brings you a sense of closeness to the historical people of he region and yet reminds you of the vastness of time & human experience. 

The history is just so impressive.

I’ve said this about a lot of places throughout Italy, but it may be most true in Matera, a city comprised of extremely narrow walking paths that occasionally pass for roads:

The best way to see and explore Matera is by walking tour.

This is what we chose, and I highly recommend it.

Besides, I couldn’t imagine a traffic jam of tour buses navigating around these cliffs & mountain tops. That’d be more scary than those 90 degree drops. 

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For accomodations, we decided that it’d be fitting to stay in a cave home. Not quite the Sassi of millennia ago, but not exactly a Holiday Inn Express, neither.

We ended up staying at the Locus Amoenus.

Essentially within a stone cave, I’d recommend it–though the rock-hard (see what I did there?! haha) beds were a little too firm for my liking.  Noteworthy, too, was the host and staff–very attentive and kind. 


Here in Matera we ate at by far our favorite restaurant of the entire trip, Radino Wine Bistrot. It’s a restaurant located in a cave from 600BC and the food was absolutely incredible

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Day 7…A Free Day of Exploration

I know, I know…

You’ve heard me say things like “OMG, you have to see this place!” a million times already in this Puglia blog series, let alone the blog in general.

Sometimes there are places in Italy that are obvious, yet so one of a kind they can’t be overstated, like the Roman Coliseum or ruins of Pompeii. It’s, of course, one reason why I always encourage people to “get off the bus” and do walking tours, or street food tours for city-specific culture & cuisine. 

I mentioned in Part 2 how sometimes you just need a “decompression” day in your vacation. Well, sometimes you also just need that “free” day without a set itinerary of tours and stops, despite how beneficial the aforementioned tours can be. 

The best part of these “winging it” types of days is you sometimes come across people, or scenes, or buildings, that you probably would have missed…and they can be the most memorable experiences of a trip.

For us in Matera, there was two specific places this can be said for… 

On our free day in Matera, we decided to visit the Cathedral of Matera, which was breathtakingly beautiful.

Then we spontaneously made a visit the Casa Grotta in Sassi Matera.


  • matera cathedral

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And there you have how we spent two days in one of the oldest cities of the entire world, Matera! You can see some additional videos & photos on my social media pages, especially TikTok & Instagram.

Stay Tuned for Part 4, Bari, coming next week!

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My Puglia Road Trip (Part II)


My Puglia Road Trip [Part II]

puglia (apulia)

The region of Puglia (or Apulia), Italy

[from part 1]  
We embarked on a 9-day road trip throughout one of the most scenic–and criminally underrated & unheralded–regions of Italy. A coastal region in the southeast “heel” of the country, Puglia (also known as Apulia) remains a hidden gem of sorts as tourists flock to the more well-known cities. After meeting in Bari, our itinerary would take us to Polignano a Mare, Ostuni, Alberbello, Matera and finish with a couple of nights back in Bari.

Meredith and I continued our epic 9-day Puglia, Italy road trip with a visit to Alberobello, the third city on our itinerary.  Alberobello is a small town (or commune) of roughly 10,000. It’s actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site, achieving the status in 1996, for its unique and historically significant architecture–specifically its Trulli houses.

Taking advantage of the vast quantity of limestone in the region, these dwellings dot the Alberobello landscape thanks to their unmistakable hue, mortarless framework & conical/coned shape roofs. Just like in Polignano a Mare--well, Puglia in general, really–the brilliance of the white & off-white buildings against a backdrop of a crystal blue Italian sky is just mesmerizing.

Trulli houses are noteworthy, too, for being one of the few prehistoric construction techniques still in use. I don’t know exactly why, but for some reason that tidbit of info really has sat with me. It’s just crazy, I guess, that in a 21st century world, where we worry about A.I. taking over human communication–basically, worrying about the Terminator movie coming true to life–there are regions still using building techniques that the dudes in the Gladiator movie considered as ancient history. The juxtaposition is fascinating, right? No? Just me? Welp. 

So, yeah, anyyyway, here’s all about Day 4 and Alberobello!


Day 4…Trulli Truly

We wasted little time once we arrived in Alberobello, opting to spend “Day 4” doing some hardcore sightseeing in lieu of a more relaxing “Day 5”. There is a tremendous amount of history packed into this little town, and thus our decision to visit the city center and sign up for a walking tour with a local guide turned out to be a very, very smart choice. 

I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it again, but the knowledge and familiarity you get from local guides simply cannot be replicated. It’s also impossible to match the level of cultural immersion & educational opportunity you get from a walking tour versus by taking one by car or train. 

It’s like living in a Postcard from 1623 here in Alberobello.

The Trulli houses gained UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1996.




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For our accommodations in Alberobello, we actually stayed in a Trulli Villa in the countryside just outside the city. We actually preferred staying outside of the city itself–but its probably just a matter of personal preference.

Of course, the fact that we had planned in advance for our second day in Alberobello to be a “chill and just relax” day–and our villa being in the peaceful seclusion of the countryside–probably had a whole lot to do with our preference too.

Our villa was called Trulli Ad Maiora.

Check out my video about our spectacular accommodations


Our Accomodations at the Trulli Ad Maiora





Day 5…Sleep and…Grocery Shopping?

It didn’t feel like it at the time (probably from all the walking throughout the city on our tour!) but in retrospect the two days in Alberobello went by extremely fast. 

On Day 5 of our road trip we actually opted for “eating in”, visiting a local market to pick up some fresh groceries and crafting our dinner ourselves. 

It’s really difficult to manage sometimes, but just like in “regular” life I feel its super important to just have periodic “do nothing”/”plan nothing” days. I think, actually, it’s quite essential for traveling abroad and lengthy vacations. Its so easy to get wrapped up in planning, and sightseeing, even dealing with necessities like where you’re sleeping and where you’re going to eat, that you don’t even realize the stress building upon you.

I mean, how many times have you returned from a whirlwind vacation or weekend getaway and, as you unpack and think of all the things you have to get done, think to yourself “Dang..I need a vacation!!”

Trust me…having a day built-in to your vacation to just decompress is a must.  

And that wrapped up our 2 days in Alberobello! You can see some additional videos & photos on my social media pages, especially TikTok & Instagram.

Stay Tuned for Part 3, Matera, coming next week!

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