Author: Kacie Rose Travel LLC

sicily, catania, market

The BEST street food tour in Catania, Sicily

8 September 2022

The absolute BEST Street Food Tour in Catania, Sicily


The rich history, stunning beaches, and the incredibly kind people make the Island of Sicily one of my favorite places in Italy. But what really swept me off my feet was the FOOD. 

Because of Sicily’s rich and diverse history you get one of the best melting pots that reflects in their amazing food. You can taste the different cultures and the stories they tell with each bite.

When visiting somewhere new I love to get swept away in the daily lives and adventures of the locals and, in my opinion, there is no better way to do that than a street food tour guided by a local. I love Sicilian street food, so when I decided to visit Catania, one of the biggest cities in Sicily located on the Eastern side of the Island, for the first time, I of course had to take a street food tour – the opportunity to have a local take me around the city to try THEIR favorite street food spots wasn’t one I could pass up! 

Street food tour

My friend Marco, who is Sicilian born and raised, runs the company Streaty Food Tours. They give street food tours in Sicily (Palermo & Catania), Florence, Naples, and Venice! Marco and I share the similar view that street food is the best way to understand the soul of a city, so when I decided to take this trip to Catania I reached out to him immediately. (Best decision ever!)

Please note: this post contains affiliate links which means if you buy something following a link on this page, I’ll receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only promote products and services that I use and love myself. Thanks for supporting my blog 🙂


La Peschiera, Catania, Sicily

We started out our tour in La Peschiera, the famous fish market that’s been around as long as the city of Catania has been and is commonly regarded as one of the best fish markets in all of Italy. 

**Full disclosure: it is chaotic and crazy and unapologetically gritty (wear closed-toe shoes haha), but here you’ll also find some of the best authentic seafood and street food that Catania has to offer. It’s so worth it, trust me!

olives, la peschiera, street food tour, sicily

We dove right into the tour with fresh olives, eggplant, and cloves of some of the freshest garlic I’ve ever tasted. I never thought I’d be eating cloves of garlic, but here I am, living my best life, eating cloves of garlic.

street food, catania, sicily

Being in one of the best fish markets in the country, of course we had to try the fresh seafood that Catania has to offer in the form of Frutti di Mare which is – you guessed it – a cone of fried seafood. I’m not typically a seafood person, but I surprisingly enjoyed this and didn’t feel heavy or sick after eating it. Let’s be real though, I think you could fry a shoe and it would be good. 

As we were finishing up our Frutti di Mare, our wonderful guide hustled over with a tray of what looked like sparkling water. They explained it’s the original electrolyte hydration drink of just seltzer water, lemon, and salt – Sicilians have been drinking this for centuries in order to stay hydrated in the hot climate, and to my relief I did feel much more hydrated afterward! (We can’t have a #HotGirlSummer if we are dehydrated)

As if you need more reasons to love street food tours with Streaty, the guides are so knowledgeable. The entire experience is always so much more than just a food tour – they also include bits of history and show you hidden spots around the city that you would have passed right by if you weren’t a local. 

For example, on this tour, while we were walking in between food stops, our guide took the time to point out pieces of history around us before taking us to a little, unassuming cafe nearby. 

She led us through the cafe and down a set of stairs, and then all of a sudden it opened up into a secret underground lava cave that was a result of the eruption of Mt. Etna in the 17th century that buried half the city, including the rivers running through Catania! I never would have known this spot was here without our guide. It was such a cool unexpected stop that I never expected to get on a food tour. History buffs and foodies unite! Best of both worlds with a glass of wine to top it off!

Check this out!

Lava cave, sicily

You can have lunch in a lava tube! 

Ok, let’s get back to the food tour before I get too off topic with the amazingness of this place.

We made our way over to eat one of my favorite typical Sicilian street foods, Arancini (or Arancine, depending on where in Sicily you are). Arancini is a breaded, fried rice ball filled with things like cheese and prosciutto or ragu. I frickin love it so much. Are you drooling yet? Cause I am.

arancini, sicily, catania

We also tried another fried street food called “Siciliana”, which is a type of pizza dough pocket thing that is stuffed with cheese and anchovies. I know the thought of anchovies might sound icky if you aren’t used to them being a normal part of your food culture, but they were salty, didn’t taste fishy and paired so nicely with the cheese you would never know you were eating a fish. Remember what we say “Do the sh!t that scares you!” 😉

street food in catania, sicily

We walked around a bit letting our food digest to make room for what might be my new favorite Sicilian street food. (I know I’m surprised too)

Pictured below, my lovely readers, is called “Cipollina”. It’s a pastry filled with sweet onion and I seriously could’ve eaten 10 of these! They were that good. I love aranicini and have always said it was my favorite Sicilian street food, but after trying Cipollina everything has changed.

street food in catania, sicily

Of course we couldn’t end the food tour without dessert, so we hurried over to try one of the most typical desserts from Sicily, “Minne di Sant’Agata”. It is a pastry filled with sweetened ricotta cream, covered with white icing with a cherry on top. This pastry actually has a really morbid history behind it, which our guide told us all about (again, so much more than a food tour). 

If you’re interested in learning more about the history behind this tasty little treat you can find that here.

dessert, catania, sicily


In conclusion, my dear readers…

All in all, if you’re in Sicily I HIGHLY recommend checking out Streaty Food Tours. They are simply awesome and provide such an awesome experience for tourists to not only see and enjoy the city, but to fully immerse themselves in the culture. And because I cannot recommend them enough, Marco gave me a discount code to share with all of you!

Use code “kacierose” for 5% off your Streaty Food Tour!

Book a Streaty Food Tour!

They also hold tours in Naples, Florence, and Venice, so if you are in any of these cities and want to experience Italian food the way locals do, check them out and then tag me in all of the food goodness!! 

Happy eating, friends!

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5 Places to get Panini in Florence

15 July 2022

5 places to get Panini in Florence


I love Italian food.

I know – you’re shocked, right?

There’s few things I love more than chowing down on a panini – they’re an easy, fresh, and delicious way to enjoy authentic Italian food on a budget.

When I moved to Florence, I made it a mission to find my favorite panini shops in the city. I’ve happily tried dozens of panini shops ranging from famous tourist go-to’s, to off the beaten path, hole-in-the-wall spots unknown to tourists (quite the sacrifice, I know).

So with no further adieu, here is a comprehensive list of my favorite panini shops I’ve tried in Florence so far. Andiamo!


Some bonus tips:


  • “Panini” in Italian is plural, so if you just want ONE, order a “PaninO” 😉
  • No one will look at you weird if you ask for a panino with no meat
  • Italian panini are typically made with just two or three ingredients just to the freshness of Italian products – before you ask for additional toppings, try it as it was made to be first! 

NOW – lets get to it!! 


1. Pinos Sandwiches – Salumeria Verdi

Via Giuseppe Verdi, 36R

Price: 4€-6€

Pros: Wide variety of options for cheap and Pino & his family are the kindest people you’ll ever meet


pinos sandwiches

Ok ok, If you’ve been here for a while, you know how much I love Pino’s. It is my favorite panini shop in Florence, hands down (and I’m not just saying that because I’m a little biased – it really is delicious). On top of having a wide variety of food in addition to panini, vegetarian options, and gluten-free bread options, Pino and his family are just simply put, the best. It’s a popular spot for study abroad students, so much so that Pino has decorated the inside of his shop with dozens of U.S. University flags he has been gifted over 30 years from Study Abroad students. Completely family-run, you’ll always find Pino or his family busily working inside, complete with a smile and a happy “Ciao!” to everyone that walks through the door. I also think you get the most bang for your buck here – with giant panini for only 5€, there’s no way you’ll leave hungry.


2. Panini Toscani

Piazza del Duomo, 34/R

Price: 5€-10€

Pros: You get to taste test their different meats and cheeses and build your own panino.


panini in florence italy

Located right behind the famous Duomo, Panini Toscani offers a unique experience to its patrons You won’t find a written menu inside – instead, you will be greeted with samples of the different meats and cheeses they currently have, and from there you build your own panino based on your tastebuds – like Subway, but 10x better (obviously). They also carry a wide variety of toppings, such as eggplant, roasted tomato, truffle cream – my suggestion? Ask them to top it with whatever they think would taste best based on the flavors of the meats and cheeses you chose.


3. i Fratellini

Via dei Cimatori, 38/R

Price: 4/each, +0.50 for additional toppings

Pros: Overall cheapest option!


panini in florence italy

Open since 1875, I Fratellini is a small, open store-front spot smack-dab in the historical center of Florence. With such a perfect location, I Fratellini offers a delicious, fresh, and cheap option with incredibly friendly workers – make sure to ask for your panini on focaccia bread when they ask. Since the shop is just a storefront, there are limited seats available especially during the lunch rush, but if that’s the case I’d suggest taking your panini over to the nearby Piazza della Signoria.


4. Da’ Vinattieri

Via Santa Margherita, 4/6R

Price: 4.50

Pros: Frequented by Florentine people, little known to tourists


Travel Essentials For Going Abroad

Tucked away in an alley way off the main strip of Florence, Da’ Vinattieri is a popular spot amongst Florentine people – and little known to tourists. A true hole-in-the-wall spot, this shop offers fresh Italian ingredients and basic but delicious panini. They also sell one of my favorite Florentine street foods, Coccoli, which is basically balls of fried dough that are stuffed or wrapped with cheese or prosciutto, amongst other things. They’re delicious. If you’re eager to try an off-the-beaten path spot, Divinatory is a go-to.


5. SandwiCHIC

Via S. Gallo, 3R

Price: 4.50-5

Pros: Tons of student discounts and the sweet red pepper jam is insane


Travel Essentials For Going Abroad

Located above the Duomo and ever-so-slightly out of the highest trafficked footpaths in the city center is another hidden gem with an unassuming storefront – SandwiChic. Popular amongst study abroad students but maybe not so much tourists, SandiChic loads on the ingredients and offers a TON of panini flavor combinations to satisfy every palate. They also do have some seating inside, which is a refuge for the summer heat.


Because I know alot of people are going to ask why it’s not on the list…

All’Antico Vinaio

Via Ricasoli, 121R

Price: 8

Pros: Very famous


Travel Essentials For Going Abroad

Ok, I’m including this one on the list because it is famous worldwide and is a popular tourist hotspot, but in all honesty (and I may get some heat from this), I’m not a fan and I 100% think you can skip it.

While the panino was good, for the price (being on the more pricey end of panini places in Florence) and the line wait time, I didn’t see what was so special about it. I’ve gone back multiple times attempting to find what was so out-of-this-world about the panini’s that make this spot so popular, but unfortunately I’ve found the same thing every time – rude workers and long wait times for just an OK panino. If you’re spending multiple days in Florence and are eager to try the famous shop then definitely give it a go (again – the paninis aren’t bad!), but if you are just looking to grab a quick bite, there are plenty of other delicious, underrated and family-owned panini shops nearby to try.


If you’re still hungry (which, I don’t blame you, the food here is incredible), then check out my Florence Food Guide – a 85 page 3-book filled with 50+ restaurant suggestions in Florence 😉

Happy eating!! 

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How to Find Good Gelato in Italy

26 April 2022

How to Find Good Gelato in Italy

This is very important information


Oh gelato. One of the most important parts of assuring you are enjoying a true, authentic Italian experience – having a refreshing cone of Italian gelato while IN Italy gives you bragging rights and a story to tell at parties for years to come. Everywhere you look in Italy it seems there are a million gelaterias filled with tubs of delicious, creamy gelato calling your name – unfortunately however, not all gelato is created equal, so while there are tons of places where you can enjoy authentic gelato, there are just as many that rely on the unsuspecting prey that are eager tourists.

So in a sea of gelato…how do you find the real deal? 

Listen, I’ve eaten really good gelato in Italy. I’ve also eaten really terrible gelato in Italy. I understand how important this is, so I’ve made it my personal mission to tell you exactly how to find the real deal and live your Italian gelato fantasy dreams. Let’s go. 


1. Avoid the huge mountains of gelato


Bad Gelato

One of the first hints to if the gelato you’re looking at is one that you should KEEP looking at is if it is piled up in huge mountains or not – if it is, it’s time to turn around and keep looking.

Sure, they look exciting – but only the metal tub that the gelato is actually kept in is cold, so if you see huge mountains of gelato (like in this picture above), it means something has been put in the gelato to make sure it can stay out of the cold without melting. Yikes.

Additionally, authentic gelaterias will make their gelato fresh every single day – sometimes even TWICE a day, with a batch made in the morning and a batch made in the evening to assure that what they are serving is fresh. Even in the busiest of city centers, there is just no way that gelaterias could sell through an entire mountain of gelato (like pictured above) in one day, which means that the gelato you’re eating likely isn’t fresh.

Instead, your first tip will be to look for gelato that is in line with the base of the tub it is in (remember – that’s the only part that is the temperature needed to keep the gelato frozen without melting). 

Good Gelato


2. Look for the natural colors


You know how some predators are vibrant and brightly-colored in order to attract their prey? Yeah. Same story here. 

As beautiful as they might look, fresh fruit and other natural ingredients when blended are actually a lot duller than you’d think. If the gelato you’re looking at is super vibrant and bright colored, it means something unnatural has been added to it to make it that way.

One of the best tricks to determine this is to look  are pistacchios – pistacchios when blended actually come out to be a light brownish green, so the gelato should be that way too 😉

Fun Tip:

The “ch” in Italian sounds like the “k” in English, so in Italy, Pistacchio is pronounced “Pis-tak-ee-oh”! 😉

Good Pistacchio Gelato


3. Gelato is cheaper than you’d think


Cone of gelato

I feel like there’s this weird thing where people, for some reason, view gelato as something super fancy, and therefore they believe that it must be expensive. As a result, they don’t think twice when asked to fork over 6€ or 7€  for a small cup or cone, which just makes my heart hurt.

Even in big touristy cities, a small cup or cone of gelato shouldn’t cost you more than 2.50-3 Euro at the MOST. It’s cheap. It’s yummy. There’s no excuse you shouldn’t eat it every single day of your trip.


4. Bonus tip -look for metal canisters


Metal cannisters of gelato

We talked about the huge mountains above and how to avoid them BUT if you find gelato that isn’t even visible at ALL – you’ve hit the jackpot. If you see a Gelateria that has a bunch of tiny, fully covered circular canisters in the serving table, I need you to run to it. Because that…THAT is good gelato.

Note: this does NOT mean that gelato that ISN’T served in these metal cannisters is bad, it just means you have to “vet” it more 😉


And that is how exactly to find good gelato in Italy my friends. Happy eating! <3

Woman pointing to gelato sign


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Two Friends Standing By The Venice Waterway

Things to do in Venice: A Self-guided Bacaro Tour

13 April 2022

Things to do in Venice:

Self-Guided Bacaro Tour


Italy has one of the richest food cultures in the world, full stop. This comes as no surprise given how the love of food is infused in every aspect of daily life – whether you’re gathering with family or taking a stroll with friends, there’s a perfect Italian cuisine moment waiting for you if you know where to look.

Additionally, enjoying local traditions is one of the best ways to make sure you’re getting a truly authentic Italian experience. While this can get trickier and harder to find in the most touristy cities in Italy, it’s never impossible – and Venice isn’t an exception. If you’ve ever wanted to experience the typical tourist must-do’s while still immersing yourself in the soul of the city, a self-guided Bacaro tour in Venice is an absolute must!

In this mini-guide, you’ll find everything you need to know about a Bacaro Tour – what it is, how to do it, Italian words you should know, and my personal recommendations to navigate your way through a seriously delicious dining experience.


A little note before we get going:


As I’ve mentioned before, traveling doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg – there are plenty of ways to enjoy an authentic Italian experience on a budget. I’m all about traveling on a realistic budget and knowing what you should splurge on and what you can save on. 

With this in mind, I’m confident your time spent drinking, snacking, and chatting with locals on a self-guided Bacaro tour is well worth an evening in Venice. Although, I don’t think you’ll need much convincing ;).

Now – let’s dive in!


What is a Bacaro?


First thing first – what in the world is a “Bacaro”?!

A Bacaro is a type of traditional Venetian tavern where locals gather after a long day’s work to laugh, relax, and enjoy each other’s company.

It is a rich Venetian tradition passed down from generation to generation where you go from Bacaro to Bacaro (or bar to bar) to get something called “cicchetti” and “ombra.”

Think of it like a pub crawl – just earlier in the evening and filled with more local delicacies and traditions. Twist my arm.

Small by nature, these taverns give you an intimate, front-row seat to local Venetian culture and authentic, no frills cuisine.


A Plate Of Cicchetti In Italy

As I mentioned above, part of a bacaro tour is indulging in ah-mazing food.

“Cicchetti” are small Venetian snacks, such as “crostini,” which are small pieces of bread with a bunch of different toppings like fish, meat, vegetables, or “polpette” (meatballs made of meat, cheese, or fish). Is your mouth drooling yet because mine is. 

A Small Cicchetti In Someone's Hand

There’s a variety of different crostini at every bar, but one of the most famous Venetian cicchetti flavors is “baccalà mantecato” – whipped salted cod. Even if you aren’t a fish person (I’m not), you should try it. It’s surprisingly delicious!

In addition to varied Italian cuisine, no bacaro tour would be complete without the “ombra” – a small glass of red or white wine.


The best parts about a Bacaro tour


Woman Holding A Spritz On The Waterway in Venice

One of the best parts of a self-guided bacaro tour is how affordable it is. You can literally find cicchetti at almost any bar or cafe, and they usually cost anywhere from 1.50€-3€ per piece. Happy wallet AND happy stomach?! Sign me up. 

A glass of ombra (again, wine) is also very cheap due to the fact that the Veneto region where Venice is located is famous for wines. These usually range somewhere between €0.60-€2 per glass.

If you aren’t a wine fan, you can always opt for an Aperol or “Select” Spritz instead of ombra. In fact, Venice is famous for Spritz, so you shouldn’t expect to pay much more for a spritz in Venice if that’s more your speed.

Woman Enjoying A Self-Guided Bacaro Tour In Venice

Another one of the big reasons that I personally love doing a self-guided Bacaro tour is that you can go completely on your own and on your own time – you don’t need to do a guided tour to experience life as the local Venetians do. 

This means if you strike up a conversation with locals at bacaro A, you don’t have to rush off with a tour group to make it to bacaro B at a certain time. Dreams.

It’s traditional to either stand or sit outside of the bacaro and enjoy the company of others while enjoying your snacks. Or you can take it outside and walk around while you snack and head to the next bacaro.

My friend Maddy and I opted to take a gondola ride with our cicchetti and a spritz in hand. I hiiiiighly recommend adding this to your bacaro tour – yes, it’s touristy, but hey, you’re in Venice, and pairing the touristy things with the local traditions gives you the ultimate Venetian experience. 

Simple, delicious, and truly so much fun!


Where to go on your Bacaro tour


After living in Italy for a while and sampling my fair share of bacaro cuisine (it’s quite the sacrifice, I know), I’ve curated my own list of stops to guide you on your way!

As you’re creating your itinerary, consider adding these to the list:

  1. Vineria all’Amarone
  2. Cantine del Vino gia Schiavi
  3. Bacareto da Lele
  4. Osteria All’Arco
  5. Osteria Al Squero
  6. Da Sepa
  7. Do Spade

Venice’s streets and waterways are some of the most unique in the world, and experiencing the city with a yummy snack or drink in hand is always a favorite of mine.


In summary…


Travel Essentials For Going Abroad

A self-guided bacaro tour is cheap, easy, and fun. And it’s great for groups, families, couples, and solo travelers alike. In my opinion, it’s one of the best ways to explore Venice like a Venetian, and I always love the warm and inviting feeling of this magical city. 

If you’re looking for other top tips for navigating Italian food culture, you can find my guide to proper coffee etiquette here

And whether you’re in the beginning stages of planning a visit to Italy or already have your tickets booked, I’m always happy to answer any questions you have along the way. 

To book a call with me, simply follow this link to get some time on my calendar. And if you’re planning to city-hop while you’re in Italy, be sure to check out my blog on how to spend a day in Florence, too. 

Happy traveling! ❤️

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Your Full Guide to Trains in Italy

 

Your Full Guide to Trains in Italy

Let’s break it down


Figuring out transportation within a foreign country can be HELLLA stressful. There’s so many options and possible methods of transportation that comparing them all can easily get really overwhelming, really quickly. Trust me, I know – I’ve been there.

Let’s just cut right to it – trains are hands-down the most convenient way to travel through Italy if you’re a tourist. They’re quick, budget-friendly, accessible, eco-friendly, and the best part, incredibly scenic. Most of the country is connected through train, so they’re very easy to navigate once you actually KNOW how to navigate them.

So here is everything you need to know about trains in Italy so you can be fully prepared and ready for your trip. Let’s get to it.


Words to know


Let’s start off with some words to become familiar with that you’ll see throughout train stations in Italy:

  • Platform = Binario
  • Ticket(s) = Biglietto(i)
  • Train = Treno
  • Station = Stazione
  • Information Desk = L’ufficio informazioni
  • Coach / Carriage = Carrozza
  • Regional = Regionale
  • High-Speed = Alta Velocità

Names of the Major Train Stations in Italy


A big thing I find that many tourists don’t realize is that most of the major cities in Italy are pronounced differently in Italian than they are in English. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had someone tell me they were waiting for the “Florence” train station stop without realizing that it literally…doesn’t exist.

Here are the names of the largest train stations in Italy:

  • Milan: Milano Centrale
  • Venice: Venezia St. Lucia
  • Florence: Firenze S.M. Novella
  • Rome: Roma Termini
  • Naples: Napoli Centrale

Types of Trains


Throughout this guide you will see the terms “High-Speed” or “Regional” used a lot. High-speed trains, or express trains, are sleek, efficient trains that connect the major cities within Italy together, such as Rome, Florence, Milan, Naples, etc, with few or no stops in between. Regional trains, on the other hand, are smaller, slower trains that WILL make stops in bigger cities, but with many local stops in between.

*Cracks neck* And thus, our guide officially begins.

There are two main train companies that operate in Italy:

  • Trenitalia
  • Italo

Which train company you can use will depend on your schedule, budget, and where exactly you want to go.

Trenitalia


Trenitalia is Italy’s state-run train company that has a large fleet of high-speed, express trains that make stops in all the major cities, however they ALSO have Regional trains that make stops in smaller Italian cities (Pisa, Bologna, Lucca, etc.) and veryyyy local, rural areas.

There are several smaller trainline fleets that run under the TrenItalia umbrella, in a sense. They all serve a certain purpose – some are high-speed trains that only travel between big cities some are regional trains that travel between small towns and local stops, and some do a bit a both. To be honest, I don’t think you don’t need to pay much attention to them, since so if you need to get to a certain city, you’re more likely to take whatever train is quickest, fastest and cheapest that gets you there. However in the interest of being incredibly thorough so you feel super knowledgeable, lets break them all down:

Types of Trenitalia Trains:

“Le Frecce” (“The Arrows”) Fleet

The “Le Frecce” fleet are Trenitalias fastest fleet of trains (hence why they’re called “The Arrows”) and primarily serves the big and medium-sized cities within Italy. Within “Le Frecce”, there are three different types of trains: Frecciarossa, Frecciargento, and Frecciabianca.

    • FRECCIAROSSA

      FRECCIAROSSA trains are the high-speed, express trains used by Trenitalia to travel to the biggest cities and train stations within Italy. They run up to 300 km/h, have air conditioning, outlets, and Wi-Fi. Because they are the express trains, they are sleek, comfortable, and reliable (for the most part) for connections. They offer food and beverage services and have a range of inclusions for the different ticket tiers. For someone planning on visiting an traveling between the bigger cities in Italy, they’ll likely be on a FRECCIAROSSA train.

      For more information on FRECCIAROSSA Trains, click here: FRECCIAROSSA run through the high-speed line with fast and frequent connections – Frecce – Trenitalia

    • FRECCIARGENTO

      FRECCIARGENTO trains run on both high-speed express tracks as well as more regional, traditional tracks in northern and central Italy, such as Bolzano, Trento, Venice, Verona, Mantua, Genoa, Lecce and Reggio Calabria from Rome, and the Adriatic coast from Milan. They run up to 250 km/h, have air conditioning, bistros and other food/drink services, and electrical outlets, to name a few features.

      For more information on FRECCARGENTO Trains, click here: Frecciargento, speedy connections in comfortable and frequent times – Frecce – Trenitalia

    • FRECCIABIANCA

      FrecciaBianca trains mainly make stops at regional destinations with a few stops in bigger cities such as Milan, Venice, and Rome. They are the slowest of the Trenitalia “Le Frecce” fleet, and have amenities such as air conditioning, outlets and a food bistro in some cases.

      For more information on FRECCIABIANCA Trains, click here: Frecciabianca, widespread and frequent connections – Frecce – Trenitalia

    “Intercity” Fleet

    The Intercity fleet in Trenitalia were the fastest trains Trenitalia offered before the “Le Frecce” fleet came along. Operating as Regional trains instead of High-Speed, they run up to 200 km/h, and connect many cities within Italy together. They are typically cheaper than high-speed trains, but that’s because they make more stops at many stations along the train route and in some cases, you may have to change trains midway.

    “Regionale” Fleet

    And last but not least, we have the Regionale fleet of Trenitalia. These trains are the slowest and oldest of all the fleets and make stops to all the smaller and more local towns in Italy. As I mentioned, the trains are often very old, so there may or may not be air conditioning, seating is open no matter your destination, and there is only one tier of ticket. They’re often the least expensive but also the slowest – a 3-hour trip on a High-Speed train can take up to 9 hours on a Regionale Train.

    Again, I don’t necessarily think this is something you need to pay much attention to, but we love thoroughness here so that’s why I’ve included it. When you search in the TrenItalia website, all the trains serving the destination you want to go will appear, and you can pick whatever time and price works best for you.

    Navigating the Trenitalia Website

    The Trenitalia website is incredibly handy for tourists as they offer translation of the site in 4 different languages: Italian, English, French, German, and Chinese. To change the language on website, head to the top right-hand corner of the screen:

    Something specific to note about the Trenitalia website is that because the company is owned and operated by the Italian government, you will have to use the Italian pronunciation of cities when searching for trains as opposed to the English names, even if you change the language on the site. For example, here are some of the biggest Italian cities written in English with their Italian counterparts:

    • Florence = Firenze
    • Milan = Milano
    • Rome = Rome
    • Venice = Venezia
    • Naples = Napoli

    Different Ticket Classes on Trenitalia

    Trenitalia offers 6 different ticket tier types and within those 6 different tier types, 5 SUB tier types: Base, Economy, and Super-Economy, Young, and Senior. Let’s start by differentiating each of the 6 main ticket types:

      • Executive

        Executive Class is the top tier of Trenitalia and they are niiiiiiice. Like, real nice. There’s only one Executive car per train, and each car only has 10 seat to make sure everyone has space and a window seat. The seats also recline 180 degrees in case you want to take a nice long nap. You also have access to the FRECCIAClub with an executive ticket, as well as full meal options on board.

      • Business

        Business is the next tier after Executive, and they also offer big, squishy seats that recline and generally offer lots of room. With business tickets you receive a welcome drink upon boarding as well as a little snack bag.

        • Business Area Silent (Area Silenzio)

          Business Area Silent offers the same amenities as Business, just in a designated quiet car where external noises and sounds are not allowed.

          • Premium

            The third level below Executive and Business, premium level seats are still spacious, albeit not as spacious as executive or business. With a premium ticket you also receive a welcome drink upon boarding as well as a little snack bag.

              • Standard

                The base level of all the ticket types, Standard is the most basic ticket you can get on Trenitalia.

                    • Standard Area Silent (Area Silenzio)

                      Same as Business Area Silent, Standard Area Silent offers the same amenities and features as a Standard ticket, just without any external noise or sounds permitted.

                          The 5 Sub-Categories on Each

                          As I mentioned above, when you choose your ticket tier type (Premium, Business, Standard, etc.), you’ll next be asked to choose between 5 different sub-tiers of each of those tickets. They are Base, Economy, Super Economy, Young, and Senior:

                            • Base

                              The Base ticket offers the most flexibility out of all of these sub-tiers. With a base ticket, you have more refund options and can make as many changes to your ticket that you want, right up until its departure time and only need to pay the difference in price if there is any. The really cool thing about the Base ticket option, however, is that you can ALSO change your ticket up to an hour after your train departs, with no change fees – i.e., if you miss your train, you wont need to purchase an entirely separate ticket.

                              • Economy

                                The next option is the Economy level. Economy level tickets still have flexibility with changes (not refunds) and will allow you to change your ticket to a different train and you’ll only need to pay the difference between your ticket price and the base level price of the ticket you want.

                                  • Super-Economy

                                    And of course, the most basic of them all, the Super-Economy level is the cheapest but the least forgiving. With a Super-Economy level ticket, you cannot change nor refund your ticket for any reason.

                                      • Young

                                        The “Young” tier ticket is reserved for those 30 and under, and has the same flexibility as an Economy ticket, just at a slightly lower rate.

                                            • Senior

                                              The “Senior” tier ticket is reserved for those 60 and older and has the same flexibility as an Economy level ticket, just at a slightly lower rate.

                                                  Honestly, I’ve always traveled on Trenitalia with a Standard ticket. If I know there might be a possibility I might need to change the ticket, I’ll purchase the Base or Economy level, otherwise, I’ll just pick whatever is available and cheapest. It is nice to have the peace of mind of being able to change your ticket though if need be, so in my opinion opting for a Base or Economy level ticket is the better option. As for the main ticket tier – again, in my opinion, if you’re just a regular tourist traveling for leisure purposes on a train less than 3 hours long, I personally don’t think it’s necessary to pay a higher price for a fairly quick trip. If you were, however, planning a long travel trip that will set you on the train for 6+ hours, it might be worth it to pay a bit more for a more comfortable seating arrangement. At the end of the day though, it’s totally up to you which class you decide to travel in.

                                                  Ticket Modifications on Trenitalia

                                                  As I mentioned above, with Base level or Economy level tickets it’s very easy and not super expensive to change your ticket on Trenitalia if you end up needing or wanting to take a different train. I’ve found myself more than once changing my Standard, Economy-level train ticket to an earlier train as soon as 10 minutes before the train is set to depart. It typically only costs me an extra 10 euro per ticket (the difference between the Economy and Base level ticket), which isn’t too bad in the grand scale of things. Of course, the actual possibility of changing your train time totally depends on whether or not the train you want to change to is sold out or not, but it’s good to know that it’s not super difficult to do.

                                                  There’s a couple of ways you can change your train time:

                                                  • if you’ve bought your ticket on the Trenitalia website, you can easily change it through your confirmation email containing your ticket. You can reach the “Manage Ticket” Section by heading to the top search bar on the main page and clicking “Purchases”.

                                                  • If you’re in a rush, purchased your tickets through a third party (such as Trainline App or ItaloRail), or have a physical ticket, you will need to go to any one of the physical ticket booths for Trenitalia in the train station.

                                                  Refunds, Cancellations, and Delays on Trenitalia

                                                  On high-speed express trains that are delayed, causing you to arrive between 30-59 minutes late to your destination, you are entitled to 25% credit essentially to use toward future purchases. If your train arrives more than 59 minutes late to your destination, you technically are entitled to a refund of 25%-50% of your ticket price.

                                                  If you purchased the ticket through the Trenitalia website directly, you have many more options when it comes to how to get your refund. If you’ve purchased a physical ticket, however, it gets a bit trickier, since really your only option is to go to a customer service desk at the train station – if I’m being honest though…sometimes the hassle of dealing with the customer service desks when everyone on the delayed train is ALSO trying to get partial refunds just isn’t worth it.

                                                  But to each his own! I’ve filed for a 25% credit when my train arrived late to my destination out of curiosity and received a credit code in my email inbox within the month

                                                  For full information on how to file and request refunds and credits, click Compensation for delays – Trenitalia

                                                  Click here for the Trenitalia Refund form: CRM WebForm – Refund Request For (trenitalia.com)

                                                  Strikes within Trenitalia

                                                  Ahh yes – let’s talk about strikes. Unfortunately, they happen, and it’s common – especially during high season – that they happen often. The good news though is that they only happen with Trenitalia since it’s the public, state-run train company operated by Italy. Since Italo is a privately owned and operated train company, strikes are highly, highly unlikely, if not non-existent.

                                                  The only thing you can do in a surprise strike situation is to be patient, stay calm, and be open to the fact that you will have to adjust your schedule. If there is a strike, they’re usually resolved within the day.

                                                  Here’s more information on strikes within Trenitalia: In case of a strike – Trenitalia

                                                  Pros of Trenitalia

                                                  Trenitalia is run by the state, meaning that they have more train fleets, both high-speed and regional, and more overall destinations than Italo. They offer more language translates on their website, which is great for a lot of tourists, and often have many deals or surprise sales on their website. I like the flexibility of being able to change my ticket if need be on a Base or Economy level ticket as well. They also offer many different rail pass options through their site, which is great if you’re planning on traveling throughout Italy using the train system frequently

                                                  Cons of Trenitalia

                                                  I’ve found in general, the prices of Trenitalia can be slightly higher than Italo in some cases. The regional trains aren’t the most beautiful, but then again who really cares when you’ve got a beautiful sight happening outside your window. You can only purchase up to 7 tickets at a time, so if you are buying tickets for a large group of travelers you may fare better using Italo.

                                                  In addition, because Trenitalia is a public, state-run company, strikes happen more than you’d think, so much so that they’ve included an entire section on their website about what to do in case of a strike. Luckily, however, they’re usually resolved within the day, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t any less stressful.

                                                  When I use Trenitalia

                                                  If I’m looking to buy a ticket for travel on an express train between large cities, I’ll typically price compare on both Trenitalia and Italo to see which one is cheaper and an overall better price. If I want to travel to any city that is smaller and more local, it’s Trenitalia all the way because there’s no other option 😉


                                                    Italo


                                                    Up until 2012, Trenitalia was the only player in the Italian Train Game – then Italo came along. Italo is the first (and obviously only), private train company operating within Italy and only offers high-speed express trains between the biggest Italian cities. Those cities are Turin, Milan, Venice, Padua, Bologna, Florence, Rome, Naples, and Salerno. They also offer travel to some smaller destinations in between, but those stops are mainly all in Northern Italy. Case in point: If you want to travel to any smaller destinations outside Northern Italy, Italo isn’t an option.

                                                    Navigating the Italo website

                                                    Opposite from Trenitalia, Italo recognizes the Italian cities when you search in both Italian AND English, which is helpful for those who may not know the spelling of their destination in Italian. Italo only offers two language translations of their website though, Italian and English.

                                                    You can change the language on the top header bar of the screen, where it says either “IT” (Italian) or “EN” (English):

                                                    Different Class Types on Italo

                                                    Italo offers 4 different types of ticket tiers: Smart, Prima, Club Executive and Salotto. Similar to Trenitalia, within those 4 tiers, 3 SUB tiers of tickets: Flex, Economy, and Low-Cost. Let’s start by breaking down the different types of ticket tiers on Italo:

                                                      • Club Executive

                                                        The top of the top, Club Executive gets you not only access to the Italo Club Lounge in the stations, but also Fast Track, which basically means you get to skip the queues and board the train first. There’s dedicated catering to your seat of snacks and drinks, Wi-Fi, outlets, big, squishy chairs, and each seat has personal screens.

                                                        • Prima

                                                          After Club Executive there’s Prima, which gives you Fast Track, complimentary snacks and drinks, Wi-Fi and outlets.

                                                            • Comfort

                                                              Comfort gives you more leg space than Smart, Wi-Fi, and outlets

                                                                • Smart

                                                                  The most basic level, smart gives you Wi-Fi and outlets with access to snack machines. However, they have the least amount of legroom than all the tiers which can get a little cramped when the trains are full.

                                                                      The 3 Sub-Categories:

                                                                        • Flex

                                                                          The most flexible (see what they did with the name there) but also the most expensive, with a Flex ticket you can modify your ticket up to 3 minutes before departure for free, and if you need to cancel you receive 80% back. The nice thing about the Flex ticket is if you miss your train, you have up to 2 hours after your scheduled departure to change to the next possible train through their program called “EXTRA TEMPO”.

                                                                          • Economy

                                                                            Economy class is a good balance between flexibility and budget friendly. It typically only costs a couple euros more than the Low-Cost train ticket, but with Economy you can modify your ticket up to 3 minutes before departure for a fee of 20% your original ticket price plus any price differences, and if you need to cancel you receive a 60% refund.

                                                                                • Low-Cost

                                                                                  Low-cost is exactly that: low-cost. One of the cheapest options, it gives you some flexibility but not much. Refunds aren’t an option, but you can modify your ticket up to 3 days before departure for a fee of 50% the price of your ticket and any additional price difference costs.  

                                                                                    • eXtra

                                                                                      I was surprised that they managed to put a tier below low-cost, but here we are. The most basic of all the options, eXtra is the cheapest option (there’s a pun in there somewhere), but as a result gives you the least amount of flexibility: no changes, no refunds.

                                                                                          Personally for me, if it’s a short train ride less than two hours I’ll purchase the “Smart” ticket Tier, but if it’s a 3+ hour train ride I’ll opt for the Comfort tier since like I mentioned, Smart can feel a bit too cramped. I base which sub-ticket tier I use off if I see myself possibly needing to change train times, but oftentimes that’s not the case, so I’ll just go with the cheapest option.

                                                                                          Train changes on Italo

                                                                                          As you can tell, Italo overall doesn’t offer as much flexibility on ticket modifications that Trenitalia does. With mostly all the ticket types that Italo offers, you will have not only paid the price difference (if any) of the new ticket, you will also have to pay a percentage fee of the price of your original ticket. Those costs can add up QUICK. However, even so they still make it easy to change your ticket if you need to, right on the website.

                                                                                          To modify your ticket, head to the top of the main home page screen and click “Manage Journey”

                                                                                          Refunds, Cancellations, and Delays on Italo

                                                                                          For trains delayed causing you to arrive between 60 and 119 minutes late to your destination, you’re entitled to a 25% partial refund. For trains delayed over 120 minutes, you are entitled to a 50% partial refund. In any case, the best part about Italo’s refund policy when it comes to train delays and cancellations if that there’s no added work necessary on your part to get your refund – Italo will reach out to you first, between 7-30 days after your trip with your refund options.

                                                                                          One time my train arrival was delayed 60 minutes, and I didn’t think anything of it until I received an email from Italo unexpectedly with a voucher code for my next trip. For partial refunds over 4 euro, they also give you the option to ask for monetization instead of a voucher, which is great if you’re a tourist and don’t plan to be in Italy for much longer.

                                                                                          More info on train delays and cancellations through Italo here: Find answers to the most frequently asked questions on Italo Treno

                                                                                          Pros of Italo

                                                                                          Overall, I find Italo offers cheaper prices than Trenitalia when purchased in advance. They also offer tons of discounts and random sales on their websites, which is worth looking into if you’re planning on traveling often. Receiving a refund in case of a delay or cancellation is much easier with Italo as they credit you automatically with no added work to be done on your part. Italo also offers the ability to purchase up to 29 tickets at one time, so if you’re buying tickets for a large group of people it’s fantastic.  

                                                                                          Cons of Italo

                                                                                          Italo only operates high-speed trains, so naturally they have fewer overall destinations in Italy than Trenitalia. If you need to reach a smaller town within Italy, Italo most likely won’t be an option. As I mentioned above, while its often less expensive, the basic seat ticket “Smart” on Italo trains are often very cramped, especially when the train is sold-out. Lastly, Trenitalia blows Italo’s ticket modification and refund policies out of the water. You have a lot more overall flexibility on a Trenitalia ticket than an Italo ticket.

                                                                                          When I use Italo

                                                                                          Because Italo is solely an express, high-speed train, it’s mostly only possible to use Italo when traveling to a bigger city within Italy. Like I mentioned above, Italo is usually cheaper than Trenitalia but because the cabins on lower-class tickets aren’t the most comfortable, I’ll usually consider Italo only for trains that are less than 2 or 3 hours long unless the Comfort ticket class is cheaper than Trenitalia.

                                                                                          To Summarize:

                                                                                          If you are only planning on visiting big cities in Italy, you can take either train company.

                                                                                          If you are planning on visiting smaller cities within Italy, you will probably need to take Trenitalia.


                                                                                          Where to Buy Tickets


                                                                                          There are a couple of different ways you can buy train tickets in Italy. Some have more advantages than others, but the overall thing I cannot stress enough is do not wait until arriving at the station to purchase tickets.

                                                                                          During peak season (and honestly, also off-peak season), it’s not uncommon for trains to sell out. The last thing you want is to plan your trip around a train time and wait to buy your ticket until arriving at the station only to find that it’s completely full – especially when you’re say, planning to take a specific train to the airport to catch a flight. Not good.

                                                                                          My suggestion: purchase train tickets at LEAST one week prior to your departure. In my opinion, it’s NOT necessary to book your train ticket more than a month in advance – it’s highly unlikely the trains will sell out that far in advance, as they usually begin selling out the week of.

                                                                                          In addition, not only will buying tickets in advance be cheaper since they get more expensive closer to the departure date, it will also save you from any unnecessary stress of having to replan last minute due to a sold-out train.

                                                                                          There are a couple of ways that you can buy train tickets:

                                                                                          1. Purchase tickets up to 5-6 months before on the train company website:
                                                                                          1. At the station

                                                                                          As you’ve probably picked up so far, this is my least favorite option since purchasing at the station the day of will 100% be more expensive and the likelihood of the train being sold out is higher. If you’re planning on traveling regionally on Trenitalia to a smaller city such as Pisa or Lucca, you could purchase tickets the day-of and probably be ok, but honestly, why risk it?

                                                                                          1. Through 3rd Party Websites

                                                                                          While I think in general its more advantageous to purchase tickets directly through the train’s website in case of refunds, delays, cancellations or strikes, there are also several 3rd party companies that have their advantages of booking through as well. My favorites are ItaliaRail and Trainline

                                                                                          • ItaliaRail

                                                                                          ItaliaRail is likely the biggest 3rd party seller of train tickets both in and out of Italy, since they partner directly with Trenitalia (note – they do not sell Italo tickets).

                                                                                          The biggest advantage with ItaliaRail in my eyes is the customer service they offer, especially when it comes to group travel. They operate entirely in English and the entire site is very easy to navigate, so if you don’t speak Italian, it’s very user-friendly in that sense. Through ItaliaRail you can purchase group tickets for up to 20 people on your own, or you can have an ItaliaRail employee book for you for groups over 10 and receive a discount on top of it. ItaliaRail also sometimes offers discounts or even free ticket class upgrades on certain trips.

                                                                                          The only thing to note about ItaliaRail is that there is a $5 service fee that is applied to each purchase, so its better to sit down and purchase all your tickets at once instead of at separate times.

                                                                                          • Trainline

                                                                                          I only recently came onto this company, but it’s a great way to book train tickets not only in Italy, but all around Europe.

                                                                                          Trainline offers travel across 45 different European countries, and within Italy specifically shows you tickets for both Trenitalia AND Italo. Their site is very easy to use and recognizes both the Italian and English names of cities and stations.

                                                                                          The big advantage of Trainline is that they have an incredibly easy to use App that you can book your tickets on. It’s quick, reliable, and all your ticket information is stored in the App, so you’ll never have to scramble and sort through hundreds of emails to find your ticket information.

                                                                                          Be cautious about waiting until the last second to book your ticket however: about 5 minutes before departure the train will not be available to book on the app.

                                                                                          Amazing! You’ve picked your train, got your ticket and now you’re ready to go. What else do you need to know?


                                                                                          How to find your train platform on that big, confusing board

                                                                                          Is it just me, or are the big boards in train stations listing all the upcoming trains v overwhelming? I remember the first time I had to take a train in Italy, I spent easily 15 minutes trying to figure out the connection between the board and my ticket and googling for information before finally asking someone for help. Don’t fret – they aren’t that confusing once you know what you’re looking for.

                                                                                          The number one thing: when looking for your train platform, do not look at the “Destinations” – the destination column indicates the last stop on that train, so even if you see your destination listed, it may not be YOUR train, and you could end up spending a lot longer on the train then you planned to. To find your train, take a look at your ticket for a series of numbers:

                                                                                          And then match those numbers with the numbers on the board.

                                                                                          That’s your train!

                                                                                          Platform numbers typically are posted on the board within 10 minutes of the train departure, and sometimes not even until 5 minutes before (I had this experience more times than I’d like). Just keep an eye on it and be ready to go when it appears.

                                                                                          Platform Entry and checkpoints

                                                                                          Something to note that confuses everyone the first time they pass through an entryway to get onto the train platform is that certain entryway points are designated for only high-speed trains or only regional trains.

                                                                                          They typically will have floor signs right by the scanner or line to enter through the checkpoint that indicate whether that is an entry point for high-speed trains or regional trains, so be sure to look for them.

                                                                                          Sit In Your Assigned Seat!

                                                                                          Omg – if I can say this and it will save one tourist from making the same mistake that I (and many many others) did, I will be happy:

                                                                                          If you are traveling on an EXPRESS, HIGH-SPEED train between large cities, you will have an assigned seat.

                                                                                          The coach indicates the car number, while the seat number indicates which row and seat you are assigned to. So in the above example, the assigned seat is coach 4, row 14, seat A.

                                                                                          Your train will have the coach number printed on the side near the door, but you can also find the correct coach by simply looking up at digital signs along the platform.

                                                                                          You must sit in your assigned seat. If you don’t, you might find yourself getting yelled at in Italian by the train attendant, which definitely isn’t fun 😉

                                                                                          Validate Your Ticket BEFORE You Board

                                                                                          Another common mistake I see tourists making (again, including myself) is not validating their tickets before boarding. SO – If you have a physical ticket that was purchased at the station and are traveling on a LOCAL, REGIONAL train, you need to validate your ticket BEFORE you board the train at validation stations located in and around the platform. They are typically green & white and will have the Trenitalia logo (since Trenitalia is the only company that you can travel regionally with).

                                                                                          If you do not validate your ticket before you board the train, you will be fined! I find that train conductors are not very forgiving when it comes to validating tickets, no matter if you were aware of it or not, and I’ve seen many a tourist be presented with a hefty fine ($200 at least) for not validating the ticket pre-boarding. Make sure to validate your ticket!!

                                                                                          Again, this is ONLY if you have a physical ticket and are traveling on a REGIONAL train.

                                                                                          • If you are traveling on a high-speed train, you do not need to do this.
                                                                                          • If you have an electronic ticket of any kind, you do not need to do this.

                                                                                          Only physical tickets do you need to do this. Got it? Good 😊


                                                                                          What I Do


                                                                                          I could give you all the info in the world and tell you everything there is to know about trains in Italy, but sometimes it’s just simply more helpful to hear what someone else does normally to buy their ticket.

                                                                                          If I’m planning to travel on an express, high-speed train between big cities, I will comparison shop when I’m ready to buy a ticket between Italo, Trenitalia, or the Trainline App (since I really enjoy having all my ticket information in one place on my phone). Typically I choose which company to travel with depending on who has the lowest price and how long I plan to be on the train for – overall, I personally never splurge on upgraded tickets because I don’t always think it’s necessary. I always book at least a week before, not only because the express trains sell out quicker, but also because they become more expensive starting the week of departure.

                                                                                          For regional trains, I obviously use Trenitalia since they are the only ones that offer regional trains, however I often use the Trainline App since, again, I personally like having all my ticket information in one place on my phone.

                                                                                          At the end of the day though, use whatever company works best for you and your situation. They aren’t that confusing once you understand them, and traveling by train while passing by some of the most beautiful scenery you’ve ever laid eyes on is truly a wonderful experience.

                                                                                          EVERYTHING IN THIS GUIDE:

                                                                                          • Words to Know

                                                                                          • Names of Major Train Stations in Italy

                                                                                          • Types of Trains

                                                                                          • Where to Buy Tickets

                                                                                          • Things to Know Before You Travel

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                                                                                          10 Things I Wish I’d Known About Coffee Culture in Italy Before I Came to Italy

                                                                                           

                                                                                          10 Things I Wish I’d Known About Coffee Culture in Italy

                                                                                          Before I Came to Italy


                                                                                          Italian coffee is deemed one of the best in the world and boy do they wear that badge with honor. Right up there next to pizza and pasta, coffee is one of the things Italy is most renowned for and has become a point of reference for coffee excellence in the world.

                                                                                          But what many people don’t realize before visiting Italy for the first time is the extensive culture that surrounds coffee in Italy. And by people, I mean me. I totally mean me. With typical coffee shop giants like Starbucks as my only frame of reference for coffee, I made MANYYY of the typical “mistakes that tourists make when it comes to coffee in Italy – the “coffee culture” shocks were so real.

                                                                                          So here are 10 things I wish I’d known about coffee culture in Italy BEFORE I came to Italy, so you can go into the land of espresso way more prepared than I was.


                                                                                          1. Coffee = Espresso and Espresso = Caffè


                                                                                          Starting off strong with the main thing to remember when ordering a coffee in Italy for the first time: if you see “Caffè” (coffee) anywhere on a menu, it means Espresso, not American coffee. If you’re longing for an American coffee, ask for a “Caffè Americano”, which is espresso with just hot water added.

                                                                                          Going off of that, the word “Espresso” isn’t super commonly used when ordering coffee – instead, it’s more common to simply ask for “un caffè” (a coffee).


                                                                                          2. “Bars” are a place to get coffee


                                                                                          The first time I came to Italy, I kept wondering why there were so many bars everywhere and why in the world they all were so busy at 10am. I knew the drinking culture in Italy was relaxed but was it really THAT relaxed?!

                                                                                          Don’t fret – bars in Italy are not the same as “bars” elsewhere in the world. While you CAN get alcohol at a bar, their main purpose throughout the day is for coffee. Around Aperitivo time though, you can expect to find people enjoying an Aperol Spritz and light bites at a bar before typically closing around 9pm.


                                                                                          3. Lattes Don’t Exist


                                                                                          This one is always the funniest to mention due to the sheer amount of people that have told me their stories of ordering a latte in Italy and in return receiving a nice, cold glass of milk.

                                                                                          “Latte” means “milk” in Italian, so if you ask for a “Latte”, you will literally get a glass of milk. Sometimes I feel like bars in Italy know that if a foreigner asks for a “latte” they don’t mean this, but yet they get a kick out of it so they do it anyway. Regardless, if you love milk in your coffee and want something similar, trying ordering a “Caffe Latte” – an espresso with milk.


                                                                                          4. Coffees are small and quick


                                                                                          Something that I find a lot of tourists to be surprised about is how small the coffees are in Italy. “But surely that’s not enough!”. Wrong 😉

                                                                                          Traditional coffee in Italy is just the pure espresso, instead of adding water to it to soften it. As a result, the portions are smaller because the coffee is stronger, and drinking your coffee from start to finish usually takes less than 5 minutes, especially when it’s the morning and people are rushing to school or work.


                                                                                          5. Stand at the Bar and Drink


                                                                                          Like I mentioned above, coffees are meant to be small and quick affair in Italy. Typically Italians stand right there at the bar, drink their coffee quickly, and then they’re on their way – the whole affair takes less than 5 minutes. Because of this, while to-go coffees have become more common due to COVID, taking a coffee to-go is still not a common thing to do. It doesn’t quite make sense to take a coffee to-go when in reality it’ll only take you 3 or 4 sips to finish it in the first place.

                                                                                          Something to be aware of however is that at many cafes or bars located in bigger city centers, there’s a drastic price difference depending on if you choose to sit down at a table where there’s table service – an espresso that costs 1€ at the bar can easily cost you 5€ sitting down.

                                                                                          The idea of sitting outside a little Italian café and people-watching while sipping your coffee can be alluring, but just be aware if someone is bringing the coffee to you it’s likely going to be more expensive.


                                                                                          6. “Creamer” does not exist


                                                                                          I hate to break it to you, but you won’t find your favorite French Vanilla creamer here in Italy (can you tell what I used to drink my coffee with before moving to Italy?). In fact, it’s rare to find any sort of cream to add to your coffee here, even in a grocery store. Italians typically only use milk if they want to soften the taste of the coffee.

                                                                                          As for plant-based milks, while it isn’t impossible to find them in bars that are located in the bigger, more touristy cities, they are still rare for a bar in Italy to have. I’ve commonly found almond or soy milk to be the most common milk-alternative bars will have. Best advice – just ask your barista if they have any they can offer you.


                                                                                          7. Cappuccinos only before 11am


                                                                                          This one is common knowledge in Italy, and typically how Italians can spot tourists right away: its customary to only order cappuccino before 11am in the morning, and to never ever EVER drink cappuccino with lunch or dinner.

                                                                                          The reasoning behind it is that because cappuccinos contain a lot of milk, they’re too “heavy” to be drank after morning time. Of course, you can do and drink whatever you want at whatever time of day you want, but just be prepared that ordering one outside of the Italian accepted time frame may lead to some confused looks. However, if you’re someone who loves milk in your coffee and really can’t do espresso, try ordering a “Caffe Macchiato” – it still has milk in it, but less than a cappuccino so it’s acceptable to drink at any time of the day.

                                                                                          If I’m being honest though…I still drink cappuccinos in the afternoon sometimes. I really love cappuccinos. Like a lot.


                                                                                          8. Coffee is Cheap!


                                                                                          When I first came to Italy, I was expecting the coffee to be comparable to the price of a cup of coffee in NYC where I’m from – boy was I wrong. A regular espresso typically costs between 0.80€-1.10€ – I think the highest I’ve seen an espresso go for is 1.70€, and that was because we were having a coffee in a world-renowned bar smack-dab in the middle of a city center. Even more complex, “fancy” drinks (as I like to call them) like cappuccinos and macchiatos don’t typically cost more than 2€.


                                                                                          9. Iced Coffee doesn’t exist


                                                                                          I know. I was sad about this one too. Because Italian coffee is traditionally small and quick, large American-style iced coffees just don’t exist here. However, while you won’t find typical “American” iced coffee here, if you’re in the mood for a cold coffee try ordering a “Caffe Shakerato”, which is a very creamy, cold drink typically served in a martini glass. In the south (and sometimes the north) of Italy, “Caffe Freddo” is also incredibly popular to find in bars, which is essentially a coffee slushie. Yum.


                                                                                          10. When in Doubt? Just Ask!


                                                                                          If there’s anything I’ve learned since living in Italy, it’s that Italians are kind, good people. While you should definitely try to immerse yourself in Italian culture as much as you can, if you were hoping to have something specific – just ask. You may need to describe what the drink is, and it may not be EXACTLY like what you’re used to, but in my experience Italian bars are happy to try and make the drink you’d like if they’re able to. Just maybe not like the “Pink Drink” from Starbucks. Maybe you don’t ask an Italian barista to make that 😉

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                                                                                          How to spend a day in Florence for under 25€

                                                                                           

                                                                                          How to spend a day in Florence

                                                                                          for under 25 Euro


                                                                                          When people think “travel to Europe”, the next thought that usually accompanies it is how expensive it is to do. For that reason, so many people automatically assume that they will never be able to experience the world because they simply don’t have the funds to do so.

                                                                                          I’m here to tell you – through personal experience – that it doesn’t have to be expensive. There are SO many little tips and tricks to authentically experience a foreign city without breaking the bank. As someone who lived in NYC as well as solo traveled throughout Europe on an extreme budget, there are a bunch of tips and tricks as to how to enjoy a city without promising to hand over first-born child – and Florence is no exception.

                                                                                          As the birthplace of the Renaissance and the center of art and culture in Italy, there’s so much history and beauty to be found in Florence that doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg to experience. So, let’s get right down to it.


                                                                                          Breakfast:
                                                                                          Coffee and pastry at a local bar or café

                                                                                          2.50€-3.50€


                                                                                          Coming from NYC, one of the best parts of coming to Italy for the first time was finding out that the same delicious croissant that would cost you $4 in NYC costs only around 1.10€-1.50€ in Italy – and it’s like, 10x better. Paired with the discovery that Italian coffee is incredibly cheap (an espresso typically costs 1€-1.10€ while a cappuccino is like, 1.30€-1.80€), you can start off your day with a very Italian breakfast like a true local. Just be aware – if you sit down at a café or bar where there is table service, the prices are different – a coffee that costs you 1€ to drink standing at the bar can easily costs 4€-5€ sitting down. My suggestion again is to do as the Italians do: drink your coffee and eat your pastry while standing at the bar.

                                                                                          Want to learn more about coffee culture in Italy? Check out the 10 things I wish I’d known about coffee culture in Italy 


                                                                                          Rick Steves Audio Guide Europe App

                                                                                          FREE


                                                                                          If you haven’t heard of Rick Steves (or even if you have), you need to pull out your phone this second and download his FREE app, “Rick Steves Audio Guide Europe”. I’ll wait.

                                                                                          Did you download it? Good.

                                                                                          Not only is his app completely and totally FREE, but he covers dozens of travel destinations all over the world – including Florence. I have used his app in almost every city I’ve visited, due to the accessibility and informative things you can find on it.

                                                                                          Under the Florence section, you can put in your headphones and listen to the free Florence Walking Tour he offers, filled with interesting historical facts that make you appreciate the beautiful sculptures and buildings even more than just viewing them and not knowing what you’re actually looking at. Make sure to pay close attention and listen to the full tour without skipping through though – because the tour moves fluidly, if you skip forward through any part, you’ll be completely lost as to where or what you’re supposed to be looking at.


                                                                                          Visit the famous markets, Mercato Centrale or Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio

                                                                                          FREE


                                                                                          Arguably the most famous Market in Florence, Mercato Centrale is the ultimate hub in Florence to buy, sample, and eat fresh produce by local artisians. A two-level food market set in the famous San Lorenzo market, you can find, sample, and eat produce from dozens of food and specialty shops, selling everything from meat, cheese, pasta, pizza, oil, fish, fruits and vegetables.

                                                                                          I highly recommend visiting Mercato Centrale, if only for the fact that it is quite the spectacle to walk around and view the different types of food and produce essential to the Tuscan and Florentine cuisine. AND if you see something that you’d like to take back with you to your home country, just ask the vendor – they know very well what products are able to be transported across the borders and will vacuum-seal the product for you to make sure there aren’t any problems. 

                                                                                          Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio is lesser known and less frequented by tourists due to its location on the edge of the city center, making it more common and more popular of a stop for locals to buy their produce over Mercato Centrale. In the outdoor market you can find dozens of vendors selling everything you could imagine – fresh fruits and veggies, vintage clothing, plants, and household items, to name a few, while in the indoor market you can find stands selling meat, fish, and cheese. The market is open from 7am to 2pm every day, so make sure you plan accordingly! 


                                                                                          View famous art replicas at Palazzo Vecchio

                                                                                          FREE


                                                                                          One of the three main squares in the city center, Palazzo Vecchio is the jackpot for free outdoor art in Florence where you can view both originals and replicas of some of the most famous art sculptures in history, such as Michelangelo’s David and Cellini’s Perseus. And guess what! Rick Steves has a free audio guide for this too 😉

                                                                                          **Tip: right behind the big water fountain there is a free water bottle refill station! The water is very clean, so carry a water bottle around in your bag to fill it up here throughout the day.


                                                                                          Lunch:
                                                                                          grab a panino at Pino’s Sandwiches

                                                                                          4.50€-6€


                                                                                          Ok ok ok – if you’ve been here for a while, you know I’m a little bit biased, but I truly do think Pino’s serves up some of the best panini in the Florence city center for a great price, as well as having the most versatile options for a quick lunch stop. Besides the portions being absolutely massive (for real though, the panini are bigger than my head)), they also have vegetarian options AND gluten-free bread, so no matter your dietary restriction you can find something to eat here. And if you’re not wanting a panino, don’t fret – they also have an entire “gastronomia” section, which is essentially like a deli counter for hot and cold pre-prepared foods.

                                                                                          Beyond that however, Pino and his family are some of the most wonderful and kind people I’ve ever met. Pino is known as the “study-abroad dad” in Florence, so inside the shop you can find dozens of university banners given to Pino from grateful past and present study-abroad students as well as pictures from past study-abroad students that have made trips back to see Pino after 10, 15, or 20 years. It’s not hard to see why – Pino has gone as far as helping study-abroad students fill out confusing government documents, navigate Italian bureaucracy, or simply just give them a space to feel a little bit closer to home when they’re missing it.

                                                                                          Basically, go to Pino’s. The panini are great and the people even better. I could go on and on, but I’ll end it there.

                                                                                          Pino’s Sandwiches: Via Giuseppe Verdi, 36R


                                                                                          Gelato at the oldest gelato shop in Florence:
                                                                                          Vivoli Gelato

                                                                                          2.50€


                                                                                          You might need to first walk off lunch by exploring the small streets of Florence, but no mid-day meal is complete in Italy without a cup of delicious, fresh gelato – and one of my favorite places to do it is at the oldest gelato shop in all of Florence.

                                                                                          Yep, you heard that right – the OLDEST gelato shop in all of Florence.

                                                                                          Vivoli il Gelato opened up in 1930 in the historic center of Florence where it still stands today. Beyond their amazingly fresh gelato and seasonal flavors, something that really makes Vivoli special is that the shop is completely family-run and operated, so you can likely find different generations of the family working inside the shop, every day. If you’ve heard the name before but can’t figure out where you know it from, I gotchu – not only has the shop been featured in many different food travel shows such as “I’ll have what Phil’s having”, they also have a shop in Epcot at Disney World in the U.S.!

                                                                                          Vivoli Gelato: Via Isola delle Stinche, 7R


                                                                                          View gold shops on the Ponte Vecchio bridge

                                                                                          FREE


                                                                                          The Ponte Vecchio bridge is the oldest and most famous, bridge in Florence, and the only bridge across the Arno River in Florence that survived World War ll. The sight of it is absolutely breathtaking and (in my mind) fulfills every image of that classic Italian moment where history meets present-day. 

                                                                                          Back during the Medici rule, the Ponte Vecchio was where are the butcher-shops were located – and as you can probably imagine, it was…pretty gross. The stench was horrible and the river was tainted from all the animal waste being dumped in the river. Yuck.

                                                                                          Sick of the smell and also interested in making Florence wealthier, Ferdinand Medici passed a law in the late 16th century that all the shops on the Ponte Vecchio bridge must be gold or jewelry shops – and that is still true to this day. Knowing the history behind it makes it all the more interesting to walk along and view the incredible craftsmanship of these goldsmiths and jewelers. There’s also a secret tunnel running above the Ponte Vecchio called the ‘Vasari Corridor’ that was used by the Medici family back in the day to travel – if you look closely, you can see part of the tunnel popping out around the stone tower.

                                                                                          On another note – as I mentioned above, the Ponte Vecchio bridge is the only bridge in Florence that survived World War ll. As the Nazis were retreating out of Florence, they destroyed every other bridge except the Ponte Vecchio. There’s a rumor that Hitler saw the bridge and thought it was too beautiful to destroy, but that’s not true – in fact, the saving of the bridge comes down to one person, a Nazi official named Gerhard Wolf. You can read more about this story here.


                                                                                          Dinner:
                                                                                          Local street food at Sergio Pollini OR GustaPizza

                                                                                          4€-8€


                                                                                          If you’re feeling up for the challenge, there’s no better way to fully immerse yourself in Florentine culture than heading on over to Sergio Pollini Lampredotto and trying a panino containing the typical Florentine street foods, “lampredotto” and “trippa”, which is…cow stomach.

                                                                                          You might have just made a surprised, slightly confused/disgusted face, which is totally normal. But don’t worry – Sergio Pollini is arguably the most famous lampredotto street food stand in the city center so they know what they’re doing. There’s

                                                                                          If you prefer something a little less daring, head over to GustaPizza across the river in Santo Spirito. They offer a range of pizzas at all different price points, but a classic Margherita pizza will only cost you 6€. You can even ask for it to be made in the shape of a heart, which doesn’t change the flavor at all but is very instagrammable 😉

                                                                                          Sergio Pollini Lampredotto: Via dei Macci, 126

                                                                                          GustaPizza: Via Maggio, 46r


                                                                                          Walk up to Piazzale Michelangelo and grab a drink

                                                                                          5€


                                                                                          After dinner, do what any sane person would do and take a nice, steep walk uphill to Piazzale Michelangelo.

                                                                                          I know, it doesn’t sound the most appealing, but I promise you it’s worth it – Piazzale Michelangelo has the best view of Florence, and it truly is magical. Opt to take the walk through the “Giardino delle Rose”, or “The Rose Garden”, to get up to Piazzale Michelangelo. You can stop and rest if needed in a beautiful garden surrounded by roses.

                                                                                          At the top, there will be plenty of food and drink stands where you can buy a beverage for relatively cheap considering that you’re enjoying it at a top attraction in Florence for both locals and tourists!


                                                                                          Watch the sunset over the red roofs of Florence

                                                                                          Priceless


                                                                                          No further words needed 😉


                                                                                          Total for the day:

                                                                                          18.50€-25€

                                                                                          And that brings us to the end of this guide. The most important thing to remember is that if you want to see the world, do it – it doesn’t have to be expensive. The world is filled with so much beauty and so many things to see, and there are ways to do it on every budget.

                                                                                          Happy traveling! ❤️

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