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Italy: Venice and the Italian Lakes - FAQ

With such a rich and varied itinerary and so many aspects to touring Italy, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and unsure about where to start preparing for your Venice and the Italian Lakes tour. We are here to help. Below, you'll find some useful information you'll need as you get ready for your Italian adventure.

TIME 

Italy is 6 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time in the United States. Like most European countries, Italy has daylight saving time which lasts from April to September. It moves its clocks ahead an hour in late spring and an hour back in the fall, corresponding roughly to daylight saving time in the United States, but the exact dates vary. When it's noon in Milan, it's 6 a.m. in New York and 3 a.m. in San Francisco.

New York

Milan

PACKING  

There are so many beautiful things to bring back with you from Northern Italy, so make sure you have space left in your suitcase. You do not need formal clothing for this trip. Some people like to dress up if they are visiting high-end restaurants, but this is optional. Some churches may require that you cover your bare shoulders and legs when entering, so it's useful to carry a light scarf with you. Since we'll be walking quite a bit, you should pack your most comfortable walking shoes to bring with you.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS  

Visitors from the US, Canada and Australia need a valid passport, but visas are not required for Americans, Canadians or Australians visiting for less than 3 months. If you are a citizen of another E.U. country, you do not need a passport, only an identity card. Your passport must be valid for at least 3 months after the date you intend to leave the European Union. Before traveling abroad it's a good idea to make two photocopies of your passport, your driver's license and your credit cards. Leave one copy at home with a trusted person and another in your suitcase. 

ARRIVAL AND DEPARTURE INFORMATION  

This tour starts in Milan (you can arrive at either Milano Malpensa airport, code: MXP or Milano Linate airport, code: LIN) and ends in Venice (you should depart from Venice Marco Polo Airport, code: VCE). The tour starts in Milan, Italy on Sunday, September 15, 2019 at 3:00PM, and your flight should arrive no later than 1:00PM. You'll probably depart North America on Saturday, September 14, 2019. If you are prone to jet lag and travel fatigue, we recommend arriving a day early. We have arranged for individual airport transfers on arrival in accordance with your flight, and you will be met by a chauffeur on your arrival in Milan. This tour ends on Monday, September 23, 2019, in Venice. There will be two group transfers from the Venice hotel to the Marco Polo Airport in Venice: one at 6:00AM for flights departing after 8:30AM and another at 8:00AM for flights departing after 10:30AM. We cannot provide additional airport transfers, but will help you make arrangements for your airport transfer if your flight leaves at a different time. If you are combining the Venice and the Italian Lakes tour with the Classic Tuscany tour, we will arrange for and cover the cost of transfer from Venice to Florence. If you need help with your flights to Italy, please feel free to give us a call.

JET LAG 

To avoid jet lag (common when crossing more than five time zones), you should drink plenty of nonalcoholic fluids and eat light meals. Upon arrival, get exposure to natural sunlight, exercise and readjust your schedule (for meals, sleep and so on) as soon as possible.

SINGLE SUPPLEMENT AND ROOMMATES 

To avoid paying the single supplement, we offer guaranteed roommate matching, and we will try to match you with a roommate of similar age. Otherwise, there are six single rooms available on this tour, but they tend to fill up early. Please keep in mind that all shared rooms are non-smoking.

THE TRAVEL GROUP  

The Italy group is limited to the maximum of 16 women + the tour director. The minimum group size is 6 women + the tour director. In addition to the tour director, the travelers will be assisted by private local guides and bus drivers, who will accompany the group throughout the tour. 

HEALTH  

In general, Italy is viewed as a "safe" destination, although problems, of course, can and do occur anywhere. You don't need to get shots; most foodstuff is safe and the water in cities and towns potable. If you're concerned, order bottled water. It is easy to get a prescription filled in towns and cities, and nearly all places throughout Italy have English-speaking doctors at hospitals with well-trained medical staffs. Italy does not offer free medical treatment to visitors. Travelers from Canada and the United States must pay for medical services rendered, but will be reimbursed by their travel insurance. You should pack prescription medications in your carry-on luggage, and carry prescription medications in their original containers, with pharmacy labels. Otherwise, they may not make it through airport security. Also bring along copies of your prescriptions in case you lose your pills or run out. Don't forget an extra pair of contact lenses or prescription glasses. Carry the generic name of prescription medicines, in case a local pharmacist is unfamiliar with the brand name.

WATER 

Thanks to the mountains, clean drinking water is abundant and relatively available across most regions. Drinking water in Italy is cool, safe and readily available everywhere, and in some parts of Italy you can still see people meeting around the local water well. Otherwise, bottled water is readily available from grocery stores, convenience stores and vending machines.

TOILETS  

Bars, restaurants, cafes, gas stations, airports, rail stations, and all hotels have facilities, and public toilets can be found near many of the major sights. Usually they're designated as WC (water closet) or DONNE (women) and UOMINI (men). The most confusing designation is SIGNORI (gentlemen) and SIGNORE (ladies). Most toilets are western style, but you may still come across a Turkish style toilet once in a while. Many public toilets charge a small fee or employ an attendant who expects a tip, so you should always have some coins in the local currency with you. It's a good idea to carry some tissues in your pocket or purse, as they often come in handy.

SAFETY  

Generally speaking, Venice is one of Italy's safest cities, but be aware of petty crime like pickpocketing on the crowded vaporetti, particularly along the tourist routes, where passengers are more intent on the passing scenery than on watching their bags. Venice's deserted back streets were once virtually crime-proof, and the occasional tales of theft started circulating only recently. The most common menace, especially in large cities, is the plague of pickpockets and roving gangs of Gypsy children who surround you, distract you in all the confusion, and steal your purse or wallet. It is best to leave most of your valuables in your hotel's safe, and carry only a small amount of cash and one credit card in your money belt or money purse around your neck.

WOMEN TRAVELERS  

Italian travel is as easy for women as it is for men. You may get complimented, whistled at, pinched, prodded, or propositioned, but you’re probably physically safer there than you are at home. You should feel perfectly safe even in big cities, even at night. Of course, it always pays to play it safe and stick to populated streets after dark. One trick that has worked wonders for solo women on the road is the fictional husband, who is always just around the corner where you’re going to meet him in five minutes. It helps to dress modestly to avoid unwanted attention, and wear dark shades to avoid eye contact.

ACTIVITY LEVEL  

During the Venice and the Italian Lakes tour in Italy, we will travel by bus and by boat. To be able to fully enjoy the tour and participate in scheduled activities, you need to be able to walk, at a leisurely pace, up to 4 miles throughout the day. You should be able to stand unassisted for up to 30 minutes, you should be able to climb stairs, including the countless bridges crossing the canals of Venice, get in and out of vehicles without assistance and manage your own luggage without assistance. Overall, this trip is not strenuous, although it is busy. You must be prepared for a couple of full days and some early starts.

WEATHER  

September, along with May, may be the best time to visit Northern Italy. The temperatures average 68 degrees (F) with low humidity. The entirety of the Lake Como region is famed for its mild conditions, but in early September, there may be some warm days with temperatures up to 78 degrees (F). The Mediterranean climate means consistent rainfall throughout the year.

CELL PHONE/INTERNET  

Italy's cities have Internet access available in internet cafes, hotel lobbies and in some public places. Internet access in rural areas may be available, but it varies widely. Cellular phone coverage is generally very good in Italy's cities and metropolitan areas, although expect limited coverage in remote or mountainous areas. All hotels where we’ll be staying have WiFi Internet available for their guests.

ELECTRICITY 
ELECTRICITY

Voltage in Italy is 200 volts AC (50 cycles) and the plug is the typical European plug with two round prongs. Many stores in North America sell the appropriate transformers and adapters, and they can also be purchased on arrival in either one of Milan's airports. If you bring a hair dryer, it should be a dual-voltage one, and you'll need an adapter plug. Any heat generating appliances that you bring need a transformer, and they may still not work properly with the different voltage. Small electronics which are "meant to travel", such as laptops, tablets, iPhone, etc., have dual voltage, so you only need a plug converter.

LANGUAGE  

Italian, of course, is the language of the land, but English is generally understood at most attractions such as museums, hotels and restaurants that cater to visitors. Even if only a few staff members at a restaurant, for example, speak English, one person almost always does and can be summoned. As you travel in remote towns and villages, it is helpful to know a few basic phrases in Italian.

MONEY 

The Euro, the new single European currency, is the official currency of Italy. Each Euro is divided into 100 Eurocents. Some people like to bring local currency with them when traveling to a foreign country, but it is not needed, and depends on what you're comfortable with. We believe that the easiest way to get local currency is on arrival at the airport ATM. ATMs are common throughout Italy, you'll find them inside and outside all banks, in major shopping centers, in supermarkets and gas stations. Before leaving, you should notify your bank/credit company that you will be using your card in a foreign country, so that it doesn't get blocked for suspicious activity. You should have a 4 digit PIN to withdraw cash. Keep in mind that your bank/credit card company will charge you for each withdrawal, so you should withdraw larger amounts of cash less often.

TIPPING  

This custom is practiced with flair in Italy, as many people depend on tips for their livelihoods. The tips for restaurants, guides and drivers are included in the cost of your tour. It is customary to tip the chambermaid .50E to 1E per day, the bellhop or porter 1.50E to 2E for carrying your bags to your room.

TAXES 

As a member of the European Union, Italy imposes a value-added tax (called IVA in Italy) on most goods and services. Non-E.U. (European Union) citizens are entitled to a refund of the IVA if they spend more than 155€ (approximately $225) at any one store, before tax. To claim your refund, request an invoice from the cashier at the store and take it to the Customs office (dogana) at the airport to have it stamped before you leave. Note: If you're going to another E.U. country before flying home, have it stamped at the airport Customs office of the last E.U. country you'll be in (for example, if you're flying home via Britain, have your Italian invoices stamped in London). Once back home, mail the stamped invoice (keep a photocopy for your records) back to the original vendor within 90 days of the purchase. The vendor will, sooner or later, send you a refund of the tax that you paid at the time of your original purchase. Reputable stores view this as a matter of ordinary paperwork and are business-like about it. Less-honorable stores might lose your dossier. It pays to deal with established vendors on large purchases. You can also request that the refund be credited to the credit card with which you made the purchase, and this is usually a faster procedure. Many shops are now part of the "Tax Free for Tourists" network (look for the sticker in the window). Stores participating in this network issue a check along with your invoice at the time of purchase. After you have the invoice stamped at Customs, you can redeem the check for cash directly at the Tax Free booth in the airport or mail it back in the envelope provided within 60 days.

SHOPPING  

What to bring home from Italy? Along with design and finance, fashion is Milan's biggest draw, and Venice is the domain of world-class artisans. There are some items that are worth bringing home with you from Northern Italy: the next year's fashion from Milan, silk, especially silk ties and scarves from Bellagio, Murano glass, leather purses, shoes and custom made leather gloves, the delicate lace from Burano, and the cartapesta (papier-mâché) Carnevale masks. An Italian bottle of wine or olive oil also make a nice gift.

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Why travel with other women?
Many women do not have families or compatible friends who wish to travel. When going on a main-stream tour, women often find that most activities are geared towards couples and quite often they feel left out. Singles' tours are not always what women are looking for. If you do not have a traveling companion, there is also the issue of the expensive "single supplement", sometimes as much as 50 or even 100 percent of the tour cost. By going on women-only tours, women can easily avoid paying for the single supplement by sharing a room with another woman traveler.
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