Travel in Italy is quite easy, but these important travel tips will help ensure your experience is a smooth one.
If you absolutely need it - bring it. Pharmacies are generally fairly well stocked, but that does not mean they will be open, or that you will be able to communicate exactly what it is you need. Stores are generally closed from 1:30 - 4pm, Monday through Friday, and closed on Sundays. You won't find this in they city to the extent that you will in the countryside, but it will frustrate you - particularly if you need something simple, say food.
The closest train station to San Quirico is Buonconvento, a ten minute drive from Casa Elisa. Other station you may find useful are Roma Termini, Rome's central station; Firenze - Tutti le Stazione; Chiusi-Chianciano Terme (same name as exit off the highway should you drive from Rome.) and Siena. If you take a train, all stations have English-speaking machines that are very easy to use. Once the ticket is purchased, NEVER get on the train without having it 'validated'. There are little machines all over thestation, as well as on the platforms, where, once your ticket is inserted, it will validate and return the ticket to you. If you do not have a validated ticket on the train when asked for it, chances are you will be paying a 50 Euro fine. Train travel in Italy is quick, comfortable, economic and convenient.
To make the first few days of your trip in Italy a little more comfortable and less jet-lagged, you may want to follow this little piece of advice. Do everything within your power to sleep on the plane. To some people, this come naturally. To others, it can be a challenge. Either way, without some sleep on the overnight flight, you will probably feel jet-lagged for the first few days. Sometimes the use of drugs (legal, of course!) can help one to accomplish this goal. Make every effort to get a few hours of sleep ... and try to sleep as early on in the flight as possible.
There are a number of airports servicing Tuscany. Florence and Pisa. Though close to Casa Elisa, they generally have seasonal service. The safest bet is to fly into Rome. Sometimes this airport is referred to by its actual name, Leonardo DaVinci, or by the town in which it is located, Fiumicino. The airport designation is FCO. The drive from FCO to Casa Elisa generally takes two hours and twenty minutes. From any of these airports, travel by car is convenient and easy .... with a good GPS. None will require driving into a city and all airports are off major highways. All roads are clearly marked.
Car Rentals / Driving
All major car rental agencies can be found at the airport. These agencies may also be of benefit: sixt.com • autoeuropa.com • europcar.com • honkcarrental.com
Please look at the Transportation & Directions page for new GPS information on the Home Map app.Maps will get you where you want to go, but a good GPS system can be invaluable. Either rent one at the car rental counter, or bring one from the United States. In spite of what ANYONE may tell you, without a GPS, you will have a very difficult time finding your way to San Quirico - or anywhere else. If you decide not to have a GPS, make sure you have a good map. Once you leave the parking garage at FCO, you will need some time for your GPS to lock into satellites. You will exit the covered garage and drive to the exit gates - but just before you get to the gates, you can pull over to the right, put your hazard lights on and wait for your GPS to lock. Cars will easily go around you as you wait.There will be tolls driving from FCO to San Quirico. All toll booths will have lanes manned by people. At the first toll booth, you will receive a ticket. At the CHIANCIANO THERME EXIT, off the A1, you'll pay roughly €10 at the toll booth. The lane with a person is clearly marked by a hand and a ticket and is in the far right hand lane.
On all roads in Italy, it is advisable not to speed. Though police officers will not pull over speeding cars, your speed is none the less being observed and recorded. All highways and roads in small towns are equipped with an "Autovelox" electronic system that takes wonderful pictures of you, your car and speed. You eventually will be found and receive a ticket. Many GPS systems will warn of upcoming autovelox units, and Italian roads are clearly marked that you are approaching one. There will always be a sign saying the speed is controlled electronically. Believe me, it is. When you see the sign, a unit will be only moments away. The signs and units are clearly marked. When Italian drivers are not trying to run over you, they are very courteous. Always drive in the right hand lane of the highway. Pass on the left, then immediately return to right hand lane. This practice is common throughout Europe.
People love to travel with dollars - but keep in mind, dollars are not used - or wanted - in Italy. The best way to get cash in Italy is through an ATM machine ... just like in the US. Not only are ATM's everywhere, they also provide the best exchange rate when converting dollars to euros (€). It is a good idea to withdraw euros from an ATM at the airport before getting on the road - euros will be needed for tolls as you travel to Casa Elisa. To be sure your debit card will be activated for foreign travel, it is imperative that before you leave the US, you contact your financial institution to let them know where you are traveling. This goes for any credit card you will be using as well. Because of fraud protection, credit card companies can, and will, on occasion, render your card useless unless prior notice is given. Also make sure you have numbers to call should any issues arise. An 800 number does not work from Italy and usually a collect calling number is provided by the financial institution.
Cell phones and the internet work well in Italy and can provide a great means of communication to the United States and all your loved ones who are missing you. Unless you are WELL aware of your cell phone service providers options for use overseas, it is best to keep your phone either turned off, or in "airplane" mode. Many phones these days will begin to roam regardless of whether you are actually using the phone or not. This can leave you with huge roaming fees on your next bill. By keeping your phone in "airplane" mode, you can still access info in your phone, but your phone will not be accruing huge roaming charges. Some travelers buy fairly inexpensive sim cards to put into their phones - allowing the phone to be used with a European carrier. Sim cards can either be bought online in the US or any phone store or tabachi in Italy. As most US phones are "locked", (as opposed to European models which are unlocked) sim cards will not work unless the phone is unlocked - and getting a US cell provider to unlock your phone is an exasperating and futile exercise. This is not to say your cell phone cannot be used. By turning on the wifi on your phone, you can easily find a wifi network and download emails and make calls. Almost all hotels and many restaurants have free wifi. Casa Elisa does as well. You may be required to enter a huge code in order to join the network, but once joined, you will have access to email and the use of calling apps. The code to join Casa Elisa's wifi network is under the Casa Elisa Information tab.
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Numerous apps work well to make calls to the US. Skype, Tango and Magic Jack are the best. Please click on the links provided below to download the app.
Free video calls to those with the Skype app. Very low rates to cell phones or landlines. (pennies per minute). and this can be done easily in the US before your trip.
Free video calls to those with Tango. Cannot call someone who does not have the app.
The best calling app. Cannot make video calls but can call any number in the US free. People can also leave messages when they call the number assigned to you by Magic Jack.
Within a wifi zone, you can also text. With an iPhone, you can only text someone who has an Apple product....referred to as iMessage. There are apps that allow you to text anyone.
A smartphone messenger available for iPhone and other smartphones. WhatsApp uses your 3G or WiFi (when available) to message with friends and family. Switch from SMS to WhatsApp to send and receive messages, pictures, audio notes, and video messages.
An app that will allow you to text anyone for free ... and they you. TextMe! will provide you with a different number than your phone number in order to work.
ProntoTreno is a fantastic app (iPad only) for train schedules. It is easy to use and informative. You may not always have your iPad with you, so here is a trick to make it more useful. If you know the approximate time of future travel, find results for your travel from point A to point B. The search will provide train schedules that would work for your entered criteria. You can now save this screen for future reference by taking a screen shot. If you are not sure how to do this, simply hold down the round Home button of your iPad, then quickly push in the Power button once. The screen will flash, indicating this page has been saved to your camera roll ... and eventually into your photo stream. Once traveling, and probably not using cell service, you can now still easily reference the photo you have taken on both your iPad and iPhone.
Electrical systems in Europe are not the same as in the US, though many of your electrical devices can still be charged using this system. Check your computer plug transformer, phone charger and camera battery charger to make sure that the input voltage is both 110v (US) and 220-240v (Italy). If so, then all you will need is an adapter to be able to plug your American plug into the European wall outlet. This two-pronged plug can be found just about anywhere in the US, from Radio Shack to Sports Authority to Brookstone. For your convenience, in both the master and guest bedrooms, an electrical outlet strip with American plugs will be provided. If you are sure your electronic devices will handle the different current, then simply plug your device into the strip and all should be fine.