Italian Travel Tips for the Photographer

Travel Tips for the Photographer This was Ryan's first overseas trip and my first where the trip hadn't been planned out by a group or my mother. Ryan was awesome and took on the guide roll and I was really thankful for him...and Rick Steves. So here is our mostly iPhone photo tribute to Rick Steves...and apparently Ryan's favorite green shirt.

Some of this will kind of review some of the tips from former posts, but a good overview. I'll start with some packing tips.

What to wear was the most stressful thing for me. So vain, I know, but I wanted  to look and feel cute for the photos, but also not bring too much, and also be comfortable, and also not look like a tourist. It was a tall task. And here is what I learned (for girls).

You will look like a tourist, no matter what you wear. Unless you are a tall, skinny waisted, olive skinned, dark haired person who carries only a hand bag and has the ability to walk over uneven cobblestone in 5 inch heels-- you will look like a tourist. Obviously I am none of those, and even if I dressed oh-so-wonderfully-fashionable like the Italian women, I would have still looked like a tourist with my blonde hair, transparent skin, squatty figure and the balance of one of those blow up punching clowns. So, especially in places like Rome where there will be tons and tons of tourists, just wear what is comfortable to you. There were plenty of people wearing shorts and sneakers. I'm not much of a sneaker person, but I did end up buying a pair of shorts half way through because I wished I had packed a pair.  You are also supposed to have modest dress for some of the churches so keep that in mind for those days.  I would suggest that you bring a nicer dress for evening that you can wear to restaurants for dinner. And also keep in mind that these pictures you will keep forever, so unless you think you will love your Juicy Couture t-shirt for the rest of your life, you might go for something more classic on the days you will be at the historic places.

We were really concerned about the amount of stuff we were going to have to carry, so we really limited our clothing.  This is what I packed, and what I would have changed for a summer trip:

  1. 2 white tank undershirts
  2. 4 tank tops
  3. 2 cardigans I could have gone with one. I used it on the airplane, in the Vatican (but half way through I just used the a scarf over my dress because it was so hot) one night in Tuscany and one night in Vernazza. One would have been fine
  4. 2 summer scarves, 1 patterned, 1 more solid color
  5. 1 pair of skinny jeans (only wore once, and mainly because I felt the need to because I had packed them.)
  6. all of the underwear I own
  7. a black pair of travel pants (not really cute, but we're good for travel)
  8. 4 very lightweight dresses
  9. bathing suit
  10. sunglasses
  11. one skirt, it was patterned and I wish I had brought a solid
  12. one kind of dressy shirt  The dresses would have been fine for dressy things
  13. a pair of white Capri pants These were cute, and I felt cute when I wore them but was hot
  14. 1 long sleeved shirt Just go with 1 cardigan
  15. pj's
  16. makeup
  17. small things of shampoo & body wash, no conditioner
  18. 2 necklaces
  19. 2 belts
  20. 3 pairs of shoes. I brought a pair of boat shoes, a pair of Sperry flats, and at the last second I threw in my canvas shoes with a Croc sole. I eneded up wearing those the most because they were so comfy. In fact, I wore them out and have replaced them with these teva shoes, and i think they would have been great for Europe too.
  21. hat - could take it or leave it
  22. clothing line thing
  23. mini straightener, but most days I just air dried.
  24. bobbypins
  25. fold up backpack. This was key for the stuff we bought to bring back home.

Things I wish I had:

  1. Shorts. Ended up buying some in Rome at a GAP. I felt so lame buying something from GAP while I was in Europe!
  2. Sandals. I wish that I had them for when we went swimming
  3. Bathing suit cover up
  4. Band aids for heels. I bought them several times, and was appalled by how much they cost.

What I kept in purse:

  • iPad for backing up photos and the Guidepal app, it was an offline map which was handy for the lack of wi-fi
  • Moleskine that Lori gave me to keep track of reservations and write notes.
  • sunscreen
  • hand sanitizer
  • some snacks
  • water
  • Ryan carried the camera and Rick Steves book
  • Headphones for audiotours

Electronics we brought:

This was one of the hardest things to choose, what camera equipment we wanted to bring. From weddings, we knew that a bunch of lenses can get really heavy really quickly. So we decided to bring only our 50mm lens. And 90% of the time we were happy with this choice. Every once in a while with beautiful landscapes or architecture we with that we had our wide angle lens, but since we carried the camera with us 100% of the time and our camera body is pretty heavy, we were thankful for a small lens and lighter load.

We brought the iPad for 2 reasons...a way to back up pics in case our camera got stolen & for our guidepal app that our BIL Sam told us about. We really liked the guidepal app because it has maps you load before your trip with interest points, restaurants, and help with buses. The iPad would have been even better if we had the one with 3G connection. You can get international plans for it.  So if you are thinking of getting an iPad and travel a lot, you might want to consider that.

iPad Camera Connection Kit: to hook up iPad and camera, very handy.

Phones: kept on airplane mode and connected to wifi when needed.  We often wished we would have had an international plan for them as well.

General travel tips:

  • If at all possible, try to go during a cooler time of year.  The heat was brutal and most places don't have AC. BUT I also think that hot Italy is better than no Italy, so go whenever you can!
  • Try and learn a little of the language before you go: numbers, greetings, bus, train
  • Get an international phone plan. We were being cheap and didn't do that, but I think it would have been smart and oh-so-much convenient. On train rides we sometimes were split up, and it was nerve-racking to not be able to text to know if the other person had made it to their car safe and sound. Also, on the train ride from Sorrento to Vernazza, our train broke. Flat out broke, the conductor who spoke no English came yelling for everyone to get off the train and we had NO CLUE what was going on. Thankfully a sweet Italian woman who knew some English took us under her wing and told us the situation and what we needed to do. But otherwise we would have been in trouble.
  • Don't bring anything that is remotely uncomfortable. Not worth it.
  • Pack everything into one carry on sized bag. When you are lugging a suitcase into a crowded train you will be glad that it fits in the overhead bin. Rick sells a new rolley backpack, both Ryan and I think that would have been nice to just put it on our back as we were going up and down stairs at stations.
  • Trains often go on strike in Italy. Just an FYI
  • Download Rick Steve's audio tours on your phone before you go, don't forget the headphones!
  • Make copies of passports and put in your suitcase in case your passports get stolen
  • Sounds goofy, but think about a money belt. Pickpockets are renowned in Italy, so a money belt offered a good peace of mind. And here are Ryan's words on the subject: "I thought it (the money belt) was going to be like wearing the Batman belt. But it's really comfortable, I might just wear it all the time.
  • Talk to people. Talking to other travelers and Italians was one of our favorite parts of the trip. You have an automatic conversation starter: "so where are you from?"
  • Buy Rick Steves books and listen to everything he says. He really is a travel genius.
  • This one is kind of silly, but when we could we would count the number of stops we had before the one we needed to exit. We had trouble understanding the quick speaking announcers, so this was more helpful to us than relying on them. This is not fool proof though, so still pay attention.  Also we would take pictures of the stops with our phones to have a visual to the autobox sounding towns.
  • Keep some change on you for bathrooms. Most restaurants have free bathrooms and you can use them when you're eating there, but public places usually have a small fee.
  • Don't be too scared. My mom talked for months about Italy being a "den of thieves" and how careful we needed to be, and how people she knew got their passports stolen. Although we appreciated her concern (love you mom!), I think it made us a little overly scared of everything. We did see a large suitcase stolen off a train and we do think that Ryan almost got pick pocketed at the Spanish Steps in Rome, so it's not like it won't happen.  Just be smart but don't over stress about it. We used the money belt for all of the important stuff, and Ryan carried in his wallet enough money for the day and nothing else. Most of his shorts had a button, so he always buttoned them.
  • Don't pack chocolate snacks on hikes. It will look like poop (not chocolate) on your cell phone.
And I'll leave you with a pic I found on my phone from Rome that made me chuckle. Hope you enjoyed the Italy journey with us!


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