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10 facts you will Not Find on the Internet about Italy and Italians

This summer I got a job from an Italian construction company, and they kindly invited me to visit Italy and to attend a week-long workshop. That was my first business trip which I shared with my colleague Timothy. I am glad that our Italian mentor Samuel gave us a chance to manage our studying and travelling time. So before I tell you about my adventure, I want to say HUGE THANKS to Samuel, who made our trip interesting, comfortable and joyful!

1. Airlines, time and costs. Venice Airport

Because we flew from Kyiv (Ukraine) there was no chance to choose an airline other than (FLY UIA) Ukrainian International Airlines. It`s a huge, monopolistic airline run by billionaire – Igor Kolomoyskiy. The price for a round trip ticket was around 160 ‎€ per person. That`s quite expensive for the level of service that they provide. But we were forced to choose this airline because they had a direct flight from Kyiv to Venice, and their flight was the earliest. Sure, we could have chosen Lufthansa or Austrian Airlines, or even KLM, but all of them had an 8-16 hour flights with a change. As it was our business trip, we fully understood that we would not have enough time for an excursion, that`s why we decided to arrive in Venice as early as it possible and spend the whole day as a regular tourists. Unfortunately, FLY UIA ruined all our plans! We had a 4 hour delay without any explanation!!! Then, when we finally boarded the plane it was dusty!

One of the passengers told us that sometimes she buys round trip flight tickets from Kyiv to Venice for only 50 ‎€ per person. FLY UIA airlines rarely gives good deals, but you should always follow them on their website.

When we landed and entered Marco Polo (Venice) airport we were speechless. This is one of the most beautiful airports in the world!!! It`s ceiling looks like an ancient dome in the Renaissance style. The airport was very clean, and the design felt fresh and bright. We found out that it was reconstructed in 2017. This incredible project belongs to Italian architectural studio MARS. The building has an area of around 60,000 square meters. On the ground floor you can take a boat taxi shuttles and come to Venice Island, but it`s expensive – 30 ‎€ per person but for both direction!

Also, you should know that Venice Island is connected with the mainland by only one bridge, so you can go there by bus, train, taxi, water taxi or by car. If you use your own or a rental car – remember that parking places are always limited and are very expensive! So, it`s better to use a bus or water shuttle.

Tips: all restaurants and cafeterias are very expensive. You will pay more for sitting places and for places that are outside along the streets. Standing places are free, but is it comfortable enough?

2. Car rental points, rules and costs.

Before the trip, I researched the price of car rental points and gas stations. The Airport has a car rental point at on the 2nd and roof-top floors. We decided to try the roof-top rental place, but everyone else went there too. So, we ended upgrade spending three hours in queue! We made a mistake by not booking car online before our trip. In the 3 hours that we waited almost all of the good cars were taken. Finally, we managed to rent a NEW 2018 Volkswagen Polo. The best deal was at the SIXT rental agency on the 2nd floor – they had good, new cars for reasonable money. A 7-day rental cost 380 ‎€ and included full insurance, plus a 200 ‎€ deposit on our credit card! After a couple of days of driving this car we realized that it had only a 1.0-liter engine. These engines are quite popular in Italy, but for a mountain area this is not enough! It`s better to get a car with a 2.0-liter engine.

Tips: All Italians prefer to drive a manual transmission. It’s kind of their old tradition. Cars with automatic transmission are 30% more expensive.

- If you want to save your money and time, book your car online 3-4 days in advance of your trip.

- To rent a car in Italy you should be older than 25 and have a working credit card with 300-500 € on it. The rate of deposit depends of the brand of your car.

- Before paying at a car rental service, ask about its engine power and type of transmission, and if it has GPS navigation, which is quite useful.

3. Our location and Hotel. Rubbish bins

After we rented a car, we drove to our hotel in Borgo Valsugana village, in the Trentino region, about 140 km from Venice. Borgo Valsugana is a small farm village surrounded by mountains called The Dolomites. The nature is incredible! You can find castles and panoramic observation decks.

Our hotel was so atmospheric- Locanda in Borgo Garni&Wellness! We checked-in at the night and a very positive woman prepared a room for us. But we had a small problem as she didn`t speak English at all. So guys, start to learn Italian- I am joking!) Italians are very emotional, so no worries you will understand them intuitively. Our hotel had a 9.6 star rating on rate at Trip Advisor, and they have a province-classical interior design. This hotel is located along the local river near an old bell tower, and has 5 floors. On the first floor you can find the reception desk and their own delicious confectionery. On the 2nd floor is a dining room, a kitchen for staff, a living room and hotel rooms. On the 3rd and 5th floors are only hotel rooms. This hotel is fully adapted for older people and has an elevator. The owner of the hotel is positive and very charismatic. The price for us was 38 € per night per person, breakfast included. This hotel is definitely the best choice to stay in Borgo Valsugana! We liked everything in this hotel, no kidding!!!!

Nevertheless, we had a small problem. All the time we were in Borgo Volsugana we were looking for free and open trash bins! Even our hotel didn’t have any! There was only one very small trash bin in our room. Along the streets there were only private rubbish bins that were locked. As locals told us, there is a big tax for garbage removal from the city. So everyone pays for their own rubbish. And this happens in all small towns of Italy. Free and open rubbish bins we found only in Verona city, but that’s another chapter.

4. Local food and traditions!

We have an amazing impression of local, traditional food and restaurants. We had all of our breakfasts at the hotel. All food and vegetables were always fresh. This hotel has a buffet breakfast, but with waiters. For breakfast we had Italian crispy bread, а variety of expensive cheeses, different hams and prosciutto, cherry tomatoes , eggs, butter, yogurts, Nutella, fresh fruits, serials and milk, also oats, nuts, different traditional cakes and sweets. I swear, that`s more than enough to be full and feel happy. For drinks they had very good aromatic coffee, tea, fresh juice and home-made lemonade.

If you like beer – Italian beer is the best for me. One of the best brands is BIRRA COOP. You can buy it at the local supermarkets for 0.85 € per 660 ml. Honestly, I don`t like beer, but this one you should definitely try!

As we spent almost all days working at the office with our mentor Samuel and our Italian colleagues, we shared lunch time and coffee breaks together. Italians have a tradition of drinking a couple of cups of good Italian coffee daily. We drank it together with our colleagues at the office before lunch.

We had lunches at the local restaurant near our hotel. So, every day everyone gathered together and in one working minibus drove to the restaurant. The restaurant is called “Ristorante San Giorgio”. It was always crowded. Every day they had a different menu, so that`s how we were able to try everything! The food was delicious, I swear! By the way, all of us were sitting at the same table – that was an amazing teambuilding experience. So, Italians have 4 dishes at lunch. The first is a salad with fresh vegetables, 2nd is usually different types of pasta (with spaghetti), 3rd is different Italian garnish with meat or fish, 4th is desert, either tiramisu, cheesecake, or frozen coffee!!! Frozen coffee I have seen only in Italy. For drinks they served sparkling or still water and coffee without milk. But foreigners, be careful, Italians NEVER EVER drink latte in the afternoon! If you order latte for lunch, waiters will laugh and will ask you again: Madam, what do you want to order? For us it was totally new, but I always ordered latte for lunch despite the fact that it was weird for other .

5. The Rules of Drinking Coffee in Italy.

Cappuccinos and any other milk-based coffee beverages are considered breakfast in Italy. Italians only enjoy milky coffee in the morning ― never in the afternoon, and especially not after a meal!” Sure, these days it’s easy to find a cappuccino or latte almost any time of day in Italy, but those are on the menu only to make tourists happy ― it is not an accepted part of Italian coffee culture. When Italians need a little caffeine in the afternoon, they drink an espresso or ristretto. But they don’t call it espresso, because in Italy it’s just a coffee (or caffé).

Pizza time!

Also, for lunch they might have pizza, but not one big pizza for everyone at the table. Instead, each person will order his/her own huge pizza. We are used to ordering one big pizza for the whole company. There is one strict rule in Italy! NEVER EVER leave any food on your plate! Before ordering something, be sure that you will be able to eat everything! It`s very rude and impolite to leave some food on your plate. In such situation, waiters will think that they have a problem with the served food, or that you don`t like what they served. Even so, I found a solution. Each time when you feel full, kindly ask waiters to pack your orders for takeaway. Italians have big, even huge portions, so calculate your capabilities.

6. Toll roads and Parking Places.

Toll roads in Italy are in perfect condition and aren’t expensive. Remember, almost all of northern Italy is mountainous , so if your navigator tells you to avoid toll roads, don`t listen to it! Always use toll roads for your comfort and safety. In Italy, drivers and police are very strictly watching for speed limits! There are a lot of serpentine roads that are very dangerous! Also, steep descents and climbs, and narrow roads can make you feel uncomfortable. So, don't be fools! Follow road signs and control your speed!

Be careful at roundabouts, locals never use their turn signals – that causes car accidents! Also, be careful with motorcyclists, there are lots of them and they are riding very fast! Italians prefer to have a motorcycle as a second vehicle in the family. Parking places everywhere in Italy are expensive and there are big fines for violators. The cost per hour is from 1.30 € to 2 € depending on the city and its number of tourist attractions. Near hotels or supermarkets, you can find a free parking places, which can be used only for one hour, then you should move your car, or pay for the parking. To track how long you are parked all rental cars have a special blue timer-sign in the glove compartment of the car. You should start the timer and put it under the windshield. That`s how you will know for how long you parked the car and how much you should pay for parking. Also, this timer is for police officers. Don`t forget to use it.

All mountain roads have incredible views, with beautiful “Swiss” lakes and cute bright towns. Believe me, you will enjoy your car trip.

7. Park in the Levico Terme.

On our first evening when Samuel let us go from work a little earlier, we decided to drive to the town Levico Terme and see the lakes Levico and Caldonazzo. This place is a popular holiday destination among Italians. And here it is why:

On sunny summer days, water in the lakes is extremely clear and warm. This is the reason why lots of people come and spend their time at the lakes. This place is very relaxing and joyful. What could be more beautiful than that?

8. Verona.

When I was 10 years old I visited Rome, Pompeii, Venice and Florence, but I was too young to remember everything. Despite all this, it seems to me that Verona is the most beautiful city I visited in the whole of Italy! If you want an Italian city that’s packed with romance, beauty and culture, (plus really good gelato), then Verona is for you. It has a heart and soul and isn’t as overpopulated as other Italian destinations such as Rome or Venice. If you want to see everything here, you need to spend 2-3 days, but we had only a couple of hours to discover the city. A lot of Verona’s best attractions are romantic, so open your heart and you’ll have an amazing time. The best time to visit this city is June-August when the weather is nice and the grass is green.

Juliet's House

One of the first attraction that we wanted to visit was a Juliet`s house. Verona is home to Shakespeare’s legendary love story, Romeo and Juliette. When you will find this place you will see a narrow passage. As you walk inside, there is a wall where people have written love letters or phrases to their loved ones. The highlight of Juliet’s house is the balcony. Just be aware that the balcony was built in the 20th century and this really is nothing more than a tourist trap.

Delicious ice-cream (Gelato)

Italians are famous for their ice-cream, and they make the best gelato in the world. It’s typically around 2-3 € euro for a one ball of ice-cream in Verona.

The Verona Arena

One of the best things about Italian cities and towns is that there is always a high spot somewhere in them allowing you to appreciate their beauty from a bird’s-eye view. The best view of Verona you can get is from the hill near the castle San Pietro! To get there you should cross the old and pretty bridge - Ponte Pietra. After the bridge you should cross the road and walk up the street until on your right you find the funicular railway. The ride costs 2 € per person for both directions. No visit is complete without stopping at the terrace of the castle on the summit of the hill, which is a perfect spot to check out the incredible view. Use funicular to see the gorgeous view! It was the best way to end our day in Verona!

Funicolare di Castel San Pietro

One of the best things about Italian cities and towns is that there is always a high spot somewhere in them allowing you to appreciate their beauty from a bird’s-eye view. The best view of Verona you can get is from the hill near the castle San Pietro! To get there you should cross the old and pretty bridge - Ponte Pietra. After the bridge you should cross the road and walk up the street until on your right you find the funicular railway. The ride costs 2 € per person for both directions. No visit is complete without stopping at the terrace of the castle on the summit of the hill, which is a perfect spot to check out the incredible view. Use funicular to see the gorgeous view! It was the best way to end our day in Verona!

9. White nights in Bolzano

My opinion was that the less famous a city is, the less it`s attractive. That`s incorrect! The less popular a place is, the more interesting it is. A good example of this is a small city called Bolzano in the north of Italy. This city has lots of tiny streets with old small houses. Great gothic cathedrals, old bell towers, castles on the hills and a huge central park with the river Talfer and waterfalls are the best attraction of this city. There are lots of shopping streets with beautiful colourful houses. It has a huge free park, Parko Petrarca, surrounded by the Alps.

When we walked around the city, we saw a crowded square with people in white clothes. Everyone was wearing white clothes and all the streets were decorated in white colour. Along the streets there were white long tables outside the restaurants. Waiters were asking people in white to sit and have a dinner or taste a wine. That all looked like a huge wedding with street instrumental music, but it appeared to be an event. This event is called “white night” (“notte Bianca” in Italian). During the entire night all shops, restaurants and bars are open. There are lots of musicians in every corner of the city. That`s all to make your evening very romantic and fabulous.

10. Lake Garda

Italian lakes (usually found in the North of Italy) are famous around the world! I swear, you heard about Lake Del Garda , even my granny was there. She wants to return there. She said it is one of the best places in the world. This place was the last in our must see list. Lake Garda is located in the city Riva del Garda, which is situated in the northern most region. The city with its Mediterranean climate, the colors, mood, and scenery of the 370km Lake Garda changes with the wind. Riva del Garda is the second largest town, with a deep history that dates back to the Republic of Venice. It has breath-taking, mountainous views embracing you everywhere you go.

There is something beguiling about the fact that the lake was formed by a glacier during the last ice age! Its backdrop of snow-capped mountains and natural rhythm of life has inspired the art of famous poets and painters. If you want to forever remember this place, you should spend there at least one week. It is possible to spend lots of hours sitting on the embankment, listening to street musicians and looking at the water. That’s what takes you to the world of your imagination and dreams!

That was an amazing business trip! I couldn't even imagine that it would be so! Amazing country, gorgeous culture, friendly people and VERY tasty local foods - all of this makes me wonder when I will (be able to) go back again!

P.S. We are very grateful to Samuel, CEO Albino and all our colleagues in XLAM DOLOMITY who made our business trip comfortable and unforgettable!

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