Well the big day is rapidly approaching, less than 2 months to go!
Our friend and guide has been kind enough to provide us a list of what we need to take on our trip:
European Travel Tips
Common Costs. Common costs are those items that we have to pay for on a day to day basis that are common to everyone. Examples are gas/diesel for the van; tolls on the Autostrada; parking; local trains, busses, metro lines, boats, ferries; food purchases from grocery stores (basically at the villa); taxis and/or shuttle busses. Common costs do not include payment for rooms, major train, museum and tour purchases prior to our trip, meals, van rental.
Phones. Make sure you have European capable phone.
Adapters/Transformers/Extension Cords. Make sure you have adapters for Europe. The standard European two pronged adapter works in Italy, however, the Italians have three pronged electrical outlets. That center prong is a ground. I would bring an extension cord because in Europe, especially in smaller hotels/bed and breakfast places there are far fewer outlets than in the States. Most things we use today are dual voltage (220/110). However, you need to check your electrical items to be sure. Sometimes hair dryers are still only 110 and if you plug a 110 appliance into a European outlet, you might want to have the fire department number handy. It will quickly go up in smoke.
Italians eat later than we do. Unless it is a place specifically designed to address mobs of tourists, most places won’t serve before 7 pm and most Italians won’t even show up before 8 pm. In much of Europe outside of the German speaking areas, it is difficult to get restaurants to divide the bill. In some cases they will but don’t expect it. Many smaller restaurants do not take credit card either. Tips are not expected as in most all cases it is included in the cost. I usually round up to the next Euro unless it was very good and then might go up 1 plus. For the cleaning staff in hotels I normally leave about a Euro per day. This does not pertain to the Villa since we are on our own there. In Italy, many restaurants charge coperto, which is live a cover charge. Basically it is your place setting, the dinnerware and glasses. Normally about 2 Euro a place. When buying things like Gelato from a shop, check the prices first. Most are quite reasonable, but occasionally you will get sticker shock from some that routinely sell to tourists.
Stores are closed on Sunday except in those areas that focus entirely on tourists. Stores are closed between noon and 3 pm in most areas. Remember tax is included in the price of things you buy…not added on like it is in the States.
Travel documents. Make a photocopy of your passport picture page and keep it separate from your actual passport. It is easier to get a replacement if you have that information available.
Travel as light as you can. They don’t have dryers but they do have clothes lines. However, the Machines are small and take long time as European wash machines boil the water.
Although the weather south of Lake Como should be mild, it is still April and it can be chilly, especially at night. I would bring a sweater and jacket. And of course, never go to Europe without an umbrella.
Your best bet for getting cash is using your ATM Debit card. Travelers checks are out. Ditto for exchanging large amounts of American cash. You might want to check with your bank to see if there is a European/Italian bank that is a partner. Many/most banks have a charge for a withdrawal, regardless of how large. I normally try to withdraw as many Euros as possible in one draw. If your bank has a partner bank, it is possible you will not have any withdrawal fee. The ATM card must have a 4 digit pin number to access the machines. Also, notify your credit card and ATM card companies of your travel plans.
Europeans use chip and pin credit cards. This means that they do not have to sign for purchases. We have the old fashion slide card or the chip but sign cards here in the States. This has no impact at all on most purchases as the seller can use our cards with no problem. The only case where our cards do not work is at automated machines, like Metro tickets, some train tickets or automated toll booths. Do not worry about your credit card, as long as you notify the card company of your travel plans.