1. Make time to see attractions at sunset or at night. If you are taking photos, the best light is often in the last hour of the day. If you can, visit popular tourist attractions after 9pm to avoid crowds and get a different perspective. Sometimes seeing things at night can be a new experience in itself.
2. Buy tickets to the main attractions in advance, either online or buy phone.
3. Don’t be frightened when people drive two inches from your bumper. They mean no harm, even if you can smell the breath of the uber-aggressive Italian driver behind you. If you can pull over and let them pass, do so, but don’t let their driving scare you.
4. Don’t be worried when you see people driving in the middle of the road. Italians have a habit of driving over the center line of the road or between lanes, not to one side of it. A friendly honk on your horn should set them straight. Don’t be afraid to use your horn.
5. Slow down and relax in Tuscany. People in Italy do things on their own time and schedule and you should follow their lead while in Tuscany. Take time for a 2 hour lunch, sit and enjoy your surroundings, and don’t dwell on what you haven’t accomplished yet.
6. Businesses will likely be closed during lunch (12-2pm) and all day Sunday.
7. Keep a picnic basket in your car with snacks and drinks. You might not find a restaurant or a market open when you get really hungry.
8. Expect to see creepy bugs. They are part of the Tuscan charm factor, no I did not say Fear Factor.
9. Don’t drive too much. Roads are curvy.
10. Start drinking wine at lunch.
11. Eat as much salami as you can handle, breakfast-lunch-dinner, it’s acceptable. Learn the differences in salami types–Milanese, Sienese, Bolognese, and Prosciutto.
12. Never underestimate the power of a 3Euro plastic toy camera to bribe a child to continue walking a few more kilometers. You might even want to buy two in case they break or lose the first one.
13. It’s true, the gelato is just better here. Also works well as a bribe for children.
14. If you are traveling from the United States, invest in a prepaid SIM card with a dataplan. This will allow you to use data without the fear of unnecessary roaming charges from US providers. This will allow you to check in on FourSquare, post photos in real time, and use the map on your phone.
15. Rent a GPS device if you will be driving, but don’t be caught without a secondary map- iPhone or printed map.
16. Tipping is optional in many places in Europe, including Italy. Don’t feel bad not leaving a tip at restaurants.
17. Carry cash or American Express. Not all restaurants will accept Visa or Mastercard. Consider getting a prepaid American Express card and loading it with cash before your trip.
18. Be prepared for tollways. If you plan to drive on the Autostrada or other roads from the major cities into Tuscany, you will have to pay tolls and most do accept Visa.
19. Don’t order like an American and don’t compare the food to the way it tastes in America. Ask the waiter what their specialty is or what they recommend. Try wild boar or something new.
20. Try the beer, and I’m not talking about Peroni. Although known for their wine the Tuscany area does have some beer worth trying. I enjoyed the Birra Artigianale Fedora, from Birrificio 26 Nero, which is produced in small batches outside of Monticiano by brewmaster Fabio Massellucci.
21. Buy large quantities of the Pecorino cheese, you won’t regret it. You can find it in shops throughout Tuscany, especially in the province of Grosseto. If you find this tip useful, buy me a wheel and email me- I’ll send you my address. Grazie!
22. Spend more time in fewer locations. It is very easy in Tuscany to bite off more than you can chew. To truly experience towns like Florence and Siena you need several days at each, not hours.
23. Use Google to help you prepare for your trip. You can search Google Images for places you are considering visiting to see what it looks like before you get there. Typically things that people have enjoyed they will take photos of. Use Google Maps with Photos turned on to see what the roads look like that you may be driving. This will help you pick the more scenic routes or avoid the most curvy roads.