Some things I learned in Italy

Travel always is a learning experience. That’s why I love it and why I’m starting my daughter out early. I want her to learn about the world from real-life experiences, to augment what she learns at home and what she learns at school. On this most recent trip to Italy, of course we learned plenty about history and religion and culture, but I, for one, learned a few other things. This information may be old news to some of you, but hopefully a traveling family out there will find my newfound knowledge to be helpful.

  • For families traveling with young children, diapers (pannolini in Italian; singular, pannolino) are easy to find. We saw them for sale in pharmacies (farmacia) in the big cities like Rome, and also in grocery stores in the smaller Tuscan towns. American parents should know their child’s height in centimeters and weight in kilograms in order to pick out the right size of diaper. The diapers are reasonably priced, comparable to the brand name prices back at home, and – this shocked me – they fit Lucia better than any diaper brand we have ever used! For that reason alone, I wish we could have stocked up and brought home suitcases full of pannolini.
  • I must have read somewhere before our trip that high chairs were not common in Italian restaurants. However I obtained that information, it’s wrong; we were offered a high chair in just about every restaurant we visited, even in the smaller towns. It made our dining experiences much more pleasant.
  • Did you know that Alitalia Airlines does not allow child passengers to sit in car seats on the airplane? I didn’t. This trip to Italy was our first international trip as a family; all of Lucia’s previous travel was done domestically. I was quite familiar with the rules and etiquette of flying with infants and toddlers within the USA but not when flying overseas. Because I am a responsible parent and a responsible traveler, I made sure to ask Alitalia when we booked our flights if Lucia, who was two years old when we traveled, would be able to sit in her car seat. The representative I spoke to said yes, the car seat is allowed. We were relieved to hear that because we knew we would need a car seat once we were in Italy since we would have a rental car. Otherwise, we could have rented one from Hertz, at an additional cost, along with the car. So, imagine my surprise (frustration, anger, etc.) when we checked in for our flight at O’Hare and the Alitalia agents told us the car seat is not allowed, it’s “against the rules of the Italian FAA”, and that we would have to check, and pay extra for, the car seat. I won’t get into the gory details but I will let you know that we did check the car seat but we did NOT pay for it, nor did we pay for it on the return flight home.
  • While I’m on the topic of Alitalia Airlines… If you’re flying Alitalia, it’s a good idea to find out ahead of time from which terminal your flight is leaving. We experienced a bit of confusion when we arrived at Fiumicino for our flight home. The taxi driver dropped us off at the International Terminal. We waited in line to check in only to find out from the Alitalia agent that flights to the United States do not leave from the International Terminal (even though, last time I checked, a non-stop flight from Rome to Chicago is considered “international”). All flights to the USA depart from Terminal 3. Again, as you would any time you travel, double check your flight and terminal information beforehand; things may have changed with Alitalia at Fiumicino by now.
  • Lastly, something I learned about myself: my Italian language skills are a lot better than I remember! It was like it all came back to me as soon as I stepped off that airplane upon our arrival. It is possible to get by in Italy knowing just a few words in Italian, but being able to converse, ask for directions, or buy train tickets fully in Italian, definitely made things a lot easier for us.

What’s one thing you learned, about either your destination or yourself, during your travels to Italy – or anyplace else?

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4 Responses to Some things I learned in Italy

  1. Amber Roth DeGrace June 6, 2012 at 9:01 am #

    I would love to hear how you got them to check the carseat. 😉 We had great luck with United – both carseats checked for free (with no damage) and all attendants were so good with them.

    • Francesca June 6, 2012 at 9:42 am #

      We flew United once with Lucia and they were great with us, as well. As for Alitalia… when I explained the situation to the agents at O’Hare, about how we were given wrong information about bringing the car seat onto the plane, they were slightly understanding and agreed to let us check the car seat at no charge. Fiumicino was a different story. I explained, in English, the situation to the first agent we encountered; she understandably called for her supervisor when I emphatically stated that we will not be paying extra to check the car seat. Her supervisor arrived and they had a conversation, in which they said some not-so-nice things about me – in Italian. They didn’t realize that I understand Italian, so when I answered them to let them know that I knew exactly what they were saying, I got to check the car seat for free 🙂

  2. Leah Travels (@L_e_a_h) June 7, 2012 at 12:29 pm #

    I think it’s absolutely amazing that you’re exposing your daughter to the world. She’ll only be better for it. Good on you!

    • Francesca June 7, 2012 at 3:15 pm #

      That’s why I do it, Leah. I hope that’s the way it works out 🙂 Thanks again for your overly kind words!

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