Do I need a Visa to visit Italy?
US citizens do not need a visa to visit the European Union, only a valid passport that does not expire within 6 months of the retreat. Non-US citizens should check for entry requirements.
Do I need to learn Italian?
Italian is the official language of Italy, and it is important to note that city names will be in Italian (Florence, for example is Firenze in Italian). English is widely spoken, and you’ll often find signs/menus in both languages. If you’d like to learn some Italian beforehand, it will be more fun! Babbel and Duolingo are free apps that will teach you common words and phrases.
Should I bring Euros or exchange US cash? Can I use a credit card?
It generally is easiest to simply use an ATM upon arrival at the airport to withdraw Euros. Exchanging US cash or obtaining Euros in the US usually incures more fees. Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted. It is VERY important to inform all credit/debit cards you plan to use that you will be visiting Italy. If not, they may block all transactions.
What is the weather like?
Weather in September in Tuscany should be highs in the high 70s to low 80s, with lows in the mid 60s at night. We recommend bringing lightweight layered clothing as it may be hotter or cooler than average. Rainfall is unlikely, with September averaging 3in of rain in Tuscany.
What time zone is Italy?
Italy is on Central European Time and is (GMT +2) during Summer Daylight-Saving Time (March-October).
What type of clothing should I wear?
Of most importance is to be comfortable, and comfortable shoes are a must in Italy. Italians do tend to “dress up” more than Americans, so you may want to bring some dressier clothes/shoes that are comfortable. We recommend that any day you plan to visit a church, be sure your knees and shoulders are covered (ladies can bring a scarf to cover shoulders if necessary). Some churches do not have a strict dress code, but others do. We’ll practice yoga in the mornings, which could be cool/cold, so we recommend layered options.
Any other customs I should be aware of?
Be prepared for an afternoon sietsa, so shops and restaurants may be closed during the late afternoons. Italians like to kiss hello, and appreciate it when you speak some Italian, even though their English is often perfect.
How should I order at restaurants and cafes?
At cafes, there can be a different price for food and drink taken while standing (ie: a cappucino at the bar or gelato to go) compared to the same item consumed while sitting at their tables. Anytime you sit at a table, there is a small, per person cover charge, and the food/drink costs may be higher as well. To order at the bar, you generally pay for it first at the cashier, then hand the receipt to the person making coffee/sandwiches/gelato. When dining at a table, you will always need to request the check, they will not bring it.
How much should I tip?
Tipping is appreciated but not always expected in Italy, and it is not expected that you would tip as much as you do in the US.
What time are the transfers to/from Florence?
On the beginning Saturday of the retreat, we will depart the Santa Maria Novella train station at 1:30pm. The drive to the country villa is approximately 1.5-2 hrs. On the final Saturday of the retreat, you can travel on your own from the hotel in Florence–either to the airport or continuing your travels. The hotel will assist you in arranging a taxi, and can hold your bags after checkout if you are not departing Florence until late in the day.
Should I rent a car or travel by train if I am traveling on my own?
Travel by train is generally the easiest and most cost-effective way to see Italy. Train routes between major cities are frequent and you will generally be within walking distance or a short taxi ride from your destination. Some more remote or hilly areas (Chianti, for example), are better accessed by car. The app Trains Timetable Italy by Paolo Conte is free and provides prices and schedules–you will need to use the Italian city names (Firenze is Florence, for example).
How to I buy tickets for the train or bus?
It is important to purchase your train or bus tickets beforehand, as there is a penalty fee collected for tickets purchased on a train, and busses do not sell tickets. Train tickets are easily purchased at kiosks at train stations (be sure to validate the ticket in the separate validation machine), and bus tickets can be purchased at any tabacchi/bar.
How to do I reserve a space on the retreat?
Register online and place your deposit, this reserves your space on the retreat.
When is the balance due?
The balance is due 120 days prior to the retreat.
How do I pay the balance?
We will send you an electronic invoice to pay securely online.
What is included in the cost of the retreat?
Scheduled transfers to/from Florence, 7 nights lodging, most meals beginning with dinner on arrival day and ending with breakfast on departure day (excludes 4 lunches on your own), yoga sessions, adventures as listed in your retreat.
What is NOT included in the cost of the retreat?
Four lunches, gratuities, alcohol, sodas & drinks not included with meals, laundry, phone, non-mealtime food or “off menu” ordering, additional tours or transfers not included in package, spa treatments, etc.
What if I have to cancel my reservation?
If you cancel more than 120 days prior to the retreat, you will lose your deposit. Cancellation within 120 days of the retreat, there is no refund. We strongly recommend obtaining travel insurance for this reason.
What type of electricty/voltage is there?
Different from the U.S.: Italy is 220V/50Hz. U.S. is 110V/60Hz. The plug shapes are also different, so you will need a plug adapter so that your plug fits into a socket, PLUS a voltage converter to reduce the voltage to 110V. Without a voltage converter, your device will receive double its normal electicity. Most laptop computers have a voltage converter included (it is the black box attached to the cord).
Will there be internet?
Yes, although first and foremost we invite you to UNPLUG. Wireless internet is available at the main areas of both locations. Please note that the internet may be slower than you are used to, and may be unavailable at times.
Is there cell phone coverage?
For the most part, yes (depends on your provider), although first and foremost we invite you to UNPLUG. Check with your service provider regarding international roaming rates, as they are very expensive without an international plan. We recommend keeping your smart phone on airplane mode during the retreat to avoid incurring fees for data, texts and calls.
Should I get a cell phone while in Italy?
It is possible to purchase a phone and a month-long plan in Italy (calls + data). Alternately, you can purchase a SIM card and montly plan while in Italy, but these can only go into an unlocked phone (most phones in the US are not unlocked). A free option would be to have Skype or Viber installed on your smart phone for use via wifi.
Do I need any shots or medications to visit Italy?
There are no shots or medications required to visit Italy. Please consult your healthcare provider if you have concerns or would like recommendations based on your health history.
Can we drink the water?
Yes, all water in Italy conforms to European Union safety standards, although most Italians perfer to drink bottled (frizzante) water.