Information applicable to all hotels and travelers

Much of this information is from people who travel in Europe almost weekly, or live near Cuggiono.

Try not to plan your visits to Northern Italy in August. Most of the area virtually shuts down for the month and everyone leaves town - probably due in large part to the extreme heat.

How much is my US dollar worth in Italy? Italy uses the Euro as their currency. Here is a great up-to-date Currency Converter: Universal Currency Converter

Energy conservation: (cost containment) is a big emphasis in many European hotels. To that end, some hotel rooms will have a wall mounted card slot on the interior wall next to the entry door. The lights and the heat/air conditioning won't work until you insert your key card. This can be a bit of a nuisance because the room can get quite hot during the summer, and cold during the winter if you're away for any length of time. It then takes a long time to get the room temperature back to a comfortable level. It's also a problem when two or more people are staying in a room and one person wants to leave with the key. If you have multiple keys it really isn't a problem, but if you find yourselves with only one key, the work around is fairly simple: Just about any card will work in the slot. Don't use a credit card because you might forget it. Use your BJ's, Sam's, etc. card or something else that isn't important. Most of us have a collection of old hotel key cards that we've forgotten to turn in. That's probably the best solution. Don't stuff a piece of cardboard or anything else into that slot. It probably won't work and you may jam the mechanism. Not only will you lose your lights and climate control, you'll probably incur a repair charge.

Italian faucets are frequently labeled "C" and "F."

"C" is for CALDO = HOT! Don't get burned!

"F" is for FREDDO = COLD!

Showers: Every European hotel tub and shower has an emergency call pull cord. If you're in the shower and need emergency assistance, simply pull the cord. An alarm will sound and within a few seconds your phone will ring. The phone call will be a staff member calling to determine your status. If you don't answer the phone and cancel the alert, someone will be sent to your room immediately. That's the good part. Now for the down side... What usually happens is that you'll inadvertently brush against the cord and trip the alarm. You'll realize what's happened as soon as you hear the loud buzzer. You can reach up and reset the switch and the buzzer will stop. Unfortunately, that doesn't terminate the alert. Moments later your phone will start ringing. Your heart's already pounding from the initial startle and now you're jumping out of the tub, all wet and soapy, to run across the room and grab the phone! This is when you're most likely to fall and break your neck! But don't worry, someone is probably already on the way to help you! If you do trip the alarm, it isn't a big deal. Just take your time and be careful. You'll have a good story to tell at the dinner table!

Additional information from GIOVANNA MARIA, a Milan journalist:

Food & Drink: in Italy we have two kinds of food places: "Ristoranti" and "Pizzerie". In the Pizzerie, you will find dozens kinds of pizzas and only a few other courses. They are usually cheaper than the ristorantis, but food and service are good. In Ristoranti you can try the Italian 2-3 course meal/dinner. However, if you are in a hurry, you can find sandwiches or warm courses also in some bars (pubs in your way of saying). Eating in Italy is usually cheaper than in the US. The word "Osteria" is a tavern, bar, pub, etc.

Places to See: When you have seen everything in Cuggiono (two or three days should do) and met everyone you hoped, you should take a trip to Milan, just to see the Duomo Square, the Castle and DaVinci's "Last Supper". Morimondo, Bernate, Abbiategrasso are lovely places to visit too.

Shopping: if you want to buy something, the best place is Milan, with elegant shops and big stores, but also in Magenta you will find almost the same items at a cheaper price.

After Dinner: There are some theaters in Milan offer the same musicals as in New York and London. Other performances, like films or dramas, are only in Italian.


Things you may want to consider taking with you

FROM MARK SPEZIA, a very frequent international traveler:

If you bring any electrical appliances or electronic devices such as a laptop, don't forget about the plug and phone line adapters, and transformers. You don't want to waste your vacation time trying to hunt these things down. I checked several web sites that offer products for international travelers. The site I liked best was iGo.com. The Italian grounded plug consists of three round pins arranged in a single row.

Electrical, Modem line, laptop, etc. converters: The US electrical supply current is 110-120 Volts, but the Italian supply is TWICE this amount at 220-230 Volts. If your computer is from America, you will burn up your computer if you plug it in while in Italy without first making the appropriate adjustments. Most computers will automatically adjust for the current voltage (or you might have voltage input adjustment switch) look on the back or underneath your computer, or most likely the listing on the power supply unit. Make sure it will handle voltage between 110-240 volts. If you are not sure, read the manual, or contact the manufacturer for instructions and confirmation of your computer’s compatibility with foreign voltage supplies. If your computer or peripheral hardware does not automatically adjust or have a built-in voltage change switch, you will need to buy a separate voltage converter, also known as a transformer. The converter plugs into the wall in Italy and you then plug your computer into the converter. Even if your computer can handle voltage between 110-240 the next issue is that you probably physically won’t even be able to plug your computer into the wall sockets in Italy because the American plug is a different configuration than the Italian socket. You can buy an adapter which quickly and simply allows your American plug to fit the Italian socket.

To avoid burning up your computer, it is very important to make sure that you understand the difference between a converter/transformer and an adapter. The converter/transformer changes the voltage only. The adapter changes the plug shape only. You will most likely need both items to use and protect your computer or other electronic appliances.

Toiletry items: Italian hotels do not provide wash cloths. It might sound a little silly now, but you'll miss it when you get there. You probably don't want to carry a wet washcloth in your suitcase, so consider bringing along something that's disposable. Don't forget to take your favorite soap and shampoo as they are not usually available at the hotels.

Slippers: Many hotels use tile on the floors without rugs, so you may want to bring a small pair of slippers. Tile can be cold and is slippery when wet. Some hotels do not have shower doors or even a curtain, just a drain in the floor, so the water sometimes splashes a bit. The hotel Mariuccia had shower doors and the hotel Cervo had a curtain, but several other hotels we stayed at in Italy had neither.

Alarm Clock: Most hotels in Italy do not have alarm clocks in the rooms. You will probably want to pack a small travel alarm clock just to be sure you get where you need to be on time.

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