DSCN2647It might have been Under the Tuscan Sun that really jump started the craze, but there is something about spending a day on an olive grove helping out with the harvest that has always appealed to visitors to Italy, especially outdoorsy types exploring the small hilltop towns of Tuscany.

If you are in search of your own harvest experience, you’re in luck.

You’ll be one of the most welcome kinds of visitors to Italy!

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No matter the season, staying on an Italian winery is always an eye-opening experience. From the simple beauty of repetition as row after row of wine grapes undulates over the hillside to the earnest passion of Italian winegrowers, Italian wineries are usually stunning, serene places.

But during the fall, wineries explode with action. Grapes are picked as fast as possible to capture the peak of flavor and just as furiously pressed into juice.

While wine preferences are a deeply personal matter, there are a handful of winery inns and hotels that I love share with my clients because they cannot fail to impress.

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While we may complain about sales tax in the U.S., as a member of the European Union, Italy must charge a whopping 20% value-added tax on most goods. Not such a big deal on a bottle of water, but when you're buying some Prada sandals - even at the outlet - that's a steep fee.

Fortunately for those of us travelers looking to pick up some luxury goods to bring home, you can actually get a refund on a portion (about 10-12%) of your sales tax if you spend over €155 in one shop in one day. Unfortunately, like many bureaucratic things in Italy, it takes a bit of work.

How to Get a VAT Refund in Italy - At the Store

To be eligible for a refund, request an IVA (VAT is called IVA in Italy) invoice for customs at the register at the time of purchase. You'll need to show your passport at the store to demonstrate that you are not an EU-citizen to get the paperwork.

If you don't have it with you or forget and are able to return to the store at some other point during your trip, you can sometimes get this form later, but you must return to the exact store in which you made your purchase, not another outpost of the same chain.

How to Get a VAT Refund in Italy - At the Airport

On your way home, take all of your invoices and head to your departure airport a little early to get your paperwork stamped at the customs office. These are usually pretty easy to spot in the check-in area, but sometimes they are downstairs in the arrivals area near the rental car desks and currency exchange booths. You must get your papers stamped in you last EU departure point, so if you head somewhere else after Italy, save your invoices till then.

Reap the rewards of your organization with a refund in cash or as a credit on your credit card!
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italian soccer game

Photo by Flickr user John Wood

Italian soccer season begins in August, and let me tell you, in Italy, soccer is serious business.

Italians even have a different name for the sport than most European languages - calcio rather than futbol – because they’ve been playing some version of the sport since Roman times!

Next to a meal with an Italian family or a palio celebration, attending a soccer game in Italy is one of the best ways to dive into and fully experience Italian culture.

How to Get Tickets to an Italian Soccer Game

italian soccer game

Photo by Flickr user Nick

As most Italians take an extended summer holiday, the soccer season runs from August through May. Sunday is the most popular day for games, followed by Saturday.

Before you look at the season’s schedule, decide what type of game you want to see. The top teams, those known around the world like AC Milan, Roma, Inter, Fiorentina, play in the Series A, and those tickets can be expensive and hard to come by, especially in the case of important match-ups.

If you want to catch a game, but don’t particularly care who you see, check for any series to see what games are available while you’re in town.

You can often get tickets online, usually from the club or team site, but there are hefty fees that border on scalped ticket prices. The best way to get tickets is in person, at the stadium, but you’ll need to do it in advance and unfortunately most stadiums are well out of the city center and only take cash.

When you buy tickets and arrive at the stadium, you’ll need to show a photo ID as Italian soccer tickets have the attendee’s name printed on them.

Attending an Italian Soccer Game - What You Need to Know

italian soccer game

Photo by Flickr user Fatoom Qoughandoqa

Games between rival teams aren’t just heated; they can be dangerous.

Fans from the away team sit in an enclosed area to keep the home team fans from throwing things at them or attacking them and visa versa. It’s best not only to avoid sporting the away team’s colors, but not to cheer for them at all.

To keep things calm, or at least as calm as possible, Italian stadiums are alcohol-free, though smoking is incredibly common. At the entrance gate, guards check bags for bottled liquids, confiscate any alcohol, and remove the caps from any permitted beverages.

Excited fans tend to throw things on the field, either in happiness or disapproval, and there were some incidents of players being injured by projectile soda bottles several years ago.

But it's not all dangerous. The enthusiasm is contagious, so don't be surprised if you leave the game with a new pack of Italian friends.
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