italiaDesign Travel Tips

These are recommendation made by the past student participants of the program. You should read these particularly once selected and before you go. This is the collected wisdom if things that can and do go wrong. They were written and submitted by past groups after return.

_it is great to have some basic photoshop or illustrator skills, as many of the assignments are presented via interactive design (but many of the other students can help and assist you through the transition of essay writing to computer presentations in the first month of classes that are held in Surrey)

_it is best to make it perfectly clear in your application what makes you desirable candidate to participate in this particular field school (the best candidates have a genuine interest or background in architecture, industrial design or innovation and technology, that said, this program looks for the best from all academic areas and welcomes diversity of all kinds)

_what are your future goals and aspirations? Does it involve design? You must really go into the field school with a passion for the topic, otherwise you will be sadly disappointed, because it is not a vacation, it is a study, and there is a lot of hard work completed in preparation, during and proceeding the study in Italy

_if you own or have access to a laptop it can be of great value and convenience to you during this study (it is not mandatory, but the more the merrier!)

Travel Tips:

Come prepared!

_make sure you do not do your packing the night before. This avoids the packing of unnecessary items that only create more space.

_remember that this is a research study, so come prepared with the essential academic resources (pens, a notebook, laptop, course books, etc.-some items can be divided amongst the group to lighten the load, but you find you often want your own sources if you are able to bring them).

_if you are bringing a laptop, digital camera, ipod, video camera, make sure they are covered by insurance and all your information is backed up on an external hardrive or burned on CD because there is also the chance that something can get lost or stolen.

_purchase all your traveling goods weeks before departure (you'll be so busy up until the day you go)

_it will sometimes be overwhelming how much you will do in a single day or a week of work.

Do your research!

_find yourself a great map book of Italy and familiarize yourself with the cities, towns and places you will be visiting and the possible places you may like to visit on your weekends off. You will have time to explore on your own, and it is very rewarding to have a plan before you get there to accomplish some personal site seeing rather than following the crowd and feeling lost while you are there. My best advise is to list the things that you would like to experience on your own that you may or may not see with the group and mark them on a single map. You may not be able to see or experience it all, but at least you had the intention and prior knowledge of its existence beforehand.

_create a mock plan/itinerary for your free weekends and really try to travel outside the cities you are studying. Get a sense of what it might take/cost to get to a particular destination You will find that these moments may be the most memorable.

_read or watch as many Italian things as possible before you go...You'll wish you knew more when you got there! For example, there are lots of travel videos and DVD's at the local libraries.

Travel Light!

_you will be coming home with more than when you left! So leave your suitcase half full, and in the other half pack another bag! You will be in Italy, so there is no better excuse then to indulge in a purchase that comes from your favorite designer because it is made there, and generally is cheaper than what you can find at home!

_you should only be taking one piece of luggage when you are traveling to Italy (Coming home may vary on personal indulgence). Your main piece, should be a large soft backpack from mountain equipment co-op (will provide specs) and your carry on, which may be a smaller backpack, shoulder bag, or carry on suitcase (regulation size and weight). Suggest leaving with luggage half empty and an extra soft bag inside to fill out the other half of your bag as you purchase and find stuff.

Health & Safety!

_make a copy of your important documents (passport, credit cards, driver's license, etc) and leave a copy at home incase of emergencies

_don't look like a tourist. Be wary when opening maps or taking out your camera

_if you get carsick sit in front or carry supply of anti-nausea medications. ALL participants should bring some. We drive A LOT, and often in the heat of the day. A small battery-operated fan or hand-held one is a good idea for this as well.

_metro and train stations are infamous for thieves. Wear your bag in front of your chest and secure your money or wallet in a safe spot. If traveling by train on weekends or at any time, be VERY careful about falling asleep or leaving your bag out of sight.

_bugs and heat: not a problem in most places, but we have found Florence to be problematic for mosquitoes and other night bugs that bite. These bites seem to remain on some people for weeks after and some people seem to really attract them while others don't. Who knows. But, all participants are advised to bring a roll of mosquito net as you would buy in a roll at the hardware store, in the size of a large window (4 x 6 ?), and some masking tape to seal the window. You will need to keep windows open: it's HOT!!! So this is really important advice. Also on this issue, a small electric fan would not hurt, the rooms can get really hot and when you're hot all day and all night, heat exhaustion is a real concern. Lastly, all students should bring "Afterbite" medication.


_apply for as many bursaries as possible!!!! Even if you think you are not a candidate, applying for a bursary can really help in reducing costs! There is a specific bursary eligible for all field school students which all applicants should apply for).

_do not rely on the bursary to pay for your trip because you do not find out if you received a bursary until half way through your travels, and you may end up with nothing. Make for alternative ways of payment, if you do receive a bursary then it can be used it pay off money owed or just simple provide you money to come home to.

_bring more money then you think is needed, it is better to bring more than enough then to be stuck with nothing. You want to be able to go out for a great dinner or taste amazing cheeses and wines. If you limit your financing and prevent yourself from a full cultural experience then you will not enjoy your experience.

_it is also a great idea to bring a visa or mastercard (if you do not already have apply for one well in advance of your depature) it is great to have when you feel uncomfortable carrying large sums of money.

_set up an online banking system with you bank so you can keep track of your finances while you are away. It is also a great idea to give a family member back home access to your account in case of an emergency.

_make sure your debit card contains a 4 digit pin code. Many of the machines will not read a higher number.

_you can only take out about 200 euros at a time with the bank machines

_in order to get your taxes back, you must spend about 150 euros in one place and ask them for the customs form (not all stores will do this). You will need to get this stamped at a EU airport before you leave for home.


_know a few good simple recipes (basic ingredients are tomatoes, basil, pasta, parmesan, oil & vinegar,...)

_splurge on a good meal once in awhile

_try out local trattorias. If eating out find a "trattoria", these are cheaper and often better than "ristorantes". "Osterias" can also be good.

_gratuity is often included in the bill ('il conto')...but for exceptional service, you can tip an extra 10%.

_cappuccino and caffelattes are morning drinks and not normally consumed after 11am

_try to avoid eating around tourist attractions...they will be the most expensive!

_stay hydrated! Drink lots of water throughout the day to avoid dehydration!

_tap water is safe throughout Italy; Bottled water is served at restaurants (frizzante or naturale)

_cappuccino and caffe lattes are morning drinks and not normally consumed after 11am. Drink whatever you like, but best advice? Get use to drinking espresso, it really is the best coffee in the world and you won't find a bad espresso anywhere in Italy. Italian live by espresso, it really can help you keep up with pace and demands of the field school. Suggested ways to wean into espresso? Ask for it "macchiato", which means, "marked", which adds just a stroked of milk foam to the top, so order it "un espresso macchiato". But the key is add lots of sugar and stir it in. It should taste like a dessert. Then once a bit more used to its strength, go all in!! Order it double and add lots of sugar. Vrrrroooommmm!!!! Order this one just by saying caffe, not espresso, "caffe doppio". Honestly, few things will make your trip better and more enjoyable then enjoying caffe life every day.


_when buying produce at the store, you must bag and weigh your own produce. Once you bag your produce, place it on a weighing platform and select the button with the corresponding bin number or look for the picture that corresponds. Place the label on the bag.

_shopping bags are not provided and you will be charged (like Superstore). You must also bag your own food.


_don't spend all day on the Internet (no matter how out of touch you feel)...You're in Italy! Pre-write your emails before going to the Internet café to save on time and money

_check out concerts playing during your stay (Look up the Cornetto Free Music Festivals )

_make sure to spend time in the galleries and museums on your own time (Uffizi, San Marco, Bargello, etc)

Stuff to do:

_when in Rome, go to the McDonald's by the Spanish Steps for free Wireless Internet.

_in Milan, go to the Tourist Information office by the Piazza Reale and ask for the different tourist maps (shopping, night life, tourist attractions).

_the best fashion shopping will be done in Milan. For specialty Italian items, go to the small towns.

_in Florence, go to the 'Oil Shoppe' for the best sandwiches. This is a field study tradition.

_sometimes hotels have free Internet for guests, but be sure to look the part! This is helpful in Milan where Internet is scarce

Recommended shopping:

_the Mall Outlet Center - designer fashions

_serravalle Outlet - designer fashions

_alessi Outlet, Omegna (@ the Alessi factory) - housewares

_il Salvagante, Milan - designer fashions

_vestistock, Milan - designer fashions

What to Pack:

_essentials: Passport, Credit cards, Bank card, Euros, driver's license and International driver's license, travel insurance, prescriptive medication, contact information


_long-sleeve shirt

_light jacket

_dress clothes (for evenings out)


_lightweight cotton pants






_bath towel

_beach towel

_comfortable walking shoes*

_sandals or house slippers

_swimsuit (Speedos will suffice)



_portable fan*

_condiments (salt, pepper)

_comfort foods/snacks*

_laundry detergent

_dishwashing soap

_plasticware (bowl/plate/cup)


_pots or pan

_large pot (for pasta - coordinate with group to have at least one)

_cooking utensils (often supplied, but have at least the essentials)

_disposable Tupperware (for leftovers and lunches)

_plastic sandwich bags

_clothing line + pins/hangers*

_screens (for windows)

_toiletries (shampoo, soap, etc)

_mosquito coils*

_mosquito repellent*

_after bite/calamine lotion*

_water spray bottle

_alarm clock


_guidebook and phrase book

_MP3 Player + charger

_deck of cards

_power adapter/convertors

_laptop + chargers

_digital camera + charger, USB cable, extra memory cards

_journal + notebook*

_school supplies

_comfortable daybag*

For more helpful information, go to


1) comfortable runners (as you will be doing a lot of walking!)

2) after bite & calomine lotion (because the mosquitoes are ruthless, and none of the windows have screens, and none of the rooms have air conditioning)

3) portable fan (because you don't want to have to share with the rest of the group when only one person thinks to bring one....and because it's super hot in the afternoons when you are walking all over the city)

4) comfortable daypack (backpack or shoulder bag suitable for wear all day and secure to prevent pick-pocketing)

5) journal or notebook (it is important to record and keep track of all the sites you visit, tours you make, personal moments, and studio tours. It is handy if it is not large in size so it can be accessible from your daypack at any moment during your journey. Believe me!!!! You don't want to come home and begin looking through your photos and realizing you have absolutely no idea what you are looking at. Also, once you return home and you will find you slowly fall into your old familiar pattern but you quickly forget all of the great, yet simple moments you will experience while in Italy-this is very important and you will appreciate it in the end-SO WRITE IT DOWN!.)

6) comfort food (bring packable food items from home that you know you simply can't live without for 6 weeks. Simple items such as instant noodles, kraft dinner, peanut butter, fruit to go, granola bars, etc. are hard (impossible) to find in Italy, and very expensive. It will help save you if you're in a jam, situations like you weren't able to get to the "Standa" (grocery store), or you are so sick of your same old penne with pesto (because it was cheaper to buy it in a larger quantity).)

7) laundry detergent & laundry hangers (there are very rare moments when you will have access to a laundry facility, so you will have to handwash your clothing (and you really want to have clean clothes to wear when you spend all day sweating in the heat).)