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44 Tips for Traveling in Italy



I get lots of questions about living in Florence and emails asking for tips for traveling in Italy. So I finally decided to put all of my tips and advice together in one place! I hope you find them useful and please share any tips you have. And don't worry, I update this list and its links regularly!


1. Plan and Pre-Book major sights and attractions whenever possible, especially if you are traveling in mid-March (spring break) or between May and July.

2. Don't use third party booking websites or companies. 
Companies like TickItaly will charge you an arm and a leg for a reservation you could easily make on the official museum website (or officially sponsored website) yourself. Here is a list of official museum/gallery websites:
Vatican Museums
Roman Forum and Colosseum (combo ticket)
Borghese Gallery (Rome)
The David (Accademia, Florence)
Uffizi (Florence)
Last Supper (Milan)
Doge’s Palace (Venice)
St. Mark’s (Venice)

3. Avoid restaurants with pictures of the food.
You can read more of my tips for selecting restaurants in Italy here.

4. Make the most of the high-speed train. 
It is only takes an hour and a half to get from Florence to Rome or Florence to Venice, and only thirty minutes to get to Bologna! Plus the trains are comfortable and reliable. They are my preferred way to travel around Italy. You can purchase tickets online or through a local travel agent in Italy. But the easiest way is through the kiosk at the train station (and yes, an English option is available). If you are in Florence, the lovely staff at FlorenceForFun can help you get great discounts!

Important Train Tips - The high speed trains called "Frecciarossa" (which goes from Turin - Milan - Bologna - Rome - Naples - Salerno), "Frecciargento" (Rome to Venice, Verona, Bari/Lecce, Lamezia Terme/ReggioCalabria), and "Frecciabianca" (Milan to: Venice, Udine e Trieste; Genoa and Rome; and down to Bari, Lecce) require you to pre-purchase a ticket and reserve a seat before boarding (you must also sit in your assigned seat. These tickets are like airline tickets and are only good for the specific journey purchased. 

Regional trains (including the Leonardo Express from the airport in Rome to the main train station) have open seating (within each class of ticket) and can be used at any time. You must, however, VALIDATE regional tickets (or any train ticket without a seat assignment) by inserting it into the yellow box located at the train platform.

5. Don't let anyone help you put your luggage on the train or take it off.
This is a scam (mostly by gypsies) to force you to tip. If you are fine tipping, go for it, but be warned they are not the most upstanding characters.

6. Watch your bags as the train arrives and departs the station. 
Just incase somebody tries to hop on and steal something at the last minute.

7. Be prepared to lug all of your luggage down cobblestone streets and up stairs (and on and off trains). 
If your bag is too heavy or large to do this yourself, you need to rethink what you have packed! There are lots of streets and squares taxis can’t go down, so even if you cab it, you still might have another block or two to haul your stuff. Elevators can also be a rarity and you will often find random small sets of steps you have to navigate.

8. Bring a portable luggage scale, especially if you are traveling via discount European airlines. 
They are serious about bag weight.

9. Get up early every once and a while. 
Many cities, like Rome and Venice, have a completely different feel without the hoards of tourists. It is worth it to get an early start (especially in the hot summer) to get a different perspective of the city and to see many of the monuments not littered with people.

10. Always carry cash. 
Most places will not let you use your debit or credit card for smaller purchases and restaurants don’t split bills.

11. Wear comfortable shoes.
I can't stress this one enough!

12. Look up if your bank has any affiliations in Italy (i.e. Bank of America and BNL) to avoid service charges and fees.

13. Unlock your phone and pop in an Italian SIM card. 
If you have an iPhone that is out of contract (i.e. over two years old) this is fairly easy to do and Italian SIMs are inexpensive. You can read more about how to do this here.

14. Don't forget sunscreen.

15. Don't put cheese on seafood pasta. 
Despite how delicious the cheese is here, Italians do not put it on everything.

16. Leave valuables at home. 
Flashy jewelry says “rob me because I have money.”

17. Carry a copy of your passport instead of the original and leave the original locked in your room safe (or hidden in your room).

18. Separate your debit and credit cards. 
In case you are pick-pocketed, it is best to separate your debit/credit cards. I never keep mine together, so that if the worst happens, I always have a fall-back card.

19. Exchange money via your debit card at the ATM. 
This is the easiest way to get euros and ensures the best exchange rate.

20. Call your bank before leaving the country.

21. Bring a copy of your health insurance card.

22. Don't put your shoes or feet up on chairs or seats on the train. 
This is considered rude.

23. Don't sign the petition against drugs!
It is a scam to get your email and then sell it, or to get you to donate money.

24. Hold your wine glass by the stem. 
The heat from your hand changes the character of the wine when you hold the glass. Learn more tricks for tasting wine like a pro here.

25. Limit the amount of skin you show. 
This is for practical reasons, like entering churches, and because in general Italians show less skin.

26. Bread is not served with oil and balsamic vinegar. 
Although some places have started capitulating to American expectations.

27. You have to call a taxi, you can’t flag them down.

28. Drink the house wine, it’s delicious and cheap.


Rome
29. Start at the Roman Forum instead of the Colosseum. 
There is rarely a line at the Forum. Pick up or purchase your tickets there and when you are done, you can skip the line at the Colosseum, since you will already have your ticket.

30. Sneak into St. Peter's Basilica (Shhh!). 
If you are not on a guided tour but want to visit the basilica without waiting in another 3 hour line, you can "sneak" in. There are two ways to exit the Sistine Chapel (the end of the Vatican Museum tour). If you take the door in the back right corner (if you back is to the Last Judgment) you will head straight to the church without exiting the complex. This is how all the guides do it, so just blend in and if anyone asks, say you’re on a tour.

31. Visit the Vatican Museum at night. 
They now offer night tours, which can be reserved on the Vatican Museums’ website.

32. Skip the Vatican Museum line. 
If you find yourself in Rome without a reservation for the Vatican Museums and facing the typical 3-hour line, don’t worry you can pay (double) to skip the line. Find a shady looking gentleman hawking tours and a “skip the line” pass. These companies reserve blocks of entrance times and then sell them for double. It stinks that you will have to pay double, but it is still better than wasting 3 hours of your day. If you don’t want the tour, tell them you just want to skip the line.

33. Eat as far away from major attractions as possible.

34. Drink the water. 
The public drinking fountains throughout the city spew fresh spring water that is still brought to the city by the ancient aqueducts. The water is delicious, clean, and free!

35. The Roman Forum has zero shade, bring an umbrella or hat in the summer.


Florence
36. Opt for an aperitivo instead of dinner every once in a while. 
Aperitivi are typically served from 7ish to 9ish. You pay for the drink, usually around 7 to 10 euros, and get to enjoy the complementary buffet. Trust me it is a ton of food. You get to try new Tuscan dishes and save money.

37. Walk everywhere. 
Florence is small and the best way to see it is on foot.

38. Invest in the Florence Pass/Firenze Card. 
You get to skip the line and save money. But this only works for 72 hours, so group your activities accordingly. Click here to learn more.

39. Try new foods. 
As gross as cow’s stomach and chicken livers sound, the Florentines consider them delicacies and they are delicious.

40. Climb the Duomo's cupola.

Venice
41. Get lost.
You will get lost so why not embrace it?

42. Spend the night. 
So many tourists only come for the day and Venice is very eerie at night.

43. Take the Vaporetto down the Grand Canal (for a much cheaper tour).

44. One Venetian gondola seats six. 
To save money, pack in as many as possible, since the price is per gondola not person.


Finally, learn how to drink coffee like an Italian!


For more on traveling in Italy:
How to Make the Most of Your Semester Abroad
The Best of Italy 12-Day Itinerary 
Everything You Need to Know Before Traveling in Italy
A Day Trip Through the Amalfi Coast
Best Rooftop Bars in Florence
Rome Hippest Neighborhoods
Cinque Terre in a Day
What You Need to Know Before Buying Leather in Florence
20 Tips for Traveling the Amalfi Coast
Road Trip Through Tuscany
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Ashley B
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67 comments:

  1. Thanks for the tips! I've been going back and forth on a money belt for a three week trip to help keep cc/cash separate. Or Is keeping them in separate purse compartments or Locked up back at the hotel sufficient? Any suggestions would be appreciated! Thank you

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  2. We are off to Italy in 6 weeks. Looking forward to using all of your tips during our 10 days there.

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  3. 45 - in Rome, some of the best art isn't in museums, but in churches or in public and is free.
    46 - everywhere - If you find a restroom, use it, because who knows when you'll find another one. McDonald's often has well maintained bathrooms and it is easy enough to breeze by the lines of customers to use it without buying anything.

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    Replies
    1. Excellent contributions, thank you Kathleen!

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  4. Fantastic tips! I always appreciate what you have to share.

    Sarah
    Sweet Spontaneity

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  5. Love your tips, totally pinning and sharing now because I think they're great. When I was in Venice I got so lost but it was wonderful. I loved wandering around aimlessly, it was luxuriously relaxing.

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  6. Just came home from Rome and I thought I was being smart buying tickets ahead of time. Boy was I wrong. If you visit the Colosseum, I would recommend just showing up as those lines were empty! I couldn't believe it.

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    Replies
    1. I have never experienced no line, you were definitely lucky!

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  7. Hi!

    My name is Olivia, and I manage Student Ramblings (https://ramblingstudents.wordpress.com), a blog for students interested in Study Abroad. One of the things I’m trying to do is interview students who travel abroad and talk to them about their experiences. I was wondering if you would be willing to participate! I’d love to hear about your point of view!

    In addition to sharing your answers, I’ll link to your blog!

    If you’re interested, I’d love to hear your answer (email me at deceptivelyblonde@gmail.com) to some of the following questions :) Then I can share your good advice with my readers!

    1. Where are you in Your Education? (Sophomore, Junior, Etc.–Highschool/College)
    2. What have you decided to/are you interested in studying? 

    3. Why did you decided to study abroad; what sort of things did you consider?

    4. What program did you choose, where are you at, and how long will it last?

    5. How did you pick this program; what made it stand out above the rest?

    6. Is the program well planned; Are things running smoothly?
    7. How do you like the classes/educational/employment parts of this program? Have you learned a lot?

    8. What is the country like? Does it meet your expectations?

    9. What has been the best and worst part about your experience traveling abroad?

    10. Would you make the same decision to study abroad with this program now, as you did before?

    Thanks! Have fun in Europe; looking forward to hearing more about your adventures!! I really like your articles and point of view about life - you are definitely making the most of your trip.

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  8. This article was INCREDIBLY helpful! My fiance and I are considering a honeymoon in Italy and exploring everything -- this provided great things to consider and keep in mind. Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Kristan, I am glad you found it helpful!

      Delete
  9. Great tips. I never thought I would avoid any restaurant in Italy having food pictures on the walls. Keep sharing the informative article like this one, Ashley.

    Regards,
    Great Journeys
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  10. I've been to Italy only one time in my life. It was Venice. I totally agree with article #41, We got lost and went to absolutely amazing places , there was no tourists (except us haha), quiet, no rush. About food and restaurants: before our trip we booked a gastronomic tour of Venice on http://vivaster.com/ . We tried different types of wine and ate cicchetti (small italian snacks). It was bautiful Italian evening, we were chatting and spending a lovely time together. An English speaking guide helped us to understand different flavors of wine. So if anyone of you guys will ever be in Venice again - try it!

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  11. Thanks for your tips about the delicacies. I've been wondering how adventurous I should be when I go to an Italian restaurant. My wife and I are going on a Mediterranean cruise this Spring with a port stop at Italy. I think I'll add "try cow's stomach" to our list.

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  12. Wonderful Italian tips. Will certainly help me for my trip there :-)

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  13. Pay a visit to the Mosta Church, famous for having one of the largest domes in the world. touring europe by car

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  14. It will be a good idea to exchange your currency before leaving your home country. ATM’s are the best ways to exchange your money while you are in Italy but may be airport ATM be empty so you might not be able to exchange the money at one of the most expensive currency.

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  15. Great tips. It must have taken some effort to compile them. Thank you for the informative post

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  16. Thanks for sharing all of these great little tips! It is good to know where to go for food when you want to have that real, authentic Italian experience. I’ll be sure to know where certain dishes originated, and then get that food in those places. If I am going to be experiencing Italy, I want to be sure I experience it in the best way possible.
    Best cities to visit in Italy

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  17. I liked all the tips except No 30. It just doesn't seem right being slightly dishonest & selfish to get into 'Church'.

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    Replies
    1. It is not that you aren't allowed to go this way (you aren't breaking any Vatican rules), it is just a secret tour leaders keep to themselves. Guides are very protective of their secrets, they don't want you to know that you can go this way too.

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  18. We are planning a 10 days trip to italy this sept n ur tips just came in so handy n well equipped us in advance. Thank you so much for all ur hard work and compilations!! ����

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  19. I even have been getting a lot of helpful and informative material in your web site.

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  20. Awesome list! This will help me know what to bring and what to do. Thanks for the tips.

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  21. We just got back from two weeks touring Italy and your tips came in so handy. Especially the one about lugging around a heavy suitcase - on and off trains, dragging it along numerous stretches of narrow cobblestone streets and all those stairs! I still wound up leaving things behind in every hotel we stayed at - a hair dryer, umbrella, pair of heavy shoes, two extra tops - anything to lighten the load! You can travel with far less than you think. Thanks so much.

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    Replies
    1. Glad you found this helpful and had a fabulous trip!

      Delete
  22. Great tips. Our first trip to Italy is only 50 days away. We are trying to figure out the best way to get from Rome to Sienna. I was told to take the train to Florence and rent a car from there. Any advice? The other option is a bus to Sienna directly and rent a car once there. We are told we need the car to tour vineyards.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, take the high speed train from Rome to Florence. From Florence your best option is to either rent a car or take the bus (http://www.sitabus.it/en/florence-siena-bus/). Renting a car is very nice because some of Tuscany’s most beautiful landscapes and wineries are outside of Siena. You will need are car if you want to explore wineries. You might even consider staying in an agriturimso (which will have vineyards) outside Siena.

      Delete
  23. Thank you@ I took a leap of faith and did this ahead of your comment. Now my only worry is driving the rental car out of Florence. I am told that can be difficult. We are in a villa outside of Siena and we think we will need a car.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can avoid driving in Florence by picking up your rental at the airport. I always do this to avoid the stress of driving in Florence.

      Delete
  24. Hi, Thanks for all your helpful tips! We are planning to go to Italy end of the year, mainly Rome and Florence.
    What is the closest and most convenient country to cross over and visit from Italy?

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  25. Hi,

    Thanks for your helpful tips! We are planning to go to Italy for the first time end of this year. While we plan to explore mostly Rome and Florence, is there another country that we can visit conveniently from Italy?

    ReplyDelete
  26. Hey,

    Really nice and awesome. Great information. Thanks for providing us such a useful information.

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  27. Hi, I'm traveling to Tuscany first full week of November with a tour grouo. We are staying in Monticatini. We have one free day. Is it possible to go to Rome for the day or would most of our time be spent on trains to and from?
    Also, is Nov typically rainy? Thsnks in advance.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Pam,

      Rome from Montecatini is tough, but not impossible. The problem is that the high-speed train doesn’t go there, so you would first have to take a local train to Florence and then the high-speed train (about an hour and a half) to Rome. My advice would be to extend your trip a day or two at the end and stay in Rome. It really is worth it and there is so much to see! If you travel from Tuscany and only have one day, you will only get a couple hours in Rome. Hope this helps!

      Delete
  28. H, tks for your helpful tips. Me and my team from indonesia planning to go to italy on sept. We hope can be fun with your tips.

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  29. I must say this is a really beautiful blog. Thanks for sharing your love with us.
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  30. Your blogpost is amazing. You have got a new fan! Keep sharing your love with us.
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  31. Should I book the tours of tuscany to siena, san gimignano etc online or go to florence and buy a cheaper deal over the counter? which one is cheaper ?

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  32. This was the most popular place ....nice post, i like that day trip to agra

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  33. Excelent tips. I was in Rome this and all Your tips are correct.

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  34. I live in Italy and I can agree with most of these tips. The only thing I must disagree with is suggesting tourists take the vaporetto as pleasure cruise. It is public transportation. We get 30 MILLION tourists a year. And residents are already late for work and picking up their children from school because they are too crowded. As it is we are pushed and shoved on the vaporettos because tourists are trying to take pictures. There are many options as a tourist to see the Grand Canal without using public transportation.

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  35. Is Italy safe for solo travellers?

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  36. Is Italy safe for solo travellers?

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  37. Wonderful post. I'm writing this monthly blog mentions, and it seems you're a good one to feature for next month. You can http://www.trustessays.com/essay-writer
    to be honest and accurate although i still need your approval. Please let me know what you think.

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  38. oh wow! i couldn't even imagine that Italy is so thieves country! i've been always travelling by cars so i haven't dealt with keeping an eye on luggage or something like that. btw renting cars is not as expensive as we fancy especially if you are travelling with friends (one more tip :)
    we usually rent cars in Italy on this website https://rental24h.com/italy

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  39. wow i love italy . everybody like this country. my dad & mom every year go there . there is a nice place in the world. Travel Guide

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  40. Planning their trip to Tuscany have heard of the Chianti area but don't know where to go in Chianti, Italy. Here I hope to provide a bit of guidance for visitors to the Chianti Classico wine zone in Italy.
    Cities to visit in Italy

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  41. I like the information that you have mentioned in your blog. Keep sharing good stuff with us. Thanks
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  42. Thanks For sharing this Superb article. I use this Article to show my assignment in college. it is useful For me Great Work.

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  43. Thank you for such an interesting article, i have really enjoyed reading this.

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  44. Thank you for the good tips. It is such a nice post.

    - gustavo woltmann

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  45. I am doing a study abroad in Florence this semester and these tips will be very helpful!! I was wondering if you have an suggestions on calling a taxi especially from the airport when I first arrive? Thank you! I look forward to exploring the rest of your blog!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Kelly, at the airport in Florence there is no need to call a taxi. There is a Taxi que to the right of the airport after you exit baggage claim. Simply wait your turn in line and tell the drive where you are headed! Once you are in the city you can grab a taxi at a que, or call one of the main companies to your location. I always use Radio taxi +39 055 4242. Hope this helps and have an incredible semester!

      Delete
  46. Great tips. I never thought I would avoid any restaurant in Italy having food pictures on the walls. Keep sharing the informative article like this one,

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    ReplyDelete
  47. Hi Ashley! My husband and I are visiting Italy in June. We are flying into Naples because we have family living there temporarily. From my understanding we can take the Frecciarossa from Naples to Venice. We will be spending a 2 nights in Venice. From there we would like to head to Cinque Terre, can we take a train from Venice to Cinque Terre? Do you know where I can buy tickets so we are guaranteed entry? We would love to hike and I read that they are limiting tourist. We will be staying the night in Vernazza. After Cinque Terre we are heading to Pisa then Tuscany for a night onto Siena for a night. Is the order I am planning this all wrong? I have no idea, just trying to follow lots of peoples opinions on Pinterest. Your blog has been incredibly helpful, thank you!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Natasha,

      Yes, you can easily take the high speed train from Naples to Venice. Getting to the Cinque Terre from Venice, however, is a bit more complicated. It is actually easier to get a train from Florence to the Cinque Terre, so I would do Florence (Pisa and Siena are easy day trips from Florence) before heading to Cinque.

      Hope this helps, and have an amazing trip!

      Delete
    2. Thank you so much for the awesome tip! Do you suggest renting a car and driving from Florence to Cinque Terre or taking a train?

      Delete
    3. You can do either. Parking in Cinque can be tricky, so I prefer the train. For the train you travel from Florence to La Spezia (with one train switch in Pisa, don't worry, it is easy) and switch to a local train that will take you through the towns. Just be warned this local train can be very crowded in the summer!

      Delete
  48. Very interesting Blog!
    I like it very much
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  49. Thank you for sharing such a nice tips!!!!!!!!!!!Very interesting Blog!

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  50. Thanks for sharing such useful tips here. Keep up the good work.

    ReplyDelete

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