Operas, Concerts and Ballet: You'll Have to Wing It!

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So many of our readers ask us how to buy advance tickets for musical events in Italy. It turns out to be one of the trickiest things to arrange. Schedules are not published and when they are, tickets are more elusive than the three-winged butterfly of Shangri-La. You can try calling the nearest Italian Government Travel Board in the US, but they are usually the last to know what's on the program. Then there are the hopelessly elaborate "ground rules" involved with buying any tickets in Italy. All in all, trying to purchase advance tickets is a frustrating and mostly doomed endeavor. Your most likely possibility, before leaving home, is to browse the Internet for the very few sites that do exist. Click here for links to most of the sites for opera, concerts and ballet in Italy.

Our best suggestion is this: as soon as you arrive, even at the train station or at least at the front desk of your hotel, grab a copy of the local English-language weekly planner. This Week in Rome, Florence Today, A Guest in Milan are some examples. These will tell you what's on. You can ask the hotel concierge to see if tickets are available, or you can try a real Italian adventure, walk over to the box office and purchase the tickets yourself. But have someone call ahead and find out if anything's available first, or you may find yourself standing in a long line for nothing.

Another thing to keep in mind is that almost every city in Italy organizes an extensive summer activities program. The events, ranging from opera to theatre to movies to rock concerts, are almost always held outdoors and are great fun, even if you don't understand all the words. These schedules are as improvised as it gets, but they'll be listed in the weekly publications we mentioned above, and they offer a great way to unwind after a long hot day of hitting the cobblestones.

The most important thing to remember is this: don't stress out trying to arrange things before you leave home. Don't ever forget that the most Italian thing in the world is improvisation! Be prepared to take advantage of last-minute opportunities, which always abound.

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