Your trip is booked, your bags are packed, and it’s time to head on your dream vacation to Italy. It starts to sink in and you realize, wait, I know nothing about Italian culture. Worry no more, we have put together a list of eight things to know before traveling to Italy.
Not fluent in Italian? Don’t worry no one has to be fluent in Italian to get by in Italy, but the Italians are very appreciative when you try. Try saying “Ciao” instead of hello. It makes it even easier because “ciao” is interchangeable for hello and goodbye… less to remember! “Per favore” means “please”, always good to remember your manners! “Dove si trova” means “where is” if you are looking for something with a recognizable name trying putting this at the beginning and hand gestures could be your saving grace. One more, very important word, Grazie. “Grazie” means “thank you” and you will be saying this a lot, especially if you can’t speak fluent Italian.
- Tipping?You might get mixed reviews about tipping in Italy, because it simply depends. Some restaurants, normally the more touristy ones, have cover charges in place of something similar to a tip. This will show up as “coperto” on the restaurant bill. Sometimes if there is no cover charge listed and you feel that you really enjoyed your experience you can tip your waiter or waitress. Any range of €1 to €5 depending on your bill total, more expensive meals about 5%-10% is more than plenty. This is a very generous gesture and it is definitely not necessary everytime you go out to eat.
- The Coffee CultureGet ready to embrace the coffee culture in Italy because it is nothing like we have here in the US. Don’t expect to find a Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts at every corner to sit down, do some work and enjoy your coffee. Instead, be prepared to enjoy a delicious espresso, unlike anything you have ever tried. A coffee shop in Italy is more often referred to as a bar. In that case, if you hear Italians talking about a bar it doesn’t typically mean they are talking about getting cocktails. You can find at least one “bar” on every street, so you will never have a shortage of caffeine. Also, you will notice that the Italians will order their espresso, drink it, and leave all within five minutes. Two cappuccinos might be necessary compared to your Venti coffee at home, but on the plus side they are generally never more than two euros.
- PickpocketingThere are many things to know before traveling to Europe, in Particular Italy, one of these things to know is to be conscious of the pickpocketing that may occur. It is not as prominent as people might say, so no need to be afraid, as long as you are smart and aware of your surroundings you should have no problems. The pickpockets are most prevalent around the tourist attractions, such as the Spanish Steps, Vatican City, the Duomo and many other famous landmarks in Italy. Of course it can happen anywhere, but there is always a lot going on in these areas, making it easy to get distracted. You might notice people walking around trying to sell you roses or jewelry, they are known as gypsies, and they will take advantage of you so be careful! If you have a bag that zips, that you can have by your side at all times, you will be just fine!
- Midday BreakThe Italians have their own version of a siesta called a “riposo.” During this time, the Italians will close their restaurants and some stores, generally between three in the afternoon and seven at night. They will go home to relax, have a long lunch and maybe even take a nap, only to head right back to their businesses later in the evening. There is a lull in the day and then the liveliness will resume around eight. It’s better to wait until 8:30 or 9 o’clock to book your dinner reservations as this is when restaurants will start their live music providing you with the full dinner experience. We know you will be a tad jet lagged at first, but trust us, it will be worth it.
- “Nonexistent” food
We know what you are thinking… the Italian food is just like what you eat in America, but better. Yes, this is true to an extent, but there actually is “Italian” food we eat, that cannot be found on the menus in Italy. Don’t expect to find any pasta with a blush sauce, you will mostly eat pasta with red sauce, truffle sauce (Amazing!), and cheese and pepper sauce. A great mix of flavors are combined giving you a taste of true Italian cuisine. But wait there’s more! They don’t have chicken parmesan or regular cheese tortellini, shocker right? It’s okay because nothing beats a traditional Italian dish paired with the perfect glass of wine from the Tuscany region. Lastly, you will not find a single meatball at any traditional Italian restaurant, but you will soon learn that pasta the true Italian way can’t be beat.
- Wine or Water?They always say to hydrate, right? In Italy you can hydrate with a bottle of wine instead of a bottle of water. Take a walk to the nearest grocery store and you will find that the wine in Italy is just as cheap as a bottle of water, and sometimes even cheaper. At restaurants, the bottles of water are very expensive compared to the unlimited water we are used to in America. At that point you might as well drink wine instead. As you may know, some of the best wines are in Italy, so take advantage of it while you can. When you get home you won’t have the luxury of buying a REALLY good bottle of wine for only €5.
- WeatherDepending on when you travel to Italy, the weather can be a scorcher. It gets very hot in the summer, so be prepared to pack your shorts and dresses. On the other hand, the winters in Italy are pretty mild. The temperature generally doesn’t go below 40 degrees, except for of course this past winter (remember the never ending January??), it snowed for the first time in 6 years in the southern half of Italy! Normally that’s not the case. Some of the best times to visit Italy are in the Spring months. The weather can get up to 70 degrees and sunny with no humidity.
We can help immerse you in the Italian culture by creating a custom experience tailored around your wants and needs. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to make your next moves towards an unforgettable vacation.