Italy has long been on the top of many travelers list for decades. The country is majestically beautiful, has world class food, and a spoken language that will instantly make you drool and fall in love. I have had the pleasure of spending time there on a few different occasions, and I found that there are many things to know before going to Italy.
Things to Know Before Going To Italy
Italians take riposo very seriously
Riposo is Italy’s midday siesta. From 1-4 p.m. you can expect to find many shops and restaurants closed. Italians like to take time in the afternoon to go home, have lunch, and relax with family before heading back out to do business again. Life before work, love it!
Plan to eat late
That being said, most restaurants won’t open until 7 or later. Plan your meals accordingly to avoid any hangry moods.
There is no tipping, but…
Many restaurants have a cover charge, so unless specified as “no service charge” you may as well get used to having to pay a fee when you sit down at a restaurant. This can be anywhere from 1 to 5 Euro, and no it is not just because you are a tourist. Italians and foreigners alike have to pay the charge to sit at the table.
You salad has a new best friend
And her name is Olive Oil! You will not find anything but olive oil and maybe some vinegar for your salad. Not in a cafe, upscale restaurant, or a grocery store – trust me, it’s not there. Buh bye ranch dressing – hellllooo bikini season! Italy, my waistline is thanking you.
€1.30 is the price for a Cappuccino. Period.
Cappuccinos and espressos are everywhere in Italy, and it’s WONDERFUL. Our day wasn’t complete unless we had about 3 cups of foamy goodness. Italy isn’t known to be the cheapest country, but espressos are meant for everyone and are therefore very affordable. We usually paid €1.30 for a Cappuccino and €.90 for espresso. Anything more than €1.50 and you are getting the straight up tourist fare.
The WiFi is…Developing
For a developed nation, accessible WiFi was seriously lacking. In most of the Air BnB’s, hostels, and hotels we stayed at the WiFi was less than adequate. This surprised us, and then we found out that more than 30% of Italians have never been online. So 1999.
The new cafe culture is non-existent
There are no Starbucks in Italy. Not totally surprising, and actually very endearing. This doesn’t bother me as I have come to hate that seductive green Siren, and tend to only use their facilities for a free bathroom in Europe. However, we didn’t find any cafes where we could just go sit and work on our computer. A simple concept that has become so popular back home is virtually nonexistent in Italy. Perhaps this correlates to the developing WiFi. Hmm.
“Ciao,” “Grazie,” and “Non Capisco” will go a long way
The Italians are extremely friendly and polite people, but learning a few words in their language will get you a long way. It’s easy too! “Ciao” can be used for hello and goodbye, “Grazie,” is used everywhere to give thanks, and when a local mistakenly makes you out for an Italian just simply say “Non Capisco” (I don’t understand).
Always validate your train and bus tickets
Just buying your tickets at the bus or train station is not enough. You must validate them at the little machines nearby to prove that you are using the ticket right then. Not doing so will result in a hefty fine and an unhappy inspector.
All roads lead to Rome
We found the best way to get to a certain city, was to go through Rome. Termini station in Rome is a major transport hub linking the rest of Italy. This became kind of a pain, as a lot of time we had no desire to pass back through the city just to head somewhere else.
Get to Naples for the best pizza pie
Hands down the best (and cheapest) pizza was in Naples. It’s honestly worth making a trip to the city just for the €3.50 Margarita Pizzas. It may have ruined all future pizza for me, but it was worth it.
For a country that has two cities listed as the top 10 pickpocketing places in the world, we never once felt like our possessions were in danger. Maybe it’s the New York mentality in us, but we found Italy to be incredibly safe. Just use some common sense and try not to look like a complete tourist and there is nothing to worry about.
Throw everything you know about Italian food out the window
Spaghetti bolognese is not everywhere and cannolis are only popular in Sicily, also you will never ever see pepperoni. Instead, you will find the real Italian staples like Bruschetta al Pomodoro, delicious prosciutto layering a pizza, and spaghetti alla carbonara instead of fettucini alfredo. And the cheese! Oh, don’t even get me started on the cheese in Italy. It’s delicious and fresh and nothing in your average supermarkets will ever compare. I worked at the American restaurant food chain Carrabba’s Italian Grill for 4 years. Trust me, the “Italian” food we think we know doesn’t even compare.
Choose your gelato wisely
There is good gelato and crap gelato – even in Italy. Read your reviews online, and be sure to test out a few different shops. When you find the best, you will know. Our favorite gelato in Italy was hands down in Florence and was called Gelateria Della Passera.
It is a vast, different country
Italy is different from north to south. There are 20 different regions in Italy, and each specializes in different wines, foods, and traditions. It’s amazing how one country can be the same but also so different. Rome and Florence are great cities, but there is much more to explore around the boot-shaped country!
Rick Steves Italy 2016
$19.50Looking for more awesome tips? We suggest picking up Rick Steves’ book on Italy. Rick Steves is pretty much one of our idols and has been leading people through Europe for decades now. Check The Price Here!
Have you visited Italy? What are some things to know before going to Italy? We stayed in many Airbnb’s throughout the country and they were great, click here to get $20 off your Airbnb!
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