For decades, Italy has been at the top of many travelers’ lists. The country is majestically beautiful, has world-class food, and a spoken language that instantly makes you drool and fall in love. It’s easy to fall in love after just one visit, but there are some things to know before traveling to Italy.
I have had the pleasure of spending time in Italy on many different occasions, and I found many things to know before going to Italy; here are just a few to note. For more, check out our ultimate list of Italy travel tips!
Things to Know Before Going To Italy
There are 20 Regions in Italy
One of the most important things to know before traveling to Italy is that it is a vast and varied country! Most people don’t know that there are 20 different regions in this boot-shaped country, and each offers something entirely different for travelers. The regions are as follows:
- Aosta Valley
- Friuli-Venezia Giulia
- Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol
Italy is a relatively small country that is easy to get around with an efficient train network, so it’s possible to see multiple regions in Italy on just one trip!
Italians Take Riposo Very Seriously
Riposo is Italy’s midday siesta. From approximately 1–4 pm, you can find many shops and restaurants closed.
Italians like to take the afternoon to go home, have lunch, and relax with family before heading back out to do business again. Many businesses stay open late in Italy, like well past 10 pm, so this siesta time is much deserved.
What’s a Trip to Italy Cost? All the Important Details
Plan to Eat Late
That said, most dinner restaurants won’t open until seven or later. If you are an early eater, it’s best to plan your meals accordingly to avoid any hangry moods.
There is No Tipping, but…
This is one of my most essential restaurant things to know before traveling to Italy. Many restaurants have a flat cover charge called “coperto” that is charged per person. Unless specified as a “no service charge” Italian restaurant, you may as well get used to paying a fee when you sit 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 must pay the charge to sit at the table. Typically you will also be served bread, oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper at the beginning of the meal covered under the coperto. You’ll be charged the coperto whether you eat the bread or now.
It’s best not to assume the bread is free like in America. Often this charge is not mentioned beforehand, and you’re not going to get it taken off the bill at the end.
It is not customary to leave an extra tip in Italy beyond this, which makes me actually really love the coperto. It’s much easier and straightforward than tipping in the US. Read more of our information on tipping in restaurants throughout Europe.
Your 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 salads in Italy.
Trust me, your American favorites are not in a cafe, upscale restaurant, or grocery store. Buh, bye ranch dressing – hellllooo bikini season! Italy, my waistline, thank you.
More RANDOM Fun Facts About Italy You Should Know!
€1.50 is the Price for a Cappuccino. Period.
Cappuccinos and espressos are everywhere in Italy, and it’s WONDERFUL. Our day in Italy is incomplete unless we have about three cups of foamy goodness. Italy isn’t known to be the cheapest country in the world, but espressos and coffee are meant for everyone and are affordable.
We usually pay €1.50 for a Cappuccino and €1-€1.20 for an espresso. If anything is more than €2, you are getting the straight-up tourist fare. This is okay and expected if you are in a super touristy cafe (like the Caffe Florian in Venice).
It’s worth noting that getting a cafe at a bar counter (standing) and sitting down for table service will yield a price difference of a few euros. Seating space is in high demand in Italy, and sitting with friends and enjoying a cappuccino comes with a cost.
If you’re just after a quick coffee, opt for standing for the cheaper espresso or cappuccino. Also, don’t order your cappuccino at the bar and bring it to a table. If anything, there may be a few standing round tables at a coffee bar to stand at while you sip your coffee, but sitting down comes with a different price tag.
Don’t Ask for a Latte
Another random Italy travel tip is that you will be served a glass of milk if you order a latte in Italy. 🙂
In Italian, “latte” means “milk” and you order a “latte” in Italy, you will receive a glass or cup of milk, not a coffee drink with milk and espresso as you may be used to. The coffee drink with milk and espresso that is similar to a latte is called a “caffè latte” in Italy.
The WiFi is…Developing
For a developed nation, decent WiFi in Italy is seriously lacking. We find the WiFi is less than adequate at most Airbnb hostels, and hotels. This surprised us, and then we discovered a study that more than 30% of Italians have never been online.
Things are changing though, and the internet situation in Italy’s big cities works much better nowadays than when we first traveled to Italy 10 years ago.
The New Cafe Culture is Non-Existent
Italy resisted Starbucks for a long time, but in 2018 it opened its first shop in Milan, and since then, a few Starbucks have popped up in Italian cities.
Regardless, when we visit Italy every year and often find it hard to find any cafes in Italy like we are used to back home.
Finding one we can sit at for a few hours and pull out a laptop is a rarity. A simple concept that has become popular elsewhere is virtually non-existent in Italy. If you don’t have work to do, this is likely no problem for you, but if you are on a working holiday, you may struggle a bit!
“Ciao,” “Grazie,” and “Non-Capisco” Will Go a Long Way
The Italians are amicable and polite, but I still find that learning a few words in their language will go a long way. These words are 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, say “Non-Capisco” (I don’t understand). Or pick up an Italian language book! Read my complete list of what to bring to Italy here.
Always Validate Your Train and Bus Tickets
Buying your tickets at the bus or train station is not enough when traveling by public transport. You must validate them at the little machines nearby to prove that you are using the access right then and there.
Unless you can play the poor clueless tourist card, not doing so could result in a hefty fine and an unhappy inspector, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.
All Roads Lead to Rome
The best way to get to many Italian cities is by connecting through Rome. Termini Station in Rome is a central transport hub linking the rest of Italy. This became a pain for us, as we had no desire to pass back through the city a lot of time to head somewhere else.
However, many trips to Italy will likely start in Rome; I suggest taking at least three days to explore the city.
It’s one of the oldest in the world and one I keep finding myself back in. You can get a “Skip the Line” three-hour tour into the Vatican, Sistine Chapel & St. Peter’s to make the most of your time.
Get to Naples for the Best Pizza Pie
Hands down, the best (and cheapest) pizzas in Italy are in Naples. It’s worth making a trip to the city just for the €5 scruptious Margarita Pizzas. It may have ruined all future pizza for me, but bringing that perfect pizza to my lips just once was worth it.
For a country with two cities listed as the top 10 pickpocketing places in the world, we have never once felt like our possessions were in danger. Maybe it’s the New York mentality in us, but we find Italy an incredibly safe country to travel in.
Use some common sense and try not to look like a complete tourist; there is nothing to worry about. This is especially true if you are outside cities like Rome, Naples, and Milan and instead, spend your time in the Dolomites or places like Sorrento.
Throw Everything You Know About Italian Food Out the Window
Spaghetti Bolognese is not everywhere, and cannolis are only famous in Sicily. Also, you will never 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 – drool!
Oh, don’t even get me started on the cheese in Italy. It’s delicious and fresh; nothing in your average supermarket will ever compare. For four years, I worked at the American restaurant food chain Carrabba’s Italian Grill. The “Italian” food we think we know doesn’t even come close to comparing. Rule of thumb – don’t tell Italians you know Italian food well just because your favorite restaurant is Olive Garden.
Choose Your Gelato Wisely
There is good gelato and crap gelato – even in Italy. Read your reviews online, and test out a few different shops. When you find the best, you will know. Our favorite gelato in Italy is hands down in Florence and is at a shop called Gelateria Della Passera.
Italy is a Vast and Varied Country (So, Bring a Camera)
Italy is so utterly different from north to south. There are 20 regions in Italy, and each specializes in various wines, foods, and traditions. It’s impressive how one country can be the same but different.
Rome and Florence are great cities, but there is much more to explore in the boot-shaped country! I’ve spent six months in Italy on many different trips, and I still have to see so much left. Whenever we return, I keep adding more Italian destinations to the list. If it’s your first time in Italy and you have a few weeks, here is an excellent suggested itinerary.
I never leave my Airbnb, hotel, or guesthouse without a camera to collect all the memories of the beautiful country. I am traveling with a Fujifilm X-T4 and love it because of its small, stylish, and lightweight frame – perfect for Italy! You can see some of our favorite travel cameras here.
Get the Prosecco
In France, it’s Champagne; in Spain, it’s Cava; and in Italy, it’s Prosecco. Prosecco is a white wine from a vast region covering nine provinces in the Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia regions.
Named after the village of Prosecco, located in the province of Trieste, the wine is made from the Prosecco grape. It’s acceptable to drink Prosecco at all times of the day in Italy. Go ahead and order a bottle and share it with friends!
Transport To and Around Italy
Flying to Italy
With budget airlines such as RyanAir operating out of many Italian cities, getting to Italy has never been cheaper. If you are flying from a different continent, Rome, Florence, and Milan are the main hubs.
Once in Italy, the best way to get around is via train. For long-distance routes, it’s best to book beforehand with Trenitalia and reserve a seat. If you travel shorter distances, you can show up at the train station and buy a ticket there. Or get around Europe with a Eurail.
We’ve rented a car numerous times in Italy, and it’s a great way to get around on your schedule. An automatic rental car can go for as low as €15 a day in the low season and up to €45 a day in the higher seasons and ensure you get to Italy’s best places. Knowing how to drive a manual car will often get cheaper rates in Europe. Hiring a car for your trip is worth your while if you’re traveling as a group.
Search and Compare Prices for Rental Cars
- DiscoverCars.com – We personally use them to search and compare rental car prices around the globe.
- Auto Europe – Compares the best rates!
What to Pack for Italy
What to wear in Italy is one of the first things to consider once you plan the basics of your first trip to the country. Packing can be simple. Generally, Italians are stylish, and we recommend dressing casually. That way, you’re comfortable when hanging out with locals. You can find our complete guide below.
Plan For Your Trip
- Protect Your Trip: We don’t travel without travel insurance, nor should you. You never know what can happen while traveling, so it’s best to be prepared. HeyMondo provides excellent short-term and long-term travel insurance plans.
- Find Cheap Flights: Sign up for Going (formerly Scotts Cheap Flights) to get notified when prices get ultra low.
- Travel Adapter: Make sure you find a good adapter to keep your personal electronics charged. Otherwise, you may be paying for a cheap one once you land. Purchase one here.
- Travel Backpack: We like the Nomatic Travel Backpack for our travels. Check the price here.
- Our Favorite Travel Shoes: Our answer to this question is always ALLBIRDS! Check them out on their site!
- Get a Travel Credit Card: We travel worldwide for free because we have leveraged our spending into points. See why you should get a travel credit card and how you can do the same with our favorite travel credit cards.