For decades, Italy has long been on the top of many travelers’ lists. 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 in Italy on many different occasions, and I found that there are many things to know before going to Italy; here are just a few to note. For more, be sure to check out our ultimate Italy travel tips!
Random and Fun Things to Know Before Going To Italy
1. Italians Take Riposo Very Seriously
Riposo is Italy’s midday siesta. From 1–4 pm, you can 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. Many companies stay open late in Italy, like well past 10 pm, so this siesta time is much deserved.
2. Plan to Eat Late
That being said, most restaurants for dinner 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.
3. There is No Tipping, but…
Many restaurants have a cover charge called “coperto,” so unless specified as “no service charge” Italian restaurant, you may as well get used to paying 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 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. Often this charge is not mentioned beforehand.
It’s best not to assume the bread is free like in America. It is not customary to leave an extra tip beyond this. Read more of our information on tipping in restaurants throughout Europe.
4. 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 salad.
Not in a cafe, upscale restaurant, or a grocery store – trust me, your American favorites are not there. Buh bye ranch dressing – hellllooo bikini season! Italy, my waistline is thanking you.
5. €1.50 is the Price for a Cappuccino. Period.
Cappuccinos and espressos are everywhere in Italy, and it’s WONDERFUL. Our day in Italy wasn’t complete unless we had about three cups of foamy goodness. Italy isn’t known to be the cheapest country, but espressos are meant for everyone and are affordable.
We usually pay €1.50 for a Cappuccino and €1-€1.20 for an espresso. Anything more than €1.50, 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, another random Italy travel tip is that if you order a latte in Italy, you will be served a glass of milk. 🙂
6. The WiFi is…Developing
For a developed nation, accessible WiFi in Italy is seriously lacking. We find the WiFi is less than adequate at most Airbnbs, hostels, and hotels we stay at. This surprised us, and then we found out that more than 30% of Italians have never been online.
7. The New Cafe Culture is Non-Existent
Italy resisted Starbucks for a long time, but in 2018 it opened its first shop in Milan. Europe. Regardless, we visit Italy every year and often find it hard to find any cafes in Italy like we are used to back home.
One that we can sit down at for a few hours and pull out a laptop is a rarity. A simple concept that has become so 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 on a working holiday you may struggle a bit!
8. “Ciao,” “Grazie,” and “Non-Capisco” Will Go a Long Way
The Italians are amicable and polite people, but I still find that learning a few words in their language will get you 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 make 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.
9. Always Validate Your Train and Bus Tickets
When traveling by public transport, 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 and there.
Unless you can play the poor tourist card, not doing so could result in a hefty fine and an unhappy inspector, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.
10. 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 out of your time.
11. Get to Naples for the Best Pizza Pie
Hands down, the best (and cheapest) pizzas in Italy are 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 bringing that perfect pizza to my lips just once was worth it.
12. Pickpocketers, Schmishmocketers
For a country with 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 incredibly safe.
Just use some common sense and try not to look like a complete tourist, and 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 in places like Sorrento.
13. 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!
Oh, don’t even get me started on the cheese in Italy. It’s delicious and fresh, and 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.
14. 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.
15. 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 also so 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 there is still so much left I have to see. Every time we return, I keep adding 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 so that I can 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.
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 are traveling shorter distances, it’s also possible to 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 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 you cheaper rates in Europe. Hiring a car for your trip is worth your while if you’re traveling as a group.
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.