Out of all of the countries in Europe, Italy is, by far, requested the most by my clients. In fact, over 46 million tourists from all over the world visit this amazing country every year. Many will return for that magic that only Italy can deliver.
Italians are very kind, outgoing, family-centric, and extremely patient (unless they are driving!). They realize how blessed they are to be the caretakers of some of history’s most magnificent treasures, and they are happy to share them. However, there are a few things that most Italians want Americans to know before we arrive in their country. Here is my list of the Top 10 ways to blend right into Italian Culture:
There is so much beauty to see and experience, including culture, art, vineyards, food, museums, and amazing people, which is why so many tourists descend upon Italy each year. Many travelers make the mistake of trying to cram too much into a short vacation. So, slow down, take it all in, appreciate what you DO see….and then plan to return!
Miniskirts, short-shorts, halter tops, and saggy jeans will not live up to the classic fashion taste of Italians. Your attire doesn’t have to be formal and uncomfortable, just neat and a little more modest. Cobblestone streets and high heels play well together! Some Cathedrals (including the Vatican) will deny you entry if your shoulders and knees are not covered. Unless you really are spending the day on a beautiful Italian beach, cover up, and leave the stilettos at home.
An authentic Italian would never dream of ordering one after late morning, especially after a meal! If you need a pick-me-up later in the day, stop in a coffee bar for a quick shot of espresso. Did you know that Italy is one of the only countries that doesn’t have a Starbucks? They are illegal there because the Italians are so proud of their coffee culture. Italian coffee is superior…Give it a “shot”! (Pun intended!)
Arriving at a restaurant before 7:30pm will probably get you a view of the staff having their own pre-service meal and a totally empty dining room! You will enjoy your dinner more in a restaurant full of happy locals and a wait staff ready to do what they do best! Most places charge a “Coperto” or cover charge for each table. This is NOT a ploy to take advantage of you! It is explained as the cost of washing the linens, dishes, and providing the “free stuff” like bread (pane in Italian) or tap water.
When I visit a foreign country, I love to go where the locals go to experience the best of the destination (in Italy, it’s called living “la dolce vita”). Do yourself a favor and leave time in your day to just wander around to explore the real Italy. If you just get a couple of blocks away from some of the most famous tourist sites, real Italian life is in front of you. Stop to listen to a street performer (and tip!), pop into a neighborhood café for a glass of wine or a coffee, or enjoy a gelato cone with the locals. If you cram too much into an overpacked schedule, you and your travel companions may get grumpy!
You cannot just hail a taxi off the street in Italy. Go to a stand or familiarize yourself with other public transportation systems. Buses, Subways, Trains, and Boats are remarkably efficient and manage to get millions of Italians where they need to go every day.
I know this seems obvious, so why do so many “Ugly Americans” barge into other countries expecting everyone to speak English fluently? Learning a few common words and phrases in the local language will make a big difference in your experience. Instead of screaming “DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH?” at someone (they aren’t deaf after all!), try “I’m sorry, but my Italian is poor…Parla Inglese?” (Par-la Een-glace?) If you find yourself in the rare circumstance with no English speakers, Italians speak with their hands, so go play charades, and you will get your point across (and have a good laugh doing so)!
European restaurants are drastically different than most here in America. When sit down for a meal, the table is yours for as long as you want. Waiters do NOT “turn tables” quickly so they can make more tips (tips are not required, but a small gratuity for good service is always welcomed). Italians enjoy their mealtimes and are not in a rush. Relax and go with the flow! You must ask for the check when you are ready to leave, as it is considered rude for a waiter to bring your bill before you ask.
Italians are very welcoming people, but there is a certain etiquette for saying hello. You will see friends, family, and even acquaintances kissing each other on the cheeks and saying “Ciao,” however, as a stranger, that might be a little bit “extra.” When you meet an Italian, take their lead, but a smile and a firm handshake are most appropriate until you get better acquainted. Italian culture respects its elders and, if someone is introduced as Signore (Mr.) or Signora (Mrs.), it is best not to address them by their first names until they request it.
Italy has welcomed and inspired visitors for centuries! Enjoy the people, the beauty, the art, music & literature. The Italians will be happy to share a smile with you, and you will return home already dreaming of your return trip!
To plan your next Italy Adventure, reach out to Premiere Luxury Travel Today!
Our bespoke itineraries are uniquely designed to completely immerse you in your destination, with delightfully unexpected surprises along the way.
We have a special passion for all things culinary—and we would love to introduce you to your destination’s distinct (and delicious!) food and wine traditions through one-of-a-kind culinary experiences. The best part? You won’t have to do a thing except relax, recharge, and create memories that last a lifetime!
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