Welcome to Italy: the land of pizza, delicious wine, and fresh mozzarella. Italian cuisine is known worldwide for a wide range of recipes that are simple, healthy, and yet delicious. For Italians, social and family gatherings revolve around food. Food represents love and comfort. What is the secret to such delicious cuisine? Simplicity, fresh ingredients, and traditional recipes prepared with care and passion. Wherever you may go, enjoy the local cuisine and traditions, like Missoltini on Lake Como or Carbonara in Rome. No need to feel guilty or count calories as the Mediterranean diet entails eating a variety of fruit and vegetables, healthy fats, and whole grains therefore it contains lots of health benefits. Buon appetito!
TIP: The main meal of the day is eaten at lunchtime. Be mindful that restaurants may close in between lunch and dinner service.
Italian Coffee, aka caffè, is part of the Italian national identity. Espresso rules in Italy and it can be taken at any time throughout the day. It is especially popular after meals and as a mid-morning or mid-afternoon pick me up. Espresso comes from the Italian word “caffè espresso” which means pressed out – the coffee is made by pushing pressured water through the beans. It has a stronger flavor than other types of brewed coffee and is generally thicker. It also has more caffeine. However, servings of espresso are much smaller than servings of other coffee drinks, negating the caffeine advantage.
TIP : Are you looking to fit in with the locals? Refrain from drinking coffee with milk, such as cappuccino, past 11 am as it is considered a breakfast drink to enjoy while eating a pastry.
Get your steps in!
Going on vacation typically means that you will be walking a lot. Between the various sightseeing and tours scheduled, you will end your day feeling sore. If you booked your accomodation in the historical center of town, vehicles may not be allowed to enter and you may add extra steps to your day. If you ask directions to Italians for a spot, they may tell you that it is “just around the corner” when in reality it is 15 minutes away. Italians like to walk. In fact, it is common to see people out for a stroll on the weekend, during lunch break, or after dinner.
TIP: We suggest bringing comfortable shoes with you as well as athletic clothes.
Even though tips are not the norm, they are well appreciatedby all. A tip shows appreciation for exceptional service. Waitstaff in Italy are paid a living wage, and tips do not make up the majority of their income. If you think the service was great and you want to leave a tip, feel free to do so. How much should a tip be? 10 – 15% of the total bill will be considered more than enough.
TIP: Should you plan to pay with a credit card, carry a little cash with you as cash registers or credit card terminals do not have a tip line on which to add a tip.
In Italy, when you welcome someone in your house, the aim is to make them feel welcome, and the most common way to do so is to cook traditional dishes, especially those that have an emotional value and are passed down from generation to generation. Similarly, if you are invited into someone’s house, it is typical to bring a gift or local product.
TIP: Be ready for a multiple course meal. It typically starts with an appetizer, a first course (pasta or rice), a second course (meat or fish), dessert, and coffee.
English speakers in Italy
Even though English is the second most spoken language in Italy, many Italian citizens don’t speak the language well enough to communicate. Only a third of the country currently knows the language. However, there are more English speakers among the younger generations and those working in the tourism industry. Should you visit a popular destination or a large city, people will speak English well enough to have conversations.
TIP: Learning some basic Italian phrases before you go can help enhance your experience and gain appreciation from locals.
Watch out for pickpockets
A large influx of tourists will attract petty thieves, and Italy welcomed 74.7 million tourists in 2022. Unfortunately, pickpockets tend to target tourists at crowded tourist attractions and major transportation hubs such as metro and train stations. Watch out for people coming up to you asking for assistance as pickpockets typically work in teams, and this may just be a method to get you distracted as they are robbing you.
TIP: Be aware of your surroundings at all times and keep your belongings in your front pockets or carry your backpack in front of you instead of on your back.
Similiar to an American Happy Hour, aperitivo is an Italian tradition that people love. Not conceived as a way to replace a meal, but rather it is a ritual before dinner time. It is be a great way to experience local culture, to people-watch, and to unwind with a drink after a long day of sightseeing. Aperitivo cocktails options tend to be light on alcohol and bitter on taste, meaning they pair perfectly with salty snacks. In fact, one drink means you get a plate of snacks. Appetizers and other light fare should be provided as long as you are drinking. What is a typical drink for aperitivo? Aperol Spritz which is made with Prosecco (sparkling wine), soda water, and Aperol bitters – “Uno Spritz, per favore”
TIP: You don’t get a discount on drinks during aperitivo, instead you get a “bonus” plate of food with your drink and the cost ranges between 8 – 12 euros.
Even though debit and credit cards are widely accepted in Italy, cash is still preferred for small purchases therefore we recommend travelling with a few bucks in your pockets. Should you need to access extra cash during your travelling, major cities or airports have official currency exchange offices but watch out for the high fees. Contact your financial institution and inquire about International fees and credit cards reward programs that allow you to use your card abroad for free. If you run out of cash while in country, use your home bank card to withdrawal euros at any ATM as you will get the best exchange rates.
TIP: Whether you bring cash or not, tell your bank or credit card provider about yout travel plans, as they may block your account if they see a transaction in another country.
Dress code for church
If you visit Rome or any other major city, the likelyhood to visit a church, cathedral, or religious complexes is high. If you want to ensure you are not turned away and miss your guided visit, you must follow certain clothing rules. Often a sign outside indicates what is accepted and what is not. Generically speaking, your shoulders and knees need to be covered. That means no spaghetti straps, sleeveless tops, crop tops, or short dresses.
TIP: A simple light scarf or shawl to cover bare shoulders is sufficient.
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