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100+ Things to know if your going to Italy


Part 1. General advice & travel tips

  1. Don’t go off the beaten path before visiting the “holy trinity”: Rome, Florence and Venice. These cities are truly remarkable and you don’t want to miss them.
  2. Nevertheless, make time to spend a few days outside the major cities. Real Italy is in the small towns!
  3. Tuscany is wonderful. There are hundreds of small wonderful medieval villages and plenty to see. However, Italy is a lot more than Tuscany. From the hills of Langhe to the trulli of Puglia, going through the culinary haven of Romagna, you will find fewer tourists and a wonderful land to discover!
  4. Tipping is not required. Service staff gets paid as high as entry level engineers do. In particular, tipping people you personally know is considered offensive. In general, the attitude toward tipping is that you can’t buy a person off, so be mindful if you decide to tip.
  5. Pick pocketing is an issue in larger metropolitan areas like Rome and Venice, but it’s not any worse than New York City, London or Paris.
  6. Newspaper are bought daily at the edicola (newspaper stand), and delivery of newspapers is rare. Edicole are very common and open everyday, and as much part of the typical Italian morning routine as stopping to the bar to order an espresso.
  7. Watch the street billboards for advertisement of “Feste” or “Sagre”, street fairs usually dedicated to one food. If one is close by your location at the time you’re there, don’t miss it- they’re wonderful events gathering people from the various towns and serving thematic foods!
  8. Dates are shown as day-month-year, always.
  9. Times are indicated in 24-hr format.
  10. And yes, we’re metric!
  11. You push to enter a place, and pull to get out. Exactly the opposite as in America!
  12. Airport and rail stations have public restrooms, often with attendants who expect to be tipped. If someone is guarding the door of the restroom, you’re expected to leave a few coins.
  13. Restrooms in all bars and cafes are for customers only. Order an espresso and only afterward head to the toilet!
  14. In public restrooms, toilet paper is a rarity. Italian women always keep a travel pack of Kleenex in their purses for this reason.
  15. You can’t walk in a church with a tank top or with shorts on. You need to be properly dressed to visit most holy places.
  16. Credit cards are not widely accepted. You can’t pay anything that is less than 10 Euros with a credit card, and even then you’re going to be frowned upon. Always bring cash with you!
  17. Public phones are now officially extinct. You will need to carry a cell phone for anything you need, from calling the hotel to reserve a restaurant. If you’re going for a brief stay, use your US cell phone and get a calling card. If you’re planning a longer trip, look into getting a SIM card and use it with your (unlocked) US phone- most cell phone calling contracts in Italy are prepaid services, so no need to lock in a plan!
  18. When using an Italian cell phone, all incoming calls are free.

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