Travel in Italy can be an amazing experience, but for many first-time travelers to the country, it can also be a shock. Italy is a wonderful mix of old and new, but because of this, their customs can be slightly different from what the typical American traveler is used to back home.
With these three tips that you need to know before traveling to Italy, you can arm yourself with the knowledge that will help you prepare for your trip and have a wonderful time while you are traveling in Italy.
1Restaurant Service Is Very Different
The experience of American dining can be very different from how Italians treat eating out. In America, normally you are served as quickly as possible so that your table can be cleared for the next guests in line. In Italy, if you don’t like to eat over an extended period, then you may be better suited for the fast-food options available all around the country. Italians love food, and they also love visiting with company, so when they dine out, they expect that they will be able to sit and enjoy both their meal and the company they are with.
As a result, dining out in Italy can often take hours, so the food service will be purposefully slower than many places in North America. Additionally, Italian servers wish to respect your privacy and allow you to enjoy your dining experience, and therefore will not be at your table as often as servers in the States or Canada.
Italians also don’t often tip servers, as the tip is generally included in the price of the meal, and the servers are also paid a wage that doesn’t rely on tips for income. Be sure to check your menu to see whether there is a cover charge for the restaurant (“il coperto”) and also know that most restaurants in Italy charge extra for bread that is served to the table. Italians eat late (often after 8 pm), so unless you like standing in line, be sure to either go early or make reservations, if possible. If you wait too long, you will end up competing with the locals for a table.
2While Some People Speak English, Learn Some Italian Before You Go
While it is generally safe to assume that most Italians in the very touristy areas speak some English, once you get outside of the major cities and tourist destinations, the chance that you will encounter someone who does not speak any English is very high. Be courteous and take the time to learn some phrases in Italian. A per favore or a grazie can go a long way towards bridging the gap between a local and a tourist. You also don’t want to get stuck somewhere and not be able to communicate your needs, especially in an emergency.
Most smartphones have translation apps that you can download prior to going to Italy. This tool can be a lifesaver during situations where broken Italian isn’t enough and can also help make you feel less insecure in a place where the spoken language is not your own. Take some initiative and be compassionate. With a little planning, you will be speaking some Italian in no time.
3Travel Is Easy When Everything Is Working
The transit systems in Italy are very good, especially the train system (which, out of all the Italian transit systems, is the most efficient and on-time), however, Italy can be prone to strikes and other service disruptions, especially during the busy seasons. So have a secondary plan for travel when you are Italy, in case your first choice isn’t available.
With all tickets in Italy, you must make sure that you validate your ticket prior to travel. Even at the Fiumicino airport, if you choose to use the Leonardo Express train from the airport to Rome, you must validate your ticket before getting on that train. If you do not validate your ticket at one of the validation stations (usually small machines that are affixed to a wall throughout the station), which will date-stamp your ticket, you run the risk of being fined for traveling with an unvalidated ticket. This is the case for many European countries, not just Italy. Be aware and validate all of your transit tickets to be sure you won’t get fined by the authorities.
If you are looking to save money, be sure to purchase your train or flights as soon as possible prior to traveling. Many ticket prices are more expensive for same-day travel. Save money and book your tickets at least a few days ahead.
While traveling in Italy can be a little overwhelming at first, keeping a positive attitude and an open mind and it will help a lot. Patience is necessary when traveling as well as understanding that the country you are traveling to may not be like home at all. With these three tips that you need to know before traveling to Italy, you can be sure that you are aware of some major differences between travel in America and Italy.