Headed to Italy for the first time?
If you are visiting Italy, for the first time, I know you are super excited but you are probably a little anxious, as well. It can be a little overwhelming when planning for a first trip to another country. Don't worry! I have a gathered up 10 of my best suggestions and few of my favorite Italy travel tips to make your first trip a memorable one.
1. Learn a few Italian phrases before you go!
Saying 'hello' and 'thank you' in Italian goes a long way with locals. There are several ways to say 'hello' in Italian. More formally, Buongiorno, is used when greeting someone in the morning to early evening. You can use Buona Sera when greeting someone in the evening hours. A less formal way to say hello (and goodbye) is to say Ciao!
Don't forget your please (per favore) and thank you (grazie) too! Click here for some more words and phrases to learn before you go!
2. Travel in the off or shoulder season if you can. The large cities, beaches and popular tourist attractions can get packed with people in the summer months. I've written another blog about this very topic. Click here to read it.
3. Prepare to eat dinner late! Italians are late eaters so be prepared to eat dinner after 7:30pm. Many local restaurants do not open for dinner until 8:00pm They like to eat late and take their time. Of course there are those restaurants that cater to tourists, but those aren't the real deal. Steer clear.
4. Follow the rules for ordering Italian coffee. Milk in your coffee is for mornings only, however, do not order a latte unless you want a glass of milk. Try a caffe macchiato instead. No cappuccino after breakfast. Order un caffe if you want an espresso and have it standing at the bar. Keep it simple...no ordering a nonfat, double foam, half caramel, half vanilla soy lattes in Italy.
5. Take time to slow down and spend time people watching in a piazza. It's really tempting to run around to all the major sites and see as many things as possible on your trip. BUT, one of the most wonderful experiences is the Italian piazza! There is a time in the evening in Italy called "aperitivo" where one can relax over a glass of wine or Spritz and some snacks.
6. Breakfast in will be pastries and coffee. You will have a hard time finding bacon, eggs, sausage, pancakes, etc for breakfast in Italy. A typical breakfast in Italy is a cappuccino and a jam-filled pastry.
7. Understand your restaurant bill. A coperto, per person cover charge, is almost always added to the bill. It should be listed on the menu so there are no surprises. A servizio, service charge, more or less replaces the tip. It's basically a tourist tax and will be seen on the bill in the larger cities: Rome, Florence, Venice. It should also be listed on the menu if the restaurant charges a servizio.
8. Dress modestly for churches. Covered shoulders are a must. If you are visiting in summer, use a scarf to cover bare shoulders when entering a church. Flip flops are for the beach only.
9. Validate your train/bus tickets. This is VERY important. There are machines in the train stations and on the buses for this purpose. Once you have tickets in hand and BEFORE you get on the train, pass your tickets through the yellow validation machines found throughout the station. On buses there are machines in the front and back of the bus. Getting caught with an unvalidated ticket can cost you a fine.
10. Be prepared to pay to use the public restroom. It's usually only a euro or two, but many restrooms charge. The restrooms that charge are typically cleaner and have toilet paper.
11. The best gelato is found in covered metal containers. The gelato with bright colors that spill over the top of the containers is made from a mix and isn't as good.
Have fun! Slow down! Enjoy all the little moments!
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Straight from the desk of your travel agent...