Are you dreaming of Dolce Vita and can’t wait to shop in Milan, visit museums in Florence, and eat all the pizza in the country? I’m just as excited as you are about your first Italian trip.
There are certainly some things you need to know before you leave, though. For a start, don’t forget that you will probably need to apply for an ETIAS authorization from late 2022.
So if you’re planning long-term, remember that those who can go to Italy visa-free now, like US citizens, will need the new electronic authorization soon (don’t worry though, you can request it online in just a few minutes.)
Now that the bureaucracy is out of the way, you may start drafting your Italian itinerary and familiarizing yourself with the Italian lifestyle and customs. It’s no secret that Italians live well and long: Italy ranks above the average in terms of income and wealth, work-life balance, health, and social connections, according to the OECD.
Moreover, it has one of the highest life expectancies in the world, within the top 10 on the planet with an expectancy of 81 years of age for men and 86 for women. It may have something to do with the Mediterranean diet and the long walks by the sea.
Finally, there is a very strong sense of community and high levels of civic participation in the country.
But how to enjoy your time in Italy and get a real sense of how Italians live? Well, when in Rome, do as the Romans do.
Keep reading to find the most important Do’s and Don’ts for Italy if you’re a foreigner visiting the country.
Italian Do’s for Tourists
Here are examples of behaviors that Italians will appreciate:
- Do greet strangers like taxi drivers, waiters, etc. with a smile or a “Buongiorno.” Italians are very friendly and welcoming people and will love a quick conversation.
- Do talk with your hands. This Italian stereotype is completely true and if you don’t know how to better express yourself in the local language, use gestures.
- Do compliment the country as Italians are proud of their picture-perfect natural and cultural beauties.
- Do carry some cash with you as you will probably find some establishments that don’t accept card payments.
- Do dress up (but don’t stress about it.) Especially if you visit large centers like Rome or Milan and chic holiday destinations, you will spot fashion victims all around you. In general, Italy is a country that pays more attention to quality clothing than the average. Remember that in churches and other religious places (even if they’re major tourist landmarks) you’re expected to cover your knees, shoulders, and cleavage.
- Do look after your belongings as pickpocketers are at work in urban areas, especially in busy spots like street crossings, museum queues, and metro stations.
- Do relax. Yes, there’s a lot to see and do in Italy. But if you do Italy right, what you will most likely bring home with you is a great sense of relaxation and having enjoyed life. With their world-class food and wine and laid-back lifestyle, Italians know how to do it. Learn from the locals.
Italian Travel Advice: Don’ts in Italy
It’s true that Italians are friendly and relaxed. It’s also true that some tourist habits may get them to raise their eyebrow. For a smooth and enjoyable experience in Italy, here are some behaviors to avoid:
- Don’t get in the way of local life. Although Italian art cities look like open-air museums, people live here. Try not to disrupt everyday life. Don’t block pavements and narrow streets, photograph residents without their permission, or shout and play loud music while on vacation.
- Don’t fall into tourist traps. Fine, some will be unavoidable. But try, for example, to stay clear of restaurants near major tourist sites. Unsurprisingly, they will have tourist menus with high prices and often low-quality ingredients.
- Don’t tip like in the US. Tipping is appreciated but not mandatory. Italians leave tips that are smaller than in the US, unless they have found the service exceptionally good.
- Don’t picnic on monuments, historic steps and fountains, or inside museums and above all, don’t forget to take your trash with you if you do. Hefty fines apply.
- Don’t forget to validate your tickets if you use public transport like trains and buses. Train stations may be hard to navigate in Italy and it’s easy for foreigners to forget to look for the validating machines before getting on the train. However, that may result in a fine.
- Don’t expect Italian food to be like it is abroad. That means, for example, not ordering fettuccine Alfredo (they simply don’t exist in Italy) and refraining from adding ketchup to your pasta.
Susan Noel is an experienced travel writer. She is associated with many renowned travel blogs as a guest author where she shares her valuable travel tips with the audience.