Do you ever feel like you’re stuck on the well-worn tourist path, while fantastic attractions and new experiences are waiting somewhere just outside of your guidebook recommendations? We can help you with that. At Casa Mia we’re committed to sharing our insider knowledge of all things Italian beyond the obvious. For an overview of our custom experiences check out our tour page at www.italyfoodandwinetours.com/
Close to 50 million tourists annually visit Italy from all over the world. Italians know and profit from this, and are accustomed to tourists and travelers coming to their home land to admire la grande bellezza. Locals are generally polite and patient (unless they’re driving some sort of powered vehicle) and they will most likely go out of their way to help stranded stranieri, whether these be visitors or expatriates. But there are however some things that foreigners should know when headed for the boot-shaped peninsula. We’ve singled out 15, between travel safety pointers, and general Italy travel common sense.
- You’ve arrived in Italy, ready for exploration and romance, but every restaurant, museum and shop in a 5-mile radius is closed. Chances are it’s a national holiday and you didn’t do your homework. Before setting off on your next Italy adventure, make sure you are informed in advance about local customs and traditions, general history and geography, climate and holiday calendar.
- Dinner is served in Italian restaurants and households starting between 7:30 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. Expecting to be seated at 6:00 p.m. is folly. It will not happen. That’s when the staff is still prepping their own meal.
- If during your Italy vacation you expect to send or receive emails, talk on Skype, surf the web, use your GPS, or send pictures of the Colosseum, you can’t rely on free Wi-Fi alone: you’ll need access to the Internet, but those roaming fees can suck the life out of you (and your wallet). Consider getting a good international cellular data plan before arriving in Italy, or investing in a local SIM.
- Restaurants won’t serve bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar (that’s salad dressing), nor will it come with chilled curls of butter. Bread at Italian restaurant tables is sold for a minimal “cover” charge and is best enjoyed as is. No one will frown if bread is used to sop up sauces.
- The Carabinieri are doing random checks in the charming piazza where you and your travel companion are having dinner. Your passport is in the hotel safe. It’s always smart to scan your ID and travel documents, and Email them to yourself, so you have them on your smartphone with you at all times.
- Purchase some form of Travel Insurance. Sh*t happens, so why be unprepared in a foreign country where bureaucracy is complicated, and you don’t speak the language?
- Please don’t call it “brooshettah”. The crispy, crunchy slab of toasted homestyle bread drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt’s correct pronunciation is brew-SKET-tah. Oh, and burrata is the correct spelling, not ‘buratta’. Thanks!
- Download Italy maps and guidebook pages to your portable device. This way crinkled maps and heavy books are one less issue to deal with while completely lost strolling canal side in Venice.
- In taxis, pay attention to the meter. Fees (and a big old, lit ‘TAXI’ sign) should be prominently displayed, plus there should be no haggling for the fare: it is an illegal practice. Only take licensed taxis, and never ones driven by drivers who approach you at the airport arrivals sidewalk. Also, if need be, always ask beforehand if payments can be made with a credit card: Italian cab drivers are still adjusting to this payment form.
- You’ve been swept away to a Tuscan hillside castle by a blue blood wine maker for the weekend. Your initial plans shift, but it’s always clever to share your original itinerary with close friends and family. That way, everyone is in the loop regarding your (general) whereabouts.
- Time flies when you’re having fun on the beach in Amalfi. Set reminders on your phone for when you have to confirm a flight or book the 3-hour car ride to the nearest airport.
- Italians don’t do ice, deal with it. Unless mixing cocktails, or cooling vino in a bucket, Italians have a very detatched relationship with ice. So to avoid disappointment during your Italy vacation, don’t expect cascading ice cubes.
- Fettuccine Alfredo… Yes, you can get Fettuccine Alfredo in Italy, but you will never find anything like it on a restaurant menu, and certainly not by that name. In Italy pasta tossed with butter and parmesan is what you eat when you’re lazy in the kitchen, or when you have an upset stomach.
- Keep an actual “vintage” handwritten address book with important contact info in your luggage. That way, in case you should misplace your phone, you can contact people whose numbers you don’t know by heart.
- Something doesn’t feel right? It probably isn’t. Trust your instincts: sometimes your guts can be more useful than your brain. Italy is not a dangerous place, but unless you have trusted contacts on site, you’re always better safe than sorry.
Traveling to Italy and looking for a trustworthy local to show you around? Contact us!
Eleonora Baldwin is a TV host, journalist, and culinary connoisseur based in Rome, Italy. Her writing appears in several food and travel publications. Her show “ABCheese” is broadcast on Italian food network Gambero Rosso. She loves guiding culturally curious, food-passionate travellers seeking experiences in Italy beyond the guidebook.