I started traveling to Italy in 2002. I flew over many times all by myself. There were some benefits in learning how to travel alone overseas. An adventure no one in my family had done before. I learned quickly to be aware of my surroundings. I always kept my carry on baggage close by when I was waiting at the gate. I never asked someone to watch my bags and nowadays on the Airport loudspeaker they tell you not to do that. Even if it was after 9/11, there were people that still asked others to watch their bags so they could go to the restroom, etc.
Now when you arrive in Italy these are the things I believe are key aspects of Italian culture that you must be aware of.
Not all people that speak Italian ARE Italian. Be wary of people at the train stations posing as people that want to help you with your bags or help you get a taxi. Even if you think to yourself “what a nice person to help me with my heavy bags” and even if they are speaking Italian, they could be a scam artist. I lived in Italy long enough to know that there are people that pose as Italians trying to lure the none the wiser tourist into their trap. Again be safe and be suspicious when someone asks to help you.
Tips are not obligatory in Italy. Italians work hard as waitstaff and they receive a nice salary at the end of the month. When out to eat don’t feel like you have to tip your waiter or waitress. Although they know Americans do like to tip, they don’t expect it. Even my husband on our last trip to Italy tipped the waitstaff and they didn’t want to take it. However, being a full-blooded Italian my husband understands how hard Italians work. They accepted the tip with a big smile and offered us limoncello on the spot.
Customer service in stores vs. restaurants. Italians eat meals with ease and no pressure at all. When you sit down to eat at a restaurant the waiter will greet you and help you with my menu if needed. After ordering your meal and your food arrives, you might not see your waiter for a while. Don’t expect the waiter to stop over as ask how your pasta is or if you like the wine. They will leave you be until you wave them over and ask for the “il conto” or “the bill”. Italians know how important food is and they want you to experience it without the interruptions.
When you walk into a boutique shop rather, you might feel someone watching you. Most salespeople in small shops follow their guests around in case they have questions or need help finding a size. Another reason they do this is to watch out thieves trying to steal their products. A nice thing to do when you walk into the shop is to say, “Buongiorno or Buonasera” meaning “Good morning or Good evening” and when you leave I encourage you to say, “Grazie” meaning “Thank you” extending your appreciation for sharing their shop with you.
Speaking of shops and stores, business hours are much different in Italy. Most shops don’t open until 9 or 10 am, close at lunch around 1 pm or 2 pm, and then open back up around 4 pm or 5 pm. Restaurants do the same in the winter and late fall, closing around 3 pm and reopening at 7 pm for dinner. Most restaurants are closed on Mondays as well. Make sure you are aware of this when looking for places to eat on a Monday.
Hope this helps, any questions on travel to Italy please comment below.
When you confirm your spot on our Self Love Yoga Retreat, be sure to check out all the blog posts that will give you some insight on how to get around Italy.
A presto, Kate