Ah, Italy. One of the most stunning countries in the world, Italy's culture runs deep with Roman history, pizza's pastime, and exquisite art. It's one of the rare places on earth where the backdrop is breathtaking no matter what time of year it is.
If you are lucky to have the chance to explore the streets of Venice, Milan, Rome, or Positano (along with many other amazing cities), here are some things to keep in mind that are rather different from life in North America. And as a sign of respect, we should always honor the culture we're exploring and learning about. So before you hop on that plane across the pond, be sure to freshen up on these 10 things before stepping foot on Italian soil.
10 Get Those Walking Shoes On
Italy is filled with an insane amount of history. From Marco Polo to Pompeii to the Romans, where does one even start when planning a trip to this lovely country?
Quite honestly, it doesn't even matter where you are in Italy, just remember to bring those walking shoes. Sure, you're going to want to look the Italian part but if you're hopping on and off tour buses all day and walking up the hills of the Amalfi Coast, you're going to want some kind of support or your dogs will be barking all night long.
9 Public Transportation Is Where It's At
Unlike North America, public transportation is seamless in Italy. From trains to buses to trams, there's always an affordable way to get from Point A to Point B. While tourists may feel more comfortable renting a car, they may regret that decision when they have to deal with Italy's winding roads, crazy parking, and different street signs. Save yourself the hassle and the money and just spend a few Euros on public transport. And if you see a taxi, ignore them — they're typically far more expensive and take just as long to get somewhere.
8 Look Into City Passes
In case you haven't been to major cities in Europe before, many have these city passes where they bundle museums into one package. For one price, you can get into the top museums, skip the lines (for a majority of them), and learn about the history in an authentic way!
Budget Travel shows us there are city passes in Rome for $80 and Venice for around $40! It's a small price to pay for a chance to see once-in-a-lifetime architecture and history.
7 Expect A 'Coperto'
Some tourist may be surprised to see a higher total on their bill when they're finished with their meal. (And no, Italian waiters aren't trying to swindle you.) In most Italian restaurants, you will see a "Coperto" at the bottom of the check. Coperto is essentially a charge for dining in the establishment and for the waitstaff setting up your table and taking care of you (more on this below). It's typically a small percentage but it's good to know before freaking out after dinner.
6 Be Careful Before You Tip
In America, it's customary to tip a barista or bartender a dollar or two for making our drink and at least 20% when dining out. However, before tipping 20% in Italy, be aware that you actually don't need to tip Italian workers.
Due to high wages over in Italy, tipping is often unnecessary. However, if you feel the service was amazing, feel free to tip hotel staff and tour guides around two to five euros. Tipping waiters, taxi drivers, and cafe workers isn't mandatory.
5 Google Translate Is A Lifesaver
Unfortunately, many of us North Americans can come off brazen or outlandish to many Europeans. To avoid any conflict, if you do have a question or are lost, simply as a local if they speak English first before asking them anything else.
Many Italians speak English, but if you assume they do and come off too strong, they may not be so kind. Asking first may get you the answer you need.
4 Keep Euros On You At All Times
Italy is as modern as it can be while keeping the integrity and authenticity of the city alive. You're not going to see many highrises or fast-moving people in Italy (unless those people are tourists).
When shopping or dining, make sure to have some euros on you. Not every restaurant, cafe, or store accepts credit or bank cards. It's also customary to pay before using the bathroom and when ordering water. So having a few euros in your pocket is a good idea.
3 Getting A Tour Guide Can Save You Time In Line
Some tourists are tour guide people while others would rather roam around alone. The choice is yours. Joining a tour group can actually save you some time in line! (Lines for museums and wondrous sites typically have a line worthy of three hours long!)
Joining a tour group will give you a specific meeting time, allow you to skip the line, and give you a thorough history lesson!
2 Don't Expect A North American Breakfast
North Americans love their breakfasts. We like big plates, buffets, and everything savory and sweet at the same time. But that's in North America, life in the morning is different in Italy. While most hotels are aware they have visitors from all over the world, they stick with their traditional Italian breakfasts, which mainly include: coffees, pastries, and bread. You may find some hardboiled eggs with fruit and vegetables but that's about it. No pancakes here!
1 No One Is In A Rush In Italy
One thing that surprises most North Americans is how Europeans take their sweet time. Literally. If they sit down for a coffee and cake break, you better believe they're going to enjoy every minute while soaking in the sites. They're no on their phones worry about the next item on their to-do list. If they're at dinner, dinners can be four courses; meaning, you need to eat each course slowly and reset before the next course. The waitstaff will also respect your time and doesn't buzz pass you every five seconds asking if you're doing okay. They give you space and come over if you need something, allowing you to take your time like the Italians.