With its rolling hills of vineyards, world-famous cuisine, millennia of history, and iconic landmarks, Italy is a country that many people strive to visit at least once in their lifetime. There’s a certain idea that most people have of the land that gave us pizza, the Ferrari, and the achievements of the likes of Da Vinci and Michelangelo. In some ways, Italy fulfills the stereotype. But in other ways, it will take you completely by surprise.

Keep reading to find out five ways that Italy will be different from what you’re expecting, and five ways that it will be exactly the same.

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10 It’s Different: The Coffee Will Make You Buzz

If you live in the U.S., you’re probably used to a very different kind of coffee from what they drink in Italy. Italians don’t add flavor to their coffee, nor do they normally take it long enough to fill a mug. The longest you can hope for is probably a cappuccino, which you’ll probably be judged for ordering after breakfast.

Instead, Italians tend to drink espressos, which are short, strong shots of black coffee. You can add a little milk to make it a macchiato, but the coffee is likely to still make you buzz compared to what you’re used to.

9 It’s The Same: The Food Really Is Out Of This World

You go to Italy expecting the best food on the planet, and that’s what you get. The pillars of Italian cuisine that have made it so beloved around the world are simply the best in the country they originate from. Get ready to experience pizza, pasta, arancini, gelato, and other classic favorites until your heart is content.

Sure, Italy has its eateries that don’t serve up high-quality food, just like every other country does. But for the most part, you’ll be in awe of how amazing the food is while in the country.

8 It’s Different: But They Don’t Eat Pasta And Pizza All The Time

Although Italy makes the best pizza and pasta in the world, and there’s certainly no shortage of it around the place, that’s not all that’s available. These may be among the most well-known Italian dishes, but the cuisine boasts several other options that are just as delicious.

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In the coastal regions of Italy, be prepared to taste some of the freshest seafood you’ve ever had. There are also lots of rice dishes, slow-cooked meats, soups, salads, and of course, an array of sweet desserts that will have you dreaming about them forevermore.

7 It’s The Same: The Landmarks Are Stunning

Italy is home to some of the most famous landmarks in the world, which is why it’s typically a country that history buffs love to visit. In Rome alone, you’ll get to see the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, the Vatican, and the iconic Pantheon.

Elsewhere in the country, you’ll come across the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Michelangelo’s David, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, the Rialto Bridge and the Doge’s Palace in Venice, and of course the Duomo di Milano. And all the landmarks are simply stunning.

6 It’s Different: Driving Through Italy Isn’t A Relaxing/Charming Experience

Some travelers might be dreaming of a relaxing drive through Italy, stopping at their leisure in the Tuscan countryside, passing locals on Vespas, and weaving in and out of picturesque little towns. Italy certainly boasts spectacular countryside, charming little towns, and locals on Vespas, but the experience of driving in the country is in no way, shape, or form relaxing. It’s majorly stressful.

Like many countries in Europe, Italy has road rules, but many locals think of them as guidelines rather than actual rules. Get ready for poorly maintained roads, highways you have to pay to drive on, and other drivers following their own rules.

5 It’s The Same: Italian Stallions Are A Thing

Italian men have a reputation for being Italian Stallions. While we don’t want to generalize, it’s true that this kind of man definitely does exist in the country, even if he doesn’t live inside every man. Single and youthful Italian men tend to be much more flirtatious than American and British travelers are used to.

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Female travelers should be prepared to be blown kisses on the street and to be approached by more men than at home. The Stallions usually dress impeccably, smell amazing, and know just what to say to sweep you off your feet.

4 It’s Different: The Big Cities Aren’t Always Romantic

The big cities in Italy tend to receive the most tourists in Italy, although more and more people are showing interest in the hidden gems of the country and exploring the rural towns and villages. While the big cities are packed with gorgeous landmarks and are full of exciting things to do and see, don’t expect them to always be the romantic places you envisioned.

Italy can be a romantic place at times, but cities like Rome, Milan, and even Venice, unfortunately, attract all the downsides of being tourist hotspots. They can be dirty, foul-smelling, incredibly crowded, and full of scammers.

3 It’s The Same: They Still Have Siestas

Siestas really are a thing in many places in Italy. Following deep-rooted cultural traditions, many schools and workplaces close at lunchtime during the week. Everybody returns home to have a huge lunch with all the family, followed by one to two hours of napping. At about three o’clock, everybody returns to their days to get on with it, now that they’re well-rested from their siesta.

This is a hard idea for many tourists to get their heads around. Factor the siesta into your schedule, because if you’re visiting a small town, you might find that everything is shut in the early afternoon.

2 It’s Different: The Customer Service Isn’t Magical

Americans, in particular, are used to exquisite customer service. Being friendly is a huge part of delivering a great experience for the customer in many countries. But in Italy, as well as in other countries in Europe, those working in retail or hospitality might not be as polite.

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It’s customary in Italy to accept service that isn’t the friendliest, as long as you’re getting the item or the service that you paid for. While some Italian customer service workers are super cheerful and welcoming to tourists, others might not even muster a smile. It’s just the way it goes.

1 It’s The Same: Most People Seem To Be Tanned

The stereotypical Italian has a tanned Mediterranean look. While not every single Italian person is bronzed, especially in the north of the country where people tend to have fairer complexions, being tan is certainly in fashion. Visit the country in summer, and you’ll find the beaches flooded with people trying to soak up as much sun as they can.

If you visit without a tan, particularly in summer, you might stand out to the point where locals even comment on your complexion. But don’t worry—it’s mostly done in an endearing way!

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