Tips and suggestions! (and an attitude check....)

Here are our suggestions to fully enjoy Italy (or any other country for that matter!). Some are basic common sense which still need to be repeated, others may be surprising to you. The list is written from an Italian perspective after observing reaction/behaviour of some tourists while visiting Italy:

  1. Do NOT expect to find a replica of the country you are from. Be humble, adjust and enjoy. Remember, you are visiting another country, with different values and customs. Don’t expect Italy to be a copy of your own homeland. For example, we find it amusing that travellers to Italy expect a large NA breakfast, or being able to shop between 1 and 4 pm. That is NOT the
    way it is in Italy. Italians, rightly or wrongly, do NOT eat a large breakfast. So, unless you are in an expensive NA style hotel, do not expect anything else, but a cappuccino and a great brioche. Lunch will be larger and fulfilling with a glass of wine (or two!). After that, an afternoon break is customary (outside very touristy sites). Most stores will be closed until 3:30 or 4 pm.

    UPDATE: Many people do not realize that store hrs are dictated by State and Municipal rules and regulations that have been in place for centuries. Recently, effective January 2012, in an attempt to "modernize" the country and increase competition, the Italian Government has abolished such rules leaving to merchants and store owners to decide when to open/close, etc..... However, please note that this is such a deep societal/cultural change that it may take time to express itself in practice. It will be interesting to see how "free competition" will spread across the system.

  2. Respect the country you are visiting. Italy (or any other country) is NOT an entertainment park. People live and go through their everyday routine among the same sites you have traveled from far to see. The great majority of people will welcome you, will share the beauty they live in, and help you if needed. But you have to show respect. The fact that you are a tourist that brings foreign currency does not give you any special right. No one likes to be patronized. Remember, despite whatever you may think, or stereotypes you heard, Italy is the fifth industrialized country in the world.

  3. Slow down.....Despite the large amount of caffe (i.e. espresso) that Italians drink, and the maddening traffic, life in Italy tends to be way more relaxed and lay back than in many other “Dolce Vita” does not refer only to the life of the rich and famous.... SO, slow down and savour the will have a chance to rush as soon as you are back home!

  4. Don’t try to do too much. There are so many things to go to and see...... After two-three days everything will seem like a blur .... Unless you plan to spend a long time in Italy, accept that you will have to make choices since you won’t have the time to visit and enjoy each and every attraction.

  5. If possible, visit Italy during the shoulder seasons (early and late spring, early and late fall). While Italy is a very popular tourist destination year around, during the shoulder season, it is just a bit less “touristy” and, particularly for central/southern Italy, less hot.

  6. Avoid crowded public transit (and/or be aware of gypsies or "swarms" of little kids who may be begging for money). While serious crime is rare, petty crime (pick pocketing and such) is still fairly common in the large cities throughout Europe (but not as bad in Italy as in the past due to strong enforcement). Petty crime targets tourists. A wallet or such may be gone from your pocket and you won't even feel the removal until too late. The odds that you as a tourist will be targeted are very, very small. Still it is common sense to be safe by avoiding, for instance, to carry valuables in your back pocket or open purse, or leave valuables exposed in your hotel, B&B or on a counter as you pay for a purchase..... As we said, that should be common sense when one visits an unfamiliar place.

  7. Make online reservations. If you are planning to visit major museum, check out whether it allows advance online reservations. Why wait 1-2 or more hrs in line, when you can easily avoid that? This website provides you some direct link for museums in Florence.

  8. About line ups....Be patient. In Italy, as in many other countries, people do NOT line up. That is not a sign of bad manners or poor civilization. It is just a matter of habit. BUT, it can be unnerving for visitors that are not used to it. That is particularly so in grocery/caffe'/delicatessen shops where customers spread-out in front of the counter. Usually, shopkeepers will help one person at a time and may ask who is next. Be patient, but, as everywhere else, do watch for the customers that may try to cut the priority "virtual" line. Still about shopping: In produce stores, do NOT handle fruit or vegetables. Ask the store keeper. The same applies to clothing stores... do not riffle through a pile of folded shirts. That is frown upon. Just ask......

  9. For a real Italian experience, consider avoiding tourist traps! We refer to restaurants, "souvenir" kiosks or any other activity/premises and such that are clearly aimed at tourists. It may feel good to eat in a restaurant in a piazza facing the Pantheon in Rome or the Duomo in Florence. Try that if you want to. However, you will be paying quite a bit for that pleasure, AND, the food may be more oriented to NA or foreign taste rather than Italian, and not be as good as it may be "just around the corner".....Worth trying, but not an "Italian experience".

  10. Learn just a few Italian words and bring along a small phrase book. While lots of Italians speak english, and will switch to it as soon as they realize you are a foreigner, it is a sign of courtesy to say a few words such as buon giorno, per favore, grazie, prego (i.e. good day, please, thank you, you're welcome). Another magic phrase, "VA VIA" (i.e. go away) shouted loudly strongly to begging children or their mother (see #6) may help you as well. While it is frequently used in NA, in Italy the word "ciao" is only used with friends.....

  11. Finally, relax. When one travels, the odds are pretty high that something may not go according to plans, an unfriendly accommodation manager, a missed train, a rushed tour, poor service....etc... It can happens as it happens everywhere when you travel. Take it in stride, lough and make the most out of it. There is nothing to gain by getting all "ruffled up". You'll just ruin what it could be a trip of a life time.

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