Italy is a beautiful country by all standards but its allure consists of more than just pizza and the beaches of Rimini. The people there are friendly, talkative and will try and teach you some of their cultural traditions whenever they get the chance. So, before you embark on the journey of your life, make sure you keep in mind these six vital things to know about Italy.
To know the tipping rules of the country that you are visiting is key when it comes to proper behaviour. In Italy, however, tipping is not a tradition. Even though you might be accustomed to handing over 10-20% extra, know that the Italians do not practice this. What they do tend to do is round up their bills and pay thus. So, if you have a 19-Euro bill or a 17-Euro one, hand over 20 Euros and all will be well. The quality of the service you get will not be affected by this and everyone will be happy. In spite of what we have just said, waiters and bartenders will not glare at you if you leave larger tips – it is simply unnecessary. But there is a catch: if you sit down, you have to pay a table service fee ranging from 1 to 5 Euros (this is why you’ll see locals standing at the bar most of the times).
2. Hotels and passports:
Although there are a number of pirate-companies around the world that will claim that they have to retain your passport for various reasons, Italy’s hotels have a legitimate reason do so. When you check in, receptionists will ask for your passport to keep it overnight but do not be alarmed for they are not trying to hold you in the country and force you to do slave-labour, they are simply required by the local law to register each and every guest that comes their way with the police. Some establishments will strive to return your passport even sooner than the next morning so as to avoid inconveniences.
3. Eating out:
Whatever you may be doing in Italy, you cannot leave out the tradition of eating out for that is what the locals enjoy the most. In fact, lunch has become so sacred that locals will often take hours to finish. What you will also notice is that restaurants can sometimes get louder than bars. Why? Well, because Italians like to discuss matters while they eat. You are going to overhear innumerable random conversations – this gets even better if your Italian is sharp. Waiters will also get out of their way to let you take your time: nobody is going to rush you to finish. If you want to stay in restaurant for hours, you can. Yet the excellent cuisine has one inevitable side effect: Italians will not pack you your leftovers for they believe that it desecrates their culinary masterpieces. Always order portions that you can finish for you are highly unlikely to be handed doggie bags.
As we may all know, Italy was unified only in the 19th century, making it one of the younger countries of the world. But then what stories have we heard about Renaissance Florence and Rome and Naples? Well, here’s the thing: Italy used to be a place riddled with sovereign and independent (or somewhat interdependent) city-states. For this particular reason, Italy’s modern-day cities are as different as they can get – each and every one of them is a totally different experience. And yes, this applies to food too – each former city-state will boast with different dishes and different touches to common ones. Though Italy cannot escape its common Renaissance reverberations, we recommend that you give each checkpoint (city) renewed attention after the previous one.
This is an interesting one but know that Italians do not tend to drink cappuccinos after 12 pm. Why? Well, because they believe that milk is bad for digestion and they have this idea so deeply entrenched in their culture that they will outright avoid it (this means that cappuccino is generally bad after meals according to them). In spite of what we have just said, know that if you order one, you will get one – nobody in Italy is going to overtly “prevent you from choosing your own destruction” (wink). So, no, cappuccinos are not outlawed.
Though you might think that you will be able to get by with only “grazie”, “ciao” and “non capisco”, you will soon realise that knowing more is great. The Italian youth will speak English but it is good to acquaint yourself with some of the most common locally-used idioms and words for the elders and barristas greatly appreciate such efforts.
Did you enjoy our list? What experiences have you had in Italy and how have they ended up shaping your overall experience? Hit the comment section below and tell us all about it! Safe travels!