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Italy is one of the world’s favorite destinations for tourists and resettling Expats and immigrants alike; however, there are some common mistakes that foreigners make in the country which you should try, at all costs, to avoid! Not only will you improve the quality of your time in the magical country but you won’t stand out so much from the locals.
If you want to fit in, enjoy life to its fullest and have a trouble free experience in Italy then the old adage that ‘when in Rome, be like the Romans’ couldn’t be more appropriate!
Eating Far Too Much Pizza!
Now of course we all love a good pizza and where better to eat one than in Italy? Naturally, you will be eating a fair amount of pizza while you’re living the dolce vita, however, you don’t want to over do it! Firstly, you will get pretty bloated and might find that the pounds are piling on but you’ll also miss out on the rest of the superb cuisine that the country has to offer.
So when you visit a restaurant don’t just order a pizza out of habit and instead, ask the waiter what the specials are and start exploring the more unusual regional dishes they have on offer.
Forgetting About The Weather.
Although we all have an impression in our minds of endless summer days in Italy, the truth is that the winters can be extremely cold! Equally, summer days can be uncomfortably hot, particularly in the south, and the old houses rarely have adequate air conditioning units installed.
This means that you have to plan your days with the weather in mind – so when it’s too hot to do anything just relax in the shade and if you’re in the country during the winter make sure that you have packed plenty of warm clothes.
Don’t Wait Unnecessarily in Lines – Visit Churches the Easy Way.
All the major tourist spots have long lines which you have to wait in to gain entry; however, with a little forethought you can avoid these entirely! Now I don’t mean that you should rudely push past people, however you can still avoid the queues.
For example, if you were to visit the Duomo di Milano Cathedral you may have to wait for a long time to have a quick tour around the impressive building. To avoid this, you could instead attend a service in the cathedral which will give you the time to really soak up the atmosphere while seeing the building at its very best without the crowds of tourists.
If you do decide to attend a service in any church or cathedral then it’s respectful to leave a small donation and light a candle. This money goes to the upkeep and maintenance of the building and helps to pay for the staff who clean and manage the premises.
It can be a bit daunting to attend a religious service in a church that you don’t belong to, however you will be welcomed by those who are in attendance. For more information about what to expect you can do a little research online or arrive early and ask if there are any special protocols that you should be aware of.
Try To Dress Appropriately.
Despite the fact that Italy is not an overly religious or strict country in terms of its dress code you should still try to dress modestly if you are visiting religious buildings and sites. There are no legal rules in this regard however, for the sake of being respectful you should try to dress smartly while visiting churches, cathedrals and even museums.
Men should wear trousers and a shirt while women can use a scarf to cover their shoulders. Ideally, women should keep their knees and elbows covered and wear closed toe shoes. In some places, you can actually be denied entry to places like the Vatican if you are inappropriately dressed due to religious and cultural sensitivities.
Forgetting To Carry Cash.
When you’re living in Italy you should also make sure to have some cash with you. Many of the smaller stores and street vendors do not accept credit cards and prefer to be paid in cash, so having a few hundred Euros in your wallet at all times is definitely advisable. Also, if you want to negotiate the price of items down, such as leather bags, trinkets and hand made art, which is common and widely acceptable in Italy, it’s a lot easier to do so with cash in hand than with a card.
Don’t Forget To Validate Your Train Tickets.
The rail system in Italy is excellent and an easy way to get around the country while enjoying the fantastic views of the scenery as it goes by. However, you should also validate your tickets as you travel. For instance, if you have a Eurail pass you have to remember to validate it in the station before you board the train.
You should also check the train timetables in advance and make sure your pass has not expired. One thing to be aware of if you are planning to travel by train, or any other public transport, is that there are fairly frequent strikes by workers to get better pay and working conditions. So before you head out to the train station have a quick glance at the company’s website to make sure you don’t get caught by surprise if the services are not running or there are any delays to be expected. On one occasion I was traveling from Bologna to Austria. After boarding the train I realized that my tickets does not entitle me to a seat! I had to stand all the way (almost a 5 hour journey). Go to the train station early, validate the ticket and confirm that you have a seat prior to boarding the train.
Don’t Plan Sightseeing on a Sunday.
Italy is a traditional country with Christian roots and even in today’s modern world Sunday is considered to be a day of rest. This means that many of the attractions are closed to tourists, including many shops with even restaurants having reduced opening times.
While you are planning your sightseeing make sure that you check up on any restrictions on a Sunday. Don’t worry though, there are plenty of things you can do on Sundays if you want to see the sights, for example you can go hiking or spend some time just taking in the atmosphere of the place, even if many of the facilities are shut. Most Italians enjoy a relaxed lunch on a Sunday and then take a lovely leisurely walk together and so while you’re in the country you should follow their lead and go with the flow!
Buy Your Tickets In Advance.
It’s vital while you’re in Italy to buy your tickets to events, places and even transport in advance. Most major attractions, but even minor ones as well, will sell out tickets in advance and if you do want to buy a ticket on the day you will probably have to wait in a long line.
You should always try to book your tickets as far ahead as you can, particularly for places that you simply must see! Attractions like St. Peter’s Basilica are almost always booked out so get your tickets as soon as you can and be ready to plan ahead.
Don’t Only Stay in Rome and The Major Cities.
Of course Rome is a stunning city that has enough to keep you busy for a lifetime but to get a real feeling of what Italy is all about then you need to get out of the major cities and explore the rural parts of the country.
There’s nothing that compares to the charming small hill fort towns in Tuscany or the sleepy villages on the Mediterranean coast so if you’re staying in Italy for any amount of time you should definitely get out of the cities and see them for yourself.
Tipping in Italy.
In America it’s the norm to tip waiters and bar staff as a matter of course however in Italy things are a little different. Most bars, restaurants and other institutions will already include a service charge in the bill so you won’t be expected to tip on the top of the final bill.
That said, if you were particularly impressed with the food or service you can still leave a tip which will be very appreciated by the staff. However, just remember, that you will not be expected to tip unless you really want to.
The Common Mistakes Are Easy To Avoid And Will Improve Your Time in Italy.
Every country has its own unique quirks and national tendencies that make up its character and personality. This does mean that you will have to be adaptable and ready to learn how to get along in your new home even though things aren’t what you’re used to.
You can get a good idea of what the done thing is and how to behave by keeping your eye on the locals and following their lead; but when it comes to things like booking tickets you’ll have to remember to do so in advance! For the most part though, you’ll quickly get used to life in Italy and before you know it you’ll be looking with disapproval at the tourists who aren’t fitting it with the local customs and culture!