There’s absolutely no harm in playing the role of a tourist in Italy. The thrill of exploring an unfamiliar destination is part of the allure of travel, and Italy, with its globally renowned attractions, is a delight to discover anew. However, being a tourist doesn’t necessarily mean becoming a victim of travel scams or succumbing to common errors.
We’ve compiled a list of helpful guidelines to prevent you from making the usual missteps when touring Italy. This way, you can still relish the experience of being a visitor, without being the one committing social blunders here and there. Steer clear of these six pitfalls:
Expecting Quick Service
When visiting Italy for the first time, adjusting your expectations about service speed is crucial, especially if you’re from a country like the US where quick service is the norm. In Italy, dining is less about efficiency and relishing the food and the overall ambience. An evening meal with friends can span several hours, with no one feeling rushed or pressed for time. When dining out in Italy, patience is key.
Embrace the leisurely pace and soak in the experience. Meals not only start late but also stretch out over several hours. If you’re operating on a tight schedule or have young ones who need to be tucked into bed early, consider informing your server about your time constraints or opt for a fast-food outlet that offers quicker service.
Consuming an Excessive Amount of Pizza
While it’s understandable to be tempted by the delicious pizzas in Italy, especially when visiting for the first time, it’s important not to overindulge. Straying too far from your usual dietary habits can lead to discomfort and potentially spoil your trip.
Remember, Italy’s gastronomic offerings are vast and varied (from pasta and wine to gelato) and you’ll want to try them all. Consuming pizza excessively and too quickly might overshadow these other culinary experiences. Maintain a balanced diet and include plenty of walking in your itinerary. This way, you can savour Italy’s delectable flavours without compromising your health or culinary exploration.
Only Visiting the Tourist Areas with the Most Famous Attractions
While these famous attractions are undeniably worth visiting, limiting your experience to only these areas can be a common mistake. After ticking off the must-see sights from your itinerary, consider exploring less crowded, more local areas. Perhaps plan a day out to a nearby village, lake, or beach not typically thronged by tourists. Discover hidden gems within the city you’re staying in, which might involve crossing the river or moving away from the main square.
Your vacation rentals in Italy can also provide valuable local insight. Engage with your Airbnb host or tour guide, and ask them about their favourite local eateries and pubs. These establishments will likely offer a genuine taste of Italy at local prices, providing a more authentic and cost-effective experience.
Having No Cash
Another common mistake to avoid when visiting Italy for the first time is neglecting to carry cash. Although numerous destinations are transitioning towards becoming cashless, Italy isn’t fully there yet. It’s a misconception that you can rely solely on your credit card during your stay.
While establishments like hotels and restaurants frequently accept cards, there are certain scenarios where cash is indispensable. Purchasing street food or a quick gelato requires cash payment. Public facilities like toilets also often require a small fee, necessitating coins. While enjoying the beautiful country, always ensure you have some cash on hand.
Not Validating Your Train Ticket
A common mistake often made by first-time visitors to Italy is not validating their train tickets. When you purchase a train ticket at an Italian station, validate it before boarding the train. This can be done using the small boxes around the station, imprinting a stamp on your ticket.
Skipping this step results in serious consequences. You could even be escorted off the train if your ticket isn’t validated. However, if you’ve purchased your ticket online, there’s no need to validate it. Instead, present your ticket to the conductor as they pass by. Presenting the ticket on your phone is a common practice today. Remember, validating your ticket is necessary if it was bought from a machine or a ticket window at the station.
Consistently Choosing Chianti at Restaurants
Navigating Italian wine lists can be daunting for first-time visitors to Italy. Unlike the familiar lists of Chardonnays and Merlots, Italian wines are often named after their specific regions or even smaller areas within these regions.
A common pitfall many tourists fall into is repeatedly ordering Chianti, one of the few Italian wines they’re familiar with, largely due to its pop culture prominence. While Chianti, a Tuscan wine, is indeed a delightful choice when paired with regional dishes such as a perfectly cooked Florentine-style steak or the hearty Tuscan bread and vegetable stew known as ribollita, it’s not a universal match for all Italian cuisine.
There are two recommended approaches to navigating this intricate world of Italian wines. One is to seek advice from your server, who, in Italy, will likely have a deep knowledge of local wines and can guide you towards the best pairings.
Alternatively, you could choose the house wine or ‘vino della casa’. This is typically available in white (bianco) and red (rosso) varieties and is usually the most economical option on the menu. Despite its affordability, the ‘vino della casa’ is often highly quality and reliable. Remember, in Italian, ‘casa’ is pronounced ‘caza’, not ‘cassa’ as in Spanish.
Visiting Italy can be a fantastic experience and by avoiding the common mistakes that first-time visitors tend to make, you will set yourself up for an unforgettable adventure.