Italy is one of my most requested destinations. Home to exquisite food and wine and breathtaking vistas, over 46 million tourists visit this amazing country every year. Italians are very kind, outgoing, family-centric and extremely patient (unless they are driving!). They realize how blessed they are to be the safe keepers of some of history’s most magnificent relics and art treasures and are happy to share them.
But, let’s face it. Most of us understand why Europeans have a picture in their minds about Ugly Americans. So if this is your first trip to Italy, here are Kingsbridge Travel’s suggestions on how to fit in like a local and enjoy your trip more.
KINGSBRIDGE TRAVEL’S SUGGESTIONS TO ENJOY ITALY
Slow Down. No matter how hard you try you just aren’t going to see it all in one visit. The reason that millions descend on Italy each year is there is so much beauty to see and experience: culture, art, vineyards, food, museums and its amazing people! Take time to enjoy and absorb the pleasures of Italy without rushing through. Learn to pace yourself from the locals- you’ll enjoy it so much more.
Dress more conservatively than you do in the US. Nothing says “ugly American” faster than halter tops and saggy jeans. You don’t have to be formal and uncomfortable… just neat, put-together and a little more modest. Most Cathedrals (throughout Europe, not just Italy) will not let you enter if your shoulders and knees are not covered. (I recommend that women keep a scarf in their bag if touring during summer months. You can always slip it over your shoulders when entering a church)
Cappuccino and Café Lattes are morning only drinks! A true Italian would never dream of ordering one after late morning, or especially after a meal. Did you know that Italy is one of the last countries to have a Starbucks? Unfortunately after decades of pressure, Starbucks is set to open in Italy in 2017. They resisted for so long because the Italians are so proud of their coffee culture. Italian coffee is superior and should be savored as the Italians do. If you need a caffeine pick-me-up later in the day, stop at a coffee bar for a quick shot of espresso. You can visit Starbucks when you return to the US.
Dinner is not usually served earlier than 8:00PM! Showing up at a restaurant before 7:30 will surely brand you as a tourist and you’ll wonder at all the empty seats. Your meal will be more enjoyable in a restaurant full of happy locals. Most places charge a “Coperto”, or cover charge, for each table. This is NOT a ploy to take advantage of you. It is explained as the cost of washing the linens, dishes, and providing bread (pane in Italian) and tap water. The good news is that tips are not required, though a small gratuity for good service is always welcomed. Dinners are an event in Italy, so slow down and savor your food and wine. Service is slow for a reason; Italians are looking to turn over the table. When you are ready for your check, you must ask for it.
Take time to wander! Americans tend to overschedule their days. Take the time to just wander around and poke your head into the real Italy. If you get just a few blocks away from some of the most famous tourist areas, real Italian life with unfold before you. Stop to listen to a street performer, duck into a neighborhood café for a glass of vino or coffee, and definitely sample the local gelato. Remember this is a vacation. Leave the deadlines for the office.
You need to call for a taxi, or go to an actual taxi stand. This isn’t New York; you can’t just hail a taxi off the street. In fact, many Italian taxi drivers get their entertainment from watching tourists try to do so! As an alternative, familiarize yourself with the public transportation. Busses, subways, trains and boats are remarkable efficient and recently services like Uber have made it even easier to get around.
Italian is the official language of Italy! Seems obvious doesn’t it? But why do so many “ugly Americans” go barging into other countries expecting everyone to speak English? Just learning a few common words and phrases in the local language will make a huge difference in your experience. Yelling won’t make them understand you better. And Europeans in general really appreciate even a minor effort. And unlike us, many of them are bilingual. If all else fails, Italians are well known for speaking with their hands, so don’t be afraid to resort to your charade talents and you will get your point across and have a good laugh at the same time.
BOOK YOUR ITALIAN TRIP AT KINGSBRIDGE TRAVEL
So, maybe you’re sensing some themes here. Slow down, soak up the local culture, and don’t take yourself too seriously. You will have more memorable trip and improve our reputation abroad! Call Diane Ross at Kingsbridge Travel 877-223-4030 for your custom-crafted Italian vacations.
Let us help you plan your next adventure to put these newly acquired skills to use!