9 Things to Know When Traveling to Italy

Italy has been on top of every traveler’s list for decades. The country is blessed with beautiful art and architecture, world-class food, exciting culture, and a spoken language that would instantly make you fall in love.

Right now, you’re probably feeling a bit excited, and even a little bit anxious to travel in Italy. While going to Italy can feel a little bit overwhelming at first, we’ve rounded up the best Italy travel tips, suggestions and advice if it’s your first time traveling to this beautiful country.

→  Traveling to Italy? Check out our Italy Travel Guide for more information, or use our 10-day Italy itinerary to plan your trip. We also have useful posts on Rome and Venice.

Italy Travel Tips

1. Make Restaurant Reservations

Italian restaurant

Italians are famous for their home-cooked recipes that have been passed down for generations. While you can still find plenty of walk-in restaurants while you’re there, ideally, you need to make a reservation if you want to go to their famous ristorantes, osterias, trattorias, and wineries.

Chances are, these are always fully booked, especially during the peak season. While you can opt to make your reservation online, remember that Italy’s culture is still very traditional. It’s always best to give them a ring to let them know.

2. Learn Some Basic Italian

Italians speak Italian, and that shouldn’t be a surprise. In more popular tourist areas, you can hear a bit of English. However, if you want to enjoy a more authentic experience during your stay here, then it’s best to learn some tourist Italian.

At least learn to know how you can ask for directions, say excuse me, please and thank you. You can even learn how to say that you have an allergy to a particular food or medication.

Unlike the French people who will feel a bit annoyed when you mispronounce their language, most Italians would appreciate your effort to speak their native language. Never underestimate something as small as a courtesy in their local language. In some cases, it can even save your life.

3. Tipping Isn’t Necessary

If you come from a country where tipping is relatively common, then you might think that you might leave a lot of cash when you tip in Italy. Although tips are always welcome and much appreciated, leaving the typical U.S. 20 percent is too much.

In Italy, the taxes are already in the prices that you see advertised. If something costs 50 euros, then you have to pay precisely 50 euros for it. The VAT is already included. Likewise, if there is a service charge, it is already included in the bill. If you wish to leave a tip, up to 10 percent, or just rounding up to the next whole amount is more than enough.

4. Know What to Pack

Packing

Putting together a packing list in Italy can be challenging, especially if you’re visiting for the very first time!

Remember that the country is one of the most fashionable countries in the world, filled with stunning views that you’ll likely want to be photographed with.

However, to complicate things a little bit further, the weather and topography can change dramatically as well. From the gorgeous beaches of Puglia to great skiing conditions in the Dolomites during the winter season.

But when it comes to packing, stick to the less is more rule; packing light is definitely the way to go. Since you’ll likely go to several locations, the last thing that you want to bring with you is an oversized suitcase. It will give you a hard time loading and unloading on car trunks, and on and off planes and trains. Check out this convenient carry on luggage size guide. We love these suitcases for travel.

Also bring along with you sturdy, comfortable shoes. Most streets are made hundreds of years ago and are either made of cobblestones or black basalt. There are also some cities and villages that require a lot of walking. Bigger cities have restricted driving zones, so make sure you’re in your most comfortable footwear.

As for travel clothes, comfortable layers can go a long way, also bring a lightweight jacket with you that you can use in the evenings. There’s also plenty of sunshine in Italy, so bring sunscreen with you. Also a trusty hat and sunglasses. Here are our favorite travel clothes for men and for women.

If you’re planning to bring your gadgets, then you need to bring along a power adapter so that you can plug your device into a European socket.

5. Validate Your Train and Bus Tickets

Train travel in Italy

There’s a good chance that you’ll be taking a lot of public transportation on your trip to Italy. So when taking them, keep in mind that there are two steps to getting tickets. The first step is buying it, and the second is validating it.

A lot of tourists think that once they already have the ticket at hand, then they’re ready to go. Let’s say that you’re taking the train. Before you’re permitted to board, you need to first insert your ticket in one of the yellow validating machines, found at the entrance to  train platforms. The validation will mark the exact date and time of your ride so that your ticket can only be used once.

→ Save money on train travel in Italy. See all Italy Eurail passes here.

6. Skip the Currency Conversion Desk

While this is something a lot of avid travelers know, it’s still worth mentioning, especially if it’s your first time to visit the country. Simply skip the conversion desk in the airport, and immediately head straight to the ATM to get some local currency.

Not only that you can avoid outrageous fees in the currency conversion desks, but you could also easily have more euros to spend. Most places in Italy are a little bit traditional, so they prefer cash payments and don’t accept credit cards. However, some establishments do accept credit card payments as long as its within a certain minimum.

7. Beware of Pickpockets

Busy train stations are common locations for pickpocket activity in Italy. Usually, pickpockets will work in pairs, distracting you, and will make a swipe on your wallet. If it’s also the first time that you’re visiting Rome, then this is also something that you should be aware of.

You can leave unnecessary things in your accommodation. But as long as you keep your wits with you, wear a money belt, and is always aware of your surroundings, then you should be fine.

→ See other common travel scams to avoid.

8. No Cappuccinos After 11 AM

When to drink cappucino

The country has a lot of customs when it comes to food. One is having a cup of cappuccino (or any coffee for that matter, with milk) is only on mornings and shouldn’t be taken after a meal. Why? Because most locals don’t like the idea of taking milk with a full stomach. 

Sure, you can order ahead, but do expect some side-eye or even a small lecture about indigestion.

9. Don’t Stand in Lines

queuing in Italy

Italians avoid lines as much as possible. So whether you’re boarding a plane, ordering food at a fast-food joint, or waiting to get movie tickets, be prepared that those lines will somehow resemble a mob.

While it might seem weird for foreigners, this is just a regular occurrence in Italy. So make the most of it and wiggle your way in the crowd. A lot of people will rarely get angry, because most of the time, they’ll also struggle to cut in the queue.

Final Thoughts

It’s easy to look for data regarding currency, passports, and getting a visa. But there are also a few important things that you need to know when you’re traveling to the beautiful country of Italy for the very first time. Like other foreign countries, it also has a lot of customs and quirks. It’s better to be aware ahead of time so that you can make the most out of your time here!

About the Author – Geraldine Mills is a self-confessed wanderlust from the land down under, Australia! She funds her adventures by working as a travel writer. She loves sharing the allure of backpacking and being one with nature. Visit this website to check out her other published articles.

9 Things to Know When Traveling to Italy

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