Italy is an incredible destination, with something to tickle everyone’s fancy, but there are still a few things you should know about before traveling there, which will result in having a hassle-free and truly memorable trip. One of the absolute best ways to make sure you are getting the most out of your trip is to get in touch with a local ‘Destination Expert’, who has inside knowledge, tips, tricks, and advice on their specialized country, to make sure everything goes smoothly for you. In the meantime, however, there are a few things you need to know about traveling to Italy, so let us give you an overview.
Here are the things you need to know for a trip to Italy.
Sure, you know that Italy has some world-renowned food, fascinating heritage sites, fantastic scenery, and endless activities, but there are still some basic things to know before you jet off to this wonderful destination, and believe us, it will make things a lot easier for you, so let’s take a look.
If you are traveling to Italy, you might assume that many Italians have a good grasp of the English language, and although this might be the case in touristy areas, be prepared with a few Italian phrases, for when you go off the beaten track. It is not very common to find people speaking English in many parts of Italy, and it would be naïve to think that you will not need a phrasebook or google translate on more than one occasion, so be prepared by learning a few basic phrases and having the app downloaded, as well as a pocket phrasebook on hand. You will be glad you did.
Some phrases to note are:
Thank you/very much: Grazie/ Grazie Mille
Please: Per Favorite
How are you?: Come stay?
I don’t understand: Noncapisco
It is good to know that in Italy they tend to have a ‘riposa, just as the Spanish have a ‘siesta’, which generally happens between 12-4 pm every day. If you are planning to do something, just double check that the business is open, because many of them close between these hours, except larger supermarkets, hairdressers, tourist offices, and larger department stores, but this can vary greatly. Italians put life before work, and like to spend the middle of the day at home relaxing with family, before going back to work in the late afternoon, so why not take a leaf out of their book and do as the Italians do. With this in mind, eating late is a common practice, so try and plan your eating patterns to fit with the opening times of the restaurants, it will work out much easier this way.
Italy is a very long country, and despite what you might assume, not all the roads are the best quality, especially in the South of the country, so bear this in mind, if you are driving. The entire length of Italy is 736 miles (ca. 1,184 km), so if you plan to see the whole country in a short time, it is worth double-checking distances before you arrive.
If you plan to visit Sicily or Sardinia, you will need to take a ferry from the mainland, and each of these routes will differ, so check this in advance too. There are a few mountain regions in Italy including the Dolomites in the northeast, the Alps in the north, and the Apennines which are known as the spine of Italy, and driving along any of these mountain roads can increase your driving time, even if the distance is not that long.
You might be going to Italy because you heard there is a beautiful wine region or great skiing, but it is worth noting that Italy has so many different sides to it, that is worth exploring. There are three mountain ranges to enjoy, endless coastal regions with fantastic beaches, a variety of beautiful wine regions, and an array of big cities to wander around – all with their character. Sardinia and Sicily are both islands belonging to Italy, and they are just as different as each other, so be open-minded when visiting Italy, and be prepared to be inspired at every angle.
In Italy tipping is not common practice, however, there is a coperto, which is also known as a cover charge, and is added to the bill, for foreigners and locals. It is standard in all restaurants in Italy, so unless it states there is no cover charge, expect to pay between 1 and 5 euros. Unlike many parts of the world where you can pay top dollar for good food and wine, Italy has very affordable options for all types of travelers, and you will almost always be satisfied with your order.
The house wine is generally the cheapest and is very good, so it is good to ask for the local house wine as you move around regions, to get a feel for the culture. Hotels and restaurants range from budget to luxury, so you will always find something to suit you, throughout the country, but in high season (June-September), expect to pay more than in low season.
In Italy, you will be inundated with things to eat and drink, but there are a few things to note on this topic.
- When ordering a salad, don’t expect a variety of salad dressings to choose from, it will most likely come with olive oil, (which is fantastic might we add)
- When ordering a pizza never ask for chicken/pineapple or other strange toppings on your pizza that might offend the locals (after all, these are not authentic Italian toppings)
- Do not ask for parmesan to sprinkle over your pasta (again this is not an authentic Italian thing)
- Do not pay more than 1.50 euro for a cappuccino, this is a standard price.
- Don’t expect to find Pepperoni in Italy, it is not a thing the word pepperoni in Italy means pepper, so it might confuse you.
Time to travel:
Like anywhere else, it is important to plan the best time to travel to Italy. In the high season, you will most likely be surrounded by crowds of tourists, especially in places such as Rome, Pisa, Amalfi, Sorrento, and Tuscany, but if you travel off-season, you need to be prepared for all kinds of weather so do some proper research. The north of Italy has lots of snow in winter, while areas such as Sardinia and Sicily have mild winters, so it can be possible to visit in this season but choose the region to suit your needs. Traveling in the Spring or Autumn can be a great compromise, as you will have fewer people, lower prices and an all-round more relaxed holiday with good weather, but if you are looking for hot weather, you have to expect more than just you on the beach on an Italian summer. For the best that Italy has to offer, without many crowds, try to travel in the shoulder season which is Apr-June and Sep-Oct.