Our trip this past September was quick but memorable. I reminisced about my life in Florence as I watched tourists rushed over the cobblestones and dragging their large suitcases towards the Santa Maria Novella train station. I also thought of all the dos and donts when you are traveling in Italy. These are great tips for new travelers to Italy.
Here they are:
DOs: Try to speak the language! If you are traveling in small towns in Tuscany, don't expect the locals to understand English. This is where you will practice your rusty,broken Italian because it's how you connect with another culture, another person. Listen to my episode about Connection while you Travel here. Ask the waiter what is the specialty! Remember why you are traveling through Italy, you want to try the best dishes you can find only here. Ask for a recommendation from the waiter, hotel, or a local on the street what you taste for the first time. Also try to translate the dishes yourself, don't ask the waiter to translate it. I talk about the best dishes in Italy to try on this episode. Order Vino della casa! There's no such thing as bad wine in Italy. So I suggest always asking for the vino della casa (house wine). Why? One, because their house wine is just as good as the 30 euro or 50 euro bottle. Two, when you are out to dinner you don't need a heavy bottle of wine for a simple dish. Check out my episode on Wine culture and Grape & Wine varieties for more insight. Get LOST! I talk about this A LOT. When you get to a new city, turn your data off, leave your device at the hotel and just walk. Use your eyes to experience the quaint town you are in. Don't try to use your GPS to find your way back. Just keep walking. This is how you really get to know a city and a culture when you fully immerse yourself in their streets. My 1st episode speaks a lot on how to get lost in a city. DON'Ts: Drink excessively in public! Travelers especially Americans are accused of being disruptive, obnoxious and disrespectable while traveling in Italy. Try to be not over indulge especially at local establishments like pubs & restaurants. Italians are not excessive drinkers, they don't like how tourists can be while visiting their cities. So be respectful and aware of your surroundings. Wear shorts or tank tops in churches! When you enter any type of holy, sacred place be aware of what you put on that day. I've seen people turned away at the Vatican because they were wearing short skirts and a tube top. Again to reiterate be respectful to these ancient, religious landmarks when you visit. Period. Ask for American dishes like Caesar dressing & pasta alfredo! These things DO NOT exist in Italy. There are so many Italian-American dishes that originated in the states (from Italian immigrants) and when you visit Italy, you will NOT find. This is where I ask you to try dishes famous to the region you are in. Be vulnerable and try something new. Go to restaurants with multiple languages on menu! These are tourist traps. The food that is served could be microwaved, defrosted, or made with processed food. Tourist traps are usually near major landmarks in big cities and their wait staff could be pretty pushy when you walk by. Find restaurants that have hand written menus, that are small, off the beaten path. These places are where you'll find connection and create memorable travel moments.
Now I'm hungry. :)