A First Timer’s Guide To Italy


Watercolor’s Top 7 Ways to Blend in to Italian Culture

1.  Cappuccino and Cafe’ Lattes are morning-only drinks!

A true Italian would never dream of ordering one after late morning, or especially after a meal!  If you need a caffeine pick-me-up later in the day, stop in a coffee bar for a quick shot of espresso.  Italian coffee is superior and should be enjoyed as the real Italians do — Give it a “shot!”

2.  You need to call for a taxi, or go to an actual taxi stand.

You cannot just hail a taxi off the street in Italy — you must go to a taxi stand! So, familiarize yourself with the public transportation systems in your town.  Busses, Subways, Trains, and Boats are also remarkably efficient and give you a sense of  “living like the locals.”

3.  Dinner is not usually served earlier than 8:00 pm!

If you show up at a restaurant before 7:30, you will probably find an empty dining room or find the staff enjoying their evening meal.  Your meal will be much more enjoyable in a restaurant full of happy locals.  Most places charge a “Coperto,” or service charge for each table.  This is not a ploy to take advantage of you — it is routine.

4.  Speaking of waiters in restaurants, slow service is good service!

European restaurants are very different than most here in America.  When you take a table for a meal, it is yours for as long as you want — waiters are not trying to “turn tables” fast for tips. (Tips are not required, but a small gratuity for good service is always welcomed.)  Italians enjoy their mealtimes and are not in a rush to dash off to a movie or other event.  Dinner IS the event! Relax and go with the slow flow!  And, you must ask for the check when you are ready to leave — it is considered rude for a waiter to bring your check before you ask because he doesn’t want to rush you!

5.  Dress more conservatively than you do at home.

The Italians are known for their classic fashion taste,  so remember to dress neat, put-together, and a little more modest.  Some Cathedrals, including the Vatican, will not let you enter if your shoulders and knees are not covered.  So, cover up, unless you are spending the day on a beautiful Italian beach, AND, leave the stilettos at home — stilettos and cobblestone are not a good match!

6.  Slow Down:  You will NOT see it all! 

The reason that 46 million tourists visit Italy each year is because there is so much beauty to see and experience:  culture, art, vineyards, food,  museums, and the amazing people!  A lifetime isn’t even enough time!  So, slow down, take it all in, appreiciate what you DO see, and then plan to return!  Leave time in your day to just wander around and experience the real Italy.  Step a few blocks away from the tourist sites and experience real Italian life — stop to listen to a street performer or drop in a neighborhood cafe for a delicious cone of gelato!

7.  Italian is the official language of Italy!

I know this seems obvious, but don’t arrive in Italy and expect everyone to speak English fluently.  Learning a few common words and phrases in the local language will make a big difference in your experience.  Try “Per favore” — please, and “Grazie” — thank you.

Plan to visit Italy!  Enjoy the people, the food, the beauty, the history, the art, music, and literature!  And remember, we at Watercolor specialize in custom-crafted Italian vacations!  Let’s start planning your Italian Adventure!