Are you visiting Italy for the 1st time? We have Italy TIPS to help you blend in more with the locals, have fun, and stay safe during your family vacation. This is a must read before your Italy vacation!
Is Italy on your bucket list? One of my favorite vacations (of all time) was a trip to Italy. It was an adult only trip with my brothers. We spent time in Rome, Florence, Venice, Cinque Terre, Milan, Sicily, Tuscany, Naples, and Pisa.
We cannot wait to go back again with the kids. We are not alone. Over 46 million tourists visit Italy in Europe every year. We know it can be tough for 1st timers visiting Italy. We wanted to share some of our favorite Italy travel tips with you. This will help with your first trip or 5th trip. You may learn something new!
Italy Tips for First Timers
Our first tip is pretty simple . . . slow down. You will NOT see it all. I know for first time visitors, this is a tough one. Trust me, the reason that the 46 million tourists visit Italy each year is because there is so much beauty to see and experience. You will not see it all in one visit. You will want to come back again and again.
Take your time and explore vs rushing from one spot to the other. Part of the Italy experience is grabbing a gelato and people watching in the piazza, taking a leisure gondola ride in Venice, enjoying an Italian caffè, or getting that selfie at the Tower of Pisa.
Dress More Conservatively
Italians dress up. You don’t have to be formal and uncomfortable, but you do want to be neat. Don’t pack short shorts, tank tops, or crop tops. Italy is much more conservative, especially in the major cities.
Some Cathedrals (including the Vatican in Rome) will not let you enter if your shoulders and knees are not covered.
You also want to leave your heels at home. Most of the streets are cobblestone, so wear comfortable and sturdy shoes.
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 drink later in the day, stop in a coffee bar for a quick shot of espresso. This is just like the locals!
Did you know that Italy is one of the only countries that doesn’t have a Starbucks? They are illegal there because the Italians are proud of their coffee culture. Italian coffee is superior and should be enjoyed as the real Italians do.
Simplify Your Schedule!
Leave time in your day to just wander around and poke your head into the real Italy. If you just get a couple of blocks away from some of the most famous tourist sites, real Italian life is in front of you.
This is the simple life of traveling…just enjoy!
Call for a Taxi
You cannot just hail a taxi off the street in Italy. Many Italian taxi drivers get their entertainment from watching tourists try to do so.
As an alternative, familiarize yourself with the public transportation systems in your town. These transportation options include buses, subways, trains and boats. During our trip, we took the trains (Trenitalia) all over the country.
We have another good Italy tip. Be sure careful of pickpockets at train stations and in larger Italian cities. This one travel guide tip will help save you a lot of frustration. You always want to stay observant.
On a visit to Italy, we watched a couple walk around looking for a target. We want them target one family that was busy looking at their phone. We said something and they immediately walked away. We saved this family from a potential scam. Make sure you are observant and aware of your surrounding on your travels, especially in the big cities.
Practice Your Italian…Or At Least the Basics!
You are visiting Italy and they speak Italian. Learn some basic Italian. That way you can attempt to communicate or at least be more respectful of the locals, that live there. I know Italians are more responsive to a tourist when they attempt to speak Italian vs just asking if they speak English.
Try to experience all of Italy. Communicating with the locals is part of the whole travel experience. In our family, we love Duo Lingo. This fun app is great for the whole family and is free.
SLOW SLOW SLOW Dining
Try not to ever go to a restaurant hungry. The service in Italy is super super super super slow. Most meals last for over an hour. We had breakfast one morning that lasted 2 hours. The Italian food was delicious. It just took a long time. We were shocked we were still there…2 hours later. Be prepared for slow service while dining.
Italians are very welcoming people, but there is a certain etiquette for reaching out and saying hello. You will see friends, family, and even acquaintances kissing each other on the cheeks and saying “Ciao.” However, this does not always apply to strangers. Keep that in mind when meeting someone during your travels. Look to them to see if it is more appropriate to just shake their hand.
You are in a country that has welcomed and inspired visitors for centuries. Enjoy the people, the beauty, the art, music, and literature. You are one lucky duck…and don’t forget it! The Italians will be happy to share a smile with you, especially in the smaller towns.
If you are planning a visit to the Colosseum, Duomo, or Vatican Museums, be sure you pre-book your experience. You can book a lot of the excursions online, before your visit. These Italy tips eliminate the need to stop by an ATM. You can just use credit cards online.
Pre-ordering your tours is also a huge timesaver for your day trips. You also do not want to spend time waiting in lines or miss on the more popular tourist attractions.
Tipping at restaurants is different than at the states. Italians receive a wage as a server, so any tips are just bonus. Most restaurants also charge a service fee or cover charge. Look at your bill to see if a cover charge or servizio incluso was added to your bill. If it was, you do not need to leave an additional tip.
If you are dining at a fine restaurant and a cover charge was not added, you can leave a 10-15% tip. For cafes, leave the change from the bill (just a couple Euros) as the tip.
If you feel the meal was exceptional, you can always tip more than this.
Do these Italy tips get you excited about visiting Italy? What cities are on your bucket list? Siena, Bologna, Sardinia, Pompeii, Tuscany, Amalfi Coast, or Rome?