100+ Things to Know If You’re Going to Italy- Part 1

My friends often ask me for support in travel preparation when they plan to go to Italy. In fact, I think it’s a great idea- go to a country prepared to experience it at the fullest! I enjoy learning about the little idiosyncrasies that make a visit to a new country so interesting, the small traditions, the interesting customs… so, I thought I’d give you a cheat-sheet for Italy.

If you’d like a personalized crash-course on Italian culture before your trip, please contact me at vanessa at Italyinsf dot com. I would be happy to schedule a time to help you out with your trip organization as well as give you some useful tips about culture and traditions!

Part one of this installment includes general advice and travel tips. Tomorrow you’ll get the tips for shopping.


  1. Don’t go off the beaten path before visiting the “holy trinity”: Rome, Florence and Venice. These cities are truly remarkable and you don’t want to miss them.
  2. Nevertheless, make time to spend a few days outside the major cities. Real Italy is in the small towns!
  3. Tuscany is wonderful. There are hundreds of small wonderful medieval villages and plenty to see. However, Italy is a lot more than Tuscany. From the hills of Langhe to the trulli of Puglia, going through the culinary haven of Romagna, you will find fewer tourists and a wonderful land to discover!
  4. Tipping is not required. Service staff gets paid as high as entry level engineers do. In particular, tipping people you personally know is considered offensive. In general, the attitude toward tipping is that you can’t buy a person off, so be mindful if you decide to tip.
  5. Pick pocketing is an issue in larger metropolitan areas like Rome and Venice, but it’s not any worse than New York City, London or Paris.
  6. Newspaper are bought daily at the edicola (newspaper stand), and delivery of newspapers is rare. Edicole are very common and open everyday, and as much part of the typical Italian morning routine as stopping to the bar to order an espresso.
  7. Watch the street billboards for advertisement of “Feste” or “Sagre”, street fairs usually dedicated to one food. If one is close by your location at the time you’re there, don’t miss it- they’re wonderful events gathering people from the various towns and serving thematic foods!
  8. Dates are shown as day-month-year, always.
  9. Times are indicated in 24-hr format.
  10. And yes, we’re metric!
  11. You push to enter a place, and pull to get out. Exactly the opposite as in America!
  12. Airport and rail stations have public restrooms, often with attendants who expect to be tipped. If someone is guarding the door of the restroom, you’re expected to leave a few coins.
  13. Restrooms in all bars and cafes are for customers only. Order an espresso and only afterward head to the toilet!
  14. In public restrooms, toilet paper is a rarity. Italian women always keep a travel pack of Kleenex in their purses for this reason.
  15. You can’t walk in a church with a tank top or with shorts on. You need to be properly dressed to visit most holy places.
  16. Credit cards are not widely accepted. You can’t pay anything that is less than 10 Euros with a credit card, and even then you’re going to be frowned upon. Always bring cash with you!
  17. Public phones are now officially extinct. You will need to carry a cell phone for anything you need, from calling the hotel to reserve a restaurant. If you’re going for a brief stay, use your US cell phone and get a calling card. If you’re planning a longer trip, look into getting a SIM card and use it with your (unlocked) US phone- most cell phone calling contracts in Italy are prepaid services, so no need to lock in a plan!
  18. When using an Italian cell phone, all incoming calls are free.

Find the rest of the tips:

Part 1: General Travel Tips
Part 2: Shopping and Stores
Part 3: Food and Drinks
Part 4: Culture
Part 5: Driving and Moving Around

Although most of this list is of my creation, I got a few tips from fellow bloggers, fellow Italian expats and also American expats in Italy! I had a lot of fun putting this list together- thank you all!

18 Responses to “100+ Things to Know If You’re Going to Italy- Part 1”

  1. [...] 100+ Things to Know If You’re Going to Italy- Part 1 [...]

  2. [...] 100+ Things to Know If You’re Going to Italy- Part 1 [...]

  3. [...] the first installment to one traveler’s list of 100 (or more) things you should know if you’re going to [...]

  4. When using an Italian cell phone, all incoming calls are free

    Not always true. When someone calls you from abroad and you’re in Italy you’re charged (according to your plan) for the call as if you’re making a national call.

  5. When using an Italian cell phone, all national incoming calls are free…… all calls from abroad are charged.

  6. Vanessa is right: if you have an *Italian* mobile SIM card and are in Italy, you never pay a penny to receive any from calls, no matters where the phone calls are from.
    But if you are in Italy and receiving a call from another contry, you get charged in the case you use a foreign SIM card (then accordingly to your charge plan) or some nasty-bastard-tricky wicked games to your digital stuff :P

  7. ah!! (commento per il webmaster (o weblady?)

    complimenti per la tua guida, fatta veramente bene e soprattutto si capisce che è scritta da un’italiana!!!!

    un saluto,
    Denis (from Milan)

  8. Italians are wonderful people, friendly and helpful, even to mere tourists. So this is just a caution about the exception!

    Thieves are at the train stations in the big cities, don’t take your eyes off your bags for one second! And if someone comes up to you to ask directions or the time of day, especially a cute kid, it’s a distraction to get you to turn your back on your bags long enough for an accomplice to grab one. This scam has the cooperation of taxi drivers in Milan, who will pull up too far so you have to walk towards them while the person in line behind you grabs one of your bags. The police will be of no help whatsoever, except to fill out a report in case you can make an insurance claim.

  9. Do you have a newsletter?
    thank you!

  10. [...] interessante post in evidenza è Cento e più cose da fare se state partendo per l’Italia (parte I). Tra i vari suggerimenti ne prendo qualcuno a caso: – Non uscite dalle zone battute, quindi da [...]

  11. After living in New York all my life, and spending a summer in Italy, I have to say that the pickpocketing is actually far, far more prevalent in Italy. In NY I have never once been pickpocketed-in Italy, attempts were made on either myself or my friends 5 times in the 3 months we were there! And it was widespread, too-2 of the attempts were in Florence, another 2 in Rome, and 1 in Milan. And almost always, the diversions were coordinated by children. The crazy part is, we “blended” much more than the average tourist, since we all speak fluent Italian. While Italy was an amazing experience and I miss it every day, do not be fooled into complacency. Your risk of having your property stolen while on the street is far greater than in the states.

  12. I have only very rarely heard of pick-pocketing in Venice, it is in my opinion one of the safest places in Italy. There is far less than in Rome, Naples, Florence, Bologna, Milan, Genova or any other major city, with similarly lower levels of other crimes.

  13. [...] read with great interest this 100 Things to Know if You’re Traveling to Italy.  It is a real eye-opener, let me tell you.  Our cultures really are different.  Here in LA [...]

  14. there are public phones in train stations most of the time- they are not all extinct like written above.

    Italians love to help you if you are lost and love to suggest restaurants/things to do. So dont be shy about starting a conversation or asking for help!!

    And dont believe people when they say Milan is a big metropolitan city that should be avoided. Its beautiful in its own rights!!

  15. Just came across your fun list. Looking forward to reading the other tips!

  16. How long have you been in this field? You seem to know a lot more than I do, I’d love to know your sources!

  17. Great listing, when I will travel in Italy I already have an idea where to go there after I read your blog.

  18. thanks for the help im thinking of travelling to Italy in the future

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