Italy, the birthplace of pasta and pizza also provides some places for artwork lovers to see. A mild climate exists here with hot summers and not so cold winters. The weather is the most suitable in springtime and fall months with pleasant temperatures and picturesque sights.
At that time of year, the place isn’t crowded much, and things may be appreciated with relaxation.
- Many tourist attractions do not let photography – particularly museums.
- It’s considered rude to walk around towns in bikinis, beachwear, short shorts or skimpy outfits.
- American and European DVDs use different formats, so what works at home may not be employed in Italy. This is becoming a smaller amount of a problem with an upswing of Multi-Region DVD’s.
- Returning or exchanging a product, even if it’s flawed is not common in Italian stores so be sure you check things thoroughly before you purchase.
- Some stores won’t permit you to put on shirts and blouses.
- Wheelchair use of restaurant bathrooms is rare, much like ramps and elevators in old buildings. Buses are also generally not wheelchair-compatible.
- Topless sunbathing is typical about the northern and central Italian beaches. However, it is not advised in the more conservative and traditional south.
- Hotels often don’t have pools or video games, while virtually nothing about the radio or television is in English.
Health and Safety
- Olive oil and wine really are a fundamental ingredient in Italian cooking. They are also natural laxatives and so may cause trouble for individuals with sensitive stomachs.
- In an emergency, dial 113.
- If you’re in trouble and need the aid of passers by, yell AIUTO (pronounced ay-you-toe), that is Italian for HELP!
- Serious crime is rare, however pickpockets and purse-snatchers tend to be more common in the larger cities.
- Stay with water in bottles as Italian tap water is sometimes heavily chlorinated
Eating at restaurants
- Italians usually take their food as it is listed, seldom making special requests
- Don’t wait for a check – ask for it.
- Tip with cash. A ‘servizio’ charge is usually included but a small tip is appreciated.
- Breakfast is generally served from 7-10:30am, lunch from 12:30-2:30pm, and dinner from 7:30-10pm. Peak lunch and dinner hours are 1 and 9pm.
- There are very little restrictions on alcohol. It can be purchased anytime on a daily basis and there is no minimum drinking age.
- Kids menus are almost unheard of so ask upfront for any half portion if necessary.
Opening Times and Holidays
- Banks are open weekdays 8:30 am to 1:30 pm and often for an hour in the afternoon.
- Although some major churches are open all day, the majority are open from early morning until noon and then close for three to four hours, before reopening again, and close at 6 pm.
- Many museums are closed on Monday.
- Most shops are closed between 1pm and 3:30pm for lunch. Due to Italy being a Catholic country, many stores are closed on Sunday.
- Try to avoid visiting Italy in August as the majority of the locals take prescription vacation, and everything is closed.
- Apart from Christmas, New Years, and Easter, Italy also celebrates: Epiphany (Jan. 6), Liberation Day (Apr. 25), May Day (May 1), Day of the Republic (June 2), Ferragosto (Aug. 15), All Saints Day (Nov. 1), Immaculate Conception, Feast of St. Stephen.
Some dos and donts
Greet everyone with two kisses
Regardless of age, gender and how well you know them, when you meet someone you greet them with two kisses, one on each cheek. Italians are very affectionate people and aren’t afraid to burst your personal space bubble to say hello. Two kisses are the common greeting in Italy and anything less will just look awkward.
Don’t order a cappuccino after 11 AM
Cappuccino is strictly a breakfast drink. If you order one anytime after 11 AM, especially with a meal, people will think you’re either weird or had a huge night out and only just woke up.
Enjoy a mid-afternoon “riposino”
Foreigners often complain about shops closing at lunch break. Unfortunately, that is the reality of things in Italy, especially in summer. The stifling noon heat makes everybody hide from the sun during the hottest hours of the day. Take a “riposino” (a nap) and try again after 4pm, you will have better chances of finding open shops.
Don’t put ketchup on pasta or pizza
Every time you ask for ketchup in a restaurant you break an Italian chef’s heart. Ketchup is totally acceptable on a burger or fries, but if you put it on pasta or a pizza you will stand out like a sore thumb in Italy and earn yourself some disapproving nods from the people at nearby tables.
Start your day with a sweet breakfast
The classic Italian breakfast is a sweet pastry of some sort, a coffee or cappuccino and occasionally orange juice. Most hotels and restaurants won’t even serve a cooked savoury breakfast. So, embrace the start of your new Italian day by heading to the closest bar and ordering “un caffé” to drink at the counter with your croissant and orange juice. More…
Numerous countries in Europe already have put into practice a chip-and-PIN method for his or her credit and debit cards. This kind of PIN cards have an included microchip. When you make any purchase, cardholders need to type in a Personal identification number (much like employing a debit card for a point-of-sale order in the US). The chip on the credit card then authorizes the purchase.
While handy for European people, chip-and-PIN cards are resulting in many headaches for American vacationers: Some devices that can take chip-and-PIN credit cards just don’t admit US plastic cards. This is especially common with automatic devices, such as many at train and subway areas, toll roads, parking garages, luggage lockers, bike rental kiosks, and self-service pumps at gas stations.
In most of these circumstances, a cashier is nearby that can process your credit card by hand by swiping it, and having you put your signature on the sales receipt the old-fashioned way. Automated machines usually take your US credit card if you also be aware of card’s PIN. Every card has one – ask your bank for the number before leaving; because they’re unlikely to inform you over the phone, allow time for the bank to mail the PIN.
For the time being, most hotels, restaurants, and shops that serve Americans will gladly accept your US charge card. However, at smaller shops, the merchant may prefer that you don’t use your charge card (given that they pay a significantly higher commission on “regular” credit-card transactions than you are on chip-and-PIN ones). They might accept your credit card, however, ask you to type in the PIN. Should this happen, politely ask them to print out a receipt for you to sign instead (in live transactions, it’s slightly safer to sign than enter your PIN). If they refuse, either make use of your PIN or pay with cash.
American visitors can stay clear of potential hassle by getting their chip-and-PIN card only for their trip, but I do not recommend it. It is far better to get a PIN card that is preloaded with Euros.
The harsh truth: Expect to have your credit card occasionally not accepted. Remember that if your card is rejected, there’s usually an alternative – either paying with cash, typing inside your credit card’s PIN, or paying together with your credit card at a staffed ticket window. However in several cases, you may only be out of luck; drivers mainly have to be aware of potential problems when filling at an automatic gas station, entering an unattended parking garage, or exiting a toll road…you may have to move on to the next gas station, or make use the “cash only”.
Remember to protect yourself against purse-snatchers and pickpockets. It is recommended that you simply wear a money belt or perhaps a pouch on the string around your neck, both concealed. When you have to carry a purse make sure that is about your neck and tucked between your body and arm. A word of caution: “gypsy” children are widespread in Rome, are skilled pickpockets who are quick and know more tricks than you need to do.