If you are visiting Italy for the first time, it's likely you will run into a few things that will leave you scratching your head. I have learned so much about living in a different culture and muddling my way through another language (not eloquently might I add), and thought I would share a few things that might be helpful before you decide to pop on over for a visit or decide to move. In general though, expect the unexpected. So without further ado here are the top 10 things I think you should know before vacationing or living in Italy:
1. You don't tip at restaurants
Now if you're coming from America where you're generally tipping 18-20%, this one is a huge bonus. Included in your check will be a "sitting fee" or a coperto which is usually around €1.50 - €4 per person depending on where you are. It's a flat rate that's often listed at the bottom of the menu for your reference. This applies to everyone, not just tourists. If you would like to leave a tip for stellar service, you can leave a few extra euros on the table or simply round up, again using cash. You will not be able to add tip on a credit card. This is not expected so you only need to tip if you feel like your service was excellent. If you are in a more touristy area and do not see a "coperto", "service fee", or "gratuity" listed on your bill then you will want to leave a tip. I've only ever seen this in the super touristy areas though.
2. You have to weigh your own vegetables at the supermarket
If you grab some fruits and veggies, toss them in a bag and bring them to a cashier without weighing them and printing out a sticker, you will either have to step out of line or they will unhappily go and do it for you. So don't forget this crucial piece when grocery shopping! Honestly, this was the best grocery shopping tidbit we received when we moved to Italy. Oh and in some grocery stores there are plastic gloves you must wear so your hands don't directly touch the fruit. It's hilarious but I also appreciate it.
3. No milk in your coffee after 10am/11am
So there's back and forth on the actual end time, but if you order a cappuccino after you finish lunch, you'll get a look as if you have 3 eyes. This is also a clear sign you're not Italian if you're looking to assimilate. Now this girl over here loves her cappuccinos and hates straight espresso (sorry not sorry) so I try to make it into a bar before 11am, to avoid a weird look. They will, however, always accommodate the request if you'd like milk in your coffee when your heart is set on a cappuccino.
5. Do not, I repeat, do NOT ask for chicken on your pasta
This is a big no no here. You will typically have pasta as your first course and a meat as your second course so they are not to be combined. Also, while you're on the topic, alfredo is not a thing, and chicken alfredo is practically an abomination like Hawaiian pizza. I'm looking at you, American tourists in Italy! Don't ask for it, it's an American "Italian" dish, not an actual Italian dish. Get cacio e pepe instead. Trust me on this one.
Photo by my friend, Haley at Borrowing Britain
6. Your coffee is cheaper if you stand versus sit at a table
Same drink, same location, but if you sit at a table instead of stand you will be paying more for your drink. This goes back to that whole "sitting fee" again. So if you can stand for 3 minutes and slurp down your coffee, do it! You won't have to pay a whole coperto price, but the coffee will still be more expensive due to the servicing of the table.
7. Water isn't free
This was a shocker when I visited Italy for the first time since I'm used to a server almost immediately pouring me a water with ice (#LOL ..you will not get ice in your water). In Italy you will pay for your water by the bottle at a restaurant. So you drink water like a fish and can easily go through 3 bottles? Well, try and hydrate before going out I guess. Of course there are still water fountains around that you can utilize but at restaurants, you will pay for water.
8. Shops will close during the day
Riposo is a THING. You want to do some midday errands? Welp, you're gonna have to wait until about 4:30pm when the shops open up again. I most definitely learned this the hard way when I first moved here. Shops will often close from about 1:30pm-4:30pm so employees can go home for lunch and rest before they return. While part of me loves this for the employees, the convenience-loving side of me wasn't a fan. It's totally normal once you get used to it though.
9. Restaurants open late
I'm talking they OPEN at like 7:30/8:00pm for dinner. In the States I was eating dinner by like 6:30pm, so my rumbling stomach had to take a month or two to properly adjust. Be prepared with snacks or do as the Italians do and go out for an aperitivo! Depending on where in Italy you are, you might even get some free snacks when you order a drink. Aka come visit Salerno!
10. Cash is still king here
While Italy is becoming more card friendly, there are still many places that are cash only. So either confirm before ordering or always have some cash on hand. There have been one too many times I've been left looking like a fool because I didn't have a single euro on hand. Trust me on this one.
Phew! Now all you gotta do it learn some basic Italian: please, thank you, where's the bathroom...you know basicsss and you'll be good to go.
So now that you are prepared with these 10 Italy travel tips, I hope you love your time in Italy! Who am I kidding. Of course you will. It's freaking ITALY! Anyways, while I have you, here's how to visit the Amalfi Coast on a budget! I got you, boo.