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Traveling is one of life’s great joys. While there is a great deal to discover stateside, America only comprises a fraction of the world’s wonders. It’s time to leave your comfort zone, head to Italy, and do as the locals do: Journey to the Amalfi Coast.
Italy is one of the most popular tourist destinations on the globe, and rightfully so. Rome features some of the country’s most incredible historic monuments, clichéd fare, and is the setting for internationally significant films and novels. Don’t expect the entire country to provide the same experience, either; regional culture and cuisine can vary wildly.
Venture north and you will find industrialized cities such as Milan and Genoa, where local food is comprised of soft cheeses and gamey meats. If your plans include Sicily or Naples, you may find yourself consuming more olive oil and pasta.
We want you to feel at home even on your first trip to the Boot. That is why we have compiled some tips to make your Italian vacation as smooth as pannacotta. Buon viaggio!
Learn essential phrases
Before you embark on your trip, brush up on your Italian. We depend on language more than we realize, so be sure to come prepared with a few phrases that you may need during your visit, especially in case of an emergency. It also never hurts to ask, “Parli Inglese?”
In most European countries, gratuity is included in your bill; this is also true for most restaurant checks in Italy, where you are instead charged a service fee for “pane e coperto,” or “bread and silverware.” If you are unsure what to do, leaving a 10% tip is considered appropriate.
Adjust your eating schedule
In order to have a fully Italian experience, your meals should be eaten a few hours later than your usual schedule. Locals take a break in the middle of the day for lunch and socializing, similar to a siesta in Spain. That means that all shops are closed up for a few hours, so enjoy your midday break and relax.
There are several important factors to consider when packing your wardrobe. First, cobblestone will ruin your ankles if one attempts to sightsee in heels. The temperature could run hot depending on the timing of your visit, but even in the most brutal heat, conservative garb is recommended for certain monuments, especially religious ones with strictly enforced dress codes—something to consider when creating your itinerary.
We borrow many Italian words to describe coffee styles in the U.S., but the terms do not translate. If you order “caffé” at a bar, you will receive espresso. Drip coffee is not as common, but should you want something more watered down, you can order “caffé americano,” which is just hot water and espresso. Also, remember that in Italian, “latte” translates to “milk,” so be mindful of what you’re asking!
Research public transit
The tales of Italy’s traffic and road rage are infamous, so our tip is to avoid cars altogether if you can. Most of the more tourist-friendly places will be walkable, and if not, public transit can take you just about anywhere you need to go. This may require some research ahead of time, especially if no one speaks the language to ask for directions.
Don’t take food to go
This may sound like an unusual piece of advice, but you cannot take food with you as you walk around. It is not typical for Italians to have meals on the go. Small snacks for children may be an exception, but keep in mind that it is in fact illegal to eat at any protected monument and has been since 2012.
Go off the beaten path
Taking the road less traveled offers two advantages: space between you and other marveling tourists, and a unique memory that other travelers will envy. While buying tickets to tourist attractions ahead of time can save you time in line, there is no way to avoid bottlenecking at photo-ops. Unless, of course, the spot where you went to take pictures is not crammed with people.