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Sixteen Tips for my Canadian Friend Traveling to Italy

A Canadian friend of mine is traveling to Italy for the first time. I helped a little with organising this adventure, but here’s 16 last-minute advices before she goes… Thanks to my Italian friends for helping me with this post!

  • Italians kiss on the cheek twice, in some parts of Italy even three times. Even if it’s the first time you meet. In general, Italians are more “physical” than Canadians. Don’t get shocked if somebody touches your arm while talking or doesn’t pull back the knee in case of contact sitting on the public transport. Still, if they touch your butt, that is harassment.

    Hand touching wall
    Italians are more “physical” than Canadians
  • Don’t expect a Canadian way of lining up. Italian lining up is definitely more messy and creative: follow the law of the jungle or you’ll never get there.
  • Don’t expect a Canadian way of driving. For some Italians, driving is a way of expressing their manliness: big cars and aggressiveness is obviously compensation.

  • Keep your bag closed, your wallet out of sight and your eyes wide open. Nothing to worry about, but don’t complain I didn’t warn you.
  • Don’t expect Italians to speak English: they would love to, but English teaching at school is really bad. Still, don’t give up trying to talk to them. They are the most resourceful people on Earth and they will find a way to communicate with you, for example gesticulating. About gesture language, take a look at this, it’s going to be incredibly useful.
  • We don’t speak Spanish, so don’t try to use what you learned from Dora the Explorer and say “gracias, señor, amigo”. Instead, try to remember “grazie, signore, amico
  • Don’t get scared if you hear Italians yelling at each other, especially in the South. Most of the times they’re just talking.

  • Italians bring their kids out for dinner: just deal with it and don’t get scandalised.
  • Lunchtime starts at 12:00am (1:00pm in the South) and dinnertime at 7:00pm (8:00pm in the South). Please don’t go there any sooner or the restaurant staff will hate you as you’ll probably interrupt their mealtime.

    Cup of Tea
    Cup of Tea at Caffè Greco in Rome (est. 1760)
  • Don’t ask for a cappuccino after noon. Just don’t, please. 
  • More about coffee: if you ask for coffee, you’ll have an espresso. If you ask for a latte, you’ll have a glass of milk (latte means milk in Italian!). If you ask for tea, you’ll have tea. That’s it. No americano, no drip coffee, no mocha, no frappuccino, no Iced Blonde Cinnamon Almondmilk Macchiato. And no double-double, of course.
  • Fettuccine Alfredo doesn’t exist.
  • Avoid touristic restaurants. You recognise them by the person on the door inviting you in, the multi-language menu and the wide variety of items offered (fettuccine Alfredo among them).
  • Get informed on local food. Every place in Italy, from the big city to the small village, has a typical dish. Avoid having risotto alla Milanese in Rome, tortellini alla Bolognese in Naples and gnocchi alla sorrentina in Venice.

    Handmade Tortellini alla Bolognese
    Have Tortellini alla Bolognese in Bologna
  • Dress nicely. Please be aware Italians usually pay attention to fashion: if you go around with socks and sandals, Hawaiian shirts and fanny pack you’ll probably feel uncomfortable (unless you’re German).
  • Visit Italy at least twice. The first time you MUST go to the “classical” tour (Rome, Florence, Venice, Naples,…). The second (or third or fourth) time you will enjoy the freedom to visit less “famous” but probably more authentic places.  You will love it.

    Tourist with backpack
    I said DRESS NICELY!

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