Love Italy? You should check out my book about How to Order an Italian Coffee in Italy! It’s available on Amazon! Get your copy or tell a friend!
Here are some common mistakes and misconceptions tourists have about traveling in Italy. After posting about how my diet changed after moving to Italy 7 years prior, I’ve also been reflecting on people visiting and enjoying Italy.
Here’s a few words of advice for anyone hoping to visit Italy in the near future – leave your own suggestions in the comments for others!
- Tipping in Italy. Though regularly discussed, argued and debated, the truth is you don’t need to tip in Italy. Really. Let me repeat that: you don’t need to tip in Italy. Of course most workers will not scoff or refuse a tip (though a few will), but it’s not necessary, and I think it’s a bad precedence to set for foreigners to tip in Italy for simple things like a coffee, taxi rides, or dinner in a pizzeria. Many Italians I know will only leave a tip for very exceptional service (think: anniversary dinner in a Michelin-starred restaurant) or will leave the change (a few euros) when paying cash because it’s easier not to wait for the waiter to make change (think: leaving a 100-euro banknote on a 99-euro bill or a few euros), but it’s a choice of convenience rather than rewarding service, and it’s nowhere near 10 or 20% of the bill. In Rome, waiters / taxi drivers are getting spoiled with foreigners leaving tips and are now often expecting them. But you don’t need to tip in Italy. You’re probably already paying a supplement through the servizio (service charge) on your restaurant bill and/or the coperto (cover charge), sometimes both. You probably still want to tip a hotel porter for bringing up your bags, a helpful concierge or a thorough tour guide, and you can consider leaving 10 cents on your receipt at the bar when you order a coffee, but don’t sweat it.
- Assuming you can buy tickets for public transportation directly on the bus / tram. Most big cities in Italy (Rome, Milan, Naples, Florence) require you to buy your bus/tram tickets before boarding. And not just that, but most bus stops will not have a ticket machine next to the stop. Rather, you’ll need to find a newspaper stand (edicola) or a tobacco shop (tabaccaio) to purchase your tickets. If you’re planning on using public transportation on a Sunday, buy your tickets the day before – you’ll save a lot of time not looking for an open place to buy tickets. And once on the bus/tram, make sure you validate the ticket – put it into a machine that will print the date/time used on the ticket (so it can’t be re-used). Save yourself a fine!
- Calling the afternoon store closings a “siesta.” It’s not called a “siesta”…the stores are just closed. Some stores have a day of the week that they are closed and they will call it a day of rest (giorno di riposo) or (riposo settimanale), and most stores will also be closed Monday mornings, opening in the afternoons directly. A misconception is that all stores will close in the afternoon, but it really depends on where you are in Italy, and what time of year. Especially in crowded city centers, many stores should remain open through the afternoon, but if they do close, it’s not a siesta. It’s not Spain. It’s just closed. As my friend Max reminded me, store hours are set at the Comune (city) level, so opening times will vary from city to city.
- Not respecting meal times, especially at lunch time. Most restaurants and bars have specific opening times, and they will close in the afternoon – that you can count on. If you have a late breakfast, visit museums through lunch and hope to get a bite to eat at 2pm or 3pm, you’re going to find a very limited selection, and some of which was prepared before the lunch rush, including those sandwiches that have been sitting there since 10am. Try to eat when Italians eat – lunch hour is usually 13-14 (some start as early as 12.30 eating) and most will be done by 14.30. Dinner is a little different – the further south you go, the later they start eating. A good rule of thumb is a reservation for 20/20.30 (many restaurants won’t open until 19/19;30), and some groups will make reservations for 21.30/22 and will stay until the restaurant closes! If you’re hungry earlier, why not have an aperitivo (pre-dinner drink) before dinner?
- Expecting to be waited on very attentively in a restaurant or store. The culture of “il cliente comanda” (the client dictates / is right) is not present in Italy. Furthermore, most restaurants may appear to be “understaffed,” that is, they will have few waiters working many tables because their main job is to order and deliver your food. They probably won’t ask “how are you folks doing?”, if you like the food, if you want a refill (this concept doesn’t exist) or other general “friendly” requests that are in reality superfluous to your main dining experience – they just don’t have the time. So, sit back, be patient, and flag down your waiter when you need something, but be patient in knowing they are probably working very hard. The good news is, you’ll rarely be presented with the check until you ask for it. [Update: someone made a comment to me that I’m wrong here, and the service is fast in Italy. I am not debating the speed of the service but rather the amount of attention that is given to the patron who may be accustomed to a high level of attention throughout the dining experience. I think the quality of service is relatively high, but it’s not conveyed in terms of client attentiveness but in other ways.]
- Ordering peperoni on your pizza and expecting hot/spicy salami. Peperoni in Italian are bell peppers, not pepperoni in the US which is hot salami. So if you want hot salami on your pizza, don’t order a pizza with peperoni (note the spelling – just one p) order a pizza diavola or look for a pizza that has salame piccante as one of the ingredients.
- Thinking you have to order an antipasto, primo e secondo at every meal. Most Italians don’t eat an antipasto, primo, secondo and dolce at every meal – you don’t have to, either. If you eat like this at every meal, you will definitely feel full! Feel free just to pick a primo or secondo for your lunch and maybe splurge at dinner with a more robust meal.
- Ordering before paying, paying before ordering in a bar. Many bars require that you get a receipt (scontrino) before ordering, especially if you see the cash register (cassa) sitting apart from where you’ll pick up the food or coffee, and you don’t see immediate table service. When in doubt, observe for a few minutes or just ask at the cash register how to proceed – you might say, “scusi, si paga o si ordina prima?” (Does one pay or order first?)
- Drinking a coffee during a meal (other than breakfast). Coffee is used mainly to help digestion and to finish off a meal, and therefore at lunch or dinner it is ordered after the meal and dessert have been consumed. If you order a cappuccino to go with your spaghetti carbonara, expect a nasty look…from everyone.
- Touching fruit & vegetables with your bare hands in a street market or supermarket. In a supermarket you should see plastic gloves and bags near the scales or throughout the fruit/veg section. Use them. In an open-air market, you won’t see these gloves because you are not expected to handle anything yourself unless explicitly told to – the people working in the stall will do everything. Don’t touch the goods! Also, it’s considered pretty rude to tell the fruttivendolo exactly which fruit he should put in your bag.
Here’s a few to start….any tips you have for tourists in Italy?
Love Italy? You should check out my book about How to Order an Italian Coffee in Italy! It’s available on Amazon! Get your copy or tell a friend!
Cherrye at My Bella Vita says
Love them, Sara! Great points, especially the tipping, the eating at 2 or 3 and the “siesta” comments. I don’t know why people don’t believe us when we tell them they don’t have to tip!
I appreciate these insights, truly…but I must say that my last concern is offending the street fruit vendor who, in my experience, will give me sub-par fruit because he will assume that I’m American and know nothing. Only an idiot wouldn’t wash street produce before eating it, given the smoke and other pollution it’s marinating in. I will check my fruit every time, because the guy selling it shouldn’t have put under-ripe fruit on the stand in the first place. If I could depend on that ethic, I would obey the no-touch rule.
The no touch rule is set by the Italian health department and applies to Italians and not. “Ethics” have nothing to do with this situation. If you are not open to the way things are done in other countries maybe you should stay where you are.
I’m Italian, born and raised in Italy. I paid my studies working as a waitress in restaurants every summer and I had, back then, in Sardinia, mostly Italian clients and they always left me a tip (1990-2001). My father always left a tip in a restaurant when I was with him, I always do and my man always does. It’s not obligatory in Italy, so you don’t have to calculate anything. Do you think tipping is American? Then think again… in United States arrived only after the Civil War.
Originally was an habit in English Coffee House that from XVII century spread all over Europe: “To Insure Promptitude,” which was printed on bowls in British coffeehouses. The Italian word “mancia” seems to come from the sleeves of noble women during medieval time where they used to hid special gifts for their favourite cavaliers.
In Italy it’s a matter if you feel it or not. If the person in front of you offered you a service worth more than you expected.
It’s a way to say “that was special: thanks!”.
Also when we go in a Bar (get a try in a real Italian bar but don’t in the centre of cities like Rome because for sure you are surrounded by tourists like you) after we drink rigorously our espresso at the counter we leave 10/20 cent, it’s nothing but it’ a sign of respect for the speed of the barman, it’s a way to connect. He’ll remember.
When I was younger teenagers didn’t use to leave any tip because of their economic possibilities and unluckily growing up some of them kept the habit even if they are now professionals with 5 times a wage of a waiter.
I’m now tourist guide and I work mainly with foreign people in German, English and French and do really appreciate when after hours of trying to make alive legends and stories in front of my clients eyes, sincerely trying to share with them a passion and deep love for my city, and also of giving the time of their life, the clients give me a sign of appreciation. It’s doesn’t matter if it’s 2 euro or 200 euro (that happened only trice in my career ), it’s the gesture that is nice.
Ken VanWingerden says
what city do you work as a tourist guide?
Interesting and quite true. I am no expert by any means; I have been to Italy 5 or 6 times and I think in terms of service (this definitely goes for France too), the servers/waiters will wait for you to ask them for the check. It’s how it is. I don’t think it’s rude, they just allow you to take your time and chat and drink; whatever. But it is a big difference from many other countries and shouldn’t be seen as rude or that they don’t like foreigners. It feels a bit awkward sometimes though going up to them to pay but Italians are very friendly in general I find. That’s why I go back!
Awesome explanation, Sara. I should add, though, that I was kicked out of restaurant in Siena for following the #7 tip. The waiter scoffed when we just wanted to order a primo (he didn’t wait to hear that we’d also get wine, salad, and probably dessert, too). Little did he know that I was there on a guidebook fact-finding mission. Obviously, that restaurant found itself left out of the guidebook. I wish I could remember the name so I could call them out…
I live all my life in Italy and have never seen something like that. It is very normal to order only a primo and any restaurant not respecting this is not a real Italian restaurant! Do you have the name?
nyc/caribbean ragazza says
My Italian friends in Rome do tip. Not 20% but will usually round up depending on the service.
I agree foreigners over tip. Waiters here and in France make a living wage and have health insurance while in America, we (I used to waitress) were taxed on assumed tips and made a lower minimum wage.
You are so dead on about service. A friend of a friend was here from L.A. and she complained about how slow the service was. She was tripping. I don’t need a waiter coming over to my table every ten minutes to ask how I’m doing or to tell me about their guest appearance on some TV show (true story).
monica cesarato says
Spot on! Could not have explained it better! Brava!
It is hard to accept that “no tipping” is really true, but it sure was nice once we got used to it. We like the “just round up” when it makes sense.
It actually went one better for us last month in Italy. A couple of times the WAITERS rounded down! Now THAT we would never see in the USA!
Cameriere pazzo says
A good waiter or waitress always deserves a tip!
lee laurino says
while living in Sorrento it was difficult in the market to know “who was next” . Lines were not always observed.
Except for the “friends” I made selling bread or cheese, small quantities were frowned on! i wanted to buy for the day or 2 at most. The refrigerator was midget! I never did try the butcher. Had no idea what some of the meats were and if you dont like pork or ham you are limited. I found a stall in the Firenze veggie market that sold turkey! stop there every trip and she makes me a sandwich. I am sure the have a chuckle about that.
you are SOOOOO right about touching the furit. One vender slapped the clients hand who tried to pick an apple
i love italy……
I knew a couple of these but these tips were very very helpful. I will be visiting Italy in about a month’s time so will lock these away in memory!
Susan Heslington says
Brilliant! First time I tried to leave a tip up in the Tuscan hills I got a weird look. Learnt from that experience.
Oh and I dont know how many times ive ended up with a pepper pizza rather than a pepperoni one! LOL Its just not the same….
That’s because pizza with pepperoni on it (and no other ingredient) doesn’t actually EXIST in Italy. It’s mostly just an invention of pseudo-italian restaurant or things like that, XD.
My number one tip i give tourists is about the lack of public toilets! You will need to use bar or restaurant toilets mostly while out and make sure to always bring your own tissues….
I also like the water fountains everywhere, carry a small bottle with you and fill it for free whenever you see one.
Whoa, no. Don’t do that, girl. If you’re thinking of the green, tiny, water dispensers, it’s OK. Pretty much, we only use those the way you do.
If you’re talking ’bout the bigger ones… Nah, don’t.
You can buy a bottle of water literally everywhere very cheap. Why would you even consider to drink from fountains? Don’t do it!
I assume that she was referring to DRINKING fountains (sometimes called bubblers or other things, depending on the region). At least, I hope she was! :)
Is that true that you should carry your own toilet paper in Italy? That’s the case in China, but it wasn’t necessary when I went to Germany and Austria a few years ago.
Sara, Ms. Adventures in Italy says
No, you don’t need to carry your own toilet paper though a lot of people carry mini-Kleenex/tissue packs in their purses for all sorts of reasons. You can get one at any tabacco shop.
I have been aware of the tipping guidelines and was surprised and taken aback on our last trip to Italy. On 2 occasions in Sorrento, the waiters aggressively asked us to tip!! Unfortunatley both the meal and the service we poor as well. Very unusual for Italy since we are almost always pleased with both.
Great tips. If you’re this far south (I’m in Salento, at the bottom of the heel) then nobody eats much before 9pm, unless they have very small children with them. Aperitivi, however, are great down here, and well worth having to stave off the early evening hunger pangs. Cocktail Sampellegrino e stuzzichini – yum!
thank you Sara for explaining it all so well. I am Italian and I onl tip if I am very happy with a waiters service. certainly if they ask for a tip they dont get one.
It’s the rudest thing to do.
I also wanted to point out that Italians don’t actually like to much attention in a restaurant. We want our food good and at the right time, but then we want to be left in peace to enjoy the food as well as the company.
So even in upscale restaurants where they have plenty personnel they will be frowned upon if they get “sticky”.
As for the closing times, thank you thank you thank you for saying that is not a siesta. Only pensioners and babies have time to sleep in the afternoon!
Most business in Itay are still family run, so during closing times business owners go to shop, take their kids out of school, tank, whatever else they cannot do during the many hours they work
and I have one last tip: travelers please learn traffic signs. I hear of so many people getting parking tickets or worse because they don’t read the signs. Being a foreign is not a justification for not respecting the road rules!
Marg DiStasio says
This is just what I needed. Am about to venture to Italy for 5 weeks. First time I’ve travelled to Europe (I live in Australia) and I was actually wondering about tipping. So this has been brilliant. Loved it all. Thank you.
John Helm says
Good tips and accurate. I would add a couple of comments. 5. Wait staff in restaurants are professionals of course some better than others, but mostly it’s their life’s work and they do what is needed without a lot of extra fussing – I like that. If you need something you just have to ask, make a signal, even get out of your chair and find them if desperate. The good news is that they won’t bother you and rush you through your meal so they can seat the next group at your table. Most restaurants I have experience with in the North will not bring the check until you ask for it. Many in fact will wait for you to come to the cashier and tell her/him what you ordered, they do know by the way, but by telling them you are both confirming the accuracy. 8. Many bars don’t expect to be paid until you are done rather than prepaying or even paying when you get your drinks. You finish your coffee go to the cashier and tell her what you had. 5. In many nice clothing stores one might get at minimum a dirty look for digging into the nicely folded and stacked clothing on the shelves. Best to size up the store and maybe ask for help finding your size. They will help if you ask even if they seem to be preoccupied taking about last night at the disco. 9. I’ve been told it’s against the law, unwritten of course, to order a cappuccino after 11am. 10. It might be rude to tell the fruttivendolo what to put it the bag but don’t be afraid to tell them what not to, you don’t have to accept bad fruit. 1. I am very sure that tourists in large tourist cities get treated differently than Italians, the waiter might hassle a tourist for a tip but would not think of doing that to an Italian. Same goes for ordering, first, second, etc. just be firm with them.
Tip, don’t be afraid to ask for a box to take home the left overs in a pizzeria we do it all the time, even in Milan. Why throw good food away – it’s not the green thing to do.
This was great! I linked to it on my own site, hope that’s ok!
I’ve recently come across your blog and I do like it!
I add it to my blogroll if you don’t mind.
ah ah..this post is sooo funny! I’m Italian living in the UK and after leaving abroad for a while I can easily spot these Italian “features”! Once I was on a airplane and an Italian ordered a sandwitch with peperoni…I still remember his disappointment when we received a sandwitch with hot salami!!!
Smart Ideas says
Useful tips. Thank you. Here are two things which I’ve learned about dining and drinking coffee in Italy.
If you are in a fancy restaurant you might not get a menu. Instead, the waiter tells you what antipasti, primi and secondi they have. I’m not sure whether it is rude to ask about prices. I assume it is. So the bill could be a bit of surprise (set your expectations “high”). In my case it was about 45 euro per person (including drinks), but it was worth it. It is good idea to go to such restaurants with Italian friends, so that they can translate “waht’s of the menu”.
Italians do not add milk to coffee after breakfast. When I ordered cappuccino in the afternoon, I heard one member of the staff teasing the one who just frothed the milk. The answer was that the cappuccino was for a tourist. I don’t suggest not to drink cappuccino in Italy after the breakfast. However, be prepared that you sometimes “surprise” the waiter.
The Food Hunter says
It’s the same here in Thailand about tips – not expected.
Some of the more expensive restaurants will add 10% service fee but, as that often is as little as 20 baht, (65 cents) it’s not that big of a deal.
I do tip more to taxi drivers and in restaurants and at food stalls where the food is very cheap. Otherwise, in Thailand if anyone tips it’s just usually the loose change.
Tipping has gotten out of hand in the US with some places expecting 20%. No wonder less and less people are eating out, it’s just too expensive when you factor in the massive tip.
Heidi k says
Coming from outside the USA and a country where tipping is not a primary way to earn a wage, I can understand why you think it is out of hand in the USA. SO, a little USA perspective. Most waitstaff in the USA are paid less than 3.00 USD an hour. (Depending on the state, minimum wage runs anywhere from $7.45-$15.00 an hour). The work they do and compensation they make is entirely tip-driven. That 3.00 an hour is usually not even enough to cover the taxes they pay on their wages. So NOT to tip waiters/waitresses/bartenders/barmaids in an American eatery is not only down right rude, but directly impacts the ability to earn a living of that server.
(This excludes fast food [McDonald’s, ChikFila,etc] or self-serve [cafeterias] eating establishments. Do not tip in these places.)
Often, server have to “tip-share” meaning one of two things. A) They are required to give a set percentage (usually 5-10%) of every tip to the busboy/girl who cleans their tables and to the hostess who seats the guests and to the bartenders, or B) They are required to pool their their tips with the rest of the wait staff and at the shifts’s end, servers receive equal portions of all tips received, regardless of the performance/work performed.
The average is 15%. Anything lower typically is an indication of poor service, while 20-25% is exceptional service and anything above that is truly extraordinary service. No matter the percentage, a penny left under a glass indicates VERY poor service and can, conceivably, be left as the only tip, in that case.
Many restaurants will include (“auto-grat”=automatic gratuity) 12-18% on parties of 8 or more persons. And some places will add this even if your large group asks for seperate checks. If there is a gratuity added to your check, do not feel compelled to add more. (Many Americans will tell a good server about 2/3 of the way through the meal that their tip will be better if they can get the manager to remover auto-grat. But do not say this unless you mean it!). Alternately it is acceptable to add an extra percentage so the total tip reflects the 20% or higher you believe the server deserves. (It is also acceptable to ask a manager to remove the auto-grat if you feel the service was not up to the level deserving it,and then tip less. A truly GOOD manager will remove the auto-grat. In the case of some “chain” restaurants, they cannot remove it. In that case the manager may elect to compensate (remove) a portion of the charges for the food and drinks, effectively lowering the auto-grat amount).
Depending on the part of the country you visit, some expect 20-25 percent just for gracing you with their presence and have NO service skills. Do not feel like you have to leave them more than you feel comfortable with!
Many servers in the USA are students or have this job as a second job to supplement their primary income and take care of their personal or familial financial responsibilities, since serving tables for tip wages can earn decent money for good service.
Other work in the US where it is appropriate to tip a few dollars rather than a percentage would be hair dressers/barbers, taxi drivers, bellhops, maid service, food delivery driver, valet parking attendants, airport personnel who provide a personalized service (such as handling the airport provided wheelchair that takes you or member of your group through the airport, helps with baggage and making contacts, etc), masseuse, manicurist, shoe shine station, or other personnel (other than the business owner) who provide a personal service. These positions typically are not tip-dependent earners like the others, but it shows your gratitude.
Jo-Ann Tipple says
Great assessment of why tips in the US are needed and how to figure that out.
You are so right, tipping in general has got out of hand.
In a restaurant I will always ask whether the tip goes to the staff or to the house and will only tip when there is not a service charge
Thanks for the tips, Sara. It’s really important to know these simple things before setting foot in a foreign country, because the last thing you want to do is irk someone unintentionally.
Kelly Borsheim says
Great! I did not know that one can point to desired fruit in the market and still be rude. Thanks for that.
And a friend of mine and I did get told that we must buy two beers with our dinner one time. We were regulars and always shared the meal, admitting to being artists on a budget. While the restaurant was rarely even half full, we were told that we did not order enough each week and “this is a restaurant after all.” After two times of this (bc I wanted to confirm the reason for this odd request, especially since I rarely enjoy beer and my friend never does), we decided that we were not wanted there.
Sad, we had enjoyed the place for about 2 months every week.
Gioino - Rivarola says
Great! I did not know that one can point to desired fruit in the market and still be rude. – in fact it’s bollocks.
source: I am Italian.
Valentina ItalyMag says
I absolutely agree with the points about lunch times, tickets for the public transports, and paying before ordering.. if you follow these simple rules, you’ll save time and will behave correctly in those situations.
I would add that coffee is a must for Italians, but if you don’t drink coffee you should order an “amaro” like Averna for example.
All the tips were valid and something I wish we had known before we moved to Italy 6 years ago. I can’t tell you how many times we were hounded for tips even after paying the coperto! But, we do live in Naples and apparently its quite normal practice here to hound customers until they pay more.
The markets I find tend to be a MUCH better deal in terms of produce! I have noticed that if you buy too LITTLE the vendors tend to get annoyed. Great tips all around!!
gosh, I don’t even think about that kind of thing anymore, I guess I’ve fully assimilated! LOL!
You’ve nailed it with these tips. These are the biggest issues I hear from people returning from Italy. I think the biggest mistake travelers make is not respecting the eating times–especially lunch. I have to admit that I tip when service is friendly and there is no coperto or servizio on the bill–(former waitress here).
Good tips! Most of them right on money. I happen to travel a lot to Italy (mostly northern regions).
Regarding tipping, that’s true. You don’t leave anything after lunch. Of course, dinner in a good restaurant is something else.
Bus tickets – another option is just ask your reception in the hotel. Usually, they sell the tickets.
Very true about primo, secondo, etc. Italians are very aware of that division. Where I come from there’s main course (I mean meat, or fish), and there are things on-the-side (could be pasta, potatoes, salad). For Italians pasta is primo, main dish is secondo, and salad is antipasti. So I used to have a few nasty looks here and there, and had to adjust.
I don’t agree about the servicio. It’s actually good, compared to Paris, for example.
These are great!
One other tip (though you’d have to confirm whether this holds true throughout Italy?) The first time I went to a grocery store while living in Bologna I didn’t realize I had to pay for the plastic/paper grocery bags. This came right on the heels of touching fruit sans plastic gloves. It was a traumatic trip, but I learned :)
alice romesecret says
Top 10 Tips are perfect and all true.
Perfection! Excellent tips (no pun inteded)
I love that you came out and said not to tip in Italy! I hate that their country doesn’t expect that kind of thing and we are the foreigners basically ruining the essence of the country. I love that. Good JOB! Way to speak up… everyone should read this.
Great post and very useful. One thing though maybe you should have called it ’10 American Tourist Mistakes in Italy” as a lot of it does not apply to non-American tourists ie tipping which is a US thing as far as I know and the kind of obsequious (and very irritating to me!) ‘service’ which you get in US restaurants.
Personally I think it’s fine to break the rules. I drink cappuccini whenever I feel like one (not very often) and if I get hungry at, say, 3pm I just go to a bar and have a sandwich or something.
I’ve never had a waiter hound me for tips. That kind of brings me to my #1 tip which is avoid touristy areas if you can. You get better food and better service in residential areas outside the historical centres of Italian towns.
Great advice. Another…Always bring a few coins — 50c, 1 euro — when going to the supermarket if you want to use a shopping cart. There’s a deposit-and-return system. Nothing more annoying than desperately seeking change, and you won’t be appreciated when you ask.
Yes, good advice, but don’t be afraid to ask for change if needed. I’m Italian and I do it often. After all the supermarket wants you to use that shopping cart! Maybe, when ordering a 1 euro coffee at a bar, if you have only 20 or 50 euro notes from the ATM you may politely ask if they have the change before ordering.
Ms. Adventures in Italy says
I love all the added information and tips you’re adding here, everyone! Thanks for the discussion, too :)
Rome Car Hire says
These are wonderful tips, Sara. These are often overlooked but very important parts of the everyday culture and life here in Italy. Things are done quite differently from what most tourists are used to and some things people don’t even give much consideration to can actually be offensive.
Perhaps my best tip for travelers to Italy is the PLAN – in advance! There are several things (public transportation being one of them which I believe you mentioned) that require your advance attention. While I’m used to the way things run in Rome, I wouldn’t recommend that anyone visit and “wing it” on their trip. You could end up having a pretty negative experience just because you don’t understand business hours or where the bus drops off. Plan your transportation (to and from everywhere), plan your budget, plan your meal times, get currency exchanged ahead of time and get public transit tickets before you need to travel. It may seem like a lot of work in the beginning, but it will make for a much smoother trip.
We just got back from Rome and I have to tell you these tips did NOT prepare us for the fact that Italians hate Americans. I have never been treated so rudely EVER! It wasn’t just us either everyone we talked to on the way home said the exact same thing. If you don’t speak Italian they treat you like you are bothering them. When you ask a question the first thing they do is give out a big sigh. The funny thing is they love American music, TV and movies. The waiters were fine they did check on us and we did have to ask for the check, which is no big deal. Vanessa is right about the public bathrooms and taking tissues with you. Every restroom we went into didn’t have toilet paper. Don’t eat in the tourist sections because the food was awful! The best place we ate was called Babbos, the food was wonderful every time (we ate their 5 times because every where else we tried the food was plain and tasteless, it was like they were saving the basil and spices) and their servers were the nicest Italian people we meet the whole time we were there. If you take a taxi take it away from the big tourist spots because they start you off at 5.80 euros instead of the 2. euros at other locations. They don’t like to help you even if that is their job. The worst people were the tourist information center at the train station. Twice we tried to get help and they were the rudest people I have ever come across in my life! Rome was covered in graffiti and very dirty. At least half the time we went to an ATM teller it was broken.
For those of you in Italy tipping isn’t that big of a deal. Here in the United States our waiter/waitress only make minimum wage and the tips help them make their ends meet. You also don’t have to pay 20%. It is anywhere from 10 to 20 percent depending on how the service was. It is a way to say you appreciate them taking good care of you. Everyone is so worried about the tipping and offending the Italians. Maybe the Italians should loosen up and not be so up tight and stop worrying about tipping or when people drink coffee as much as they should worry about being kind to other human beings.
The Italians also don’t like choices. I was glad to get back to the states so I could have other food besides Italian food. First night back we had Chinese food and second night back we had Mexican. If you want Mexican food in Rome, I understand there is only one and it is out of the city central somewhere, we couldn’t find it though! It was also nice to have a Dr. Pepper or Pepsi, I’m not a big Coke person and that is all they offer in Rome. It was really nice to get home to a blended Chai drink too!
We loved the history, the monuments were amazing and I am glad we saw them but I would really recommend not going to Italy! Go to a country where they appreciate you coming to their country and spending your hard earned money there. People we met said England and Germany people are very nice. Try Paris even though everyone says the French hate Americans we found that if you made an effort to speak French they were helpful and kind people. Making an effort in Rome didn’t help at all!
I hope this helps American people who have to go to Italy not to be so shocked when an Italian talks about them right in front of them. Even though we don’t speak Italian we can tell by your mannerisms, tone of voice and the way you look at us that you are talking about us! If you have to go to Italy learn to speak Italian first, I think that is the only thing that will help make it a half decent trip.
Yipes! I’m leaving for Italy tomorrow. I was excited…WOW. Now I wish I would have chosen Spain or Scotland…I feel like I’ve been splashed with a bucket of cold dirty water. :-(
Pamela, I feel compelled to write to you. Although maybe your trip is already over. I have lived in Northern Italy off and on for 5 years now. From the very first trip to this day Italians have welcomed me into their hearts and homes. Please don’t allow one or even a few people to temper your experience. It is what you make it.
This is a reply to Denise says
July 8, 2010 at 9:02 pm
I’m sorry for your bad experience, you should know that Italy is composed of several cultures and you can’t say you know all Italians if you’ve just been to Rome. I live in northern Italy, here the locals are kind if you ask for an information, we even accompany you to the place you’re looking for, call our friends to help you and stuff. How unfair you’ve been in your comment. Talking about the language, I don’t know how Romans react in front of American tourists, I know that many Americans don’t make the effort to learn some basic Italian sentences and arrogantly want us to speak English. Personally I love English language, as you’ve written I listen to English music, watch American movies, however in Italy the official language is Italian and is arrogant to demand us to speak English. What about I came to USA and demand Americans speak Italian?
I agree with Barbara. My husband and I are Americans and we had an amazing time in Italy. We found the people to be warm and friendly, and the food amazing. We ate at many places where the servers did not speak fluent English. However, before our trip we learned enough phrases in Italian to get by. Most Italians were very happy to help us with our vocabulary and pronounciation. We were invited to dine with several locals, and got some great tips on places to visit. Bottom line, if you put some effort into trying to understand a language and culture, and are open to new experiences you will have a wonderful trip. If you are expecting to be catered to and served by fluent English speakers, and have no inclination to learn even simple phrases in the native language; save yourself some money and just go to Epcot.
Nancy Padgett says
Sundays: Americans, at least from California, are used to stores being open on Sundays and with longer hours. Sunday is just another day of the week. Not always the case in Europe. Even in the larger cities grocery stores may be closed or have very short hours. Visitors should prepare on Saturdays for food, etc.,
Very, very spot on.
One little thing about the tipping. In Naples I have seen everyone leave 5 to 20 cents on the bar when they have espresso. This is common only in some of the more historic o stressed out places in Rome or elsewhere. So do it in Naples, but only if you feel like it elsewhere.
A couple of other little notes. Only take marked cabs. Avoid when unmarked. With marked taxis you are more or less sure to get where you want safely (and in case of a problem you can always get their id number from the side and complain later).
Right on with the cappucino’s. They make them for americans at restaurants, but they do think its strange.
bob jantzen says
I have been going to Rome for 30 years every year often multiple times and I can only conclude from your long rant that you must share the blame for your terrible Italian experience because I do not recognize the country you are describing. Sure you can have a few bad experiences in any country, but your consistency is suspect… sorry. I don’t buy it. If you cannot see the good side of Italy, you can only be described as a provincial American tourist.
Bob, I take offense to the “Yo Denise” not all Americans address each other in that manner. Just because she did not share the experiences you had in Italy does not give you the right to say her comments are “suspect”. Instead I would have hoped that you would share your positive thoughts on how those of us looking to visit Italy can have a good time. So, please add to the conversation and let us know what are the good sides of Italy?
BTW, great tips and I look forward to using them on my future trip to Italy. I think the main point is that when you visit any country, it pays to do as much planning and research as possible so you can enjoy without too many hiccups!
I see very well where Denise’s clash with the locals comes from:
Tip: do not address the locals in english. Instead, greet them in italian and make a show of trying to use the handful words you know with a big smile. Chance is, they will answer back with their own little english. Forcing your alien language onto them is a monumental “figura di merda”, instantly identifying yourself as an arrogant ignorant.
Spot on! A few more extensions:
1. Dont’ expect butter with your bread at a restaurant. Nor a bread plate.
2. Anything other than water and/or wine at a meal (unless it’s pizza or a snack) is really uncommon.
3. Salad is considered a “contorno” (side dish), hardly an appetizer.
4. Tips at restaturants are purely symbolic. If you really like the service and food go ahead and leave some change (1 to 2 Eur is good).
5. This a surprises a lot of tourists. Waiters will often recommend (which is normal) or not recommend certain dishes. And assuming you did not end up in a tourist trap, it is a very genuine suggestion. This is especially true with fish. If a fish was particularly nice and fresh that morning, they will not hesitate to recommend it. Likewise, they will not recommend you a fish that they do have but, perhaps was not the freshest that morning. I was in Venice with my wife a few months ago; we were undecided as to the second course, the waiter noticed that and he suggested we have a fritto misto (mixed fried sea fruits) because they had just changed the oil in the frier. My wife and I will never forget that seafood.
6. In Florence it is common to share a table with strangers.
7. Program you day around meal times.
8. There’s hardly a breakfast tradition in Italy. People have a very small breakfast consisting of an espresso, sometimes cappuccino, and a pastry.
9. Regarding the matter of whether you pay before or after at a coffee place: usually the norm is that places with a high traffic make you pay before, especially if it is not habitual customers.
“Don’t eat in the tourist sections because the food was awful!”
That’s usually and unfortunately true.
“Rome was covered in graffiti ”
That is also true, but not just Rome. Just about any place in Italy is covered with graffiti.
“It is a way to say you appreciate them taking good care of you.”
No, it’s because waiters make close to no money in the US.
“The waiters were fine they did check on us and we did have to ask for the check, which is no big deal”. Waiters in Italy are not rushing to kick you out to free the table for other customers. You are free to stay until the place closes. They will not bring you the check unless you ask for it. Likewise, they will not remove an empty plate until all parties have finished eating as well. This is considered just basic good manners there.
“Maybe the Italians should loosen up and not be so up tight and stop worrying about tipping ”
The opposite is also true: maybe the Americans should loosen up and not be so up tight and stop worrying about being tipped. You see these are cultural differences. Italians are surprised when they find out that american waiters are not paid a salary (well close to not being salaried) and wonder why are their employer so mean.
“The Italians also don’t like choices. I was glad to get back to the states so I could have other food besides Italian food”.
Italy does not share a border with Mexico. Mexican immigrants in Italy are almost non-existant. Hence why you won’t find Mexican restaurants. Chinese immigration on the other hand is somewhat more consistent, hence why you do find Chinese restaurants in major centres, especially Florence, Rome, Milan. Italy has a very strong and diverse culinary heritage which is one of the reasons you only find italian food in Italy. If you think about how immigration has shaped US history, you understand why such ethnic variety is present on its territory.
“I’m not a big Coke person and that is all they offer in Rome”. Soda is not that popular in Italy. Ask Dr. Pepper why they don’t import their product (maybe they do). Perhaps no demand from the local market?
“Even though we don’t speak Italian”. Unfortunately, most people in Italy don’t speak English, just like you don’t speak Italian. That, and cultural differences you are probably confusing with ‘rudeness’, resulted in your not enjoying the trip. For example, if you expect people in Italy to greet you with “Hi, how are you today?”, you are in for a big surprise. This apparent care for one another is something you will never find in Italy. They will look at you as if you are from Mars. Why? Because, unless it is someone you intimately know, you are not going to ask a stranger how he/she is feeling today. And if you think about it, the same is true in the US: nobody really care to ask you how you are feeling today, it’s just a way to be polite. Same goes for have a nice day and so on.
Thank you for taking time to clarify the issues mentioned in the previous post. I’m leaving for Italy tomorrow and the other post was setting me off with a negative attitude. I would certainly not enjoy traveling anywhere with that author. I agree with your insight. Ahh. Now I have my excitement back. Gracie!
Pastafarian High Priest says
> “We just got back from Rome and I have to tell
> you these tips did NOT prepare us for the fact
> that Italians hate Americans.”
According to my ID card, I am Italian and I certainly don’t have any hard feelings towards Americans.
Quite the opposite, in fact – I feel right at home in the presence of Americans.
But then I’m a strange kind of Eye-talian, I don’t even like peperonata.
> “If you don’t speak Italian they treat you like you
> are bothering them.”
In some remote villages in the northern countryside and/or in Sicily and Puglia if you don’t speak their damn dialect they treat you like shit.
I don’t really have anything to say in defense of this attitude. It stinks.
> “The funny thing is they love American music,
> TV and movies.”
Well, rest assured that’s SO not true.
I don’t think anyone in my neighborhood knows who on earth David Letterman is or who wrote American Pie (well, some will proudly answer “Madonna!”).
Italians love Italian music, Italian TV and Italian movies.
They really love Italian stuff to (cerebral) death.
The most high-brow, stuffy defenders of Italian pride will readily label anything coming from across the pond as “americanate”, that is “cheap, stereotypical American stuff”.
And I mean ANYTHING, Ray Bradbury and Stephenie Meyer alike.
> “Maybe the Italians should loosen up and not be so > up tight and stop worrying about tipping or when > people drink coffee as much as they should worry > about being kind to other human beings.”
Human beings don’t let other human beings have cappuccino with pasta. It’s… awful. Plain awful.
> The Italians also don’t like choices.
Yes. That’s true.
Centuries of warring tiny states, borders changing and people having to bow and obey a new master overnight – and let’s not forget the influence of the Church – made Italians quite alien to free thinking.
But, paradoxically, not when it comes to eating.
Trust me, Italian cuisine is very, very varied.
Every region developed its very own cuisine shaped by the locally available resources, climate and effect of dominations/trade.
Did you try Fegato alla Veneziana and Sarde in Saor (Veneto), all manners of Risotto (Veneto/Emilia/Lombardia), Canederli (Friuli/Trentino), Arancini (Sicilia), ribollita (Toscana), Gnocchi alla Romana (Roma), Pizza (Naples), just to name a few?
> I would really recommend not going to Italy! Go > to a country where they appreciate you coming
> to their country and spending your hard earned
> money there.
You have to try Fegato alla Veneziana first, even if my fellow countrymen really don’t deserve a dime from you.
Pastafarian High Priest says
> I have been going to Rome for 30 years every year
> often multiple times and I can only conclude from
> your long rant that you must share the blame for
> your terrible Italian experience because I do not
> recognize the country you are describing.
I do, Bob. I live in it. :(
Late to commenting but:
Sorry you had a bad experience, Denise. I found the differences in Italy to be refreshing from the US. Were they always what we’d consider “positive” differences? No. But I didn’t go there to experience things as we would in the US. I didn’t find Italians to be rude at all. I find a lot of New Yorkers to be rude, but that’s because I’ve lived in California and the Midwestern US where lifestyle-paces and attitudes are even different. I’ve also met some amazing New Yorkers that didn’t fit the generalized mold. It’s all just relative to what you’ve already experienced. All anyone wants anywhere you visit is that you respect their culture, way of life, country, and language. You’re not there to change it. You’re there to experience it. The graffiti in Milan made me sad when I first stepped off a bus but then when I found it wasn’t an uncommon site, I thought maybe my own image of Milan was just off. I ended up loving that city just as it is.
And I will be returning to Italy- I am moving there this Spring. :)
Ok, I know this was written a few months back, but I am REALLY disappointed to know that you are telling people not to tip in Italy!!!! You forgot to mention the fact that most of those people who are working in the restaurants, bars, etc, are only bring home about 800-1000 euro PER MONTH! I’ve lived in Italy for over 10 years now and I tip everywhere I go, restaurants, my hairstylist, taxi driver, tour guides! No one has ever been offended. Italy has THE lowest wages in Westeren Europe, even lower then Greece. People are forced to live at home until they are in their mid to late 30’s because even professionals barely pull in 1000 euro per month. So I have to say that it is completely WRONG to say that you should not tip in Italy. These people are working very hard and that ‘coperto’ that you are paying at the restaurant is NOT going to the server, trust me its not, its going to the owner. All of your other points are completely valid and well written, but I work in the service industry here in Italy and let me tell you that without tips I would not be able to pay my rent, bills, etc. Please DO NOT tell people this, It doesn’t have to be a large tip even a few extra euro is appreciated and very much needed. Even my ITALIAN husband leaves tips in restaurants. You don’t have to tip for your coffee at an espresso bar but, your concerige who just spent 15 on the phone for you making reservations for museums and dinner, yes you should tip her. Your taxi driver who lifted your heavy suitcase in and out of his car, yes you should tip him too, your waiter who brought you bread, then wine, then olive oil, then water etc, yes you should tip her too. Your tour guide who just spent the last 4 hours talking non-stop explaining every little detail of the paintings in the gallery for you and booking your tickets and answering all of your questions related to the tour and not, yes you should tip her too!!! I’m sorry I don’t want to be rude, but it is incredibly frustrating to me. My colleagues and I are are constantly looking for ways to spread the word about tipping in Italy knowing that it is a common misconception that one should not, and then to read this post is like taking a GIANT step backwards for us! We can barely make it until the end of the month sometimes and that extra bit of cash helps us to buy our groceries. Obviously I’m not saying that you should tip if someone has been rude or not performed their job properly, but I know for example that I am ALWAYS nice and gracious and not getting a tip after is like a slap in the face. Its no wonder that people are not being nice, would you be if you were making 4 euro per hour???? Think about it!!!
Ms. Adventures in Italy says
@Sara thanks for your comment. I think it’s time I post a country-wide survey about tipping – everyone I talk to has slightly different answers when/where they do/don’t tip, but the overwhelming majority does not tip for a normal dinner in a restaurant, a normal taxi ride, a normal cup of coffee, even a business lunch! A lot of the cases you mentioned are outliers regarding service (notice I didn’t touch on tour guides or concierge – I just added that back in for consideration into the post). I also think in tourist areas, where some tourists tip because they don’t know better has created an expectation tips should be given always, from everyone, in any service-related situation, and I don’t think this is necessary.
And just a note – I know college graduates that are making 800-1000 euro a month, not in the service industry, but in the technology sector here. Wages in Italy are terrible all around.
Thank you Sara, I appreciate you said that we are FORCED to live at home until we’re 30…many foreigners call us mama-boys and I find it very insulting. Most of us aren’t mama-boys. They just know nothing about Italy’s situation.
Heidi k says
I am curious how many other nations besides Italy are experiencing this phenomenon. I know it is becoming much more prevalent in the States for college grads to return home to live because they cannot find a job making a living wage. And in some instances, parents too young to retire but who have adult children are finding themselves “aged” out of the workplace and end up going to live with their child because they can’t find a decent job!!
It really is quite the conundrum isn’t it?! I think the problem is, exactly that, if people think they shouldn’t tip for regular services as you mentioned above, they are going to think they shouldn’t tip for anything. But, it may depend on where in Italy you are too, here in Florence, we (as in my husband who is Italian and I as well as our friends) always leave tips for a normal dinner and taxi ride. Coffee no, but maybe that’s the problem too, its different depending on the city and everyone is stating their opinion and practices based on that. But your right, it really is the wages that are the problem, I myself hold multiple college degrees and have very limited choices around here. But that is getting off topic. I hope I didn’t come off too harsh, its just a conversation I often find myself having with my colleagues around here.
I think that it is outrageous that people might think that one DOES NOT need to tip in Italy! Whom ever gave you that idea, or, what proof do you have to make such a statement!? Specially coming from a country where tipping is obligatory!
In Italy, us Italian tip, and tip everyone who might do us a service, in hotels, restaurants, bar and taxis. Please do not make such claims! A lot of people live off tips!
Just got back from my first trip to Italy. Great experience, and these tips are dead on. We found observing others can avoid a lot of mistakes! Especially the gloves in the stores. Observation saved us! Just one question though, why did they oppose us taking pictures of their fresh fish counter?? We were told “No photo”.
Hello, I am Italian, I live in Italy. Some comments regarding tips.
You DON’T need to tip. Do it only if you are very satisfied by the service/food. Tips are always symbolic (some euros, not more). Let’s say, if you have to pay 18 euro for two pizzas, you can leave 20 euro (if you wish). Never at bars (or just few cents). Usually not more than 10%.
PAY ATTENTION at restaurants/bars/any kind of shop : remember that the fiscal receipt (“scontrino” or “ricevuta”) is mandatory. Ask it. You must request it if they don’t give it.It is illegal to exit without it. Probably you will find many touristic restaurants that do not give it. Ask it! “lo scontrino, per favore” (the receipt please). If they refuse, call the police. It’s mandatory even for an ice cream…
Regarding the “no, photo”. You can take all the photos you want, except inside shopping centers, some museums, or where there is the sign “No, photo” of course….
A couple of important additional information:
Smoking is NOT permitted in any public place (restaurant, bars, shops, offices etc.) except for dedicated (very few) areas.
I am sorry, but I have to admit that there is a terrific difference between north and south Italy. Below Rome things are very different. Northern Italy is very similar to France, Germany, England, ect. South is much more “latin”, where “rules” and “laws” are considered “suggestions”. You will never find people smoking in a restaurant in Milan or Venezia, in Rome or Naples it may happen.
I’m confused. About the open fruit market comment. If it’s rude to tell the fruttivendolo which fruit to put in my bag, how will he know which fruit I want? Like I can’t just point to what I’d like and say how much? Help going in April and I love fresh market fruit. :)
Ms. Adventures in Italy says
@Christin, I think they mean, don’t point out the particular piece of fruit you want or say, no, not that orange, that one next to it, etc. etc. Yes, I would definitely point to the type of fruit you want and say how much of it you want, and then let him pick them out! :)
@Christin, it is NOT rude to tell the fruttivendolo which fruit you want. It is NOT rude to tell exactly what you want. In any shop. You pay. You decide.
Diego from Como says
Hi I am an Italian from Como (near the Swiss border) – i would like to add my 2 cents; i am quite an unconventional italian, in that i learned english when i was 6 , am almost vegetarian and am a “xenophile” (i’m attracted to foreign people and cultures) – i do not work in the service industry and have travelled abroad extensively.
* TIPPING – it seems the main issue here. Obviously, if you tip a waiter at a restaurant it is always well accepted, but you DON’T HAVE TO – it’s up to you; it is a good habit to round up a little if you pay directly to the waiter that has served you and the service was fair (a couple of euros will do, but if you ate in an expensive place, i would tip at least 5 euros). If you don’t pay in the hands of the waiter, just tell the cashier that you would like to leave a tip for the waiter; in some places you will notice a piggy bank near the cashier with a label that reads “MANCIA” or “MANCE” (TIPS) where you can drop some coins that will be shared by the waiters at the end of the day.
As a side note, it is usually true that you are free to sit at the table as long as you please and that they will not rush dishes at you, especially in fancy places, but if you notice people waiting to be seated (that often happens in pizzerias) or you are in a crwoded place with a high turnover, it would be considered rude to extend your stay for another 30 minutes once you have finished eating and drinking.
* ALWAYS CHECK PRICES BEFORE ORDERING – especially around tourist destinations, if you want to avoid being scammed. Do not order if the price is not printed on the menu, always ask first. Pay attention when you ask the waiter for a good wine, always ask for the price and the bottle must be opened at your table.
* EAT SMART
If you are looking for a place to eat well and spend little, just follow workers on lunch break (bankers especially – they always wear suits and ties ;)) or while buying something in a shop, ask the sales assistant if she can suggest a place to have a lunch ; it is very likely she will point you to a place where she has eaten before or where she eats regularly.
@ DENISE – I am sorry for you bad experience but either you’ve been extremely unlucky or you came expecting american standards and american culture and traditions and have been disappointed.
If you came to Italy looking for chinese or mexican food, well, it is the same thing as buying a Ferrari and then complaining that it’s not good for driving offroad. Cuisine is one of our hallmarks, there are hundreds of regional and local specialties, from pastas to fish and meat, wines, cakes, you name it…and we do not hate americans, you’re just coming to a wrong, generalized conclusion based on a single bad experience.
Good tips. Here are some of mine:
– don’t order coffee at a bar and then take a seat at a “waiter service” area of the bar (especially true in Venice); the prices are cheaper for a coffee taken while standing at the bar
– Italians in bars and stores often balk at large denomination notes – even in museums and galleries with plenty of paying customers coming through. Therefore try to be careful about what denominations are spent and take care to amass small notes and change. I sometimes ask for change in small notes after a reasonably big purchase
– carry lots of change – it will be needed at public toilets where payment (0.40; 0.50; or 1 euro) is expected, and nearly all toilets require payment
– do not say ‘ciao’ to stangers. Ciao is informal – for people you know and would normally call by their first name. Say ‘Bon giorno’ for hello and ‘ArrivideLa’ for goodbye. (Although, I did notice often in shops and bars the staff would bid me (a male) farewell with a ‘ciao’, but not always.)
– do not go on trip advisor and complain that your hotel (especially in Rome) was noisy and cold due to the tiled floors. Nearly all buildings and Italy have tiled floors. That is the standard, so complaining about them is pretty pointless (after all, if you avoided places with tiled floors, where exactly would you go?) And do not complain that the elevators were small, the streets were narrow (in a small hill top village), or that there were too many steps (in Cinque Terre). That is just the way it is there.
Sorry for my bad typing /spelling – it should be:
‘buon giorno’, ‘arrivederLa’.
Love Italy and love the people – lived in Calabria for 14 years and so long for the life there again- so calm not mad rush – Although some of their ways are so different then ours I loved getting to know their culture and I learned patience and made great friends there. Give Italy a try! Great sight!
I think the topic of tipping needs some clarification, since from reading the comments – even those left from Italians or foreigners of many years in Italy – it appear contrasting suggestions are given.
So let’s be specific: the most common question is “Do I have to tip at a restaurant in Italy?”. Short answer: No.
Long answer. Some Italians posted in the comments that one should tip. I think I understand where the confusion is arising from. To the Italians reading this: in the US and Canada tipping at restaurants is essentially mandatory. Servers are not really paid by their employers and they rely on tips from the customers. Typical/minimal tip is 15%. 20% for exceptional service. To the folks visiting Italy: go ahead and tip your waiter if you think he/she gave you very good service, but keep in mind that (1) they are paid full (although low) salaries (2) they don’t expect to be tipped (3) Italian’s tips are symbolic
nice feature. REgarding tips I have to pint out that odd custom in some places (I noticed it in Rome) of leaving a coin in a plate on the counter, supposedly a ‘tip’ to the barista and supposedly getting you quickerservice!
Are we sure Denise is a real person or is she a personage created by someone spoofing parochial Americans?
Rome is my favorite Italian city — I am a wine importer and go to Italy, all over Italy, up to 10 times a year — and I feel compelled to remind foreigners that Italy is a modern country with all the low spots of a modern country: graffiti, trash, iffy public services, etc., etc. But — and here’s the beauty part — Italy is still Italy, with all its contradictions and beauty and ugliness, it is purely itself.
r l fine says
just returned from Rome. loved it, but…….purchased two gelato at a bar. asked if we wanted to sit at small tables in front. we did. Imagine our surprise when we were charge 23.00 euros for our two gelatos of 3.50 each. When we asked the server, she said there was a table service charge. It only happened that one time, but we were feeling very “duped” afterward. Left a very bad feeling for an otherwise delightful trip.
@r l fine
“…Imagine our surprise when we were charge 23.00 euros for our two gelatos of 3.50 each…”
You had to call the police, they cheated you.
The emergency telephone number in Italy is 112.
You can call 039.039.039 (it is a free institutional multilingual contact center that provides assistance to tourists in Italy) or go to http://www.easy-italia.com/ for any other question. I’m sorry for your bad experience, in big touristic places sometimes happen, just pay attention and call the police if you feel duped, doing this thing you’ll contribute to make Italy better.
“…and I feel compelled to remind foreigners that Italy is a modern country with all the low spots of a modern country: graffiti, trash, iffy public services, etc., etc. But — and here’s the beauty part — Italy is still Italy, with all its contradictions and beauty and ugliness, it is purely itself.”
Great words, thank you
Greetings from Italy ;)
My husband and myself are going to florence and Rome in a few months, and just want to thank all of you for such wonderful tips! We are so excited for this holiday and cant wait to learn the italian culture :)
Diego from Como says
Another useful tip for those visiting cities such as Rome, Florence and Naples: watch out for illegal taxicab operations; licensed taxis almost always have a “TAXI” sign on the rooftop and a taximeter on the dashboard. If you catch an unauthorized taxi you might get to your destination faster and skip a waiting line, but it could cost you three times the regular fare (usually not less than 50 dollars, even for a two mile trip).
Denise mentioned a few things my husband and I experience on our recent trip to Italy. We were in Cinque Terre, Florence, a few obscure Tuscan hilltowns and Rome and we had just come from England and France.
A few things she said was spot on about friendliness (or lack thereof).
We didn’t speak Italian but tried to greet the locals in Italian (good day) as we did in England (they were so helpful, polite and nice!) and France(where we didn’t speak French either).
Most Italian locals were distinctly NOT happy to see us and looked and acted it. There was a definite vibe of unfriendliness to us locals and it really colored our visit. The French on the other hand, with the stereotyped rudeness to Americans(or in general) were much much nicer, warming up usually when we used a few words of french in greeting or thanks and some were just plain friendly!
We don’t know what else we could have done to earn all these friendly, open Italian hospitality people talk about because our experience was rather on our negative side and we were so disappointed with that leg of our trip. We felt that we tried to be sensitive to local customs and tried to treat all the cultures we were in from England to France to Italy with as much respect as we can but the Italian portion was just sadly lacking.
Typo-There was a definite vibe of unfriendliness FROM THE locals and it really colored our visit.
The unfriendly vibe of italians is quite common, here in australia they dont like anyone and what is weird they take on the traditions of australia and claim it as there own. It would appear that whereever they roam to they make up new rules and dont stick to their own cultural traditons.
Francesca Maggi says
What a lively post – and right on! I will add it to my CARPE DIEM section on my blog…
While you’ve provided the WHAT, I also provide my point of view there on WHY we shouldn’t tip in Italy as well!
Burnt by the Tuscan Sun
Good tips ! Or good tipping !
– might need a little bit of polishing on some issues, be aware as well of regional differences !
Wonderful discussion. Suggest a few more tips-topics
1: Crossing streets: an adventure that requires meticulous attention to detail and courage.
2: Winning over folks who have “had it” with tourists. I have found that even the most angry or impolite or impatient Italian responds with compassion and humor when treated in the same way.
We’ve travelled around the country a lot; once or twice a year since the mid 90s. Just had a great time while renting an apartment for two weeks in Rome over the holidays. My husband and I don’t agree on tipping, at least how much. He tends to leave more than I consider adequate although not anywhere near as much as in NY. Below-par food or surly waiter = no tip, but we have noticed that more and more ristoranti (there’s a difference between these and trattorie, etc) are including a 15%gratuity, on top of the copperta. So I was interested in this discussion, and my conclusion is that there doesn’t seem to be a hard-and-fast rule. (incidentally, according to friends who live and work in tourist areas like NYC, the east coast of Florida, and Bar Harbor, western Europeans are notoriously poor tippers. Guess ‘when in Rome’ doesn’t apply to them)
As for the coffee-with-milk hysteria, my daughter often orders a cappucchino or macchiato beyond the supposed cut-off time. Maybe they’re all huddled in the back snickering about it, but no one’s ever blinked an eye in our presence. If it’s such an egregious violation then they should simply refuse to serve it.
Finally, a message to non-Americans: it’s just plain dumb to pre-judge and stereotype people from a country of 312 million + citizens. We are not all clones of each other. The ones who blend in are probably never even noticed. Many Italians have asked me if I’m German or British. I speak Italian, which definitely helps. But my husband, who knows only basic phrases, is often complimented for trying. This has been the case in all the countries we’ve ever traveled in. The reason Americans come to Europe and other places is because we’re interested in learning about your culture, history, traditions and in many cases, our own heritage. And in Italy especially, the food and wine!
Grrraet tips! I’m going in a few weeks with my husband, my biggest worry is the language, my italian is very broke :/ so I hope italians will understand either my english or spanish,,,
Thanks for the tips!! with the expensive euro, we sure don’t want to tip if we don’t need to! (unless exceptional services are provided)
THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!
A minor note. Stay away from the restaurants that have a menu more than two/three pages long (except if pizzerie), especially if the list is printed or still worse plastered. No Italian will sit there. Luckily, these “restaurants for tourists” are only found in big cities, but unluckily, these are the cities that most of tourists will visit! Also, you can ask cappuccino at every time, why bother? Even if I am 100% italian, I can ask for cappuccino at 4-5pm, especially during a long car trip where solid food will cause me sleep! Never seen the slightest sarcasm from the waiter.
Mrs. Poe says
After reading all of these posts, I’m not ashamed to say I’m terrified about my upcoming trip to Sesto Calende (Northern Italy)! I know no Italian whatsoever (not even Spanish), and leave in 4 days (accompanying my husband on a week long business trip). Anyone on here know of that little town (which I probably spelled incorrectly)? Best FEW phrases to memorize in a few days? I’ve never traveled out of country before – rarely out of central Illinois. Yikes.
Mrs. Poe ~
Don’t be scared! Go with excitement and gusto. Head right now to your nearest Barnes and Noble and go into the dictionary section of the store. Buy one foldable Italian Phrase Pamphlet and GO ENJOY ITALY! I went when I was 18 with no Italian whatsoever when I got of the plane, just a tiny dictionary. I still keep in contact with people I met over 20 years have passed now. Be eager, smile alot and learn to say….Mi dispiace tanto, il mio italiano è terribile. (I’m so sorry, my Italian is awful!) Watch people immediately warm to you.
I’m reading this post again, though this time I’m actually IN Italy, and it’s still helpful!
Right on spot!
Yes, no tipping in italy. The “coperto” or “servizio” shold take care of that.
Most of the stores close and even supermarkets. So buy on Saturday! Always buy extra “bglietti” ( bus tickets ) at “edicole” ( newstands ) or “tabaccherie”! If you want to travel early on a Sunday you might not find where to buy one. a small coffe is the rule for breakfast, if you want a regular cup ask for one.
David Martinet says
Very funny but yet interesting post. I’ve learned many things, especially the “tip” mistake. In France, on the contrary, if you don’t give a tip, especially in Paris, the waiter will look at you with angry eyes!
I’m Italian and I have been living in Chicago for almost 6 years now.
I have 2 comments:
– Tipping: You are absolutely right. This is just a cultural divide. I believe foreigner feel uncomfortable not tipping in Italy, and they will continue doing it. For the same reason, I’m so afraid of not tipping enough, even after 5+ years, that I constantly over tip, as a compensating mechanism, I guess.
– I disagree with your tip #5, but again, I think it’s just cultural divide. What you call “attentiveness” to me is pure harassment.
I’m sorry but I cannot get used to the ways servers approach you here. All the questioning, the checking on you, it’s really too much. And it looks like they are just following a script most of the times. The ask you how the food is while you are chewing it. Seriously?!
And the worst part is that when you really need them, and flag them down, they rarely see you!
Calling this “attentiveness”, I think, it’s a total stretch.
You are so right about the service in restaurants in the USA. Too much, is too much! I want to enjoy my meal and the company I am with not to be disturb every 5 minutes! To me service in USA is gentle fake like my husband and I calling it!
Ms. Adventures in Italy says
@Simone – I actually prefer the Italian-style level of attentiveness during my meals, too.
The tip I’m pointing out is not to expect that “script”, as you put it, in a restaurant in Italy and don’t equate the lack of constant check-ins as “bad service.” I think we’re saying close to the same thing :)
class factotum says
I’m sorry but I cannot get used to the ways servers approach you here. All the questioning, the checking on you, it’s really too much.
I agree. Take my order. You don’t need to explain every single item on the menu. I know what gnocchi are, thank you. I know that mutton is lamb. I am not an idiot. Take my order, bring me my food, then leave me alone!
Sara, Class Factotum: I was looking for the “Like” icon below your comments. I guess I’m addicted to FB :-)
Simone, I couldn’t agree more! Seems like every time I’m at a restaurant in the States I have to mumble “Fine, thanks” with a mouthful of food.
I really think the potential image of “rude” Italians is an illusion: what an American might consider polite to them is not. And vice versa.
These are the cultural differences which can be hard to get used to, but if approached with an open mind both sides are better off.
@Denise – As far as Italians hating Americans and talking about them mockingly, it’s very possible in this case the people in question just “hated” tourists in general, due to bad experiences. Everyone has bad days, too.
But these incidents are isolated, and overall I would say Italy is a friendly country to visit.
I’ve been living in Italy for about 6 months now (from US). Something my husband and I do, is ask in Italian if they speak English, if only to let them know that we don’t speak Italian beyond a few words/phrases. If they don’t we just use hand gestures and figure it out. If they do, we try to use the Italian words we do know and go from there. I am trying to learn, but it’s a slow process for me.
As for tipping, we usually just tip whatever the change is, if the bill is 16 euro, we will give them 20, etc. I like that they leave you alone during your meal. I hate in the US when they bother you every 10 mins. I also don’t feel like I’m being rushed by them waiting to give me the check until I ask for it.
The only bad thing I don’t like, is driving in Naples/surrounding area (the only place in Italy I’ve been). It’s a little crazy and I try to avoid it, which is pretty easy to do.
Not sure why anyone would come to Italy and expect there to be Mexican food… it’s Italy…
I found Rome to be very nice. Obviously, there’s a lot of touristy places, but I still had a wonderful time both times I went. Just being around all of the culture/history was amazing.
I think it’s pretty awesome, you can walk downtown and just stumble upon castles and parks where you can look at the water. There’s a lot of beauty when you look past the graffiti.
It’s a different culture sure, but I’m glad I have the opportunity to live here for a while.
MBA Girl says
Thanks for such an informative article. Traveling to Italy in about a month, it’s good to have a local’s perspective. Also, I completely agree about tips from foreigners ruining it for locals (this applies to other countries also IMO). Being from India, I certainly resent the excessive tipping at times causing problems for us. When in Rome, do as the Romans do! :)
I am so confused about the trains in Italy. We are going for 2 weeks and seeing different cities by train. I don’t understand, if we have a rail pass, when we need to make reservations and when we need to validate.
Robert F. says
I just returned from a three week trip to Italy and just needed to share a few things with someone. This looks like the place to do it.
First, you are absolutely correct about taxi drivers and waiters in Rome being “spoiled” when it comes to tourist tips. I would take it one step further. If they don’t get an American sized tip they can get downright surly and rude as though you are cheating them of their due. This happened to me twice in cabs and once in a restaurant near the Pantheon. Actually, the waiter at the restaurant went out of his way to let me know that “the tip is not included.” I knew this to be false so when it came time to pay the bill I rounded it up from 78.50 euros to 80. The man’s face got dark and he snapped at me, “What, you didn’t like the service?” I said, “The service was fine, but this is Europe. The tip is already included in the price of the meal.” He raised his voice and aid, “You don’t know what you are talking about! What country are you from?” I had had enough and left. He was still yelling at my back in Italian as I walked off.
Warn people not to fall for the old Roman taxi driver trip of quoting a price before you leave. It is always much higher than the metered price. Insist on them starting the meter. But even that might not be enough. They will play dumb and insist that they don’t know what you’re talking about. If they persist in this charade, walk off and find another cab.
Beggars. Rome in particular is crawling with them these days. In 2004 when I was last there they were visible in some tourist hotspots, but they rarely molested you. That’s changed due to the bad economy. Some of them are desperate to the point of aggression. They target tourists, but leave most Italians alone. I had one fellow follow me for half a block beseeching me for money, waving his baseball cap under my nose. I finally had to push him in the arm to make him back off. I didn’t feel good about it, but is it my place to take every beggar in Italy that asks me for money?
And watch out for the gypsies at the train stations. They will follow you into the train and before you know it they are helping you with your bags. The first time this happened I thought he was a railroad employee trying to speed up the loading process. But once I was seated he had his hand out and demanded two euros. I declined and he started going on how he had done some work for me ( I am 6’2′” tall, weigh 200 pounds and travel light. I didn’t need his help). Once again, I had to be firm.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed Italy 95% of the time, but there were times that it felt like a world country on its way down.
I’ve gone back through the earlier postings and was struck by the vehemence of the response of the woman named Sara when it comes to tipping. My answer to her is quite simple — why do you expect we tourists to do something that you Italians don’t do yourselves? It sounds like a double standard to me. The advice I got from a longtime resident in Rome was the same that others have given here : round up. If the bill is, say, 27. 50, pay 30. Simple.
The truth is that after my most recent trip to Italy (26 June to 17 July 2012) I was relieved to finally get back to airport. I really didn’t feel welcome in some of the places I visited. Rome in particular left a bad taste in my mouth. It’s as though they would prefer it if we Americans stayed home. They want our money, but can’t stand us. Tuscany was much better. This was probably my last trip to Italy. Traveling is simply too expensive not to enjoy it.
Hi, I’m Italian, I’m really sorry reading your experience , but you are perfectly right.
I also apologize for the behaviour of most of the Italians.
In most of touristic cities, Florence, Rome, Venice, taxi drivers, waiters etc, act in these ways… also with Italians! Especially at Rome I don’t feel at home. Again: DO NOT GIVE ANY TIPS ( NEVER ), GIVE MAXIMUM 10% BUT ONLY IF YOU ARE VERY SATISFIED WITH THE SERVICE. If the waiters ask it, call their boss!!! Fiscal receipts are mandatory. If the don’t release it, ask it rudely, if they refuse, call the police!! I am really so tired to read these real bad experiences by tourist that it’s time that all the tourists, included italians, start to change this situation.
Steve Fowler says
The Eternal City is a wealth of art and architecture. I travel the world professionally and consider Rome the greatest single treasure. I am about to write “The Biggest Mistakes Made By Tourists To Rome” . One of them, in part thanks to your comments, is “worrying” about something as small as tipping in a place like Rome. It is a speck of dust on a di Vinci masterpiece, insignificant. Tip or not. Fuh get about it ! Enjoy the great things and don’t focus on the one or two ants who join the picnic. If you let a couple of ants ruin it, maybe picnics should be avoided. If you want a picnic to be like a meal in your dining room, picnic in your dining room!
Luca Boccianti says
regarding suggestion #10, I could not care less if I’m considered rude when asking for specific items (fruits, groceries…) to be put in my order.
if you’re not a frequently returning customer it’s likely the seller will put something rotten in the middle of fresh items if you don’t pay attention.
Only go to Italy if you want to be robbed or mugged. this place is one of the worst places in the world for crimes against tourists.. we went with a group of 10 couples and three of them reported having something stolen from them . My wife lost her purse .Find a nicer place to visit where you don’t have to worry about getting your camera or purse or wallet stolen.. Many of the tour buses have to have police escorts so the tourists can get out and see the sites without being robbed or mugged.. If you go there you deserve what ever you get.. find another place to visit if you are smart
Ms. Adventures in Italy says
@John I think that’s a little excessive. :) I’m sorry you didn’t have a good experience but Italy is still a great place to visit!
@John, I’m sorry for you. You’re right, maybe many places in Italy are not “safe”. But some others are…and it’s worth to visit them all. I’m Italian, living in Siena, making guide not professionally but by myself and hosting people in my home in exchange of an offer of few money, just to collect something to pay my studies, and I’ve seen things done by Italians that made me very sad and ashamed. But not all of them. Italians are people very sensitive, friendly and kind, just some of them are “rotten”, as some apples on a tree.
Luca Boccianti says
about Sara’s 24 nov 2010 comment (hey, you should tip because we’re poorly paid).
I’m italian, been a waiter, disagree totally.
My wage was not sky-high, still I know what it was when I accepted the job and I didn’t count on tips to increase it.
Of course I was very happy when I received a tip, and the greater the tip, the happier I was (anyway tips went in a common jar and were split evenly with coleagues) but I never thought a customer had to tip to deserve my good service.
Yes we’re usually poorly paid while our bosses get filthy rich, yes we can’t leave parent’s house until 30 etc., but this has to do with italian system and politics, the same people we continue to vote decade after decade.
It has nothing to do with tourists and foreigners in general, and it’s not to them to correct socio-economical injustices in *our* country.
You also forget (and that is very irritating because is a sign of ignorance) that being a tourist does not imply being rich in general, nor being richer than you.
Maybe these people saved for long times to cross the ocean and come to visit a nice country where to spend some nice days, exactly as you and me would need to save to go abroad. Like you and me, they travel abroad to have fun, not to subsidize the angry young, *ignorant* poor ones, or to bring international solidarity.
Many years ago, when east Europe was still a cheap destination, I spent a relatively long period of time in Praha. Sometime local people told me “Why don’t you go dining at [very expensive restaurant], why don’t you buy stuff at [very expensive shop]? After all you’re italian so you *must* be rich, like all itaians and western europeans are supposed to be!”
(They didn’t arrive to consider me a resource to exploit like you think tourist are, anyway: they were just curious or maybe want to see if I had invited them).
What sometimes I told them, at the cost of being rude, was that as much Praha is a wonderful city (or I won’t stay there so long) it still lacked at the time many of the standards you would expect in a western city, meaning that if I was really rich as they thought, I would had visited Paris or New York instead. But since I was poor like them, I could only afford to visit Praha, so please don’t treat me as a sponge to squeeze (even because I came from Rome and know all the tricks).
Now, reading that there is some evidently young one that consider tourists a “resource” the same way I did not wanted to be considered, really irritates me. Maybe for you it’s fine going to, say, Morocco, and being charged double, because, hey, you’re a tourist, so you’re rich! We are poor! And it’s *your* duty to enrich us, because you find money on the trees, in Italy, not like us in Morocco were we have to work all day!
If you want to do “turismo solidale”, then fine, but do that in a thirld world country. We’re not (nominally) one, so you should not expect any different treatment or complicity from foreigners.
They deserve to be informed on our customs, that is, tip is most welcomed and, say, “more expected” from foreigners than from locals, but absolutely not necessary, and you be a welcomed customer whether you tip or not. And sure, while a professional attitude must be granted to anyone, you could be more or less welcomed than others, and that does not depends on tips, but, in our culture, on how “nice” are you as a client. If I know you’re “poor” like me (and I can tell it, stay sure) no need to tip me to signal me you’re happy with the service.
Luca Boccianti says
John, while I am very sorry for your bad experiences, I would not generalize them. Italy is a very diverse country, the spectrum goes from scandinavian to north-african behaviors.
I guess if you don’t want your camera or purse to be stolen, you should put the same care you would use in, say, NY metro or Paris banlieue, that is keep it tight and don’t flash it around. I know you’re here to have fun, but not all Italy is a protected environment like a museum: it’s like any other place in the world.
And yes, the attitude from some taxi driver, restaurant etc. is appalling (saw the same when I was a tourist in other countries), expecially in touristic areas and more so the more south you go, but it may easily be overcome by giving proper attention to meters, bill etc.. Consider it as a game if you want.
Anyway, you are right to be vocal with your discomfort, most of tourist pledge not to visit Italy anymore, less later tourist operators and authorities will realize something has to be done with one of the most important income resource of the nation.
Tammy Rinaldi says
I am an American who is married to an Italian. I’ve lived in Bologna and traveled all over Italy many times. It’s unfortunate to read so many negative comments from my countrymen regarding Italy. I must say that I think a lot of it is your attitude. Many Americans complain and worry about all the small things. Please remember that with any country on the planet, there are bad areas one would be well advised to avoid. Using a little common sense goes a long ways such as not carrying lots of cash, flashy jewelry, or expecting others to speak YOUR language when in a foreign country, even if in a high touristy area. The tips you provide as well as the comments and advice left by natives and non-native Italians alike are invaluable and much appreciated by all. Lastly, I’d like to say that I’ve never experienced rude service in any shop or restaurant, even when in Rome, nor have I or anyone I’ve traveled with been treated poorly by anyone there. Perhaps that is partly due to the fact I always traveled in the company of my husband, I don’t know. But I do know that many of my fellow Americans, sad to say, just don’t know how to act sometimes on vacation and are oblivious to the attention they attract by being overly loud, demanding, rude, or flat out obnoxious. My biggest tip: For Pete’s sake, DONT act like a tourist!! Learn a little of the language and culture BEFORE arriving and always, as with many cities here in America…exercise a little street smarts by paying attention to your surroundings no matter where you are. Lastly, live in the moment! Enjoy for what many of you is the tip of a lifetime.
Love your tips. My sister & I traveled through Italy for 3 weeks by car. We started in Venice, stayed at a vineyard in Tuscany for a week, went on down to Positano and finished of the trip in Rome.
It did not take us long to figure some of these things out, and we found the Italians pretty gracious to us 40 something American broads. One funny story that happened to us was when we had dinner at a rustic little restaurant in the tiny village of Vagliagli. We went to pay our bill with our credit card but they only took cash. We promised our waiter we would come back for dinner the next night and pay up, which we did. The next night was a Spanish theme with a group of college students there. We did have to put up with a little extra attention as to why we were back, but it was all in fun. So you may need cash for those out of the way places.
We are getting ready to go back in a couple of months and I am brushing up on my Italian. I think this is a very important tip to learn some of the language. It shows thoughtfulness and can never hurt to know some phrases.
I’ve just read through these comments and since I’m american and I too come from a tourist place (the state of Vermont) I think I should chime in.
It’s easy to resent tourists- I’ve found myself doing it plenty of times. They act helpless and expect Vermonters to drop everything to help them,(which we are happy to do usually, but the expectation gets annoying) they condescend to Vermonters as if we’re all toothless hicks, they make easy to avoid mistakes like drive the wrong way on one-way streets, they complain endlessly, they expect Vermont to be like a disney resort where we’ve anticipated their every desire and have nothing better to do than wait on them and amuse them with our local color. And in their turn some tourists who come to Vermont resent that we do things differently than they are used to. Shocking! Other americans think that because we’re all in the U.S. that Vermonters don’t have their own customs but in our own ways we do- for instance one way we show friendliness is nodding to each other on the street while making eye contact- imagine doing that in NYC!? I’ve lived in NYC for years and that kind of eye contact would be perceived as aggressive and weird. So a no-go here. But I’ve heard soooo many tourists to Vermont complain that we’re not “friendly” enough. Correction, we are deep and loyal friends to our friends, we don’t hold anyone’s hands while they browse through stores. (Though of course this is changing in tourist towns… sigh.)
I remember reading a tourist review of one of my favorite hotels to stay at in Brattleboro Vt (when I am visiting home) which is the Latchis Hotel. It is very old fashioned with a lot of art deco charm. One tourist complained about what she called “the key feature” meaning that the door did not have a plastic swipe key but an actual metal key for her to use. She felt unsafe! Ridiculous! And because of idiots like her the Latchis might be forced to invest in expensive changes.
The tourist/ toured relationship is just that- a human relationship- it needs to be handled with care. Sometimes feelings get hurt on both sides, but I think the best way to start that relationship is with lists of cultural tips like these. So thank you for taking the time to put this wonderful list together (and I also really liked the comments.) I’m planning a trip to Italy soon and this list is just the kind of heads up I was looking for. After writing this I’m thinking maybe I should write one up for visitors to Vermont :)
Thanks for your tips (no pun intended!), but I’m wondering why Americans think they have to tip wherever they travel overseas, even when it is not part of that country’s culture. Here in Australia we do NOT tip; it is not expected. Sadly, it seems that other countries’ cultures and standards are slowly being “Americanised” by this whole tipping practice.
I totally agree with Kataroma’s comments (July2010), and what many have alluded to is that the worst kind of traveller is the one who expects things to be the same as “back home”! Go with the flow and enjoy the differences you find, that is what travel is all about.
PS. If you’re American, please don’t tip here in Australia if you visit here.
Mrs M says
It’s not just the Americans that tip – we Brits do it too and I was quite surprised to read that we’re not expected to tip in Italy. I’ve always tipped in Spain, is that wrong too? That’s not to say I LIKE tipping, quite often I resent it but its so often expected I feel rude not doing it.
I’m travelling to Italy with my young children this summer and have to say, I’m a little put off now by some of the things I’ve read here. Hoping it’s not as bad as it sounds – after all there could be as much confusion, mess and crime to feel intimidated about in London! No city is perfect.
Angie – you’ve just put Vermont on my “must visit” list. Growing up in rural UK I was always used to nodding and acknowledging the presence of others I passed in the street. Have been known to do it on the Tube in London – it’s a great way of getting a bit of extra personal space ;-)
As a resident of Rome I am firmly
firmly in the “minimal tipping” group. I round up / leave a 1-2 euro/head for very good service but that’s it.
As an Australian, I’m not used to tipping so I always worry about the *rules* of tipping when I travel. I really appreciate the handy advice above. I’m thinking about going to Italy in a month’s time.
Hi I’m Italian and I’ve just read your post and everything is so true, expecially the ‘tipping part’ because everytime I go to touristy places here in Italy such Florence or Rome I see tourists tipping sometimes even LOTS of money and I ask myself: do they know the tipping here is not required? Of course if you tip a waiter, he’s not gonna refuse, but I just want to clarify that you DON’T NEED to tip in Italy and don’t worry, waiters don’t even expect it, so it’s not considerd ‘rude’ to not tip (I was a waiter myself)!
Love this list! I won’t be going to Italy until 2015 (!!!), but I will be picking up your book ASAP. Thanks
I am Australian and have travelled extensively. The only place I worry about tipping is the US. At home and anywhere in Europe I will round up or leave a substantial tip if the experience is particularly good. I never tip hotel employees. I suspect Americans in Europe are expected to tip whereas other nationalities are not. As the writer from Vermont indicated in any country the major cities are quite different from regional areas. Sydney anyone?
And at Victoria Markets in Melbourne I have experienced the ‘don’t touch and I decide’ fruit vendor attitude.
I love Italy and have found the eating times to be less of a problem than Spain where restaurants sometimes only opened at 9pm.
Just returned from two weeks in Italy. Loved it! I had done a bit of research before my trip, and realized the tipping differences. While in Italy I found leaving 1 or 2 euro made me feel I had honored my need to aknowledge the wait staff, yet not feel I’d overtipped. One exception was for an awesome cab driver in Assisi who spent four days showing up to take me to and from events in that hillside town. (he got a killer tip that last day… hey, getting out every time to open the door for me, and showing up 10 minutes early earned him my loyalty!)
I found most folks in Rome and Assisi were helpful and pleasant. I learned a few relevent Italian phrases before the trip, and hunted down an off line Itallian /English translation app for my cell. The people I encountered seemed to appreciate the effort, and offered their few English words/phrases in return. Food got ordered, messages exchanged and I walked a lot and had a heck of a good time exploring another culture/city.
I’d warn American tourists to alter expectations regarding accomodations. In my time in Italy I learned that the term ‘air conditioned’ is subject to broad interpretation. We were in Rome in late July. It was hot! Heat is fine. I’m from Texas. But apparently AC in Texas would qualify as refrigeration in Rome!
I read a lot before I went on the Italy trip regarding shoes. Most said no athletic shoes. Ignore that tip. You’ll walk your toes off. Bring along your trusty favorite shoes. Everyone was wearing them some places. Besides, tourists will be obvious. Be comfy!
The pocket picker thing in Rome is a huge problem. In fact, when people in Assisi heard we would be going back to Rome the first thing most told us was to pay attention to our pocketbooks. So sad Romans would allow their city to be known as a city where one could get robbed! But thieves do abound in Rome, so take special care. We saw it happen to someone, and a member of our group had a camera bag taken.
Adversity and all, I shall visit Italy again. The people are delightful, food is wonderful and the wine is great!!
Terry Campbell says
My wife and I are gearing up for a trip to Italy with her family. This will be my second trip and their first. All of the comments above are wonderful and I’d like to add my own small piece of advice. If you’re staying in hotels and you’re accustomed to using one, BRING YOUR OWN WASHCLOTH(S). All the hotels my group stayed in did not provide them. Not sure why, but I learned my lesson and have passed this advice on to my family, lol.
Julie K says
The lack of washcloths seems to a Europe-wide phenomenon which I experienced in England, Paris, and Italy, both in hotels and staying with a friend. My advice: take your own if travelling anywhere in Europe.
“the further south you go, the later they start eating”
Ah, the good ol’ spanish heritage…
Summer lunch and dinner hours here in Naples come to my mind.
I spent a week in Milan and I was lucky enough to have a local person show me around.
The hot chocolate was so thick that my spoon could stand upright in the mug! The food was amazing, best pizza ever. Back in Australia I still dream about finding pizza that good. In Australia we tend to have the theory the more toppings the better the pizza!
Margharita or mushroom at Milan was the best pizza I’ve ever had.
I did have a man yell at me in Italian at a cafe, in which my friend told me was because I ordered a latte in the afternoon.
Also found the staff at department stores a little stand offish, but other than that I had no dramas at all and loved the place.
Great wine, great food and did often have people trying to sell us umbrellas or random items – just don’t make eye contact.
One memorable moment was when I was at a nightclub… unisex toilets. People were lining up behind me at the hand basins, impatiently waiting and yelling at me in Italain, because I didn’t know how to turn on the water! Turns out it was a pedal on the ground, which a lovely Italian lady demonstrated for me.
I loved the late dinners, and the wine. For breakfast we always had coffee and pastries – some form of sweet biscuit or cake!
Also did notice some game show and commercials with topless women. Hahaha. That was interesting.
One thing I did notice, after 5 weeks in the UK, was how happy and relaxed Italian people seemed.
And how well manicured the men were! Some very lovely looking men with perfectly manicured eye brows, glowing skin and well dressed.
Especially at the gay night clubs!
Over-all I’d highly recommend visiting Italy. Learn some basic italian like hello and please, as well as thank you and “pharmacy”!
And take advantage of the cheap wine at supermarkets….
From the Wino Cameroonie
Hi! I appreciate your tips as well as most of the comments. I wish I’d seen it before my trip last spring. I started with a week in Torino on business, where I was well shepherded, but then I headed to Venice for a solo weekend. As my train pulled in near midnight, the station was closed. I had only the vaguest idea of where my hotel was, but my planned splurge on a taxi ended in shock when I asked the price (90 Euros for two vaporetto stops!?). I got my 72 hour bus pass and bravely got on. A delightful older couple with no English and I with no Italian proceeded to have a lovely chat with smiles and gestures, ending with his drawing me a detailed map to my hotel and herding me off at my stop. I found Venetians lovely and kind. They giggled with me at my sad attempts at Italian and showed a great deal of kindness. I can’t wait to return, and am hopefully speculating about a six month visit in a few years.
My husband and I spent two weeks in Italy in October. We spent five days in Catanzaro. We loved the south! Very few people spoke English but my husband knows a little of the local dialect from being stationed there 25 years ago. Anyway the hospitality was amazing, food was fabulous, no tourists at all in October. People were amazed that we were Americans traveling there, especially during the off season. Best gelato in the world is on the lungomare in Catanzaro Lido.
Fast forward to Tuscany. Very pretty but after the hot, dirty, cheap and wonderful south we felt like part of the tourist horde in Tuscany. It felt like being in Disneyland. Everything was TOO perfect. Food was very good but too rich, prices very high, sights and cities very crowded. People were nice but in a forced, false way.
I guess someday I might go back to Rome. But what I liked in Rome was getting away from the tourist sights and finding little back streets. In Rome the only waiters who were nice were the non-Italian ones.
Here are my tips:
Learn to at least say hello, please, thank you, good bye, and numbers up to 10.
In Rome always look at the menu before you go in. If you don’t know what you want the waiters get very rude and will not bring your food (I’m a chef and I like to read menus. It made them furious!)
Go south, not just to Naples but way south. It’s hot, dirty, uncrowded, rustic, and wonderful! It has not been sanitized or packaged or decorated for you. It is Italy for every day life, not for tourists.
I went to Italy with a tour in 2001. Had the best time ever! No problems. Now my husband and I are going in June alone. After reading all these comments, I’m not so sure about this trip. However, I will remain positive and pray for a good experience.
Jim Davis says
Currently in Florence, love these tips. We travel a lot and have lived overseas several times. While we try not to be ugly, arrogant Yanks (yes, we’re ‘merican), we do make mistakes. These tips for Italy have been invaluable.
Does anyone know why Italians hate making change for large bills? When we visited there were so many places that made such a fuss about making change for 20 euros, which is all you can get from the ATMs!
Love Rome and everything it has to offer,
The history in Rome is just remarkable. When I first when I was
Literally stopping every 100 yards to gaze at the historic buildings
In Europe most of us do not like that kind of service you are describing. Yes, we like to be served fast but when we ASK not because someone is looking in our mouths to see if we finished eating or not. We do not want a waiter anywhere near our table but we would love it if a waiter will see when we make eye contact or raise a hand. Same in shops – we hate when someone comes to us to advise/help/sell. We like to look around undisturbed and, when we signal we have a question, someone to come to us. Regarding the tips – we see the service as being offered by the business we patron, not by their staff. It is the responsibility of the business to pay and keep their staff happy and motivated. Yeah, if a person goes ‘above and beyond’ their expected duties, we like to tip for that. But normal service is expected to be included in the bill not to be separately rewarded.
Joan D says
There’s nothing I hate more than being right in the middle of a bite of food or the middle of a conversation with my dinner companion and having the wait staff interrupt to ask us how we are doing. We were doing great until you interrupted! I’ve had dinners were we literally could not speak more than two sentences before having to respond to the “helpful” waiter’s queries. It’s a relief to be in Italy this week and be left alone in peace to enjoy my meal.
I went to Italy for 3 weeks several years ago – Rome, Sorrento, Praiano, Matera, Lecce, Tuscany/Siena, Florence and Venice. Before I went I got some helpful tips from my travel agent and took them to heart. They were very helpful, one was no tipping. The other was to learn a little bit of the Italian language, which is absolutely beautiful anyway. I found that the Italians really seemed to appreciate my stumbling efforts to communicate in their language and would go out of their way to be helpful. Most of them were courteous and patient with this Americana. If you try to adapt to their culture and ways, you will find they are more willing to help you. I had a couple different situations occur where I was physically assisted, without even asking. In Lecce one lady walked me to a parking ticket machine and showed me what I needed to avoid being towed away. I was so excited to take off for the sights I totally forgot to get the parking ticket for the car. :) Another was a small copy shop in Florence that did their best to communicate and get me to my destination. I knew very few words, but enough that they got the gist of my questioning. A sweet little Italian lady tapped my on shoulder, communicated with the young men in the shop and they in turn explained to me her intentions. She would go get her car and I was to follow her. She went out of her way to get a complete stranger to her destination. I love Italy, the people, the music, the culture, and certainly the HISTORY. I would love to get the opportunity to go back one day. Before that time though, I want to learn a lot more of the Italian language to help me with the communications. :) Just respect them and their culture, they will respect you. That’s all any of us ask after all!
Well, I’m reading this in Naples, having arrived by cruise ship today, and this will be the last time I come here. We just boarded a tram for the train station, unaware we needed to buy tickets beforehand. There were no signs, no tourist advice available, no indication we had to have tickets before we boarded. Within 10 seconds of the door closing we were asked for our tickets. I held out my handful of coins and said we wanted three tickets and was told I could not buy tickets on board but I now owed them 44 Euros per person in penalties. The tram stopped 100 feet later and we got off, followed by three Italians, one who claimed to be a policeman, who threatened to take my husband to the police station if we did not pay up immediately. We were obviously tourists and had money to buy tickets with, but it got us absolutely no understanding whatsoever. Seems like a really easy way to relieve tourists of their money. My daughter was crying, I was angry, my husband argued to no avail… While we may have been ignorant, here was no intention to deceive and nothing to assist us at then tram stop to avoid getting trapped like this. It left a terrible taste in our mouths and we abandoned our plans to visit Herculaneum and immediately returned to our ship, choosing not too spend another Euro in Naples. A very poor experience and it doesn’t make us want to return. Why is no information clearly available for tourists to advise them of the proper procedure???? We had money and were more than willing to buy our tickets, we simply didn’t realise we could not buy them on board. We are hardly criminals, just visitors unaware of the rules. Add this to the 20 Euros someone tried to charge us for two gelato in Florence, and it makes one wonder if Italy is like this all over… Incredibly disappointing and upsetting.
Nakisha Williams (@Nakisha) says
Thank you so much for this post! I am currently in Rome and it’s very helpful. I’m finding Italy to be a beautiful place with lovely people. I do not speak Italian but at least greet in (broken) Italian. Usually the person I talk to will smile and respond in English to which I apologize for not knowing their language. I agree it’s very arrogant to expect everyone to speak English. I always have my translator app ready in case they don’t. I have not encountered a rude person yet.
Thank you for the note about Ciao! Haven’t said that to anyone yet, thankfully but in America that greeting is always associated with Italians so do see Americans using it often.
All that said: there’s a reason why the saying “When I Rome do as the Romans do,” exists (why the heck would you come to Italy for Mexican and Chinese food? That doesn’t even make sense lol). You’re not at home. The world does not revolve around you. Treat traveling as if you’re a guest in someone’s home: be gracious, defer to house rules, be courteous. I you went to a friends house for dinner and they asked you to take off your shoes at the door you wouldn’t complain would you? Would you scoff at their dinner menu and complain you wanted something else? Would you barge in the door and say “hey” and then put your feet on their coffe table? — if so you have a general problem! It’s all about manners people.
I’d be curious to know where the people who are having bad experiences in Italy are from in the US. I have seen many rude, obnoxious and entitled Americans (usually white) here and while traveling elsewhere in Europe that embody every negative stereotype about Americans (laughing at the “Eye-Talyans” pronunciation mentioned earlier). I from CA but have lived in New York 8 years so I’m not easily offended by people who don’t go out of their way to be overly nice. You won’t find that in New York either and believe it or not NYers can’t STAND a lot of American tourists from other states! NYers are not all rude like the US stereotype goes but tacky and simple-minded behavior will definitely get you that reaction in the city. If you’re slow and get in our way, don’t know train/METRO etiquette (ie stand to right on escalators so people can walk, wait for people to get off the train before you barge in, etc), expect us to stop everything for you, are loud and unpolished (yep were judging your mom jeans, fanny packs and sneakers with white tube socks) you can expect a New Yorker to give you dirty looks or worse. So it’s no suprise to me that some Americans get a less than stellar reaction from Italians or the French. Your behavior likely contributed to your negative experience. As my mom says: “Act like you’ve been somewhere before.”
Anyway, I can’t wait to see more of Rome! And to the scoffs at “graffiti” I happen to love it! If you look closely you’ll see a lot of it it’s actually street art. But then again we have a huge culture of that in New York and I happen to appreciate it and treat it like an outdoor museum.
I stumbled on your blog this morning. I identify with many tips and pointers here. I’ve been traveling to Northern Italy for 90 days at a time for 4-5 years. Now I am finally here more permanently for a few years.
The reason I am writing a comment: I feel the need to stress a fact. When you travel to a foreign country expect for it to not be in your comfort zone. It’s an adventure. Bad things happen. Good things happen. It’s what you take away from it. Here is an example of what I’m tempting to say. I was in a very bad auto accident in Torino because a large delivery truck barreled through an intersection. I had to be extracted from our car. It was scary and the hospital was even more scary. By career I am a 911 operator and I know protocols for auto injuries and I was mortified at procedures occurring. If I was a negative person I might remember a horrible situation. What do I take away you might ask? While I was crumpled in a car in a 6 lane intersection awaiting ems Italian citizens came from everywhere. One man just wanting to help in anyway he could brought us water bottles. One woman prayed and stroked my hair. I tear up to this day at the out pouring of humanity that day. I have many other experiences of a bad situation that turned out humbling and positive.
Your experience is what YOU make it. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Try to speak italian, try to respect their ways, try to show your heart even in the face of negativity and see what happens.
Lorenza Simoni says
I’m from Bologna and let me tell you that nobody eats spaghetti bolognese here! maccheroni bolognese, ok – lasagne bolognese, ok – but NO spaghetti with meat sauce… spaghetti come with tomato sauce, or carbonara (eggs and bacon) or matriciana (bacon and tomato).
Also NO milk @ lunch or dinner: milk is for breakfast!!!
Enjoy your stay in Italy and come visit Bologna la GRASSA (the fat city)
florence tours says
I think that in recent years the tourist cities like Florence have made massive progress in the reception of foreign tourists, this city that lives on tourism relies on a large number of people working in private activities that deal with any need for those visit Florence allowing them to meet even the deficiencies of local government. The downside is that all these services are provided at extra charge and so remain a prerogative of people who can pay bigger budgets.
I want to translate your article into chinese and share on travel forum.(of course will link it back to your website.)
please let me know if its ok
Sara, Ms. Adventures in Italy says
Hi Clair, Thanks for the offer but I don’t have any plans on translating my content into other languages and republishing it elsewhere.
Thank you Sara for this great post, keep up the good work.
I holidayed in Italy in September 2014 and yes I could not believe the lack of public toilets. But in saying that in Australia there aren’t many but there is always a pub/hotel you can find without having to have to buy a drink.
I had a great Italian holiday, but I have to agree, and I actually commented to my friends when I returned home, that I don’t think Italians like tourists.
I suppose if your city is unundated with crowds constantly it wears thin with the locals. But in saying that, every persion in the crowd is an individual who has scraped and saved to have a holiday in their wonderful country, surely the locals especially locals running businesses are financially benefiting from the tourists.
Also to yell at a tourist (as I witnessed) for something they are not understanding isn’t very nice in any culture.
Thank you so much for this article. I am planning my first trip to Italy and I’m trying my best to learn the basics of the language. As an American, the last thing I want to do it enforce the stereotype that we’re all obnoxious and entitled. I want to experience Italy with as much respect to the Italian people as possible! :)
florence tours says
I want to report a tip for those visiting Florence In summer, the city is particularly warm and sunny as other areas of Italy, it is advisable to dress lightly and organize Florence tours providing a break in the early hours of the afternoon are the hottest, is always useful to bring a bottle of water
I just dont get one thing: why you dont need to tip in Italy? It is a typical American thing to write things like that. Last month I was in NYC and I had to top everywhere… and the reason American give: it is our culture.
Well, restaurants and bars in the USA are overpriced asking 8 USD per glass of wine, the bosses dont pay a minimum wage to their staff waiting for customers to do that…
Indeed in Italy the staff is payed at least a minimum wage, but still not very much.
So the answer is yes, please tip something. Most Europeans do tip for dinner.
Americans recently got a very bad name in Europe for not tipping for dinner.
I find that eating out in Italy sometimes feels like work. You have to ask for everything and it is often difficult to get the attention of the server. One stop by the table to see if there is anything else needed hardly qualifies as over attention. While it is nice not to be rushed, it’s not nice to have to eye stalk your server for 15 minutes trying to get the check. Restaurant service is one thing that the U.S. excels at compared to most Euro countries, so don’t, in general, expect the same level of service. You can find it, it’s just not as common.
This really helped me a lot.I am doing a project on European countries and I picked Italy. One thing that we needed to do was travel advice. And this is great! It gives many tips and explains them and defines most Italian words! Perfect! Thanks so much!!! :D
I’m travelling to Rome and the Amalfie coast in July with my wife and really looking forward to it. The tips throughout and the conversations here have been very valuable! I have heard that Eurpoeans in general (blanket statement here) are not fond of Americans. Living in Toronto, Canada and working in the downtown core I come across American tourists almost daily asking for directions or I’ve observed them in restaurants and other points of desitination. Many have been very nice and appreciate the help. Others behave as though they are at home and have no respect for the culture or that they are visitors. This may have been Denise’s problem. Just because you’re a paying customer doesn’t mean it gives you the right to be rude, inflexible and demanding! This seems to be a trait of some American travellers that I’ve met here and when I’m travelling. This I beleive gives American travellers in general a bad name. From my experience, learn a little of the language to show you’re at least making an effort, get a general understanding of the culture before you go and enjoy what Italy has to offer. That said, I think I’ll start off greeting people with “Buona Giorno sono Canadaian”! As for the comments on differences in regions in Italy I would say thats pretty much on par with what you see across Canada or in the U.S. Finally, who goes to Italy for Mexican or Chinese Food!
I’m Italian and I agree with all the tips presented here. But I wanted to add something form personal experience.
I live in little town in the north close to the mountains where everyone knows everyone, but to attend university I have go to the big city of Milan and trust me it’s like going in a different country, so I can well understand the struggle of tourist.
People before described being muggled and it can actually happen but only if you are naive. So don’t be scared but develop a little bit of street smart so you can avoid it.
My advices: never use backpacks, always have your bag where you can see it, use a shoulder bag that goes on the side or a fanny pack.
It’s smart not to flash around money and your credit cards (especially on in the middle of the street or in the tube), very important is to have your wallet in your front pocket or at the bottom of your bag (so even if someone opens the zip of your bag can’t find it easily and for sure you can “feel it” and kick the thief).
Be aware of the surroundings, sometimes mugglers work in couples where one distract the victim and the other steals (this happens especially in the tube).
As for the beggars, is a difficult subject, some of them may be real poor people but other are just there to scam you (especially if they ask money for charity without having an ID card) or are fake handicapped people usually controlled by criminal organizations. So here, the advice is to offer food and water, if they’re really needy persons they will thank you, if they refuse and aggressively ask for money, run away and don’t feel bad for them.
Also be very vigilant in train and bus stations, in the past few years they’ve become the place where most of the immigrants that do not want to integrate in the society, try to gain money by stealing and tricking people. Never leave your luggage unattended. There are no stewards that will put your luggage on the train, I repeat: they do not exist! Some of that thieves wear a yellow or orange robe to pretend that they are steward and without asking they take your luggage on the train, in that moment they will ask you money as a ransom to have your luggage back (or if you are a very confused person they steal directly the luggage). So always have a hand on your luggage and don’t let anyone take it.
Other important thing, some of that thieves (and especially their wives) stay very close to the ticket machines. When a tourist go to the machine to buy a ticket, they force you to let them “help you” clicking buttons and after the purchase of the ticket, they keep the change without asking (and if they can, also steal money from your wallet, exploiting the fact that you’re in an uncomfortable situation). So better to buy the ticket at the ticket office or go only with the right cash in hand at the machines and demand rudely to the thieves to leave you alone.
If you beware of the situations I described, you’ll be absolutely fine and safe. Also, to defend this country I would say that in all my travels abroad I’ve seen theft like that happening, so it shouldn’t be anything new for everyone.
Another point I wanted to develop is that some tourists feel unwanted. Just to be clear sometimes even Italian tourist are treated coldly when they go in different part of Italy. As I said I’m from the north and when I went to Rome, in the restaurant a waiter said a rude comment about my accent, and instead of getting angry, I tried to save the situation making a joke about our differences and from that everything went well.
I would say, that any tourist should not take it personally if italians seem cold, it’s just that it’s our culture to be a little diffident of strangers. Morover, people that live and work in tourist cities may have seen very odd and impolite behavior from previous tourist, so may have little patience (some tourist go on holiday one week a year and feel entitled to do rude stuff, but locals see this kind of tourists every day, it can become annoying and make them generalize that all tourist are nuisance, which is not true of course).
Obviously coldness is one thing, rudeness is another, and do not accept it, especially if you are paying!
As some said, to make italians open up is very easy, just try to say some words in italian and treat people with respect saying per favore and grazie, in exchange you will get kindness and any type of help.
To sum it up: do not demand something, just ask it nicely (with a couple of italian words is even better).
Everything I said is generalized but you’ll find different degrees of coldness or familiarity in different parts of Italy and of course depending on the attitude of the single person you find. But overall the more you go south the more people are more friendly and warm, which doesn’t mean that northern people are unfriendly, it’s just that they’re more reserved.
For the cappuccino, if you pay it, you can drink it when you want, it’s fine, nowadays we know that tourists like it.
The fact that everyone looks at you like an alien while you drink a cappuccino with pizza or pasta, is simply that for us milk belongs to breakfast only. Moreover our grandmothers thought us that any beverage with liquid milk mixed with heavy food, means to have belly ache (and also not to be able to taste the flavour of the food correctly).
Last thing, I didn’t know that US waiters could be so insistent! Here in Italy it’s totally impolite for a waiter to ask question when people are eating or having a conversation with the table partners. So don’t mistake the detachment of waiters as bad service, is instead a sign of respect. But if you need something, don’t be afraid to call them and ask, it’s their job.
I know I concentrated on bad aspects, but that is the stuff important to know and that you don’t find in guide books.
So regardless of all that enjoy and have a wonderful holiday!
Very useful tips here. I must bookmark it before I go to Italy. Thanks
Noel Morata (@emorata) says
Wow, fantastic tips about enjoying a visit to this amazing city. I love Rome and touring around this ancient capital. Sharing are some images of my favorite hangout spots and landmarks to visit around the city
I would add another tip: don’t try to flag down taxi drivers!!!
And the street signs are etched into the buildings on the end of each block.
I think the rudest people in Italy are the tourists and the taxi drivers. When first arriving I walked around lost for an hour trying to get a taxi, asked a tourist with a map if I could use it for a second and got a flat out no. All the locals I have talked to were very helpful and kind. However, I think this applies to northern Italy. I have heard southern Italian locals are not so nice.
Italian taxi driver says
I’m an italian taxi driver and belive me we survive with tips from milan to naples and becouse our salary is very poor and is so sad to read something like that becouse for us the tips are important like the bread
Sara, Ms. Adventures in Italy says
Thanks for your perspective. I’ve deleted your duplicate comments.
Tess | BlondVoyage (@blondvoyage) says
Great tips! So true, in most cases a tip is never necessary. It’s always safe to round up to nearest euro, I think.
I think a lot of people visiting here get confused about the check too. You have to ask for it!
Found your blog. Its really nice on world trip.I appreciate your article. If you want to go a world trip then you should have to know the information about the different place in world . So thanks for sharing all that important information.
Thank you so much for all your information about Italy. I had to read it all before I went for a Trip to Italy. i had amazing holidays in northen Italy! Especially the food and the alps were breathtaking
I think the tipping rules are good for most of Europe. Only in the USA have I found tipping to be mandatory. I think this is due to better Labour laws in Europe than in the US, meaning waiters will actually earn a wage regardless of tips. In Northern Europe (Germanic and Nordic countries) the rule of thumb is to tip around 10%, but only if pleased with the service. In taxis you can just round up, and in bars you may just leave the small change at the bar (although in the Nordic countries practically nobody uses cash anymore). Tips are welcome, but not expected.
Meagan Brownm says
Amazing blog! thanks for sharing with us!
Kent C says
Leaving change or rounding up sounds easy. I like that. In the US, it can be considered an insult to give too little, worse than not giving a tip at all. In fact, leaving a few cents instead of 10-20% is used by some in the US to express comtempt for their waiter and their service and a direct way of letting them know that. Funny how cultures are.
Milena P. says
We just returned from a weekend in Grado and Venice. Everyone we met was so nice and helpful. One bus driver even stopped us from exiting at a wrong station (I presume we looked like tourists so he thought we were going to the train station and he was right!). I am so thankful because he saved us from walking 15 minutes and possibly missing our train! The public transport was organised perfectly. I come from Croatia were tipping is common: you are not obliged to tip, but it is common to round up the bill if you were satisfied with service provided. My italian is not perfect but I tried to use it all the time and everyone was so grateful and thankful. I am visiting Rome at the end of the month and I am curious if my next italian experience will be as nice as this one.
All so true – especially the tipping. As a Brit now living in Italy, it did take me a while to understand that it’s not rude to not tip, and now it really pains me to leave tips when I go back to the UK!
Another big mistake tourists make is getting annoyed with the queuing “system” (i.e. non existent queuing system) in Italy – I always hear tourists tutting when people push in front of them, but the fact of the matter is that this is just how it works here, so it’s “if you can’t beat em, join em”.
Great post, by the way :)
I’m so glad I stumbled across this article. I learned so much from it and the comments. We are planning a three week trip to Rome in a few months and I want to be prepared. I did a report on Italy in grade school and fell in love with it. now 40 years later I am actually going to get to visit! I’m trying to learn all I can so I won’t be one of “those” tourists. Before my first cruise, I received some great advice. Just go with the flow. Not everything is always going to be perfect on a vacation. If you want to complain about it, that’s what you are going to remember. The trip will be what you make of it.
Chip L says
I am in Rome now, and and you are correct! Thank you!