When visiting another country, it is always best to understand what a tourist can and shouldn’t do to avoid a fine or upsetting the locals. Here, we have a few tips for you.
General Travel Tips
Dress appropriately, even if you’re not planning on visiting a church
There is a dress code for visiting churches and especially for major churches like St Mark’s Basilica in Venice and St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. In general, shoulders and knees should be covered (leave the mini-skirt in the suitcase), keeping a scarf or a light weight cardigan or shirt with you is a great way to ensure that you are able to enter churches (we also recommend carrying them to keep you protected from the sun when walking around).
The Vatican can stop tourists from entering if they are not wearing clothing that covers them. It is always best to be respectful and just carry a scarf or cardigan.
Whilst we are talking about clothing, don’t worry about dressing up too much. Italians love stylish clothing and they tend to dress up themselves (modestly).
However, remember that most Italian cities have cobbled streets and if you are walking around historical sites, it would be best to wear suitable shoes. Pumps and trainers are good idea. Sometimes even Flip-flops can be a little difficult on the cobbled streets of Florence.
As we have often mentioned before, food is a big thing in Italy. If you want to really enjoy the Italian culture, a small breakfast is the usual. Often just an espresso and a cornetto (an Italian type croissant). Bars are the place to take breakfast, with many Italians just having an espresso at the bar. Espressos are a couple of quick sips and then off you go. If you want to sit down, there is usually a little charge.
If you would like to read more about eating in Italy, check out our post: Like a Local… Eating in Italy
Also, you don’t have to order every course like an Italian. an antipasto (starter), primo (first course), secondo (second course) with contorno (side dish), and dolce (dessert) is a lot of food. Pick and choose as you please.
Don’t eat and walk
Another food based tip… Italians don’t walk and eat. Street food is popular, but you will still be expected to sit or stand when you have bought the food or you can find a nearby bench in a park or take it back to your hotel. Italians don’t eat or drink whilst walking and in certain cities tourists can be fined for eating in a
Mealtimes are sacred in Italy and Italians are infamous for lingering over long meals, both at lunch and dinner. Although street food is a popular concept that has popping up all over the city, you’re still expected to pull up a seat at a stool in the informal establishment, perch up at the bar while you eat, or take your order to go and find a seat on a bench in a nearby park. Italians don’t eat or consume beverages while walking in the streets and neither should you. Gelato is excluded from this rule.
Trying the lingo
It is a great idea to try and learn a few phrases of the Italian and people generally welcome the attempt that the tourists are learning their language.
One thing to know is “ciao”. This reserved for greeting people that you know, such as friends and good acquaintances. Instead it is better to use Buon Giorno (good morning/ good day) or Buona Sera (good evening).
Carry some cash
Italy is a cash based society compared to other major economies in Europe. If you are planning to use cards, tell your bank you will be using your card abroad.
Before you go, check with your bank to find out what they charge for foreign transactions on your ATM card. Some banks charge a percentage, others charge a flat fee, and some banks charge both. These fees can change so you’ll need to check for yourself. If you plan to use a lot of cash, it might be a good idea to get an ATM card with a bank that has a low foreign transaction fee.
Credit cards are widely accepted, however you’ll need to have cash for small purchases (like an espresso or sandwich at a bar or small souvenirs)
You can only get a taxi by getting one from a designated taxi stand or by calling a company and arranging one. Standing on the road side trying to hail one, won’t work in Italy. There are lots of taxi stands and you can find them in many Piazzas and around the tourist sites.
Don’ts in Rome and Florence
Don’t take pictures of the soldiers or the police. Around cities, especially by the Colosseum in Rome, people will dress up as Roman soldiers or gladiators. You can have your picture taken with them, but they usually demand quite a high price for the photo and may not be honest and demand more. It is always best to agree the price beforehand.
Climbing on statues and walls
Climbing on walls, statues and anything historical is a real no-no. It is dangerous, but it also causes damage to the objects and it just isn’t nice to see and the locals will not be happy. Respect the historical significance and the culture of the places that you visit.
Swimming in fountains
Please don’t swim in the fountains. Even when it is a really hot day and it feels like there would be nothing better than to dip your feet into the water, don’t. Take your self off and sit in a cafe in the shade with a cool drink. You can also be fined!
Eating in public spaces
As mention in the general tips, Italian don’t walk and eat. But there is also something else to look out for. Don’t drink at sites like monuments, cathedral steps and by fountains. Places like the Spanish steps will have officals that will scold any one that eat (maybe ice cream) on the steps. It can even lead to a €240 fine.
Crossing the road
When crossing the road, be careful. Even if there is a crossing, cars will not always stop for you. When in Rome, you will notice that Italian locals will confidently stroll across the road, ignoring the honking that follows. But don’t worry, you will quickly get used to this type of city walking!
Don’ts do in Venice
do not feed the pigeons, you will get fined
Venice is sinking in tourists and in order to help to manage tourism and the actions of tourists there are some rules in Venice island. One of them is feeding pigeons. There are a lot of pigeons in Venice, but feeding them will land you with a €40 to €240 fine.
Swim in the canals
No matter how hot you get, swimming in the canals is a bad idea. Mainly because they are Venice’s public roads and there are many boats that can cause serious injury. Another reason is the water being dirty and you would more than likely become ill. Oh and it is illegal.
Sit down in the alleys or on bridges
Venice is a small place and there are a lot of tourists and the main form of transport is either by water or walking. Sitting down or stopping on bridges or in the narrow alleys will cause a traffic problem. Locals are still trying to get to work or get their lunch and so it is always best to be aware of your surrounds.
A general rule is to stay to the right when passing in narrow lanes.
It is recommended that you don’t bring heavy and large luggage as water taxis will only be able to take you so far and you could have a walk to your hotel or apartment.
Useful phrases to learn
Si — Yes.
No — No.
Per favore — Please.
Grazie — Thank you.
Prego — You’re welcome.
Mi scusi — Excuse me.
Mi dispiace — I am sorry.
Buon giorno — Good morning.
Buona sera — Good evening.
Buona notte — Good night.
Parla inglese? — Do you speak English?
Mi dispiace, ma non parlo bene l’italiano — I’m sorry, I don’t speak Italian very well.
Non capisco — I don’t understand.
Scusi, che cosa ha detto? — Excuse me, what did you say?
Può parlare lentamente? — Could you speak more slowly?
Capisco benissimo — I understand perfectly.
Buona giornata! — Have a nice day!