Ah, Italy! The food, the fashion, the art and the three thousand years of history! Make sightseeing in Italy easy, safe and enjoyable, with these few Do’s and Don’ts.
Traveling in the City
Using Public Transportation-DO use the city bus system, which is usually capillary and fast. Be aware, however, that at rush times, during strikes or demonstrations, it can be snail slow. If money is no object, take a taxi, but DON’T enters one without a meter. Taxis in Rome and Milan are rather expensive, other cities less so. DO, if possible, walk. See more, save money and possibly time.
Traveling between cities, either by car or train, should be planned carefully.
Visiting Churches-DON’T wear shorts or halter tops into churches. DO, if possible, wear a hat or scarf. DON’Tinterrupt a church service to examine the art therein. Respecting the country’s religion is tantamount to respecting the country, especially in Italy.
In Restaurants-DON’T attempt to practice Italian on the waiter, especially in a crowded restaurant, unless food decisions have already been made and can be expressed in Italian …fast. If that’s the case, expect excellent service just for trying to speak the language. DON’T tip, unless the service is absolutely outstanding. Many Italian restaurants (except in Rome) include a ‘cover charge’ (‘coperto’) or a ‘service included ‘(‘servizio incluso’) charge ’ in the final check and do not require tips. Of course, tips are always greatly appreciated by the waiters, if not by fellow Italian diners, who often resent foreign big tippers. In a restaurant with a cover or service included charge, to show appreciation, it is often enough to leave a couple of euros on the table.
Italian waiters are considered the best in the world, and actually earn a salary, unlike many waiters in the US who depend on tips. Trained to be fast, efficient and discrete, Italian waiters will not try to strike up conversations with their customers. An Italian waiter would never introduce himself by saying something like, “Hi, I’m Chuck, your server. Hey, man, I love your tie. Where’d you get it?” However, DON’T denies a small tip just because the waiter was not friendly. It’s the Italian waiter’s job to serve the meal well, not to be loquacious.
At Italian friends’ homes-DON’T show up ten minutes early, though being ten minutes late is not considered bad form. DO bring a hostess gift of flowers or a bottle of wine. DO ask for second helpings…the hostess will consider the request as real appreciation of her culinary skills. In some families, it is not considered rude to sop up the last of that delicious spaghetti sauce with a piece of bread. Or even to belch …a sign of appreciation going back to Roman times. As always, observe the hosts. What they do at the table is what they accept from guests as well. “When in Rome, do as the Romans.”
More Activities in Italy and More Recommendations
On the ski slopes-DON’T ski off the designated slopes (fuori pista) unless permission to do so has been granted by the local authorities. After several deadly avalanches in recent years, probably due to global warming, most ski resorts now publish bulletins indicating weather conditions and the safest slopes in the area to use. Check these bulletins before skiing. DO tell hotel staff where you plan to ski each day.
Out shopping-In, a small dress shop or boutique, DON’T takes more than one or two pieces of clothing into a dressing room. Better to wait for the salesperson’s assistance. Remember that a clothing purchase is considered final by Italian shopkeepers. Most will not refund money later unless the purchase is obviously defective. At their discretion, boutique owners may give credit towards the next purchase, but not an outright refund.
At the ATM machine-DON’T use ATMs if possible. ATMs are ubiquitous in Italy now, even in small towns, and accept most major foreign credit cards. However, there is often a surcharge for use of any ATM that is not directly connected to the tourist’s bank. Recently in Italy, as well as elsewhere, invisible portable devices installed on ATMs and wireless technology have been blamed for the cloning of credit cards, and subsequent identity theft, especially in areas with a high tourist concentration. Caution when using ATMs is recommended. Some advice not using them at all. Most banks can now quickly exchange dollars for euros, and nowadays there is an English speaking teller to help with the transaction.
At the Bank-DON’T exchange the entire vacation budget at once. Plan several trips to the bank to exchange currency. Carrying smaller quantities of cash, enough for the day is far safer. Leave the rest in the hotel safe.
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