Italy is a beautiful and varied country with a fascinating culture. Its history is apparent all around and immerses you as you walk through the streets and piazzas. Here are 7 things you need to know before travelling to Italy.
There’s a Charge for Cutlery
You’re in a restaurant in Italy. You’ve just finished a delicious meal, and the check’s arrived. There you see a cost that you hadn’t anticipated. It isn’t your meal or drinks, or anyone else’s that’s with you. It’s called coperto, which means cutlery or dinnerware. It’s basically a service charge or sitting down fee that each person has to pay for dining in a restaurant. It will cost around 5 Euros at most, and there’s no tipping in Italy so it balances out that way.
Italians Eat Dinner Late
Italians tend to have dinner on the later side, around 8 or even going on 9 at night. Restaurant opening times reflect this. Most restaurants close after lunch and do not open again until dinner time. It would be wise to eat when the Italians eat and factor these times into your planning. So basically, when in Italy, eat like the Italians.
I’m talking about getting to dinner and being starved. Although it’s obviously good to feel hungry before a meal, you’ll enjoy it more. And honestly, you’ll be fine if you have a nice, filling meal. You’re in Italy. People eat well so that chances of that are high.
Cappuccinos Usually Cost 1:30 Euros
You’re bound to have cappuccinos and espressos while in Italy if you’re a coffee drinker. Heck, even if you’re not. You’re in Italy for Christ’s sake! They are one of the top tier coffee makers of the world. Drinking coffee is basically a cultural thing here. It’s a fixture of the Italian people’s schedules. Apropos of this, it’s not a luxury. Cappuccinos usually cost around 1:30 or 1:50 Euros and espressos are usually 1 Euro. You’re guaranteed a certain level of quality here.
So caffeine addictions won’t be hard to fuel here. Talking about schedules earlier, it’s worth noting that you don’t drink your coffee with dinner in Italy. It’s traditionally taken after dinner, so chances are that if you ask for a coffee as your accompanying drink with a meal, you’ll be told no. While eating dessert you’ll be able to pair it with a cup of coffee.
You’ll Pay to Use Public Toilets
Like the coperto, this takes some getting used to. You can’t enter public restrooms without paying. In most cases, you’ll insert coins into a slot which will allow you to push the turnstile that grants you access to the bathroom. It can feel unfair or even galling to have to pay for using the facilities, but that’s simply the way it is. You’re typically charged 1 to 2 Euros. So when out and about in Italy, be sure to always be carrying spare change around, just in case. When you gotta go, you gotta go.
There’s a strange thing about many of the toilets in Italy. Many of them don’t have toilet seats. Thisn’t isn’t necessarily restricted to public toilets either. They often don’t have them in schools. The reasoning seems to be that the seats are often pulled off and never replaced. So they’re just left that way. It’s weird, and will undoubtedly make for a few awkward toilet experiences.
The Language Basics
It would be prudent to understand the basics of the language before travelling to Italy. This is advice that goes for travelling to just about any country, certainly. Depending on where you are in Italy, you won’t have difficulty finding people who speak English. You’ll find waiters, ticket vendors, and some shop owners who speak it, especially near tourist spots of course. Stray farther from those hotspots however and you’ll need to get your Italian on.
The simple, essential stuff will do. Learn how to ask for things, how to inquire for directions, how to say please and thank you. Ciao and Grazie will get you a long way. Even if you sound horrible, the locals will appreciate it.
Cafes Turn Into Bars at Night
What was a cafe during the day becomes a bar/restaurant at night. The place where you enjoyed your cornetto (croissant) and espresso in the morning could be the same place where you’re slugging down vodka shots at night. You may get a kick out of this. Italy, like most European countries, has a strong nightlife. Embrace it.
People Will Try to Sell You ‘Goods’ in Tourist Areas
In all the tourist attractions. In all the big cities. You’ll find street vendors trying to sell you stuff that you probably don’t want or need. Umbrellas, lighters, bracelets, little trinkets. You have to be firm with these guys or you’ll find yourself owning a glowing bouncy ball. And you’ll be like 4 Euros short.
You may also be ‘sold’ songs. I don’t mean CDs. Someone might walk up to your table and perform a song, with instruments and everything, and at the end expect a little something for it. Street performers can just walk into restaurants and do their thing. They’re rarely asked to leave by management. So this means you can enjoy dinner while listening to live music, but it may also mean having to cough up some coins.
There are also people selling roses, encouraging you to buy them for any ladies that may be present. As with all these situations, you can pay at your discretion. Maybe you want a tacky refrigerator magnet to remember your rip by. No judgement here.