Italy is a beautiful country. We’ve heard of it, read of it, talked of it—and yet, there’re lots of things we don’t know about it.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, what do we actually know about it? We know their food is great; pizza, pasta, fish, tomatoes, wine—all delicious. We know they serve really good coffee, they’re into art and architecture, enjoy their opera, have big families, and is one of the most visited countries in the whole world, year round, every year.
Now, what don’t we know? and should know before heading to Italy?
1. COFFEE IS PRICED IN 3 DIFFERENT WAYS
We stated a few sentences ago that we knew they served good coffee. What we didn’t know is how they charge us for it. Here’s how they do it:
☕️ Drink your coffee standing at the bar ?(coffee included)
☕️ Drink your coffee sitting down ?? (coffee, and service included)
☕️ Drink your coffee in a table outside in the terrace ??? (coffee, service, and view included)
2. ALMOST HALF OF THE WORLD’S ART BELONGS TO ITALY
We knew that Italy is home to artists. What we didn’t know is that 40% of what’s declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO belongs to Italy. Do you know what that means? It means that almost half of the entire worlds’ art belongs to this country. HALF!
Something else we didn’t know is that 14% of that 40% is in Rome. Now that’s really something…
3. THERE’S A TOURIST TAX CALLED “TASSA DI SOGGIORNO” THAT MUST BE PAID AT THE HOTEL YOU STAY
This is an important thing to keep in mind! Tariffs vary from one location to another and on the hotel star rating where you’re staying. The money received is invested in infrastructure, tourist services and support of cultural heritage of Italian cities. Make sure you keep this one in mind! Italian Law states that the tax must be paid directly at the hotel and can’t be prepaid. The hotel staff will make sure to inform you of this, but it’s always better to know this information to avoid surprises and prepare a little extra something out of the budget for this!
4. YOU NEED TO COVEr BARE KNEES AND SHOULDERS TO ENTER CHURCHES
In many countries it’s not a rule but people cover their knees and shoulders when entering a church out of respect. If you ever travel to Italy keep in mind you won’t be allowed inside if you’re wearing a tank top, short skirt, shorts, or any piece of clothing that does not cover your knees or your shoulders. If you’ve been to Italy in the summertime before, you can agree that wearing skirts or tank tops is a clever idea because of the hot temperatures. My recommendation is to carry a sweatshirt or a pashmina to cover yourself up whenever you need to. Because let’s face it, going to Italy and not witnessing their amazing basilicas, cathedrals and churches is just as terrible as visiting Paris without ever seeing the Eiffel Tower or Musée du Louvre.
But if you’re planning on spending the entire day in Vatican City—for example—I recommend wearing pants and a short sleeve that covers your shoulders just to feel comfortable while you visit.
5. TIPPING IS NOT REQUIRED
This is a common question we all have when traveling. I always like to research any destination before getting there to avoid any embarrassing situations. In Italy tipping is not required, it’s even offensive to Italians because they believe a person can’t buy another one off.
6. IT’S NOT COMMON FOR THERE TO BE TOILET PAPER IN PUBLIC RESTROOMS
At first I thought it was just bad luck, but after several times I concluded it’s not common for there to be toilet paper in Italian public restrooms. Lucky for me, my mom (who was travelling with me) is always prepared and always travels with toilet paper in her bag. Really convenient and necessary! I think this is really something I should start doing too, just in case!
7. FORGET ABOUT RELYING ON ICE CUBES TO FRESHEN UP YOUR DRINKS
So…if you’re from Europe, this probably won’t even matter to you but for someone who lives in America or anywhere else where it’s common to have ice cubes on your drinks, this can absolutely come as a surprise. Especially because it gets really hot in Italy during the summer! I’m so used to ice cubes, but every time I ordered some or heard someone else order some—because I of course stopped asking for them— I always heard the same answer accompanied by some gestures of disapproval. So now you know! Stick to the drink as you get it! Sometimes you may not even need to freshen them up.
8. HOLD ONTO OR HAVE YOUR BELONGINGS IN SIGHT IN CROWDED LOCATIONS
This tip really applies to any touristy/crowed place you go, but sadly I’ve known of many who have lost and never found their wallets, cameras, even handbags while in Rome. Truth is—in crowded streets or museums—people tend to get distracted and are focused on what they’ve come to see, giving thieves a chance to steal. This doesn’t mean you need to diverge your attention from what you’re there for, it just means to be careful, and manage to locate your belongings or hold onto them when you feel it’s getting crowded.
9. PREPARE YOURSELF TO BE GREETED BY STRANGERS
Like anything or anywhere else, there are exceptions to the rule. But in my personal experience, Italians are really friendly people! Strangers are likely to smile and greet you! Once, someone even jumped in a photo I was taking with my friends, and opened conversation with us once the picture was taken. We all had a good laugh and made a new friend!
Now it’s your turn! What other things do you think are important to know about Italy before heading there? Leave your recommendations in the comments!