In Italy, like anywhere else in the world, there are good and bad people, great deals and scam. But what do you need to do in order not to fall into the tourist trap? Well, avoid being one and look like a local for a starter.
You don’t want to look like you have a giant “TOURIST” sign hanging on your forehead, right? Chances are, you are not going to look and act like a true Roman, Florentine or Venetian anytime soon, but the tips below will help you on how to not look like a tourist in Italy.
1. Not quite the Breakfast of Champions
I know you are used to eggs and sausages or ham and cheese, but in Italy, the typical breakfast takes place at one of the many bars – bars in Italy are famous for their coffee not their cocktails – and consists of a cappuccino and a cornetto (croissant).
And if you really want to look like a local, have it while standing at the bar chatting with your barman. Breakfast is a social event in Italy, it is not so much about the food (strangely enough). Oh! and while we are at it, Cappuccino isn’t an appetitizer, it is only consumed in the morning, usually and legally accepted up to 11am.
After that, it’s only about Espresso, Ristretto and Macchiato. And nope, we don’t do Flat Whites, Tall Non-Fat Latte With Extra Whip or Triple shot Venti Half Sweet, Non-Fat Caramel Macchiato and other weird stuff like that. Keep it simple. It’s the coffee nation!
2. It’s a Diavola, not a pepperoni and no pineapple on that pizza, please!
Italians eat different pizzas to the atrocious things I’ve seen around the world. Firstly, the pizza with salami is largely known as Diavola, Peperoni (with one P) means peppers for us. So make sure you know what you order. Secondly, no chicken. Ever. Nor beef or other meat except deli cuts on pizza. The rest is unacceptable for us and is very likely that the restaurant won’t be too happy to satisfy your Americanised choice…
3. No fanny packs or belly belts
Firstly, they look horrible! I know, I know they are comfortable, but walking around Italy with one of those will only make you stand out of the crowd like a flashing light. Opt for a backpack or a shoulder bag and keep it tight to your body at all times. Also, as we are talking about dress code: no socks with sandals, come on guys, that’s a non-sense: you either are hot or cold! Choose! Oh! and if you really want to look like a True Italian, you must wear sunglasses at all times (yes, also indoors) and a light scarf will give you that extra touch of Italian charm.
In Italy, we like to touch and greet people with two kisses on the cheeks, so unless you are really against it, let the Italians share the love when they meet you and let yourself be embraced by them. It’s common to see women kissing women and women kissing men, but if you are a man, do not kiss a man and especially don’t be the first to kiss a woman!
5. Move your hands!
Italian hand signs is our national signature, it’s almost impossible to find italians speaking without using their upper limbs and head sometimes. So, let go of your fear and shake it up but pay attention, some of our hand signs are extremely offensive, ask a local what they mean before using! ?
6. Parla Italiano
Now, I don’t intend to suggest that Italian is the most beautiful language in the world (which of course is! :)), but considering how little English (and other languages) are spread around the Bel Paese, you will find extremely useful to know a few words of Italian, like Ciao (hi and bye), Buongiorno (Good Morning), Buonasera (Good Evening), Per Favore (please) and Grazie, not Gracias (Thank you). Italians love when foreigners speak their language or at least try to do so, so make us happy and learn a few words!
7. Tipping ain’t mandatory
Italian restaurateurs love tourists (especially Americans) because they tip the way they tip in the US. Well, in Italy, tips are always welcome in case you had great and exceptional service, but there isn’t a fixed percentage for your meal. If you feel like you’ve been served well, you should leave something, but you should never feel forced to do so.
8. Mangia, Mangia, Mangia
In Italy, we love our food. Along with football, it is probably our other main religion. So, we beg you. Do not mess with it. If you are really trying to enjoy your Italian visit as an Italian, do like with do: order an antipasto (appetitizer), a primo (pasta or risotto), then a second (meat or fish) with contorno (side) and then a desert, caffe and a liquor.
Don’t start from the secondo or the dessert, you will just make the chef angry. Follow the Italian routine and you’ll love all the gorgeous food. Oh, and do not go to one of those scary restaurant with tons of pictures on their menus (they are only there for you: tourists!) Did I mention no cheese on Seafood Pasta? Well, if you don’t want to make your waiter (and me) cry, resist.
9. …and more about food
Now, I know you love your Pesto and your Bologniese (by the way the right spelling is B-O-L-O-G-N-E-S-E!), but Italy is a country of millions traditions and recipes, so don’t order a Carbonara in Milan, opt for a Risotto alla Milanese instead, don’t miss the tortellini and lasagne in Bologna and make sure to try the real pesto in Genova. Of course most of these things along with pizza and tiramisu are easily found all over Italy, but why miss out on something truly linked to the place you are visiting?
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What is your tip on how to avoid looking like a tourist in Italy?