Planning a trip to Italy can go one of two ways.
Either you have a beautiful Italian long lost relative, who is more than happy to connect and fill you in on all the secret know how’s; someone who tells you where to go and what to wear in Italy
you haven’t got an ounce of Italian blood in your body, meaning you spend every waking hour researching Italian travel tips; filling your brain with everything you should do in Italy.
Only to discover that once you arrive in the country, you have completely forgotten to consider the things that you shouldn’t do.
The Italian no-no’s.
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Nobody enjoys looking like a fool.
Especially not after you have spent months arranging the perfect holiday with such precision.
One of the most embarrassing moments of my (travel) life was when I was cautioned by police in Piazza San Marco for eating ice cream in Venice. Just because I had been so busy finding the things to do in Venice I totally overlooked the local laws.
It will give me something to tell my grandchildren.
The following valuable tips will save you from any such discomfort when planning your next Italy trip.
They will enable you to enjoy your Italy vacation the way it should be experienced, leaving you more time for caffe crema and truffle sauce and less time wondering where you got your black hair and brown eyes from.
Planning A Trip To Italy. 21 Things That Scream No!
Italy Tip #1 Don’t Forget to Validate Your Train Ticket
When you buy a train ticket in Italy, it has neither the date nor time on it. This is superb in the sense that the organised traveller can purchase train tickets in advance and use them when needed, but not so good for those with poor memories.
Before you board a regional train in Italy with your ticket, you need to validate it.
Don’t try and pull a fast one and say to the train inspector that you forgot; this won’t work. You will find yourself either walking home or responsible for a hefty fine.
There are yellow validation machines at the entrance of each station or on the platform. Either way, find one and get your ticket stamped.
Also, note that it is not possible to buy tickets on the train.
Italy Tip #2 Don’t Ignore Bars When Buying A Coffee
If you are looking for a coffee, then head to one of the many bars in Italy.
On first glance, these little bars can appear quite intimidating (especially if you are outside of a tourist area). Get over your initial awkwardness and stride on in there like you’re a local.
Italy Tip #2. Don’t Sit Down & Drink Coffee
To be like a real Italian take that coffee standing up at the bar.
Italy Tip #3 Don’t Order Cappuccino After 11 am
Ordering cappuccino after 11 am is a big no-no in Italy, with travellers often reporting of being scoffed at by waiters when they have ordered a cappuccino after mid-morning.
Do what you like, I say, but be aware that it’s not the done thing in Italy, apparently it messes with your digestion.
Italy Tip #3 Don’t Go Overboard When Tipping
Tipping is not customary in Italy (unless you are dining with a large party in a posh restaurant); HOWEVER, this does not mean to say that tips will be refused.
If your server has given you service worth tipping then feel free to do so.
And when you have that coffee in the bar that we talked about, tip the bar person 10 or 20 cents as a sign of respect and a way to connect. You will find that you get an Italian smile – and that is priceless.
Italy Tip #4 Don’t Expect a Hearty Breakfast
Breakfast in Italy is a sweet and small affair.
A cappuccino and a delicious pastry or biscuit are enough to satisfy the Italians on waking.
They’re probably saving space for all the pasta they’re going to devour later on in the day.
Italy Tip #5 Don’t Expect To Eat Dinner Early
This is one of the reasons I adored taking my kids to Europe and in particular Italy.
We (me and my teenagers) love eating late, and so do the Italians.
Unless you are in Venice (where everything shuts down after 10 pm), don’t expect to have dinner early; you will find that most (descent) restaurants don’t even open their doors until 7 pm with things livening up at around 8.30.
If you are like my husband who complains constantly that eating late gives him indigestion then I suggest you take a box of Gaviscon with you – or even better a tub of these wonderful apple cider vinegar capsules – they do the job of settling the tummy of a bloated man perfectly.
Trust me; I know.
Italy Tip #5 Don’t Stand in Line When You Can Buy a Fast Pass
Standing in line is dull and hot.
Fast pass tickets are readily available for not that much money and so there really isn’t any excuse to spend half of your day in line.
These ones are for Rome are worth every cent, but you can buy them for every city in Italy.
When planning a trip to Italy, please don’t waste your precious time standing in a long, hot, line for the sake of twenty dollars.
Italy Tip #6 Don’t Buy Water From the Street Sellers in Rome
Do not by a bottle of water from the many sellers that hound you in Rome.
We have it on good authority that this water is frozen and then refrozen and then brought out and frozen again at the end of the day.
Don’t do it, no matter how icy cold and delicious the water looks.
Instead, do what we did and take one of these collapsible travel water bottles. Fill it up at the clean (and free) water dispensers around the city.
Italy Tip #7 Don’t Be Put Off Hiring a Car
There are so many horror stories of hiring a car in Italy, and after driving around the country for three months last year, I can confirm that they are not true.
If you are only staying around Rome then no, hiring a car would be pointless but if you plan to see a lot more of Italy, then I urge you to hire a car.
Apart from Croatia, we found Italy to be the cheapest place in Europe for car hire. While it is true that the cost of tolls can mount up, the price of car hire was still more than reasonable.
Make sure that you have excellent Italy trave insurance and this way you will save extra money by not paying out for the extras fees.
Italy Tip #8 Don’t Pay Roaming Charges
If you plan on staying in Italy for a few weeks, then I recommend getting a local sim card and inserting it into your phone to avoid high-cost mobile roaming.
Go to a phone shop at the airport or in a city (we used Vodaphone) and explain to them what you want.
The only downside to doing this is when you come to top up the app it is all in Italian.
The way we got around this was by going into a petrol station on the Highway and asking the cashier to set it up for us. She was super helpful and friendly and didn’t mind at all.
Italy Tip #9 Don’t Ignore Venice Airport
Our middle name is cheap.
So I know what I’m talking about when it comes to finding inexpensive flights throughout Italy.
We could not find more affordable flights than those coming into Venice; in fact, they were such a bargain it was cheaper for us all to fly back from Croatia to Venice and drive to Paris rather than fly directly to the capital.
Use Skyscanner or Google flights to find the best dates and prices but do not overlook the airport in Venice. It will no doubt be the cheapest option.
Italy Tip #10 Don’t Be Scared To Explore
This is something I like to harp on about all of the time.
Why go all the way to Italy and only see places that are packed with tourists? Take a car or a train and head out to the country.
Explore hilltop vineyards, eat at local restaurants, spend a few hours on a picnic blanket at the foot of an old fort.
Discover the real Italy.
Italy Tip #11 Don’t Only Eat Pizza and Pasta
I know that you can’t come to Italy and not eat pasta and pizza (the best pizza we found in the whole of Italy was from a tiny shop in Foggia in South Italy, absolutely delicious) but please don’t make this the only thing you try.
Italy is famed for its cuisine and offers so much more than the two p’s.
Italy Tip #12 Don’t Eat at Dodgy Restaurants
Any restaurant where the greeter is standing on the pavement outside selling the menu and the food to passers-by is a restaurant to be avoided.
Italy Tip #13 Don’t Pay For Public Loos
The public bathrooms in Italy aren’t the nicest (not like the restrooms in Japan that’s for sure) and to make matters worse, you are expected to pay for them.
Don’t do this. Not if you can help it.
Cross your legs, find a bar and order a coffee, it will cost you no more than a couple of euros, and you can use the establishment bathroom.
Much nicer and you get a coffee hit.
Italy Tip #14 Don’t Believe Everything You Read
The Italians are rude. You will get robbed, Pompeii is a tourist rip off, Rome is boiling hot blah, blah, blah.
As soon you tell someone you are travelling they will take it upon themselves to give you their two penneth worth- which usually ends up being totally crap advice.
Ignore scaremonger travel tips.
Go and discover Italy for yourself and make your own mind up. And for the record, the Italians are gorgeous and friendly and visiting Pompeii was one of the highlights of our trip.
Italy Tip #15 Don’t Ignore The Supermarkets
If you are self-catering, don’t rule out the supermarket. You might need a car to get to the bigger out of town ones, but once there you will save a fortune on wine and dried goods.
Italy Tip #15 Don’t Break The Law In Venice
If you plan on visiting the City of Water, make sure you research the things NOT to do in Venice. This little city is pretty strict when it comes to rules.
For example, know that it is forbidden to feed the pigeons or seagulls in Piazza San Marco, it is, in fact, illegal to feed the pigeons anywhere in Venice.
If you get caught, you will be fined. A lot.
You’ve been warned!
Italy Tip #15 Don’t Pay Full Price For A Gondola in Venice
If you are on a budget in Italy but want to do experience a gondola ride in Venice, then ask another group if you can share with a boat with them. Try and negotiate this away from the gondola man so that you aren’t charged extra.
Gondolas are priced per ride and not per person and remember; sharing is caring.
Italy Tip #16 Don’t Think Kissing Is Only For Couples In Italy
Italians greet family and friends with two kisses on the cheek. This extends to males too
Move to the right cheek first and then the left.
Know that the greeting kisses in Italy are light and gentle. Don’t go and plant a smackeroony on the poor Italians unknowing cheek and break their jaw.
That’s not chic. That’s abuse.
Italy Tip #15 Don’t Ignore the Rome Pass
We save yourself a fortune in Rome by getting a Rome pass.
Not only do you not have to stand in line, but it means you can plan your day in Rome with precision – saving you time and money and leaving you with more time to sit in Italian cafes looking gorgeous in your Italian outfits.
Check out the Rome Fast Pass here and spend your time in Italy doing fun stuff rather than standing in line.
Italy Tip #16 Don’t Mistake Fake Gelato For the Real Stuff
Authentic gelato is not made with artificial food colouring so on first inspection looks a little pale and anaemic.
Know that this is what they are supposed to look like.
If you see bright orange or fluorescent yellow ice cream then give that stall a miss (it’s a fake) seek out the real thing.
Italy Tip #17 Don’t Get A Fine
If you are driving in Italy then I suggest you learn the road signs.
We made the mistake of not doing this when we were driving around Italy last summer. Unbeknown to us, while driving to an idyllic hidden location in Florence, we were captured on camera for driving in a restricted area.
We received a bill through the post almost a year later.
Not so cocky now clever clogs.
Italy Tip #18 Don’t Overuse The Word “Ciao”
While it is advisable to learn some Italian phrases be careful how you use them!
Ciao is one of those greetings that are universal but know that to say Ciao to strangers – in particular, older people can be considered upfront and rude.
Ciao is informal – for people you know and are on first name terms with.
That doesn’t include the woman on the checkout or bag checking person at the airport.
Italy Tip #19 Don’t Always Do What The Guide Book Tells You
Yes, Piazza San Marco is a must-do, but really? Do you want to see the square with all of these people? Why not go along at night and see the square bathed in moonlight?
I have included our 13- second video to show you just how busy that square is at midday!
Don’t follow and believe every guide book and Italy travel blog that you read. Some of the authors haven’t even been to Italy!
Do things differently while in Italy and you will experience a vacation that you will never forget. Check out these insider Italy travel tips. for more ideas on how to enjoy Italy to the fullest.
When in Rome, buy a delicious picnic and go to the park opposite the coliseum. It’s the best view in the city and there isn’t a rose seller insight.
Check Out The Video That We Made In Italy!
Italy Tip #20 Don’t Ignore Housesitting In Italy
We are big fans of housesitting. We estimated that while housesitting throughout Europe, we saved ourselves approximately ten grand.
Honestly, I can’t understand why more people don’t do this! It’s pretty straightforward; you join Housesitters, make a profile and then twice a day you are sent emails (such as the screenshot from my phone below) listing available properties!
If you are planning a trip to Italy, do not rule out the possibility of Housesitting! It’s not hard and is a fabulous way to experience living in beautiful parts of Italy in return for looking after someone’s property (and maybe a pet!)
Click here to see more housesits in Italy.
Airbnb in Italy
If house sitting isn’t your cup of Latte, but you would still like an ‘it-feels-like-I-live-in-Italy’ experience, then check out the fabulous Italian Airbnbs.
There are lots of Italian farmhouses close to big cities that are gorgeous (and far cheaper than a fancy pancy overpriced hotel).
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Italy Tip #21 Don’t Be Afraid of Looking Like a Tourist
There is so much talk around about how important it is not to look like a tourist when you travel.
While I agree that it is a shame to spend your life savings on visiting a country and then never strep out of the safe tourist bubble of a hotel resort, there is nothing wrong with doing touristy things while visiting Italy.
Nothing wrong with that at all.
Go to Verona and rub Juliet’s breast! Take the obligatory photo of the leaning tower of Pisa, shake hands with the gladiators in Rome (careful they don’t try and charge you though!)
It’s those photos that you will share with your grandkids!
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So, there you have it. 21 things that you should really NOT do when taking a trip to Italy.
Did you come across any of these things when planning a trip to Italy? I would love to hear about your experiences. Leave a comment below and let me know how your trip went. And if you ever discovered where the brown eyes came from.
And remember, if you know someone who is planning a trip to Italy in the near future, please share this post with them!