16 Things To Know Before Traveling To Italy
1) Water At Restaurants Is Not Free
When you sit down at a restaurant, tap water is not a thing. If you order water, you will be asked if you want still or sparkling (sometimes phrased as “gas or no gas”?). If you order water, it will be brought out in a big glass bottle and you will pay about 8 Euros for it.
2) Sitting/Cover Charge - Coperto
Yes, you read that right. This can be a hard one for some Americans to swallow. Especially if you’re at a cafe type establishment, you will be charged extra to sit down at a table. Don’t be surprised if you see the “coperto” charge on your check.
Uber isn't a thing in Italy. If you want to get around fast, your best bet is a Taxi. Be sure to check the fixed rates located in the taxi (such as going to or from the Airport) to avoid getting ripped off. For my fellow New Yorkers, you can’t step out into the street and hail a taxi the way we’re used to. You have to walk around until you find an orange “Taxi” sign and there will be many available taxis lined up. If you’re really lost, you can probably walk into a hotel and ask them to call a taxi for you.
4) Italians Eat Late
Don’t expect to eat any earlier than 7 PM. 7:30-9 PM is more common.
5) No Tipping
For my Americans reading this, remember there is no tipping in Italy! Servers are paid a very reasonable salary and tipping is not expected. However, if you feel your server did an outstanding job, feel free to leave a 5% tip.
6) Validate Your Train Ticket
This doesn’t apply for the high speed trains such as the Frecciarossa. However, if you are taking a regional or local train, you will need to remember to validate your ticket at the station or else risk getting fined.
7) Water Fountains Are Safe To Drink From
You’ll find many public water fountains to refill your water bottle at. They’re totally safe to drink from!
8) Public Restrooms Aren’t Free
You have to pay a small fee to use the public restroom. Honestly, you’d do better to go into a small store, buy a water or something small and use their restroom. It’ll be cleaner. Also, don’t be surprised if you walk into the restroom and find a squat toilet. You’ll be surprised how common they are in Europe.
9) Do Your Research About Restaurants
There’s no excuse to eat bad food in Italy.
10) Cash Is A Thing
Yes, much to my surprise, there were a handful of places that insisted on cash. I severely underestimated the amount of cash I’d need while visiting. Some taxi’s are an especially big culprit for only accepting cash.
11) The Pasta Is Fantastic. Period.
You honestly can’t go wrong with pasta. The Italians know how to do pasta.
12) Beware Of People Offering To Help You.
You’ll find many people on the street or in public places “offering” to help you with directions, carrying your bags, escorting you, etc. Say no. Unless they have on a specific uniform, it’s either a scam or they will expect to be paid for their “services”.
13) Wine is cheap, so drink a lot!
14) Do The Skip The Line Options
Especially during peak seasons for the big sights (i.e Colosseum, Roman Forum, etc). Your limited time is precious! Opt for the skip the line tours and tickets to make the most of your time.
Buongiorno becomes Buona Sera after 1 PM. Ciao is a very informal greeting. Grazie is thank you and per favore is please. Know the basics so you can at least try to be polite. It goes a long way.
16) How To Read The Train Board (Partenza)
If you’re train hopping around Italy, you may be a little intimidated your first time. Don’t be. It’s one of the easiest ways to travel. Get to the train station about 20 minutes before your train is set to leave.
The board won’t show your gate number until 10-20 minutes before the train leaves so don’t freak out if you don’t see your train number when you first get there. The main thing you have to check is that the train number you’re looking at on the board matches the one you have on your ticket. If the train name and train number are the same, you’re good to go. Your train may be making multiple stops so take note of the 5th column where it shows the stops and final destination. You may be the second or third stop on a train going much further than you intend to go. Your gate number will be the 6th (last) column on the board. Good luck!