The way you imagine Italy might be slightly different from what you can find once you arrive here, for your wedding or for a vacation. Here are some useful things you have to know to make your Italian experience unique and full of good vibes:
1. Your passport must have more than 6 months validity to travel to Italy, otherwise, the airline might not allow you to travel.
2. Don’t change money at the airport, the rate is usually not convenient. Withdraw euro from an ATM get you the best rate.
3. You can usually withdraw no more than 250 euro per day. Before traveling, make sure your bank doesn’t have an international restriction on withdrawals. When paying with your card, specify you want to pay in euro.
4. Don’t forget a converter for your devices, Italy uses a European two-pin plug.
5. Shops and services are closed for a lunch break from 1 to 4 PM approximately, especially in smaller cities and in the countryside.
6. Uber doesn’t exist in Italy and there are almost no taxis outside of big cities. Renting a car is the best option to get around.
7. The center of the big cities is a limited traffic area. If you rent a car, make sure you don’t surpass a ZTL (zona a traffico limitato) sign, if you do, you will get a fine. To avoid it, take your car to a garage and park there for a few hours, explaining the situation, they will take off the fine to not have to deal with it later.
8. Parking signs. White lines mean free parking, blue lines mean you have to pay for it, yellow ones mean you can’t park there. There are some exceptions, for example, white lines in the center of Florence are for residents only.
9. To call a taxi you need to call it or book it through an app or go to a special taxi station and book it from there. You don’t just stop a taxi on the street. Many taxis don’t accept credit cards.
10. Cappuccino is a morning drink for Italians but you can drink espresso all day long.
11. If you ask for a latte, you will be given milk, the right word is caffellatte.
12. Not all places know how to make a proper Ice coffee, ask for a caffè shakerato to get its best Italian version.
13. Restaurants close at 3 pm after lunch and open at 7-7.30 pm for dinner. During this time you can eat in a bar or get some street food but not have an actual proper meal of 2 or 3 courses unless you eat in a very touristic place in a big city center.
14. Coperto is an amount charged for every person who eats in a restaurant. It is usually a few euros only. Some places charge it, others don’t. It is different from the tips, which are not mandatory in Italy.
15. Italians don’t eat bread with pasta. They are usually very careful about the balance of carbs in their diet, part of the famous Mediterranean lifestyle they are very proud of. You can mop your plate with bread, but it is not something you do in a restaurant especially a high-end one.
16. If you want to find good authentic food, try the streets away from the main touristic places and see where the locals go. If the place is full of Italian people, it is probably a good one.
17. Spaghetti Alfredo or with meatballs is not an Italian thing. You can find them in some tourist places, but Italians have no idea they exist.
18. Pizza in Italy is different in different cities. In Rome, the dough is made with olive oil and it is thinner than in Naples. If you order “Pepperoni” pizza, you will get a pizza with red peppers, not salami. Don’t order Hawaiian pizza, Italians get really offended by it throughout the country.
19. In a restaurant, you will have to ask for the bill. Italians enjoy conversations after meals, this is why nobody will hurry you giving the note right away.
20. There is Starbucks in Italy only in Milan and Turin, Italians usually prefer their local bars.
21. Italians care about fashion very much. Don’t wear white socks and sandals or tourist shorts and t-shirts in Italy if you don’t want to look like a typical tourist.
22. Italian street fashion is sober and comfortable. Almost no one wears high heels on the cobblestones.
23. The months between November and February are rainy and it can occasionally snow. July and August are usually very hot, and Italians go to the sea or in the countryside. The best months to visit Italy are March-June and September-October unless you are a fan of hot or cold weather.
24. When you enter your hotel room, you will probably see the most important object of the Italian bathroom – the bidet. Italians are very proud of it and of how clean they are. There are several books about the bidet on Italian Amazon.
25. Not everyone speaks English, especially out of the main touristic centers, learning some phrases in Italian might be extremely useful.
I hope this was useful information for your Italian stay, you can add more things that were a surprise for you in Italy in the comments or contact me directly.