Things NOT to do on your Italian Short Break
We all know that Italy is a fantastic destination with short flights from the UK, great culture, food, wine and wonderful weather, but do you know the things not to do when you’re on your Italian short break? I went through a list and whilst some of them are well known, others are quite revealing. So if you want to escape on your Italian short break blending in with the locals, here are some things to be aware of:
- When visiting churches and other holy sights, you must have your shoulders and knees covered at all times. If the heat feels too oppressive for a cardigan, use the excuse to buy a pashmina and drape this around your shoulders. You will stay cool and look very fashionable!
- Ask the waiter for parmesan cheese on your seafood pasta. Mixing cheese and seafood in Italy is never done. Also, don’t let an Italian witness you cutting your spaghetti with a fork or knife!
- Don’t expect your pizza to be served with plenty of meat options. Pork is considered the only exception with chicken and beef a no-no. The pork comes in variants usually including prosciutto, and salami.
- Chicken and pasta do not mix. The Italians feel strongly enough about this rule that out of dozens of pasta sauces available and in use, not one is with chicken as an ingredient.
- Don’t leave your bread upside down on the table. It is considered bad luck and disrespectful towards the owner of the table.
- For an Italian eating dinner before 8pm is unheard of. If you get peckish before this time the pasticceria’s will serve hot chocolate and pastries to see you through to the appropriate time. From 7pm an aperitivo is acceptable.
- Don’t expect timings to be precise! Whilst it is always good to be on time and some places like viewing The Last Supper in Milan insist upon it, you might be waiting when your scheduled tour begins later than planned. This is the case for businesses and shops also, which typically close for lunch but vary on which two days of the week they remain shut.
- Be street-savvy! Number One on everyone’s must do Venice list is a romantic gondola ride, but the gondoliers are aware of this and tourist prices can range from £45 to £90 if you don’t shop around.
- Tipping is great for showing your appreciation but it isn’t expected and if the service is not as you would expect it to be, then it is fine to just pay the cost of the service.
- Don’t overdo it! Human nature is to rush out, buy all the guide books and look at all these great itineraries declaring Rome can be done in a day, but the reality is far from it. The heat and the crowds often make this impossible, plus who wants to spend their holiday fielding from site to site as if at a work conference? Focusing on the main sites of interest to you and whether you can either get a private tour or a beat the queues timed pass, mean you get to enjoy the sites without losing time.
- Don’t start your first ever Italy adventure off the beaten track. Begin with the main cities – Venice, Rome and Florence and then enjoy the small towns of which Italy is famous for.
- If you are likely to be out all day, it’s a good idea to take tissues with you. Only some public restrooms have a stock of toilet paper.
- Make sure you carry some cash with you. Credit cards are not always accepted and frowned upon if spending less than €10.
- Don’t go home without looking at the leather shoes! Italian shoes are known for their exceptional quality and longevity, caring for your feet for years. Ignore the euro exchange rate which is not always in your favour for this one purchase!
- Driving in Italy is one thing, but driving around the Amalfi Coast is not for the faint-hearted. Where possible take taxis or enjoy the walk if nearby.
- If you’re thinking of taking public transport, make sure you validate your ticket before boarding.
- It’s almost impossible to pay for petrol with a credit card, so use the cashpoint before a journey and pay in cash.
- Don’t rely on Google Maps. It is hard to feel confident when Google thinks the best way to reach your Florence hotel is by driving over the Ponte Vecchio! The bridge is for pedestrians only. Stock up on maps instead.
Did you know all of these? I confess I did not. But now you know you can be viewed as a local. If only learning the language was so easy . . .!