This article is part of our Traveler, Not Tourist series where Tour Directors, who lead travelers like you on our tours throughout their home countries, provide valuable cultural information and ways you can better respect the local customs while exploring the world.
Ask almost any traveler for a list of their favorite places or where they hope to go someday and we’d bet you a plate of homemade pasta that Italy is on the list. “Every region [in Italy] has its own character, language, food, mentality,” added Tour Director Enrico. “That’s why Italians aren’t very nationalist. Italians are mostly proud of their city or region rather than of their country.”
Whether you’re counting down the days until your Italy trip or daydreaming about visiting the land of la dolce vita, we tapped into the network of Tour Directors (like Enrico!) who lead our Italy trips and asked them to share their expertise on the culture, traditions, and history in their home country to better prepare travelers for a tour of Italy. Here’s what they had to say!
Of all the things to know about Italian culture, one of the most important is that each day is meant to be enjoyed. Whether you’re sipping an espresso at a cafe or listening to an accordion player in a piazza, Italians relish in the every day moments and you should too! Here are a few etiquette tips for Italy so you can fit in as you travel throughout the country.
Italians have impeccable fashion sense, so while you may not be able to match their chic style to a tee, here are some steps you can take to look like a local. Bonus tip: If you’re planning to shop for clothes and want tips for Italy from an Italian local, follow Tour Director Filomena’s recommendation. “Italy is the land of fashion, so be ready to feel the different fabrics before you try them on!” she said.
Read our ultimate packing guide for Italy travel for more tips on what to bring in your luggage >
Eating in Italy is an art form. “Italians don’t go to the restaurants or cafes only to eat and drink but also to spend time together, so do not expect a quick service—you order, you wait, and talk about your life with your friends,” said Tour Director Gabriella. “If you’re in a hurry, it’s your responsibility to let the waiter know. Don’t be shy. Just smile and ask if they can help you. In Italy you get more with a smile than with anything else!” Here are a few ways to fit in while eating at restaurants throughout Italy.
So you know that you have to try wine, pizza, pasta, and gelato while in Italy, but do you know where to order each one, or better yet, how to eat them? These tips for Italy from an Italian local will help fit in as you dig in to your homemade meals.
“An Italian bar is like a coffee shop, but you can also find alcohol and often food,” said Tour Director Vicky. Be sure to order and sip your coffee while standing at the bar. “If you sit down you pay, very often, a bigger price and you miss the chance to talk with a perfect stranger—Italians are very social!” added Tour Director Gabriella. Get even more tips in our guide to drinking coffee in Italy.
“Food and wine wise, very little can be defined as Italian at large. The most authentic specialties in Italy are regional,” said Tour Director Sabra. That means one of the main things to know about Italian culture is that where you’re traveling in the country will determine the best food and wine to order. Our Tour Directors share their favorite foods to try based off where your tour of Italy takes you.
Plus, here are 15 more Italian dishes that are worth the flight >
Flip on these films and series, or pick up a book if that’s more your speed, as you daydream about your upcoming trip to Italy.
“Learn two or three words that would help create a nice connection,” said Tour Director Filomena. Phrases like grazie (thank you), buongiorno (good morning), and per favore (please) will take you far while on a tour of Italy, as Italians love exchanging pleasantries with one another. These are some of the language basics our Tour Directors recommend you brush up on before you hit the road.