5 silly mistakes not to make when in Italy

How to avoid looking like a tourist when in Italy

Whenever borders are crossed, it helps to be aware of any cultural differences, traditions, and ways to avoid insulting the members of your new host community. While such borders exist even within the same country, when travelling abroad it is especially important to do some research. When it comes to not making a fool of oneself, a little effort goes a long way!

As experts in the Rome sightseeing industry, we have had the opportunity to witness and document many a tourist faux-pas in Italy. By avoiding this short list of no-no's, you should be in the clear to enjoy the Italian Holiday of your dreams.

1. Comparing everything with "back home".

Yes, we know the streets are wider, the cars are bigger, the bathrooms are cleaner, the waiters are friendlier, the lines are more orderly, and the list goes on and on. Instead of comparing everything, just shed your typical way of looking at things and enjoy Italy for what it is, not what it is lacking. In doing so, you may be pleasantly surprised!

2. Trying to speak to Italians in bad Sicilian/Neapolitan dialect.

Many foreign tourists come from Italian backgrounds. Bear in mind that most Italians who emigrated came from the deep South or Sicily. They most likely spoke only a dialect of Italian that was specific to their region, and through the generations, that dialect has mutated even further to become something that is all but incomprehensible to most Italians. They won't understand you, may look at you funny, and are more likely to follow you if you speak in English. If you do wish to try to get by in Italian, a short list of helpful phrases can be easy to obtain and simple to remember.

3. Sitting down at the bar.

While this not an actual offense, you should know that at most Italian bars, the price doubles or even triples if you want the bartender to serve your coffee at the table. Most Italians have their coffee standing up at the bar.

4. Ordering a cappuccino with a meal or after a meal.

This is considered disgusting and unhealthy by Italians. Cappuccino is a breakfast drink, and after 11:00 AM it has no business being served. If you must have one after your dinner, etc, ask at your own risk. Chances are you will get it, but not without a good deal of fussing and moaning.

5. Changing menu items.

In countries like the United States, it is almost customary to substitute menu items. Ie hold the bacon, skim milk instead of whole, without nuts, egg whites, and so forth. Italian waitors have no tolerance for such requests. Their food is prepared in a ritualistic way, and to break the harmoniousness of a dish by adding to or removing from it is frowned upon.

Published on September 27th, 2009
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