Published on December 16, 2016 | by Nat Martin0
5 Things You Need to Know Before Visiting Italy
Italy is a country that has seduced its visitors for hundreds of years. It is still one of the most visited countries in the world, and is arguably Europe’s most enticing destination, thanks to its stunning scenery, delicious food, beautiful people, and breath-taking architecture. Oh, and its world-renowned reputation for fashion is always going to be a plus.
There is so much to see and do in the Bel paese, you can easily feel overwhelmed and feeling as though you have missed out. If you have never been before, then there are a few things to keep in mind before experiencing the bella vita for yourself and enjoying all that yummy food.
Italians are Loud
I will never forget the look on my hubby’s face as we sat down to take in the beautiful surroundings of Piazza Erbe in Verona. Just as he moved his long-awaited beer to his mouth, he simultaneously ducked to avoid the flailing arms of one of the growing number of women crowding around our table. As the arms began to flail more and more, the shouting also seemed to intensify and grow louder and louder. It seemed as though we had been caught in the middle of a Veronese quarrel that was about to boil over into rage and violence and ruin the first day of our holiday. I quickly moved my handbag under the table to avoid the inevitable shower of prosecco that was about to come our way, when two of the women embraced and kissed each other on the cheeks.
Yes. Italians are loud, really loud. What may seem like a heated argument in Britain is just Italians showing and expressing their affection for each other.
Brush Up on the Lingo
If you plan to go to Italy without even a smattering of the lingo, you are likely to run into problems at some point. Even though Italian schools now teach English as their main foreign language and more companies are offering corporate language training to their employees to conduct business in English, most Italians are not fluent in the language.
This is unlikely to cause you too many problems in the more touristy parts of the country, but you are likely to run into difficulties if you head for one of the more unspoilt corners of the country. The Italians are super-friendly and polite people, but learning a few words of the language will endear you to them even more, even if you are limited to using “Ciao” as hello and goodbye and “Grazie” for thank you. If you are mistaken for an Italian, simply reply with “Non capisco” (I don’t understand).
The Best Places are off the Beaten Track
When I first went to Italy I was only interested in going to the main cities, such as Venice, Florence and Rome. It goes without saying, that I simply love these cities and each one is incredibly beautiful, but the crowds got a little bit too much for me. I was also extra-worried by the signs about pick-pockets. Luckily for me, my hubby is something of an adventurer and is always looking to head away from the beaten track and do his own thing. Usually this causes arguments between us as we usually get lost thanks to his unreliable map reading skills and non-existent sense of direction.
However, this time it proved to be super-valuable and we saw parts of the country that tourists seem to be mostly unaware of. One of the most interesting places we visited was Trieste, which is on the border with Slovenia and is unlike any other city in the whole of Italy. It also has the best coffee in the world!
Another delightful town we were lucky enough to visit was San Vito Lo Capo, which is on the north-west coast of the island of Sicily. It had some of the most beautiful water that I have ever seen, and the evening passeggiata with a gelato certainly beat wandering along a wind-swept Brighton seafront.
Our Italian Food Isn’t Italian
It didn’t take me long to realise that the Italian food that we have over here is nothing like the actual food you get over in Italy. While I was prepared for a few extra sessions of cardio in the gym after my trip, as soon as I had my first mouthful of lasagne, I knew that I would be chained to the treadmill for several weeks. Seriously, the food is gorgeous and make sure that you enjoy it as much as you can do. I also realised pretty quickly that each region has its own cuisine, so make sure that you pack your elasticated trousers and enjoy it!
Oh, just a little bit of advice. My hubby asked for a ‘latte’ and was greeted with a snigger by the waiter before being given a glass of hot milk. If you want a ‘British latte’, make sure you ask for a ‘caffe latte’.
Flash the Cash
In Britain, we have got used to paying for everything with cash, even the other day as I was doing the grocery shopping, I paid for pack of chewing gum with my card. However, in Italy most people pay for things with cash – from the morning “caffè” to their dinner in the evening, it is cash all the way. This can be a major inconvenience when your waiter refuses to accept your Visa when you are just trying to pay for your evening meal.
As I said before, Italians are mostly very friendly and polite but you will quickly notice that the customer is not always right! While most shops in England are happy to pay the small card fee, Italian business owners would rather throw their card machine into the sea. Make sure that you take out plenty of cash when you arrive. However, you will be glad to know that your hotel will be delighted to charge your card, no questions asked!
Wherever you go in Italy, you will always have a fab time! Buon Viaggio!