Travellers Tales

BE A TRAVELLER, not a tourist in Italy

A few top tips to ensure you won't be singled out as an out-of-towner.

Posted in the Cycle Tours collection on 26th September 2018


lipping into those comfortable holiday shorts immediately gives the game away - you are a 'straniero' - a foreigner/tourist.

Italians just do not wear shorts, with the possible exception of cyclists and when on the beach. Blending in, therefore is not easy for the visitor.

Here are a few top tips to ensure you won't be singled out as an out-of-towner.



When it comes to pronouncing even the most common of Italian words, many native English speakers fail, badly. Italian is surprisingly different to English.

It isn't 'grat-see' it is 'gra-c-e'. It is 'Buon-gi-or-no'. Its defiantly isn't 'Por favor'. It is 'pear-fa-vor-e' ('Per favore').

The Italian's expect the English speakers to mispronounce words, usually with a Spanish influence. Take the time to show that you understand the differences, even on the simple 'yes', 'please', 'thank you' level, it makes a big difference to the respect that you will be shown.

Oh and remember, Florence is 'Firenze', Rome is 'Roma', and Venice is 'Venezia'. Lets put it another way, San Franscisco isn't 'San Francecso', Washington 'Lavandoton' and Los Angeles isn't 'Gli Angeli'.


Italian’s are some of the best dressed, stylish people on the plant. This concept goes deeper though. Here it is ‘bella figura’ or, as translated by the Collins Dictionary, making ‘a good impression; fine appearance’. Italians are masters at this.

What to do? Choose your wardrobe with consideration and try your best to wear well coordinated items; walk with confidence; smile;



It is a big fail to order ‘cappuccino’ or any coffee with milk, after around mid-morning. OK, you’ll get away with a ‘caffè macchiato’ (make sure you check the correct pronunciation), but this isn’t Starbucks. A caffè macchiato is a shot of espresso with a dash of frothy milk riding on top of it.

Why shouldn't you order milky coffee after mid-morning? This isn’t fashion, its diet. The Italians believe that so much milk will effect your dietary ability.


TOP TIP 1: Ordering a ‘latte’ will get you a cup of milk. Ordering a ‘caffé latte’ will get you what you want, in a cup not a small bucket!

TOP TIP 2: Coffee is served to be drunk there and then, on the spot. It is made at the correct temperature to drink immediately. If you want it hot, ask. ‘Ben caldo’ - very hot which it won’t be, it’ll just be hotter than you would have got it!


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BONUS TIP 1: Pizza is for evenings, not for lunch ( although you can find pizza for lunch in some (tourist) places ).

BONUS TIP 2: The steak is cooked by the chef. He wants you to enjoy it at its fullest flavour. He is the one to decide how it should be cooked for maximum flavour and for your enjoyment. Normally, this is medium-rare. If you must, then do ask for it to be cooked a little more, but beware the frown!

BONUS TIP 3: Eat your food when it arrives. In the best restaurants food arrives at your table when it is ready to eat. It isn’t going to sit under a heat lamp awaiting the other dishes. Tuck in and enjoy even though your friends may not have theirs.


In my local village shop, the door bursts open and all the locals enter by announcing their presence with a hearty ‘Buongiorno’. This isn’t addressed at anyone in particular, it is an announcement to everyone in the shop.

Be friendly. You’ll maybe find this odd and even a little awkward at first. Persevere and you will soon find yourself crowing the greetings just like a local.


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In Italy the rule is, if you are 15 minutes late, you are on time.

It is a well known fact that things run at a different pace in Italy, particularly when compared to some cultures. Things will happen in their own time. However, if you have been sitting at your table for an extra-ordinary amount of time, do, politely, raise you hand, catch the waiters eye and smile. You will be served.

Meal time in Italy is a time to chat, to be enjoyed and savoured. Don’t rush it.


Italians are a proud people and they have much to be proud of. Don’t go comparing things. “Oh when we were in Guatemala, they had great food”. “Where was it that we had that spit roast goat? Oh it was just wonderful!”

This does not impress anyone.

Enjoy your experience for what it is. Savour it.


"Comparison is the thief of joy."


Please - ‘Per favore’; Thank you - ‘grazie’; Thanks a lot - ‘grazie mille’. Very simple, often forgotten and it makes a great deal of difference.

When you say it, look the person in the eye. It means much, much more.



For sure, you want to see the main sites. The Vatican, Coliseum, the leaning tower etc.

Do make time to get out and see the rest of Italy. The side roads of Tuscany, Umbria and elsewhere have so much to offer.

You will be welcomed with genuine warmth and hospitality. Here you will not be viewed as a tourist more as a traveller, someone who has taken the time and trouble to venture away, to discover.


Food fads such as the paleo diet, just do not happen in Italy.

Be prepared to be flexible with your food.

You will need to work with the waiter to get something that suits you. They will expect your input though. Do not expect to just sit there and allow the waiter to come up with the answer.

However, the food will be just wonderful.



Knowing how to properly raise a glass in Italy once won me some extra ordinary favour.

Pick up your glass, look at the person standing next to you, offer your glass to them in expectation, they will 'chink' your glass and at the very same moment, look you directly in the eye and say 'salute' or even 'cin-cin' (pronounced ‘chin-chin). Then, immediately sip from the glass.

Do not make an big thing of the eye-to-eye contact. It is just what happens. Do not put your glass down after the chink. It is considered rude or even offensive.

This is polite and a tradition and it is taken very seriously in some areas.


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