Traveling to any city, you’re bound to make some mistakes. These could be anywhere from small errors to culture offending transgressions (although hopefully not). In Italy, you aren’t likely to make any mistakes that would cause a mass uproar, but there are a lot of small things that might earn you few looks or make you feel stupid. Here’s five of the most common ones.
If you aren’t used to the Mediterranean heat like they are though, you might be tempted to put on a pair of shorts when traversing the city. Italians tend to lean towards a classic, conservative approach to dress and keep the shorts and tank tops for the seaside. That being said, tourists are free to dress as they please, as long as they are ok with sticking out. However, if your exploration of the city involves going inside churches (which is likely considering the number of magnificent churches in the cities), then you should not be wearing any revealing clothing. Most churches will have signs asking that no knees or shoulders be showing, but some places, like the Vatican, just won’t let you in.
PUTTING PARMESAN CHEESE ON FOOD
In Italy, food is a very important part of the culture. You don’t just eat to survive, you eat to enjoy the rich flavors your dish has to offer. This goes for pizza as well. You’ll find pizza in Italy is a lot different from pizza in the United States. For one, it’s naturally sweeter due to the fresh tomatoes they make it with. Flavor is everything in a dish, which is why asking for parmesan cheese to go with it is rude. Putting parmesan cheese on pizza and pasta is a very foreign thing, and most requests for parmesan for your food will be met with disdain. If a dish is supposed to be eaten with cheese, it will either come already on it or in a separate vessel. A good rule of thumb is to never ask for any topping that doesn’t come with your food.
EATING BREAD BEFORE YOUR MEAL
Like many restaurants, Italian restaurants you will be served bread before your food arrives. Unlike most restaurants though, that bread should not be touched until the food you ordered is in front of you. In Italy, bread is meant to be eaten alongside your dinner, not as an appetizer. This rule doesn’t apply to every restaurant in Italy, but unless you’re certain the bread and olive oil that was just put on your table is meant as a taster, it’s best to play it safe.
LATTE VS CAFE LATTE
Unlike some mistakes that might be met with disgust or disdain, this one is just a simple misunderstanding. Latte is short for caffe latte, which is espresso with steamed milk. It is important to note the “shortened” part. Latte means milk in Italian, so asking for a latte will get you a cup of milk, which could be hot or cold. Nothing that will earn you dirty looks or cause people to refuse service, but something that might make you put your hand to your forehead and think “I’m an idiot.”
Of all the mistakes in this list, this one will cost you the most (literally). Usually, once you buy a ticket for a train or bus, you’re golden. In Italy, you need to go through an additional step of validating the ticket. On the bus or train, there will be a machine that you feed your ticket into. Doing so will validate the ticket and you’ll be done. If you don’t do this and a ticket inspector asks to see your ticket, you will get fined. The fine can be in the hundreds of euros and they rarely (if ever) go easy on first timers. Be aware and validate your ticket!