An American in Italy: 5 Useful Tips to Prepare an American Tourist
Getting Your Visitor Comfortable and Prepared ahead of Arrival Will Help You Both
by Luisa Rasiej, Customer Experience Liaison
Italy has a charm all its own, from wonderful sights to extraordinary food and friendly people. It’s an easy country to visit and many Americans are fascinated by the land of amore. There are some things that Americans may not understand, particularly if it’s their first visit. You can make their journey more enjoyable by helping them understand the Italian way. Here are five things that as an Italian travel provider will help you serve them better. Share it with them before they arrive.
When you go to an Italian restaurant in the US, people expect a variety of pasta dishes, sometimes served together with meatballs, a pizza or two and of course, tiramisu. Although there is pasta in just about every restaurant in Italy, an American tourist would be hard-pressed to find a “meal-in-one” plate, nor pizza served at lunch. Invite your guests to explore the local specialties, stressing how Italian cuisine is about fresh flavors and delicious meals at reasonable prices. Often a restaurant’s house wine will be an excellent choice and save money rather than ordering a bottle.
Speaking of food, remind travelers that in Italy there are specific times for eating: typically, breakfast with a cappuccino and cornetto can be found throughout the day, but never includes eggs and bacon, and is consumed while standing at the “bar.” Lunch is served between 12:30PM and 2:30PM and most restaurants will not re-open till 7:30PM for dinner.
Most Americans have grown accustomed to having very little cash in their wallet and paying even for coffee with plastic. However, most Italians pay for things with cash and tourists might be surprised that credit cards are not accepted everywhere, such as at the market or at the tabacchi. Suggest they carry at least some cash with them and where they might easily exchange their dollars, which might not be a bank. Your US traveler may head there — however, unless you have an account, many Italian banks no longer offer exchange service. Just in case, do make them aware that banking hours in Italy are from 8:30AM to 1:30PM only, while ATM machines will be open all the time.
Moving about in Italy
In order to travel between cities, people in the US are used to taking planes. Suggest that taking a FrecciaRossa or an Italo train to move about the country is an easy way to travel. American tourists might be apprehensive about stories they have heard about lateness and strikes. Assure them that strikes are announced in advance and that high-speed trains have a good record of timeliness.
Since tickets for regional trains typically do not have a specified time nor an assigned seat, remind your guests that those kinds of tickets need to be validated before boarding the train or they will have to pay a steep fine to the conductor.
Traffic and Driving
Driving fast, honking and tailgating feels like a must on Italian roads. Should the US traveler choose to rent a car and go off-the-beaten-track, point out to them that street signs might be lacking along the way. Although it’s helpful to have a GPS, suggest they not exclusively rely on it, but rather pick up an old-fashioned map and share the enjoyment of wandering into a small town far away from the tourist hotspots. When driving in large cities, explain the “ZTL” signs to them and emphasize they avoid them at all cost, unless they are prepared to pay hefty fines.
When in Rome, do as the Romans! Generally speaking, Italians are not wedded to the clock and time becomes fluid compared to schedules to which Americans are accustomed. Encourage your guest to adopt this mentality, avoiding frustration with things like waiting for the check in a restaurant or waiting for a bus to arrive on time. Put them at ease with any question they have and help them relax, so that they may enjoy the sites, the tastes and the experience. After all they are on vacation in Italy!
© 2016 Luisa Rasiej