As fun as travel can be, it also comes with challenges that can take even intelligent people by surprise. Traveling with groups means balancing needs and wants, con artists lie in wait to catch the unwary off-guard, and you may end up clashing with cultures which have completely different ways of going about everyday tasks.
While it isn’t possible to anticipate every wrinkle on a trip (if you could, travel would be considerably less interesting), doing your homework beforehand can prevent the most disruptive episodes from occurring.
Below, we’ll share several ways you can adequately prepare for your upcoming trip to Italy.
Prepare an itinerary aligned with your/your group’s interests
While spontaneity is one of the best aspects of travel, it never hurts to have a loose idea of what you want to do during your time in Italy.
This is especially true if you are traveling with a group, as your friends/family will have varying interests that will diverge somewhat from the others.
While you might not be able to please everybody equally, knowing what your spouse, friends, and relatives want to get out of their trip will ensure that you don’t leave anyone behind when it comes to researching things to see and do.
For instance, a local tour of Rome may appeal to some, while others may prefer attractions that can be explored independently. However, you will only learn this if you ask your travel companions their opinion – don’t try to read their minds.
Get a money belt
Europe is generally a safe place, but in many Mediterranean countries (Italy included), petty theft can be a bit of a problem.
Pickpockets know that cities like Rome and Venice are tourist hotspots, so they congregate there to take advantage of visiting foreigners who lack the situational awareness necessary to guard their belongings.
Don’t be the person who has a swollen wallet hanging from their back pocket. While in transit, use a money belt to stow your loose cash, cards, and passport safely beneath your shirt and belt buckle.
Used in tandem with a dummy wallet (which should have only a small amount of spending cash), you can keep your most valued possessions safe while traveling in Italy.
Inform your bank of your travel plans
The days of ordering traveler’s checks before boarding a plane for Italy are over, as global ATM networks have given almost everyone access to their money abroad.
However, it is not advisable to just throw a bunch of clothes in your suitcase and head to Italy with your bank card on a whim, as many financial institutions will flag sudden overseas transactions as an indicator of fraudulent activity.
This will cause your account to be frozen, leading to headaches, stress, and lengthy international phone calls while you attempt to fix the issue.
Avoid this by contacting your bank before you leave home. Let them know when you will arrive in Italy, and for how long you expect to be in the country.
During this period, you will be able to take cash out of your bank account without worrying about being blocked during what should be a stress-free time in your life.
Learn how to order coffee like an Italian
There are many idiosyncrasies that govern life in Italy, but few catch foreign travelers off-guard quite like the conventions surrounding coffee.
For example, ordering a latte is a classic head scratch moment, as doing this in most cafes in Italy will end with you being handed a glass of milk.
A similar misunderstanding often occurs when you simply ask for a coffee – in Italy, this means you will be served espresso.
Want a latte you are used to having at home? Ask specifically for caffe latte. Need a large mug of coffee to chase away your jet lag? Request caffe americano.
Other things of which you should be aware when buying coffee in Italy: cappuccino can be hard to find in the afternoon, as Italians only drink it during morning hours, and caffe coretto pairs well with Amalfi Coast sunsets, as this drink mixes coffee with a shot of liqueur.
Want to be taught these nuances by a native Italian? Join a local food tour in Milan, and you’ll get an inside perspective on this ritualistic aspect of everyday life in Italy.
Start dining at later times each day
If you hail from places like America, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and so forth, you are likely accustomed to eating lunch at around noon, and dinner no later than 6 pm.
Throw these concepts out the window when planning a trip to Italy, as you’ll be wildly out of step with the locals.
In Italy, people sit down for lunch as late as 2:30 pm, and as late as 10 pm for dinner. Before arriving in the country, adjust your meal times so that lunch occurs no earlier than 1 pm, and train yourself to have dinner around 8-9 pm.
This is not a joke: most local eateries won’t open for dinner earlier than that, leaving you with only tourist restaurants with wildly inflated prices to feed you before that hour.