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Whether traveling for leisure, academics, or to visit family, Italy provides a host of exciting opportunities to enjoy a different culture and overall atmosphere. While you don’t need a master of the Italian language or a comprehensive understanding of the nation’s history, there are some things you should know before arriving in Italy.

Three Important Phrases

Aside from knowing how to ask for directions or determine where the closest restroom is, there are three simple phrases you should plan to use on your trip. When greeting someone or bidding them farewell, “Ciao” is the perfect catch-all. As a polite culture, expressing gratitude is common and expected, so plan to say “Grazie” several times a day. Lastly, it doesn’t hurt to admit you don’t know something; “non-capisco” is a great phrase to inform native Italians that you aren’t fluent in the language or simple don’t understand.

Meal Times

In Italy, you can expect to eat dinner late. Most restaurants don’t even open until at least six p.m., so moonlit meals can be expected. Be sure to plan accordingly to avoid the negative effects of hunger.

Restaurant Tipping Practices

Put simply, you will not be tipping restaurant staff when you dine out. Unlike restaurants in the United States, Italian establishments include something called “coperto” which is essentially a fee for each person who is dining; additionally, restaurant staff members in Italy are paid fair wages, eliminating the need for tips. 

The Midday Riposa Is Serious Business

For those who don’t know, riposa is a midday break that many shopkeepers and restaurateurs participate in. Early in the afternoon, businesses will close for several hours to allow owners and employees to take a break and go home. Often, individuals use this time to be with family before returning to the business for an evening shift. 

Italian Food Distribution

It is easy for Americans to organize Italian food into one group, but if you are visiting Italy, you need to understand that the Italian foods you love likely come from very different regions. Because of this, you won’t be able to find authentic Italian pizza and cannolis in the same area. One thing that will be consistent is cheese; delicious cheese can be found everywhere in Italy, though there will certainly be varieties across regions.