10 Things to Stop Doing as a Tourist in Italy
I decided to turn the tables and instead of giving advice on how to behave to conform to cultural norms here in Italy, I thought I’d highlight all of the mistakes tourists tend to make while taking in the sights and sounds of this lovely country. Don’t worry if you’ve done some of these, because I certainly have; some are obvious, while others could be regarded as rather miniscule details in the grand scheme of things. What’s more intriguing is that most of the items on this list are things that I never thought about until after I was no longer a tourist in Italy, but a resident…!
1. Yelling loudly in English in restaurants, bars, and other public places
You may contest that Italians are the main culprits of talking at above average volumes (they are infamous for it), but then again, it’s their country so they can do as they please. If you go to any tourist hub, you’re also bound to hear English, not just spoken, but almost yelled between friends and travelling companions. I’m not sure why we do this as English-speakers when we travel as I rarely hear any other language around me. I once sat next to a couple of Germans for dinner and could barely pick up on their conversation despite being about 20cm apart. Contrastingly, I could repeat back the orders of an entire table of North Americans who were sitting at the opposite end of the restaurant. Go figure!
2. Saying the simplest things in English
Gosh, really getting at the native English-speakers with this one, sorry guys! We are also guilty of saying things like “bye” and “thank you” continuously in English, even though it’s just as easy to learn and say the Italian “arriverderci” and “grazie.” Of course sometimes English is just the first out the gate because it’s our native language, but I’ve known tourists to also consciously say things in English when they could just as easily say it in Italian. European tourists rarely do this, in fact, many come to travel Italy with quite an impressive knowledge of vocabulary and phrases. They make an effort and it’s always greatly appreciated by the locals.
3. Taking selfies in inappropriate situations
I suppose this isn’t exclusive to Italy, tourists in general need to stop doing this. In Italy, this is most often seen in churches. Often there is a solemnity to a church, especially if a mass is occurring or there are people praying- in my opinion, this is an inappropriate situation to be taking duck-face selfies. This is not to say that you should not take photographs as many churches boast beautiful, elaborate interiors, but there’s a substantial difference between quietly and politely snapping a few photos and making the “rock-on” sign in front of the glass tomb of a revered saint (I have personally seen this happen!).
4. Comparing things to your home country (and implying things are better back in ______________)
North Americans are bad for this. Yes, you should be proud of your home country (I take every opportunity to sport cowboy boots and the Canadian flag), but there are ways to exhibit patriotism without putting down the place that you paid money to fly to and visit as a tourist. If I had a dime for everytime I’ve heard a comparison between “Mmmmurica” and Italy, I’d be writing this poolside from a villa in Tuscany. While you may prefer or be better accustomed to the way things are in your country, the beauty of travel is that you have the opportunity to experience another way of life. Embrace it and live in the moment.
5. Stopping in the middle of a crowded street
This one is huge. The tour group I was with a couple of years ago was actually yelled (and sworn) at in Venice by a local because of this- we had stopped in the middle of a busy street to gawk/take photos of a fresco on the side of a wall. We did this while being totally oblivious to the fact that we were blocking the entire street. This happens frequently where tourists will abruptly stop to look at something or take a photo, which is fine, just remember that other people around you are going about their day, running errands just as you would be at home, therefore always be aware of your surroundings. Be courteous about it as well, photograph from an angle where less people are passing, or move to the side if you need to stop and check a map.
6. Assuming people speak your language
This article should probably have been titled “10 Things English-Speaking Tourists Need to Stop Doing in Italy,” as this point is technically only applicable to us. We are lucky to have learnt English as a native language and that it has since become an international language of tourism and business, however, it is always a good idea to approach someone first with a polite “parla inglese?” (do you speak English), prior to launching into a full speech. It’s simply a matter of manners that is beginning to become rarer in occurrence as more and more people speak English and consequently, more and more tourists make the assumption that everyone speaks English. It has been suggested that Spanish is becoming the second “unofficial” language of the United States, but do Spanish-speaking tourists just come up to you and start speaking Spanish, assuming that because you live in America, you speak it?
So tipping is not part of Italian culture. Waiters are paid better than they are in the United States and often there is already a cover charge or service charge included in the bill. Make sure to check these things beforehand and don’t feel obligated to tip unless the service was absolutely exceptional. The reason is, it’s a vicious cycle, and the more that tourists tip for everything, the more it’s expected in almost every situation. Truthfully, this is more of a pet peeve of my fiancée than myself as I am accustomed to tipping but he is starting to get annoyed by the fact that even when we are “tourists” around Italy, he is faced with expectant expressions of waiters when handing over the bill (which would never be the case when he dines with a group of Italians).
8. Getting completely “wasted” during nights out
I don’t know why this is, but Italians are insanely good at keeping it together, even if they do enjoy their wines and cocktail hour. You may attest to this if you’ve been to Italy- Italians rarely get extremely drunk while out on the town. Yes, extremely drunk is relative, so I’ll define it as stumbling around (ie: not being able to walk straight back to your hotel), accompanied by some of #1 and #3. I think many of us could learn a thing or two about keeping it classy from the Italians.
9. Going for dinner at 6pm
If you want to see authentic Italy, don’t even think about making your dinner reservations for any time before 8pm (this bumps up to 9pm during holidays, summer, or weekends), otherwise be warned that you’ll be eating alongside all the other tourists. When in Italy, adjust your internal clock to match that of the locals and you’ll be more likely to enjoy the atmosphere that comes from a restaurant buzzing with activity and Italians.
10. Being obsessed with finding free wi-fi
It’s just not going to happen. Well I shouldn’t say that, some cities are becoming more technologically-advanced and offering it in the center but it’s still a rarity and usually comes with a cost at hotels. Even restaurants and bars that have a wi-fi sign can’t be trusted–often the connection is faulty or they don’t have it at all and the sign was just for fun. If you really must Instagram your entire trip, a better idea is to actually buy an Italian SIM card and some credit (rechargeable online, at any supermarket, or tabaccheria). You can pop it into your smartphone and update away!
Let me know if you’ve enjoyed this article in the comments and be sure to let me know any other things that tourists need to stop doing in Italy, whether it’s something you’re guilty of or that you’ve noticed during your travels!
Top Photo By Adam_Smok