How to Tour Italy – Italy Travel Tips
The team at Tour Italy Now gets a lot of questions about how to tour Italy. We are happy to share some of our best practical Italy travel tips to make your trip easy and enjoyable.
Living on Italian Time
The land of la Dolce Vita actually has pretty set times for eating and drinking and visiting museums and churches. To make sure you not end up hungry and get to do everything you would like to follow our advice.
Museums tend to be closed on Mondays. Always make sure to double check opening days and times. You can skip the long lines at major attractions like the Vatican Museums and the Uffizzi in Florence by booking tickets ahead online.
Churches, where a great many art treasures can be found, are usually closed from 12:30-3:30. Plan your visits accordingly.
Italians adhere pretty strictly to eating times. It can be quite difficult to get a sit-down meal outside of these hours. As a general rule they are as follows.
Lunch 1:00pm – 3:00pm
Dinner 8:00pm-11:00pm. You can find places that will serve dinner from 7:00/7:30 in heavily touristed areas.
Breakfast is not a big meal for Italians. It is traditionally a quick pastry and cappuccino eaten standing up at the bar.
If you find yourself having missed an eating window, gelato makes for a good snack to hold you over. Or, seek out a local bar (remember in Italy a bar is what north Americans know as a cafe) and you can usually find a tramazzino (sandwich) or a pastry. In Rome look for a pizza al taglio sign and grab a slice of pizza bianco.
In any big town or city there is always at least one pharmacy that is open 24 hours. All pharmacies will have the address and hours of the nearest 24 hour pharmacy posted outside.
Food in Italy is very regional. You can find completely different dishes in towns just a few kilometers apart! Learn the regional specialties so you will recognize them on a menu, so you can experience the best the region has to offer.
In Rome look for Buccatini Amatriciana, long thin pasta with a spicy tomato bacon sauce or Cacio e Pepe, usually spaghetti, with a peppery pecorino cheese sauce. Scottaditto are tiny grilled lamb chops meant to be eaten with your fingers. The name means burnt fingers. Cicoria is a dark bitter green, similar to spinach, that even if it not on the menu the kitchen probably has it.
In Florence the traditional pasta is pici all’aglione a handmade spaghetti-like eggless pasta with a tomato garic sauce. Aso look for Pappardelle al cinghiale,a wide flat noodle topped with a wild boar ragu. You will not want to miss a perfectly cooked bistecche alla Fiorentina (t-bone) steak. A plate of panzanella, a tomato and bread salad is a wonderful, light summer lunch.
Venice is close to the sea so fish is the highlight here. Take a break from pasta and try a seafood risotto all’onda,(meaning wavy) that is cooked to creamy, soupy perfection. Cicchetti, small plates of snacks are what is great after a long day of touring. Served in Baccari, wine bars, salads, meatballs, all manner of fried things, crostini are just a few of things you will find on a venetian menu.
A few other tips that are good to know about restaurants.
Don’t wait for the wait staff to bring the check, you must ask for it.
Tipping is done, but it is much less than the standard 20% you are probably used to. Make sure that service is not included on your bill, it sometimes is. Unless you are dining in a Michelin starred place a few euros is perfectly fine.
Ice is a rare commodity in Italy. If you want ice in your drink you have to ask for it and it may juts be a cube or two.
You are not limited to just restaurant meals. Shop at markets and alimentari, small grocery shops, and try local cured meats, cheeses and breads.
In most places in Italy you will probably be on foot, but public transportation can be a relief after a long day on your feet. The most important thing to know is that you usually can not buy a ticket on the bus, train or tram. Look for a Tabbacheria and buy your tickets there. Do not ride the bus without a ticket. If you get caught, you will be required to pay an on the spot 50 euro fine.
The voltage in Italy is 220v, so you may need an adaptor for some of your electronic devices. Phones, tablets and laptoops usually just need a plug adaptor. If you forget one, ask where the nearest ferramenta (hardware store) is.