So far I have found Italy very different from the other European countries I have been to. Fewer people speak English, there are a lot of immigrants from other countries, more poverty, and a lot more petty crime. It is still a fantastic place to travel, but there are some things to consider before you come here.
1. Repack Your Bag
That hat you love? Those guide books? Fanny pack? They are going to announce to everyone around you that you are a tourist. People in Italy will assume you have money and they will hassle you to spend it on whatever they are selling. You will also draw the attention of pick-pockets. Try to dress to blend in, it will make your visit a little more pleasant.
2. Learn some Italian
It is just good practice to learn how to say things like “hello” and “thank you” in the native language of the country you are visiting. If you would expect a tourist to your home to use your native language, hold yourself to that same expectation when you travel. You do not have to be remotely fluent, just spend 5-10 minutes learning a few basic phrases.
Plan out the things you want to do and look at some maps. You will be fine without a detailed plan, but a plan will help you. No matter what city you are going to, I recommend familiarizing yourself with the area. There are some places, like Naples, where you do not want to get lost. Again, having maps and books out will draw a lot of attention your way.
4. Protect Against Pick-pockets
Sadly, pick-pocketing is a huge problem in Italy. Have a plan for where you are going to keep your money and what kind of bag you are going to carry with you. I always keep my passport in the hotel safe (I have a picture of it on my phone), and my money is in my bra- it’s honestly the safest place for it. My camera bag is vintage and looks like a box shaped purse so people can only guess what is in it. It is a leather covered box with a think strap that would be hard to cut.
5. Brush up Your Table Manners
I have found Italians to be extremely well mannered in restaurants. They enjoy dining out and they want it to be a nice experience. Don’t be the jerk tourist who is rude because you don’t live there and you don’t care about the other people around you.
6. Buy Travel Insurance
As I said, theft is a huge issue in Italy. It is better to have coverage for your belongings and not need it than need coverage and not have it. Travel insurance is really not very expensive and could save you a lot of money in the long run.
7. Adjust Your Expectations
I have heard so many tourists complain about the most ridiculous things since I came to Italy. They complain that there are lines for things, that travelling takes time, and that no one speak English. These are all things that I was prepared for and it is ridiculous how many (mostly American) tourists seem outraged by these things. Be aware that thousands of people come to Italy as tourists every day and you are only one of many. It is very much like going to a Disney World where everyone only speaks Italian.
8. Make a List
Accept that you will NEVER see everything, there is just too much history here. It is much better to have a quality experience and see less than to spend a ton of money rushing from one site to the next just to glimpse it and take pictures. Make a list of the things you most want to see and then decide what you can realistically see and what you would like to see if you have extra time. Don’t cheat yourself out of quality experiences.
If you have any advice to add based on personal experience, please leave a comment and I will update the post!