Learn from Mistakes: A 1,500-Word Guide for What Not to Do in Italy

Advisor - Kristen Kellogg
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Kristen Kellogg

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  • Italy

  • Positano

  • Lake Como

  • Rome

  • City Travel

  • Milan

  • Family Travel

  • Active Travel

  • History

  • Local Food

  • Sightseeing

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Curator’s statement

Italy is an amazing destination but without knowing a few rules and what not to do's you might have a less-than-stellar experience. Read up on these and you'll be well on your way to coming home with great memories.

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Where to stay in Italy

Splendido Mare, A Belmond Hotel, Portofino

Beloved by Elizabeth Taylor, this storied Portofino stay is a beacon of bygone-age glamour and service, with unforgettable views across the Mediterranean Sea.

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  • $100 food / beverage credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Chateau Monfort

Immerse yourself in a fairytale-like stay at Chateau Monfort, where luxury and enchantment meet in Milan.

Fora Perks
  • VIP welcome amenity.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Baglioni Hotel Regina

Experience timeless elegance and luxury in the heart of Rome at the Baglioni Hotel Regina.

Fora Perks
  • $100 hotel / resort credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Advisor - Kristen Kellogg

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Things (not) to do in Italy

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Italy, a land of rich history, captivating culture, and mouthwatering cuisine, is a dream destination for travelers worldwide. While exploring this beautiful country can be a delight, there are certain pitfalls that visitors should avoid to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience. This 1,500-word guide is designed to shed light on what not to do in Italy, helping you navigate the dos and don'ts to make the most of your journey. From avoiding tourist traps and improper dress codes to steering clear of overtipping and faux pas at historical sites, this guide will serve as your travel compass to help you create cherished memories without unnecessary mishaps. Let's delve into the common pitfalls to avoid and make your Italian adventure truly unforgettable.

1. Don't Overpack

Traveling with an excess of luggage can be cumbersome, especially in Italy where you'll likely encounter cobbled streets and narrow alleys. Pack light and opt for versatile clothing suitable for various occasions to ease your mobility during your trip. You’ll likely also shop too so you want to save space for locally made and handcrafted things.

2. Avoid Over-Touristing

While Italy's iconic landmarks and attractions are must-see, try to balance your itinerary with lesser-known destinations and local experiences to avoid the crowds and truly immerse yourself in the Italian way of life.

3. Don't Dress Inappropriately

Italy is a country that values style and elegance. Avoid wearing beach attire in cities, churches, or formal restaurants. Dress modestly when visiting religious sites, covering your shoulders and knees.

4. Avoid Peak Season Crowds

Italy can get crowded during peak tourist seasons like summer. Consider traveling during the shoulder seasons of spring and fall to enjoy better weather and fewer crowds.

5. Don't Skip the Local Cuisine

Embrace the Italian culinary heritage by exploring local restaurants and trying regional dishes. Avoid chain restaurants or places that cater predominantly to tourists.

6. Don't Fall for Street Sellers

In popular tourist spots, you may encounter street sellers offering knockoff merchandise. Refrain from purchasing such items to support local businesses and avoid legal issues.

7. Avoid Overtipping

Tipping in Italy is not as customary as in some other countries. A service charge is often included in the bill at restaurants. If you wish to show appreciation, a small tip is sufficient, however when it comes to activities and hiring private drivers 10%-15% is expected.

8. Don't Rush Your Meals

Italians take their time when dining, savoring every moment of the meal. Avoid rushing through your dining experience and embrace the Italian way of enjoying food and company.

9. Don't Hail Taxis Illegally

In many Italian cities, you cannot hail a taxi from the street. Look for designated taxi stands or call for one to avoid potential legal issues. You can also download a local taxi app to ease the process in most places.

10. Avoid Peak Meal Times

Italian lunchtime and dinner hours are sacred. Arriving at a restaurant during peak hours may lead to longer wait times. Aim to dine slightly earlier or later than the usual rush. That said Italians generally dine later, so if you want the full dining experience among others, make sure you don’t schedule your dinner too early either.

11. Don't Plan Too Many Activities in a Day

Italy is meant to be savored, not rushed. Avoid cramming too many activities into one day. Allow yourself time to relax, soak in the ambiance, and enjoy leisurely exploration. Our trip planning clients usually do a maximum of one activity that is planned per day and we provide DIY suggestions at leisure for some days to make sure you don’t return home needing a vacation from your vacation.

12. Avoid PDA in Churches

While Italy is known for romance, displaying public affection inside churches or religious sites is considered disrespectful. Save it for more appropriate venues.

13. Don't Rely Solely on Credit Cards

Some smaller establishments in Italy may not accept credit cards, especially in rural areas. Carry some cash for convenience, but keep it secure.

14. Avoid Public Nudity

Public nudity, even at beaches, is generally frowned upon in Italy. Respect local customs and use designated beach areas for sunbathing.

15. Don't Be Too Loud

Italians value tranquility, and being excessively loud in public spaces may be perceived as rude. Embrace the Italian sense of calmness and observe the volume level around you.

16. Avoid Pointing with Your Fingers

Pointing directly at people or things with your fingers is considered impolite in Italy. Instead, use an open hand or nod in the direction you wish to indicate.

17. Don't Be Late

Italians appreciate punctuality. Avoid keeping others waiting and be on time for appointments, tours, and reservations.

18. Avoid Engaging in Illegal Activities

As with any country, it is crucial to abide by local laws and regulations. Avoid engaging in any illegal activities, including drug use and vandalism, to ensure a trouble-free trip.

19. Don't Clutter the Streets

Avoid leaving trash or litter in public spaces. Respect the environment and use designated trash bins just as you would in your own country.

20. Don't Forget to Validate Your Train Tickets

When using regional trains, make sure to validate your ticket at the station before boarding. If you fail to do so may result in fines.

21. Avoid Touching Historical Artifacts

When visiting museums and historical sites, refrain from touching artifacts or artworks to preserve them for future generations.

22. Don't Skip Reservations for Popular Attractions

For popular attractions or museums, consider booking tickets in advance to avoid long lines and disappointment. Many sites like the Vatican and Colosseum will sell out many months in advance. I can help you identify the right sustainable tour for you when planning your trip.

23. Avoid Taking Photos Where Prohibited

Some museums and churches may have strict rules about photography. Always follow the posted guidelines and avoid using flash where it is.

Stick to these rules and you’ll have a great time exploring all Italy has to offer.

For more on Italy, visit Salt & Wind Travel.

Need to Know

For more travel tips, check out my guide, Luxurious Sojourn: A Guide to Things to Do in Sicily for Discerning Travelers.

Advisor - Kristen Kellogg

Travel Advisor

Kristen Kellogg

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Italy.