We all have our own romantic imagination of Italy before going. May it be charming, super friendly Italians, mouth-watering pizzas, elegant coffee shops… the list goes on and on. Yet, if this is your first time in Italy, there are things that will shock you (in fact, many things).
Like the Italians say, "non è tutto rose e fiori," it is not all roses and flowers. Italy might not be exactly what you expected, but isn’t that itself a beautiful thing? Andrea Degasperi, our luxury travel expert that has planned Italy trips for years, always mentions these five tips for first time travelers.
1. First time in Italy and have 10 days or less? Do this!
The “Italian classic” route is perfect for time-sensitive travelers that want to see it all: Venice-Florence-Rome. Repeat after me. Venice-Florence-Rome. Not only this classic route flows well with logistics, it also provides a smooth cultural transition for first time travelers. It starts with Venice, the more multicultural, even exotic version of Italy, to the full-blown Renaissance city of Florence, then ends in the antiquity capital of Rome. You will find very different food scenes (yet equally delicious) from north to south, too.
2. Love art/culture/wine? Plan enough time in Tuscany!
Andrea often found that travelers underestimated the richness of Tuscany and the huge amount of cultural activities it offers. If you are into history and art, you can easily spend an entire day just in Florence’s Uffizi gallery, and that’s not even enough for your cultural appetite. Beyond Florence, there are also Siena, Lucca, and many Medieval towns in the gorgeous Tuscan countryside worthy of exploring in depth. Good time in Tuscany always pass faster than you think.
3. Avoid tourist trap restaurants
Eating in a tourist trap restaurant is a shame if you come to Italy, where food is treated as sacred. Tourists trap restaurants are usually very crowded because of their central locations, and you’d be disappointed by those pre-cooked meals made with no heart. Avoid entering a restaurant if you see these three red flags: Multilingual menu, food pictures, “Free Wifi” sign. There are good signs to look for, too. If more than 90% of the room are Italians, that’s a decent sign.
4. Expect a different coffee culture
First of all, “Latte” is an American invention. In Italian, the name means “milk” and that’s gonna be exactly what you get. Contrary to what many of us think, Italians don’t go to a coffee shop to work or spend hours chatting with friends. They do that in restaurants or their home. They walk into a coffee bar, order an expresso, finish it with one sip, and leave. The whole process takes less than 30 seconds.
5. Italy is slow
Keep in mind that the “Slow Food” movement started in Italy. This is the land of quality life and living slow. You rarely see Italians forming lines or being organized in general. Even Milan, where Italians see as the fast business capital, crowds are still pretty relaxed.