Imagine a person on vacation in Italy with flip-flops, a Hawaiian shirt, and khaki shorts. They may have a large camera strap around the neck, be looking lost, squinting at a large paper map, stopping in the middle of the sidewalk, or gawking at buildings. These are the quintessential markers of a tourist, and travelers should try to avoid them. When traveling in Italy is better to blend in with the locals because locals will treat you more nicely, you are less likely to get robbed, and you will enjoy the culture more.
Let’s say you arrive in Pisa. The best ways to blend in like a local in Italy are to learn to figure out luggage storage in Pisa, what food to order, how to dress according to the local fashion, plan and research your visit beforehand, and learn some Italian phrases.
These tips make blending in like a local easier than you might think:
- Do not order cappuccino after 11:00 am. A cappuccino is considered a breakfast drink, and locals will think you just woke up if you order one. One handy tip is f you drink your coffee at the bar instead of sitting at a table, the server will charge you less, and you fit in with the locals more.
- Order a small breakfast. Usually, breakfast is a croissant or other type of pastry, and ordering an American-sized omelet with toast with a stack of pancakes is a dead giveaway that you’re not local. If you’re open to trying new foods and ways of eating, it will make your experience of culture richer and more fun.
- Learn how to say simple phrases like “please,” “thank you,” and how to order food in Italian. Though Italians will still be able to tell that you don’t know the language, learning a bit of the language is a nice gesture and greatly appreciated. A related faux pas is to assume that everyone knows English. Even if someone knows English, it’s important to remember you are in their country and respect that. Also, don’t talk louder if someone doesn’t understand you the first time—it’s not helpful.
- Enjoy a “riposino,” or rest during the day. The time this occurs may depend on the region and can be frustrating for visitors as places like restaurants and grocery stores are likely closed from noon until 4:00 pm. Instead of complaining that restaurants and shops are closed, take a nap and enjoy this break in the day. Italians also eat dinner quite late, so try to adjust your schedule to go out when the locals do. The closer to 8:00 pm you eat dinner, the less likely you’ll be marked as a tourist.
- Stay away from walking around with a large backpack or roller suitcase. People will laugh at you trying to carry it up the steps and down cobblestone streets, or you might accidentally knock someone over if you turn around with a big backpack. This luggage is convenient while traveling but not navigating crowded places. From luggage storage in Pisa to early check-ins in Rome, find a way to store your bags.
- Dress stylish and according to the weather. Italians are fashionable, and if you choose comfort over fashion, you might stick out in a crowd. Avoid flip-flops unless you are at the beach, leggings unless you are playing sports, and make an effort to do your hair and makeup. Researching the weather can also help because Italy’s climates vary according to the region. You wouldn’t want to be stuck with shorts on or without a sweater in the Alps. Usually, a sundress or maxi dress for women and a button-down shirt for men are safe choices.
- Don’t rush. Whether eating at a restaurant or going for an evening stroll, Italians like to take their time. If you want to experience the authentic Italian way, don’t schedule events too close together and spend longer than usual at the restaurant enjoying the conversation, food, sites, and company.
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Blend into Italy’s local culture by researching the language, customs, and fashion style. The better prepared you are, the less likely you’ll be that gawking tourist in flip-flops and shorts that are inappropriate for the weather, and chances are, you’ll feel more confident when you arrive. Italians will appreciate you wanting to know more about their country, and you will earn their respect. Traveling to another country is beneficial because it helps us step out of our comfort zones. We learn a lot about ourselves in unfamiliar situations and can open our minds to new possibilities.