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What Not to Do in Italy
This post is all about what NOT to do in Italy. Want your trip to Italy to go smoothly? Here are some of the most common Italy mistakes that tourists make that can be easily avoided.
Note: One of the biggest mistakes you can make on ANY trip is not getting travel insurance.
Travel insurance gives you peace of mind and protection in case of any type of travel disaster: medical issues, stolen passport, lost luggage, cancelled trip, and so on.
The number one travel insurance provider that I recommend is Allianz. Click here to get a free quote to see how much coverage would be on your trip to Italy.
Here are the top 10 travel mistakes to avoid on your trip to Italy…
1. Not validating your train ticket
For many regional trains in Italy, you must validate your train ticket after purchasing it before you can board the train. This isn’t always clearly communicated and it can be hard to find the validation machine, so take a look around and see what other people are doing first.
Typically, there will be a little validation machine in the station that you put your ticket into so it can stamp it. Be sure to do this before boarding the train because if you forget to do it and a conductor checks your ticket, you can be charged an expensive penalty.
2. Accepting a “free” gift on the street
This is one of the most annoying tourist scams out there, and it occurs all over Europe. However, it’s especially common in Italy. I have seen it most frequently in Rome, but you should be on the lookout for this scam in any of the major tourist spots around the country.
What happens is this: A man will come up to you and offer you a “free” gift like a rose or a bracelet. However, once you accept it, he will demand payment for his “gift.”
When you see these people, just ignore them and keep walking to avoid getting into an uncomfortable situation. Super annoying, but easily avoidable.
3. Buying bottled water
Italy has some of the cleanest and most drinkable water in the world. You can even fill your water bottle up from any public fountain or water spigot!
Because of this, there’s really no reason to waste money on buying bottled water during your trip to Italy. I just keep a water bottle with me at all times and fill it up with tap water.
If you’d like an extra-safe option, I recommend the LifeStraw self-filtering water bottle. It’s a reusable water bottle that automatically purifies any water you put into it. This is also great for traveling to places that aren’t Italy where the water isn’t as clean!
4. Waiting in line for tourist attractions
Almost all the most popular museums, churches, and historic sites in Italy have skip-the-line tickets you can purchase online in advance. The Colosseum, Vatican Museum, Uffizi Gallery, Michelangelo’s David, and the Doge Palace are just a few of the places in Italy that offer skip-the-line tickets.
During peak season, wait times for popular attractions can be up to two hours long. It doesn’t cost any extra to pre-purchase tickets online (and in fact you can sometimes save a little money!) and you will be incredibly glad you did it as you walk past the mile-long line to enter a museum.
Tipping servers is not a customary practice in Italy, and all servers are paid a regular living wage so they do not rely on tips to survive like they do in the US.
If service is excellent, you can round up a couple euros on the bill to show your appreciation, but it is not expected or necessary. Some restaurants will add in a gratuity to your bill, so if you want to leave a tip, double-check that to make sure you don’t tip twice.
The exception to this is if you take a free walking tour in Italy (which I highly recommend.) You should always tip your guide, since they do actually work for tips only.
6. Buying fake souvenirs
Whether you want some Italian leather boots in Florence, or some Murano glass tableware in Venice, be sure you check the authenticity of your souvenirs before you buy them.
Many shops, especially in the touristy areas of cities, will claim to sell “real” Italian souvenirs, but if you look closely, you’ll notice “Made in China” stamped into the back. Even if it says “Made in Italy” it might still be a knockoff. For example, real Murano glass will always be made in Venice.
Do your research on where to buy authentic souvenirs before you go so you won’t get ripped off.
7. Paying for public restrooms
In major tourist hotspots like Venice, Florence, and Rome, most public restrooms will charge you up to three euros just to use them. And they are almost always disgusting!
Instead, go into a cafe or bar on a non-touristy side street and order an espresso at the bar. This is usually only one euro and you’ll be able to use their cleaner, private restroom.
8. Not learning any Italian
Yes, many Italians in the hospitality industry speak at least some English, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to not even attempt to learn the local language. Don’t be that annoying American tourist.
It’s polite to learn basic greetings and phrases in Italian, like hello, good morning, goodbye, please, thank you, etc. and use them while you’re there.
While it may not be totally necessary in many of the more touristy places, it’s always appreciated.
9. Being disrespectful
The amount of misbehaving tourists you’ll see in Italy, especially during peak season, is pretty gross. This goes without saying for most people, but just be respectful while traveling in Italy.
Some of the most common offenses I noticed were tourists literally throwing their trash on the ground instead of walking a few hundred feet to find a trashcan, tourists being loud and disrespectful in churches, and large groups sitting in the middle of public streets/bridges/stairs and blocking the way. These behaviors were especially prevalent in places like Venice and Cinque Terre, which are already struggling massively with overtourism.
Just be respectful, clean up after yourself, and mind how much space you’re taking up. It’s pretty simple, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t follow these basic rules while traveling.
10. Over-scheduling your trip
If your vacation time is limited, you might be tempted to cram your itinerary with as many cities and activities as you can to make the most of your trip to Italy.
However, this will just lead to burn out and not fully enjoying the Italian experience.
Give yourself more than one day in every city that you visit, and try not to schedule more than a few activities for each day. Build in some down time to just relax.
If you only have a week in Italy, be sure to read my post The Perfect One Week Italy Itinerary.
And for two weeks, check out The Perfect Two Week Italy Itinerary.
Italy Travel Mistakes
That’s it! These are the most common Italy travel mistakes to avoid.
Now that you know what NOT to do in Italy, be sure to have fun and enjoy your trip!
For more posts about travel in Italy, be sure to read the following:
- 6 Essential Venice Travel Tips from a Local
- The Complete Guide to Cinque Terre
- What to Do in Lake Como
- 6 Best Destinations in Italy You Must Visit
- 11 Amazing Things to Do in Venice, Italy
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