Classy Destinations has a new team member that was a former tour guide
in Italy. She was licensed to give private tours of the Vatican and led tours to all
the main historic sites. I asked her to highlight some of her favorite tips for
visitors. It is nice to have someone on our staff that speaks Italian! Enjoy her
I lived in Italy from 2010 to 2020, and during that time I got to truly immerse myself in the Italian way of life. In my role as a tour guide for several major tour operators, I had the honor of introducing people from all around the world to the country’s rich culture and traditions.
Over time, I started compiling a list of tips to help tourists maximize their time in Italy. It can be so easy to fall for tourist traps in a foreign country, and I only want visitors to have the best experience possible in Italy. Below you will find my top recommendations for the perfect Italian vacation.
Finding the Best Restaurants
With so many amazing restaurants and world class chefs, no one should ever have a bad meal in Italy. Unfortunately, most of the restaurants directly facing famous sites are tourist traps (with a few exceptions), so try venturing onto the small side streets for more authentic food. The further away from major monuments, the better! If the waiters are aggressive about trying to convince you to come inside, or you see multiple language translations on the menu, it’s probably a good idea to keep moving. Once you’ve found an authentic restaurant, I always recommend trying the local specialties. In Rome, for example, you can try delicious pastas like carbonara, amatriciana, and cacio e pepe. In Naples, the pizza margherita can’t be missed. Meat lovers should be sure to order a bistecca fiorentina (Florentine steak) in Florence but be warned: it might take two people to finish it. If you don’t know what the regional specialties are, simply ask the locals!
Tours and Activities
Booking at least one tour with a local guide is the fastest way to get insight into a foreign
country. In addition to the wealth of historical information they will provide, you can ask your guide where the best places are to eat, to shop, and to take in the city’s night life. Skip the line tours will also save you precious hours getting into famous sites, and a guidebook could never provide the depth of knowledge you’ll get from a tour guide who specializes in history or archaeology. If you plan to tour any churches, be prepared for the dress code. In religious sites like the Vatican, shoulders and knees must be covered for both men and women. You may also carry a shawl in your bag to cover your shoulders before heading into any of the breathtaking churches. Comfortable shoes are also a must, especially in Rome. The cobblestone paved streets are picturesque, but they can be brutal on your feet and high heels tend to get stuck in them.
The local currency in Italy is the Euro, so you’ll need to make sure you have a way to get cash once you’re there. Your credit card will work at Italian ATMs, just be aware that your bank may charge a small fee. You can also use your card for most purchases. Be sure to notify your bank that you will be traveling, and which countries you’ll be visiting on your trip so that they don’t flag your purchases. Using a currency exchange booth should be your last resort, since they charge a large fee.
One of the most-asked questions I’ve gotten from visitors to Italy is whether you should tip
there. The short answer is yes, but just a little differently than you would back home. Waiters in Italy don’t depend on tips for their livelihood, so it’s more of a gesture of thanks for a job well done. I generally recommend tipping a couple of Euros per person for a meal at a sit-down restaurant. For drivers and tour guides, I recommend tipping 10% of what you paid for the service.
Finally, the most important lesson I learned during my time in Italy is to relax and have fun!
Italian culture teaches us to take time to enjoy the little things that make life beautiful. So, try not to rush, sit back, enjoy a glass of wine, and experience la dolce vita.
The Classy Travel Blog is a great way to educate yourself; Not only with travel tips and tricks, but also with insight on all of the Classy Destinations around the world.