It’s not always easy being a tourist, and quite often you stick out like a sore thumb – a target for sales pitches, thieves and unwanted attention. Italy is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and with fine wine and famous cuisine as well as stunning architecture and a diverse culture, it’s no wonder people flock here. However, the more touristic the city, the more savvy the local people, so the more you have to try to blend in to avoid the tourist traps. In Italy, it pays to look like a local – don’t know how? Alas, nay fear, here it is: your essential guide to integrating in Italy.
What to wear
The first step to fitting in is looking the part, and that means the right dress sense. The Italians are famed for their style, sophistication and finesse. There are some very simple ways in which you can dress to embrace the Italian vibe. First and foremost, big trainers and baseball caps are a no go – wear comfy shoes (but shoes not trainers) and a sun hat is fine (but a stylish one free from logos). Men in Italy don’t often wear shorts outside the beach and sports grounds – lightweight trousers are worn in cities with a shirt. For ladies, tailored knee-length shorts or cool skirts work in the hot climate. In Rome particularly, be aware of religious customs – for entering religious sites cover your shoulders – as breaking such customs gives you away as a tourist instantly and shows a disregard for local culture. Sunglasses are essential with long, hot and sunny days. Of course, the best way to look Italian is to shop Italian. Famed for their fashion industry, there are clothes shops scattered everywhere, not just in Milan. Scoping out the shops gives you an idea of what people are wearing and a few smart purchases can go a long way.
What to eat
When it comes to eating and drinking, there are few better places in the world. Italians are famous for their cuisine and relaxed piazza lifestyles. Whether you are an ice-cream lover, pizza fanatic, wine connoisseur or coffee devotee, you will be in heaven in Italy. Locals demand the best cooking, and so instead of hanging out in tourist havens with multi-lingual menus, try going to a local hang-out – this is a sure sign of great food and a different atmosphere. Drink and eat what the locals eat and always ask staff for recommendations. Trust people and engage with them – Italians are friendly and particularly in local haunts. From friendly locals, you can get the lowdown on what to really do in the city and where – whether it’s a music concert in Rome or the best coffee shop in Florence, local people are the ones that know.
Possibly the most important thing to do before you arrive is learn the basics in Italian. By having a couple of phrases to engage people, you will get a more friendly welcome and more out of the trip. You will blend in better and feel more included in the country.
So, there are the essentials – dress the part, act the part and speak the part. With these tools you are half way there. Of course, you still have the how to get there and where to stay to sort out, but that can be easy enough. Just like the hotels London offers, there are hotels in Rome for every budget and taste, as well as bed and breakfasts across Tuscany and serviced apartments in Milan. So, holiday in Italy sorted – but not as a typical tourist.
What are your tips for blending in like a local in Italy? Make a comment and let everybody know!