7 Things You Need to Know Before Visiting Italy

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With its art, architecture, stories, and legends, Italy can provide the trip of a lifetime. Luckily, new Italy tourist visa requirements for Colombians make Colombia one of the 62 countries to enter Italy visa-free.

However, before you go, there are a few things you should keep in mind to make your trip an unforgettable one. Be sure to familiarize yourself with Italy’s culture by reading these travel tips before your trip.

Don’t depend on your smartphone for navigation

While traveling, smartphones and easy-to-use maps are everyone’s loyal friend. Finding restaurants, coffee shops, and attractions has never been easier, thanks to easy-to-follow directions and the option to filter results based on what you’re looking for. But, when you are in Italy, it’s important to check your sources frequently, or you might get lost. Popular maps often overlook impassable routes because they calculate the most direct route. It becomes important when you walk through a forest searching for a grocery store. When traveling in Italy, be aware of the narrow roads and coastlines, and make sure you are familiar with your route (and not just the one on your smartphone) before you set out on your journey.

Tipping isn’t necessary at restaurants

Tipping is not expected in restaurants because servers are usually paid a fair wage and are often members of the restaurant owner’s family. There will be a few unusual charges on your bill, however. For example, the “coperto” is often the most puzzling. It’s a charge per person to sit at the table. For larger groups, the price must be clearly displayed either on the menu or in the restaurant. A “servizio” charge is common in Italy’s most popular tourist destinations, and it must be clearly displayed, such as on the menu. Not all of the gratuity goes to staff, and it can range from 10% to 20% of the bill.

Always remember to validate your train ticket

This is among the most important things to know before visiting Italy.  On regional and local trains throughout Italy, it is necessary to validate your ticket before boarding. Once you arrive at the station, look for a green and yellow machine to insert your ticket for having the date and time-stamped. Though it is a simple process, this rule confuses many tourists because there is little information about it on the railways, and it is only mentioned in small print (in Italian) at the back of your train ticket. Anyone who forgets is subject to a fine that can range from €50 if you pay the controller on the spot to €100 – €200 if you contest the case or refuse to pay immediately.

You have to pay for public restrooms

The convenient public restroom system found throughout Italy is something we wish more cities would adopt. Visitors can relieve themselves for one euro without having to pretend to be a customer at a restaurant. The restrooms are staffed, cleaned regularly, and have toilet paper and sinks. Most toilets in Italy do not have a toilet seat, and most people say that they remove the seats for hygiene reasons.

Cover up at the Vatican

Visit the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, St Peter’s Basilica and Vatican Gardens, and you’ll have to show respect, regardless of whether you agree with the Catholic Church’s politics. Visitors must adhere to a strict dress code that prohibits low-cut or sleeveless clothing, as well as shorts, miniskirts, and hats. Basically, you should cover your shoulders and knees. Plus, you cannot carry a selfie stick.

Understand the food culture

Italy is divided into 20 regions, each known for a particular dish made with local ingredients and techniques. The Italians have strong opinions about which pasta shape goes best with which pasta sauce. Authentic Margherita pizza can only be found in the birthplace of the Margherita pie, which is in Naples. Risotto hails from Lombardy, while the best Parmigiano Reggiano cheese hails from Bologna. Cannoli hail from Sicily, while Limoncello hails from the Amalfi Coast, and carbonara hails from Rome. As one of Italy’s biggest draws, the country’s food culture is one that should be both savored and taken seriously.

There is so much to explore

Italy is more than just Rome, Venice, Milan, and Florence. The country is entirely different from North to South. In Italy, there are more than 20 different regions, each of which has its own unique wines, foods, and traditions to offer. There are hundreds of small towns in Italy that you may have never heard of, such as Orvieto in Umbria, Portovenere in Liguria, and Ischia or Procida in Campania. Experiencing Italy beyond the iconic destinations is the best way to explore the country.