It doesn’t matter whether you’re visiting Rome, Florence, and Venice or whether you’re spending 2 weeks in the countryside; whether you’re going to Italy in the height of summer or the middle of January; or whether you’re museum-hopping or spending your entire visit hiking or on a bicycle. Use the recommendations below on any trip to Italy for a more memorable experience.
Make time for the locals. When the taxi driver, barista, or other native Italian you meet strikes up a conversation, make time to chat. If they offer you a limoncello and ask how you’re enjoying Italy, accept the drink, and tell them all the things you love about their country. A language barrier isn’t an excuse – many Italians speak English and look for opportunties to practice.
Sit and watch the world go by. Find a square, or piazza, the less touristy the better, and look around. What are people wearing? What shopping bags are they carrying? If you see families, how many kids are there on average, and who are their caregivers? What are the differences between people-watching in your hometown and here? This is also a great place to pay attention to details around you, like the pattern of the cobblestones, the roofs of buildings, the lamp posts.
Observe hand gestures and corresponding facial expressions. How many unique hand gestures can you count? If you want to study up before you go, have a look at this video.
Keep your eye out for fruit and vegetable stands. Notice which foods are in season during your trip, and how they change from region to region if you’re traveling around Italy. To accomplish this, go to a few outdoor markets or the produce section of a grocery store, read restaurant specials, or ask servers. At restaurants, order foods in season – they’ll be the freshest.
Watch people driving cars and scooters (while you’re walking, looking out your hotel window, in a car, or on the train). How many of these 10 Italian driving habits can you spot? Drivers also communicate with each other using hand gestures, so this is a good way to do #3, above.
Why all of these things really are the best things to do in Italy
Italy is one of the world’s hottest tourist destinations, and you may feel at times that you’re being herded through famous places like cattle. But pay attention to the items above, and you’ll notice things that most tourists miss when their nose is in a guidebook or because they’re rushing to the next itinerary stop. Plus it will enhance those “cattle” activities, put things into context, and give you many opportunities to connect with Italy in a meaningful way.
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