My husband and I spent two weeks in Italy during April 2016. Here are a few, random things I found charming or interesting, particularly in towns that did not cater to tourists. Let me be clear–nothing on this list is a complaint. If I didn’t want new experiences, I would stay at home.
- Restaurants provide multiple free snacks with every glass of wine. It happened EVERY time we ordered wine. I, of course, had learned about this in my travel research. After two weeks, my husband still turned to me every time and asked in a surprised tone, “Did you order these?”
- I started calling potato chips the national food of Italy. They were almost always one of the free snacks served in every city we visited. And, no, they didn’t serve us potato chips just because we are Americans. It appears that everyone enjoys a good potato chip.
- In a little Italian village, far from the main tourist path of Americans, one can order a hot dog and french fry pizza. We didn’t try it. We should have tried it.
- Trains, buses, and boats in Italy did not appear to be marked with any type of number or destination. Although one knows the time and place they are supposed to arrive, nothing really runs on time. So, when the bus, boat, or train does arrive, you think, “This is probably the one I need. Let’s hope for the best.”
- It was difficult to buy coffee AND food in one cafe. No. There is one cafe for coffee. There is a different cafe for food. Also, do not ask for a Cappuccino after 10 AM, as it is bad for your digestion.
- I found it challenging to actually pay for anything in the small towns of Italy. Example: We would like to pay with credit cards. No. Only cash. OK, we would like to find a bank machine. No. They are ALL out of order. Here! We have found a working ATM. Here is my 20 Euro bill! No. That bill is too big. This shop only take coins. Please note: No one else seemed to have any trouble paying, so this was likely a personal problem.
- I studied Italian almost every day for a month before our trip. My husband did not. He instead discovered that the word “Prego” has many meanings in Italian. He simply said “prego” (pray-go) for everything with different emphasis. Annoyingly, this seemed to work well. Examples:
Hesitatingly – prego?
Enthusiastically – PREGO!!
Apologetically – prego (somberly)
- During our travels, the good people of Italy seemed to know things as a group. I don’t know how. For instance, even though buses and trains don’t run on time, everyone will stand up en masse when a bus is coming, even when you can’t hear or see it yet. Another example: We had brunch on Sunday, and the streets were filled with people. In a blink of an eye, they were all gone for siesta (riposo). I am not exaggerating. One moment streets filled with people, the next completely empty. We started doing whatever everyone else was doing, and the strategy was astonishingly successful.
- The Italians we met were nice. One day, four of us were trying to catch a shuttle, and there was only room for three people. An elderly woman insisted that my husband and I squeeze in anyway. Try that at home? I don’t think so.
The itineraries we followed in Italy can be found at: Italy Itinerary: Lake Como, Venice, Rome, Pompeii and Italy: A One-Week Itinerary in the Italian Riviera.