Sundry Travel Tips for Your Next Trip to Italy
Below you’ll find a number of tips related to traveling in Italy grouped in sections for easy reference.
On Buying Train Tickets without Waiting in Line
Want to avoid the typical hour long waiting line for buying a train ticket in Florence and Rome? Use a travel agent. For instance, there’s one about 200 meters down on the last platform at Roma Termini (Rome’s central train station). The agencies don’t charge any more than the train stations do and they’re often nicer, since they depend on walk-in business.
While We’re on the Subject
There’s a train station at Fiumicino (Rome’s international airport) with trains that take you directly to Termini. You can buy tickets there for your whole trip around Italy, without waiting in the long lines at Termini. Better yet is to buy your tickets at your local travel agency before you leave home. For further info, check out our full discussion of the ins and outs of buying train tickets.
On Finding a Good Restaurant
GIROSOLE Good Restaurant Quick Assesment Tool number #17: no menus posted on the street. And if there has to be, then please no translations. Especially not into 10 languages. Who are they trying to feed, anyways? Bennino Bennoni who lives down the street and whose mama’s ragu was the talk of the town in her day? Or File #F4567, who lives 15,000 miles away and is passing through on a big bus tour coming from he knows not where, going to he no longer cares?
So Now that You’ve Found a Restaurant Well Off the Beaten Track
How do you order if the waiter comes to your table without a written menu and rapidly reels off a long list of first and second dishes – as waiters are often wont to do in the smaller Italian towns? Worse, what if your Italian teacher only managed to squeeze in “buono giorno” and “bagno” before you made your mad dash for the Tuscan sun? Never fear: with our handy list of major menu items, you won’t end up with a fat slab of scorched fegato staring up at you from an otherwise empty plate.
On Getting Your Bill in a Restaurant, Part 1
You will be sitting in a restaurant until closing time if you expect the bill to come to you without you asking for it. It’s impolite in Italy for the waiter to shove the bill in front of you, as if to say, “All right, buddy, time to go.” So relax, enjoy your espresso, watch life bustle by, remember you’re in Italy and that there are worse ways to wile away an hour – and when you’re ready for the bill, just ask for it.
On Getting Your Bill in a Restaurant, Part 2
So now you know the bill won’t come to you automatically, but the restaurant is packed, the waiter is spinning around like a mad top and you’ve got a reservation at the Villa Borghese in ten minutes. Well, all you have to do is just catch his eye once from across the room and make a motion as if you’re writing on a small pad of paper cupped in your hand. He’ll nod and next thing you know, the bill magically appears.
On Getting Your Business Done, Italian Style
Quick lesson on how to memorialize yourself and your countrymen as one of those ugly (fill in your country): walk into any bar, ignore the barman, and bee-line it to the bathroom. Then, finished, bee-line it back for the street. No, no! In Italy, you should always buy a drink, enjoy it, and only then ask for the bathroom. Think of yourself as a guest, rather than just a tourist, and you will likely have some very nice unexpected surprises during your travels around Italy. One thing most Italians prize highly: courtesy.
On Typing the @ Key
You’re all ready to start writing an email in your first cybercafe … but wait! How the heck do you get that all-important “@”? Look for it one button to the right of the L key. Just push and hold “alt gr”, the first button to the right of the space bar, and then push @. Easy!