Besides the noteworthy food, there are a few things I can recommend when visiting Italy, along with a few things simply to point out.
One of my favourite experiences in Italy was definitely the food which is out of this world: Pizzas that will change your life.. drinks so refreshing in the heat of summer, great coffee, and a range of unique local snacks.
1. A little Italian lingo goes a long way
In the touristy areas, you are likely to find people who speak some English but outside of the main touristy areas, it’s likely that the use of English will be limited. Google Translate here is super helpful! People also appreciate the little Italian you can speak, even if you use a few words:
“Ciao!” – Hello or goodbye
“Buongiorno!” – Good morning
“Buonasera!” – Good evening
“Grazie!” – Thanks
“Per favore?” – Please
Google Translate was very helpful in learning how to say a few basic phrases, hearing it, reading it and saying it.
2. Food and Drinks!
The Hugo cocktail comes from northern Italy but is also popular in Germany and Austria, particularly good to drink in the hot summer months.
Limoncello is a lemon liqueur which comes from the southern regions of Italy. It has both a sweet and tangy taste, normally stored in the freezer to cool the liqueur before you drink it. It can be sipped on straight from the freezer in a tumbler glass or in a cocktail.
Italy has some spectacular extra virgin olive oil produced in the country, with the most amazing flavours. Olive tastings can include a piece of bread drenched in olive oil, olives, sundried tomatoes and small bites of cheeses.
The classic orange cocktail, the Aperol Spritz is one of Italy’s best-known cocktails. The drink is rather simple: 2 parts Aperol, 3 parts Prosecco, 1 part Soda, lots of ice and a slice of orange.
This popular Italian dessert can be compared to ice-cream with the difference that has less fat and less air. The key ingredients in the gelato’s base are milk and sugar. Often flavours are added with fruits, nuts and other natural ingredients.
Pizza like you have never experienced
Having pizza in Italy was a completely new experience. I feel like the rest of the world took the idea of pizza and changed it into something quite different from the original Italian food.
The Italian pizza is made of flattened leavened wheat-based dough, baked in a wood-fired oven at a high temperature with lots of fresh ingredients. The tomato base bursts with flavour, each pizza well complemented with the origanum herbs. The pizzas, in general, contained a bit cheese than I’m used to, emphasis on the tomato base and fresh ingredients scattered on the base.
After a full week of having pizza every day, I can’t say I’m tired of proper Italian pizzas!
Coffee in Italy is rich in flavour, having been introduced to the country hundreds of years ago, they have perfected the drink. Most of the restaurants I went to had espressos as their most ordered coffee. Most coffee drinkers would drink their coffee without milk.
My favourite coffee in Italy was creme coffee! Cool to drink and soft and creamy, almost like dessert.
One of the first things I like to do in a new country is to visit a grocery store and see what they have in their snacking isles. The one snack that stood out to me as my favourite was definitely the Amaretti biscuits! They are delicious almond flavoured macaron biscuits.
3. Italian summer survival kit
There were a couple things I had to buy at the pharmacy while I was in Italy:
- Lots of sun-block – somehow my stock was woefully inadequate
- Insect repellant – I ended up learning the hard way that the mosquitos are particularly aggressive, mostly sticking to areas of still water or just near water in general
- Anti-histamine – for allergies from mosquito bites and pollen
- Insect bite ointment – for my numerous mosquito bites
If you are ever unfortunate like me and get Skeeter Syndrome (mozzie bites which swell to tennis ball sizes) ice packs are your best friend, along with anti-histamines, ointment for bites, and repellant. Long and light coloured clothing also help deter mozzies.
4. Bathrooms include a bidet
This is a rather odd topic, but still worthy to mention! The first time I saw a bidet in Italy, I thought it might have just been the hotel I was staying at which had one. Eventually, I found out that most households and hotels are equipped both with a toilet and a bidet.
The bidet is actually quite sensible. It’s more hygienic than using toilet paper, it’s easier on Italy’s sewage systems and much less wasteful than using toilet paper every time you go.
Of course, if you aren’t up for change, toilet paper is normally available at restaurants and cafes. You might want to bring a packet of tissues just in case. Hotels in general will always stock toilet paper.
5. Tipping is not really a thing in Italy
In a lot of countries I have been to, the standard of a 10% tip should always be added to your bill. In Italy restaurants and cafes normally have a services charge which is added to your bill, so when you pay you normally just pay the full amount on the receipt.