Everyone wants to travel to Italy. I mean who doesn’t want to eat gelato and lots of fresh pasta, and taste where pizza was first invented? I actually challenge you to find one person who will tell you, “Nope, I don’t want to ever go there in my life. Just doesn’t appeal to me.” That person is, as the kids call it these days, ‘cray cray’. But visiting Italy doesn’t come without challenges. There are crazy taxi drivers, cobblestone streets that are confusing at best, along with everyone speaking another language. Most people know this though, and are expecting it when they travel. So what to be prepared for, which most people don’t expect?
The Wifi is Satan
Seriously. There have been times that I have wanted to find whoever services Firenze Wifi, and give them a good kick in the shins – it’s that bad. Honestly. We recently moved apartments, and it has taken OVER A MONTH, for us to get new wifi… we moved July 16, and there still is no wifi in our apartment….
Even when you do connect to the Wifi, it is guaranteed to be slow, kick you off randomly, and don’t even bother trying to Facetime if you’re not sitting directly on top of the router.
Stats wise around 30% of Italy’s population has never used the internet, so it makes sense that if A THIRD of your country has never even looked at a computer the wifi is terrible. I think they’re ranked like 97th in best Wifi connections in the world. It's not getting any better either.
So Put Your Phone Down
Okay, so yes the Wifi is terrible, but you know what? Put your damn phone down. You’re in one of the most beautiful places in the world, you don’t need to be Tweeting that you have a wedgie. Look up, take a video of an accordion player roaming the streets, and later that night when you’re lying in your hotel bed, upload the video (it’s better for like for your friends back at home anyways). Go to sleep with it still uploading (maybe it will be done by morning), and accept this is the culture you’re immersed in.
Honestly, when I’m travelling, I look at the lack of Wifi as a blessing. My mom can’t message me 200 times expecting an answer (well she can but she won’t get one), and I don’t have any distractions from seeing the new world around me. The phone comes out only to take photos and video, and then it’s back in my purse where it belongs.
(I do text my mom when I land, so she doesn’t worry.)
The Hotel Beds are the Worst.
Don’t waltz into a 3 Star hotel in Italy expecting the same quality as a 3 Star hotel in the states. Fluffy pillows, down comforters, and soft beds do not exist here. Almost every single “queen-sized” bed I have stayed in while traveling in Italy, are really just two twin beds pushed together. There is no mattress pad over this set up, so what ends up happening is THERE IS AN INFINITE CRACK IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BED.
You may wake up crying because you’ve fallen in this crack, desperately afraid you will never find a way out. If you travel with a partner or a friend, I recommend shouting their name to help release you from this treacherous entrapment.
So Don’t Spend Any Time in Your Bed
I get having a good night’s sleep is important, but spend as little time in your bed as possible. It’s not like you’re lounging around all day (or you shouldn’t be) so suck it up and remember at least your crap hotel bed is in Italy. Avoid the crack at all costs (because IT WILL consume you), and get up in the morning on the right side of the bed, look out your window (if you have one) and say “Hello, Italy!.”
Some of the best sleep I have ever had is on trains, so sleep while you move, if you can.
The best might not be the best, but remember, you get to wake up and smell the pasta. Yum.
Customer Service is Virtually Non-Existent
Along with the wifi and keeping hotels up to modern day standards, the customer service industry in Italy is a little…slow. Pretty much it’s non-existent. Now, I’m not saying that this is the case with every place you go. I have a few places that I always trek to that I know will give me good service, but when trying anywhere new, expect the worst.
Italian waiters in general are slow, and preparing meals takes forever. Once I ordered a liter of wine for me and a friend (in Italian, mind you) and the waiter responded to me (in English), that we could not drink a liter of wine. First of all, what? Are you pretending you know if we can drink a liter of wine at dinner. Second, what does it matter to you if I order a liter and don’t drink it? You still get the money?! After a short debate he refused to bring us the liter, and instead brought us a half liter. Sometimes you just can’t win.
If a waiter, or the owner, has friends there, even if they sat 20 minutes after you, more often than not, they will get served before you. It is how it has been done forever, and so it shall be. This method isn’t changing anytime soon, and getting upset with waiters, or demanding better service, will most likely just make the situation worse.
So Take Your Time
Heellloooooooo! Part of the main reason you came to Italy is the food, so take your time and order A LOT! Do it right! I understand having a four course dinner every night is detrimental to your wallet, but since you’re not doing that, take your time eating your pizza, and savor every little bit. And when you do decide to eat like a king, get multiple antipasti (crostini misiti, fiori di zucchini, and coccoli are my personal favorites). Then order whatever pasta or steak your heart desires. Order the full liter of wine (if you’re allowed *eyeroll*), get dessert, then order a caffé and a limoncello. Take 3 hours to eat your dinner and don’t be ashamed.
My personal recommendation? Act like an Italian and plan your day around food. Wake up and think about lunch, and while you’re eating lunch, start thinking about dinner. If you do this the bad service won’t even bother you, and then you are truly living in the culture. Buon appetito!
Nothing, and No One, Will Ever, Ever, EVER, be on Time.
Someone being early? HA! Forget it. People aren’t joking when they say Italians are late to everything, and though it may seem like a sterotype, it is unfortunately, a true one. When someone says 8 in the evening, they mean 9:30.
I’ve had people tell me that they’ll be there in 15, then not show up until 2 hours later.
Just heed my warning. No one is on time.
Especially if you are one of those people who always runs late anyways. Accept the culture and don’t freak out when you realize you are 30 minutes late to your dinner reservations, your table probably still isn’t ready. Run late, and expect others to run late as well.
I know that for some, this can be a difficult task to manage, but what’s the point in experiencing a new culture if you don’t at least try and adapt to their ways?
Chicken Alfredo Doesn’t Exist
Along with most American-Italian pasta dishes. Quite tragic.
THERE ARE SO MANY OTHER OPTIONS.
You literally have thousands of fresh pastas to choose from, so eat your chicken alfredo, or baked macaroni, or whatever other America-Italian pasta dish when you get home.
I’m not saying that American-Italian pasta isn’t amazing and delicious in its own way, but experience Italian-Italian pasta, and don’t pitch a fit. Or if you really need that fix, make it yourself in your Air Bnb.
There is a Severe Lack of Elevators
Or when they do exist, they are mega tiny. So tiny only 1 person will fit. And if you’re tall? Forget it. Naturally, this also means that you will be required to climb 5 flights of stairs to get wherever your room or destination.
My first apartment in Florence was 71 steps up. We counted every time we came home late, hoping it had changed. Unfortunately, it never did.
It’s Okay to Skip Leg Day!
You’re eating all these carbs from the grand meals I just suggested, so now walking up all these steps to your Air Bnb is a good thing! Don’t worry about not hitting the gym, just look at the health app on your iPhone and be shocked when it says you’ve climbed on average 11 flights of stairs in the last two weeks, compared to your average of 1.5 when you’re back at home. Your body is thanking you for travelling and climbing all those stairs. So before you curse that climb after a long day, just remember, you get to skip leg day!
Enjoy your vacation, and all in all, stop worrying!