Italy is my second home! Ever since I first step foot on this land I have fallen helplessly in love and nobody could make me change my mind. Not now, not ever! Since I think everyone should visit at least once, I thought I should make your life easier and create this series of articles with the best tips I have gathered about visiting Italy for the first time.
Oh yes, Italians take their meals very seriously, thus the first 11 things you should know (and respect) are food or drink related.
- First things first: Breakfast. If you are used to having big, hearty, meaty breakfasts, you need to forget about it. Italian breakfast is usually made out of sweet (croissant with jam – “brioche” – or a “crostata” that is a small sweet tart) with a small and strong coffee, served usually on the go, while standing. And I am talking here about the way locals do it, of course, hotels offer all kinds of options and varieties of food.
- Restaurants are open for lunch only during certain periods of the day (from 12 until 3 pm) so don’t wait until 3 pm to get lunch or else you risk having to wait until dinner to get a decent meal.
- And you will have to wait since dinner is usually served rather late ( towards 9 pm). That is if you are invited for dinner at a local (people are very friendly here and there is always a dinner in place), but of course, you will find restaurants serving dinner from 7 p.m so don’t worry.
- Another thing Italians take very seriously is their coffee. Depending on the part of the country you are visiting you will find different names and types of coffee, but one thing is certain: cappuccino, the drink we all love which has been inspired from a Capuchin friar, is drank only for breakfast.
- After each meal (yes, even after dinner), Italians usually drink a strong intense espresso, which will help with digestion and also you will not become sleepy after having eaten.
- When looking for a place to eat, don’t go for the more touristy restaurants, having pictures in their menus. Choose the restaurants with paper on the table, those that won’t look particularly appealing, but know that there is where you will find the best, authentic Italian food. Try finding the places where locals eat, you’ll thank me later!
- Italians like tomatoes. They like tomato paste and even ketchup. Just DON’T add it to your pizza or pasta! They will never forgive you.
- Aperitivo! The perfect time of the day, just a few hours before dinner, when you will get out and about and enjoy a nice Spritz Aperol, relax and prepare for dinner.
- Italians like their pasta, a whole lot of types, sizes, and combinations. And know that you are allowed and encouraged to add as much Parmigiano as you like, just not on the seafood pasta.
- In Italy, it’s never too early or too late for ice cream.
- Keep an eye open for the coperto – the per-person fee you will find in many Italian restaurants they charge you for the services they provide (having people serving you and for the use of cutlery and plates). In this case, you can forget about the tip since you already pay for the service.
- That’s nothing wrong with a good glass of wine, at any time of the day. Ok, maybe not for breakfast, but starting with lunch, you are free to enjoy some good Italian wine
- The closer you will be to the touristic attractions, the more pricey food and drinks will be at the bars and restaurants. And consequently linked to my point 6, not very traditional.
- They have the “Fiera del Cioccolato” (the Chocolate fair) in Perugia (and not only) where you will have all the chocolate in the world to taste. And promise me you will try the Baci Perugina!