Top Ten Tips for Americans Traveling in Italy

Florence_italyThere is nothing worse than a cultural misunderstanding, especially if it has the potential to ruin a trip. I find these incidents especially painful in Italy simply because they can so easily be avoided if you’re properly prepared. Every time I happen to overhear an American traveler recounting some miscommunication, I make a mental note. There are, of course, your classic repeat offenders, but there are also some that stand out because they represent the points at which these two cultures differ. Hence, they are the same things that Italians misconstrue when they’re on American soil. So instead of letting another potential mix-up ruin even just one afternoon of someone’s long awaited adventure, I thought I’d jot down ten of the most common cultural disparities specifically for Americans traveling in Italy. Knowing these before you leave will save you headache and heartache, I promise!
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Mission Impossible: iced coffee in Florence

Although Italy boasts some of the best HOT coffee the world has to offer, they have yet to tackle the world of ICED coffee. The summers in Italy, especially Florence, can be brutally hot so you would imagine the idea of adding ice to coffee would have hit home here, but it has not.

Now, there is a perfectly good explanation for this. First, Italians really don’t put ice in anything, let alone coffee. Coffee for them should be super strong and not diluted in any way. They also, as I mentioned in a previous post on coffee, do not tend to drink lattes or cappuccinos as often as Americans do and these are really the coffee drinks that lend themselves best to being iced. The vast majority of Italian coffee breaks are spent drinking espresso shots that would be quite silly on ice. Finally, ice and other very cold drinks are, in general, not thought of “healthy” in Italy. This is especially true of ice-cold milk.

I am not saying that Italians are wrong. Think how often your dentist tells you not to chew on ice. In a similar vein, Italians see ice and iced drinks as shocking to your system and an unhealthy habit. That being said, when it is 90 degrees out and you need to be caffeinated, it is really hard to turn to a steaming hot cup of coffee. Continue reading…

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Coffee Culture in Florence! The basics.

Of all the beverage in Italy to be enjoyed there is one I love above them all (you’ll have to ask Carrie about the wine…)

Italians tend to stand and eat for breakfast (and often lunch as well). It is a little odd for most Americans, but that is how Italians do it. If you sit at a table in a Bar (not the beer kind, the coffee kind) they will charge you more money even if you are eating and drinking the same exact thing as the people standing. It is not a scam; it’s just how it is done.

A stunning latte from a local Italian bar

There are often two menus: the sitting menu and the standing menu. They are exactly the same but one tacks on a euro or two (minimum) to all the prices. It is a painful lesson to learn as the same exact cup of coffee and a pastry that usually costs 3.50 Euro standing can cost 15 Euro sitting. I kid you not. They will see that you are American and try to get you to sit. Just kindly say no and stand like the cool, hip Italians. Continue reading…

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