Etiquette in Italy

Jan 16th, 2004, 11:20 AM
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Etiquette in Italy

My husband and I are visiting Rome and Florence for our first time in July. Can you please let me know what mistakes Amercans make in Italy that may (unknowingly) offend Italians or are just plain bad manners/wrong (assume we are well-mannered Americans ? I know that shorts are out (we do not wear them here so it doesn't really matter) and that I should cover my shoulders in churches, but any further etiquette, fashion, tipping, etc. advise would be much appreciated.

Thank you.
att is offline  
Jan 16th, 2004, 11:32 AM
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This thread might help you.

Helpful Information: Italy

In general, Italians are a bit more formal with strangers than we are. The exceptions are too numerous to innumerate.
ira is online now  
Jan 16th, 2004, 11:33 AM
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Tipping in Italy has generated controversy here. Some of us tip 10-15% in restaurants, others, (including at least one Italian) say it's not necessary if a service charge is added.

If you look in any guidebook, or in the Destination section of, there are hints on tipping and most say that a tip for service is suggested/hoped for.

Here are some websites on tipping and etiquette (convert the suggested tips from$$ to lire to euros. When the lira was discontinued there were approx. 2000 to one euro,00.html

By the way, you will see plenty of tourists from everywhere (including from other places in Italy) wearing shorts. Those of us who don't, don't.

I have files on Rome and Florence; if you'd like to see them, email me at
[email protected]
elaine is offline  
Jan 16th, 2004, 12:55 PM
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-greet the shopowner/worker upon entering or leaving a store, gelateria, etc., etc.

-accept the fact that "the customer isn't always right"

-If you will be taking public transportation, be ready (and willing)to give up your seat for the elderly, injured, pregnant women, or parent with their children.

-say "per favore" and "grazie"

enjoy Italy!!!

*quick tip: since you're visiting in July, get your gelato IN A CUP. Gelato melts much faster than ice cream!...or else you'll be literally eating gelato from your hands...and your arms...and your clothes!
craisin is offline  
Jan 16th, 2004, 02:29 PM
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There was recently a whole big thread on exactly this topic. The title was something like "How not to be rude in Italy." Here it is:
cmt is offline  
Jan 17th, 2004, 05:46 AM
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one thing that you may do and NOT be considered ill mannered, is to push your way up to a counter when trying to get your gelato!

I know it goes against the grain for many of us,
but if you do NOT do this, you may never get to the front and get served.

Infact, politely pushing is essential at times to get service.

the thing I found the most important was always greeting and saying goodbye in shops, etc.
nanb is offline  
Jan 19th, 2004, 10:00 AM
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Thank you all very much; the advice on this and other strings is most helpful. We also got confirmation today that a wonderful tour guide will be available on our first afternoon there, so I figure we can pick his brian a bit. Thanks again!
att is offline  
Jan 19th, 2004, 10:35 AM
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The biggest mistake that most Americans make is visiting Italy in July.

Considering the weather in summer, is there any wonder that the early Romans conquered the then known world? They had to get away from the heat, humidity and insects.
Jan 19th, 2004, 10:57 AM
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Don't order a cappucino after 11AM. These are only consumed in the morning.

Don't ask for a basket of garlic bread to go along with your pasta.
crispin46556 is offline  
Jan 19th, 2004, 11:00 AM
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Don't ask for olive oil or butter, bread is served plain.

Don't be loud and obnoxious, leave that to the Germans.

We went in summertime and saw people dressed in pretty much everything imaginable. I'd say men are ok with long shorts, women shld stick with light summer skirts and capris, no short shorts. I brought a very light scarf I just threw over my shoulders when entering a church.
e_roz is offline  
Jan 19th, 2004, 02:35 PM
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Good point, Bucko. However, our alternative is to suffer heat, humidity and the Midwest. I'll take outdoor cafes and being able to smoke my head off in cute new Italian shoes any summer!
att is offline  
Jan 19th, 2004, 03:09 PM
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It's not that shorts are a problem, it's that you can be denied access to the churches if you show up in shorts. They will not let you into St. Peter's in shorts.

As for the rest, it's easy -- do unto others.
Tries2PakLite is offline  
Jan 19th, 2004, 03:17 PM
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As for butter for your bread, why not? We ask all the time. You may or may not get it, but what is wrong with asking nicely?

And I can't help but wonder if there is even one Italian at home, planning a trip to the US, that is wondering about the rules of etiquette over here. I'm thinking not.
Tries2PakLite is offline  
Jan 19th, 2004, 03:33 PM
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I would say that if possible speak a little Italian, even if it is just Buon giorno, Buona Sera, etc., or straight from a phrase book Italians tend to appreciate this. They will usually reply in English, because they usually can, but a little effort is generally regarded in a positive way.
italyfan is offline  

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