How to be a local in Italy
Theoretically, Italy should be an easy place to figure out, as its central geographic position would suggest it has a European state of mind.
But hold on to that assumption, because there are few places in the world so passionate - a theme which runs through Italy like the Tiber. Arguably it's Europe's capital of hedonism, with quality wines, indulgent food and enjoyable living meaning its residents live by an enviable set of rules.
It helps to explain why its major draws like Rome, Florence, Lake Como and Sardinia attract more than three million Brits every year. So if you're one of this year’s intakes, the Flexicover team has pulled together some tips for tapping into the Italian national psyche.
Dress to impress
You won't find a hair out of place on most Italians: they're dressed to perfection with sharp designer wear tailored to fit perfectly. It’s not just the residents of the fashion capital Milan that take pride in their appearance – most large towns and cities are full of sophisticated inhabitants taking chic to a whole new level, even if they’re just going to the shops. So, if your usual attire consists of items that are of a more casual nature, why not do as the Italians do and go glam. It’s not compulsory of course and even if you don’t intend to there are so many classy boutiques to choose from, you may find you end up dressing Italiano anyway!
Learn some of the lingo
You do not need to be fluent in the language, but as with many countries, being able to say "hello", "goodbye", "excuse me", "please" and "thank you" will be greatly appreciated. If you're struggling just say "parla inglese?", but wait for an answer before speaking English as politeness is key. If you are talking to a local and you don't know how to say something, ask - many are happy to help you learn. And the more you practice, the more confident you get and in turn the better you get, which can open doors that lead deeper into the local culture.
Drink coffee the local way
Italians are world-famous for their coffee. It’s strong, smooth and if you have it the Italian way, small. But don’t make the mistake of ordering an espresso in your obligatory (yes, obligatory) trip to their famous coffee bars. It’s a caffe you’re after, and you’ll need to drink it standing up if you’re going native. If the idea of a shot of espresso is too much, try a macchiato instead – these are still drunk widely in Italy but the foamed milk takes the edge off the coffee strength. For breakfast, order it with a cornetto (no, it’s not the ice cream but Italy’s version of a croissant) for added authenticity.
Respect regional differences
Perhaps it’s the length of the country or its lengthy history, but regional differences are hugely pronounced in Italy – one place can differ wildly to another in terms of culture, food, drink and landscape. It’s difficult to know the exact flavour of the area in advance, but it’s an important point to bear it in mind when passing comment. Asking why there’s less pizza places in Lombardy compared to Campania, or comparing the museums of Florence to Rome can cause offence, even if it’s just a passing observation. Instead, enjoy each region as if it’s a separate entity – and try to extend your itinerary accordingly.
Forget early bird dinners
Seasoned travellers will know that the best way to pick a restaurant isn’t to furiously search TripAdvisor or scan reviews on Yelp. It’s by taking a walk around a place and seeing which eateries are busy with locals. In which case, avoid a 6.30pm start, because even the most popular place will be tumbleweed-empty. Making an occasion of the outing, locals will begin dinner around 8pm. For a casual bite to eat, try a trattoria or osteria. But for something more elaborate, a ristorante will serve courses of antipasto followed by a primo (pasta course) after which it’s secondo – the meat or fish dish - all washed down with regional wine. If you still find room for dessert and a caffe, you can declare yourself Italian.
Wherever you plan to head to this year it’s good to know that Flexicover are committed to providing you with the highest level of protection to ensure that you are safe and secure 24 hours a day when away.