I’ve always heard that travel expands our horizons. I believe that’s true. Travel makes us appreciate what we have.
It allows us to learn about traditions and lifestyles different from our own.
We get to see spectacular landscapes, historical landmarks, and inspiring architectures that we’ve only read about.
But, as soon as you get off the plane, there are some noticeable differences between Americans – Italians.
They’re not bad differences. They’re just, well . . . distinctions that you might not expect unless you’d been oversees before.
Some of the most noticeable are:
Space is at a premium in Italy! Americans are used to super highways and big cars, shopping malls, and lots of room. But things are different in Italy, and especially in the cities. Even “newer” streets are paved and narrow, but the ancient ones are cobblestone alleyways that are still used today. Autos of all kinds, from fire engines,
to ambulances and delivery trucks, all are smaller than what we have in America. Personal cars are typically a tiny Fiat or a Smart Car that is easily parked in whatever fashion, in the smallest of places. Needless to say, few cars are without some sort of ding or dent. Pedestrian traffic starts at the break of dawn. People brush past one another as they navigate around adorable outdoor cafes that take up premium sidewalk space.
Small, specialty stores make shopping a favorite experience for most tourists. Prices for Italian goods are usually much cheaper than what you could buy them for in the US. And there’s usually a wider variety to choose from. Space is a premium in Italy, but no one seems to mind. It’s actually one of the most interesting aspects of this country!
- Italians are smart dressers! This country is known for producing some of the finest leather goods in the world. And one of its oldest and most beautiful cities, Milan, is one of the world’s top fashion centers.
Combine these two facts and you have a country full of people who know how to dress. Rarely do you see an Italian not dressed to the nines! And that includes their gorgeous Italian leather shoes. I still find it difficult to understand how women navigate the uneven cobblestone streets of Rome in some of the most beautiful high-heeled shoes! But remember, if you see someone in Italy in shorts, cargo pants, a t-shirt or tank top, and walking shoes, you can bet it’s probably a tourist!
- Scarves are a necessity in Italy. We have visited Italy several times in the past and each time I pack a scarf. It fits in a purse or backpack and it comes in handy when sightseeing. Not only does it serve as a quick wrap in case of cooling temperatures but it also serves as a cover-up. Because, in Italy, women and girls are required to cover their shoulders before entering a cathedral or church.
If you find yourself, as we did, that a member of your party has forgotten about the requirement, no worries. Shops and outdoor markets sell them at very reasonable prices. I bought a beautiful silk scarf for 3 euros (less than $5 US) in a little shop just down from the Vatican.
- Italians are night owls! Although visitors do their sightseeing during the day, after dark the locals come out to socialize and enjoy the pleasant evenings.
The Trevi Fountain, the market square at the Pantheon, and the legendary Spanish Steps are more memorable with a glass of wine or a gelato. If you’re not visiting Rome, that’s OK. Even villages and towns boast impressive architecture and piazzas that were built centuries ago. So, take advantage of the jet lag and stay out until the wee hours of the morning. Because, as Italians already know, it’s the best time of the day!
The drinking water is different in Italy. For example, they don’t provide you with a glass of water when you sit down in a little bistro or a restaurant. You have to order it, and it’s not free of charge. You also have to specify if you want “with” or “without” gas – which means sparkling or still. However, on the flip side, outdoor water fountains and spigots are located in different places throughout the villages and cities. The water is clean and delicious, you just need to provide the container.