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15 Embarrassing Tourist Mistakes Everyone Has Made In Italy

Save yourself the money AND embarrassment.

1. Assuming that Italians staring at you are being rude.


Staring is a common Italian habit, and not one that you should take personally. When you see locals staring, it's not necessarily because you have something in your teeth or because they're attracted to you (though the two situations may sometime be the case), it's just a part of Italy's people-watching culture. Instead of feeling self-conscious about it, just join in and become a fellow observer!

2. Expecting shops and restaurants to be open the whole day.

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Many shops will take a break in the middle of the day — usually between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. — to close shop, and let the proprietors go home to relax or take a leisurely lunch. So plan ahead and maybe schedule all your museum visits for those prime afternoon hours. And perhaps pack a snack if you catch yourself hungry with nary a shop to grab a bite!

3. Ignoring the house wine when eating out at restaurants.

4. Leaving a big tip at restaurants.

5. Crossing the streets without looking both ways — even when you have the right of way.

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Automobile deaths are pretty high in Italy compared to other European countries, so it's worth it to remain hyper vigilant when crossing the road.

6. Ordering a pepperoni pizza.


"Peperoni" (with one P) actually means bell peppers in Italian, so if you order a "peperoni pizza" expect to be greeted with a vegetarian meal. If you do want a pizza with salty rounds of cured meat, try asking for "pizza con salumi" or "pizza con salami."

7. Or ordering Italian-American dishes like spaghetti and meatballs or fettuccine alfredo.

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Most of the "Italian" dishes Americans grow up with — including penne alla vodka, spaghetti and meatballs, and Neapolitan ice cream — are unheard of in Italy and actually a delicious fabrication of Italian-American cuisine.

8. Expecting waiters to deliver the check when you're done eating.

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Dining out is a leisurely experience in Italy, and servers are in no hurry to turn your table over. So take your time finishing your meal, conversing, and enjoying your time, and simply ask for the bill when you're ready to head home.

9. Scoffing at tourists who wear money belts.

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Violent crime is pretty low in Italy, but pickpocketing is a real, everyday danger, especially for unsuspecting tourists. Don't roll your eyes at the cheesy money belt your mom may have recommended you bring — you'll be glad you used it when you discover your sliced purse (and a failed pickpocketing attempt).

10. Expecting to order a coffee to go.

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Italians drink their espressos (no frappuccinos here) at the bar. You'll never see a local carrying a tumbler filled with drip coffee, much less a to-go cup from a local café.

11. Using hand gestures when speaking with locals.

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It's a different story if you're conversational in Italian and know exactly what each of the gestures mean. But you're highly advised against going around gesticulating with a pointy hand next time you're at a shop asking for a pizza al taglio. You may accidentally offend someone.

12. Eating in the city center.

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Sure, it's totally understandable if you're touristing around in the heart of Rome and need a quick bite to eat, but save your money and your expectations for the eateries that surround the city center.

13. Going to an electronic music show expecting to meet people and hook up.

14. Wearing khaki shorts.

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Listen, there is nothing inherently wrong with khaki shorts, or any other manner of dress that befits your style. But if you're trying to blend in and not draw attention with the goal of having the most "local experience," leave the khaki shorts and pants at home. They're the loudest markers of tourists.

15. Trying to pack in every single historical site into a single visit.

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It's true that Italy is home to some of the most stunning archaeological sites, architecture, art, and history in the world. But remember that "il dolce far niente," the concept of enjoying yourself while doing nothing, originated in Italy, and there's no better way to experience a culture than doing as the locals do.