3 Key Dos and Don’ts for Eating in Italy

Spaccanapoli! A long narrow street in the heart of the historic district of Naples, Italy. It truly is a culinary and cultural delight.

Finally, heading out of the country now that the pandemic has dwindled down? Escaping to your dream destination on your bucket list trips? What better place to fly off to than Italy? This is a country that has something for everyone. The history, the ancient architecture, and learning about the Greek and Roman domination all offer a lot to learn and explore. The icing on the cake when visiting Italy is its food! Italian food is recognized and loved all over the world. Italians are very traditional when it comes to their food, coffee culture, and their favorite wines. Many wineries will offer wine and cheese pairings or even nice lunches when you visit their vinyard.

An Italian can spot a tourist a mile away by the way they drink their coffee. In Italy for example cappuccino is a morning coffee only. It’s nearly sacrilegious to drink it any time past 11 am. If you ask for a coffee in Italy you will surely get an espresso. Not an American coffee. Unless you ask for one. Nine chances out of ten you will be told that they do not make American coffee unless you’re in a very touristy destination. Then you might find it.

So, where do you begin? No matter what restaurant, café, or winery you go to you will instantly notice a very different way of life when rubbing shoulder to shoulder with the locals. Yes, welcome to the land of “la dolce vita“. To make your trip a little easier here are some definite key dos and don’ts for eating in Italy.

Do: Pay Attention to Food and Drink Pairings

Italians care very much about food and drink pairings, and you should, too when in Italy. In the United States, you might pair beer with pizza or sometimes even pasta. However, that’s not the case in Italy. So what to do? Here’s a suggestion! When in Rome do as the Romans do. Step up your wine game or even order a bottle of aqua frizzante (sparkling water) or aqua normale (water with no bubbles). At first, I suggest that you start simple and learn the very basics about Italian wines and food combinations. That way, you can better pair your meals and begin to eat and drink like the locals.

Don’t: Get a Cappuccino With Everything

Here’s a perfect morning start of the day the Italian way. A hot and frothy cappuccino with a few mouthwatering pastries.

You may feel the temptation to order a cappuccino at every coffee shop you visit. However, here’s a tip. Just don’t do it with your lunch or dinner. Traditionally, cappuccinos are only for mornings—before 11 a.m. Yes, in the tourist areas you’ll see people drinking a cappuccino all hours of the day. Unfortunately, the locals will just not comprehend how someone would order a cappuccino any time other than the morning. Now, you’re more likely to see people sipping on cappuccinos throughout the day, but still, never with lunch or dinner.

Do: Ask for Local Suggestions

Don’t be afraid to look like a tourist if it means you’re asking a question. Asking about dos and don’ts with Italians is a great way to learn and possibly make new friends. Eating at local trattorias is a great way to see how Italians eat and you’ll definitely pick up a few tips. This is important because anywhere you go—you get a perfect chance to delve fully into the culture and atmosphere of a true Italian dining experience. Remember to ask your hotel concierge or for their favorite places to eat. Once you’re there, make sure to ask your server if they have a favorite item on the menu or a particular favorite type of wine.

Do: Ask for the Bill

In Italy most often you’ll have to ask your server for the check when you are ready to pay and leave the restaurant. The reason for this is that dining is not a rushed experience. It’s a time to slow down and savor the sweetness of life. Therefore, your server will be accustomed to letting guests linger and talk long after a meal. This is the Italian way. So, don’t feel as if you are being ignored if your server doesn’t come to your table right away with your check as soon as you are done eating. When you want to pay and go simply ask for the bill.

Tip: Make sure that you’re asking for the itemized bill (il conto dettagliato or il conto lungo). Otherwise, they may just write down the total.

Don’t: Sit Down at the Café

Our last tip is about whether you should sit or stand for your coffee in a café. If you’re not in a busy, touristy area, you should be good to sit down at a café or coffee bar. However, if you’re in a busy setting especially a popular tourist destination many places will charge two, three, or four times more if you decide to sit at a table. So, if you want to save a few dollars you always have the option to stand and drink your coffee and enjoy a delicious Italian pastry.

Let’s go to Italy!

Are you ready for your next trip to Italy? When you don’t forget these quick tips. It will make your time in the land of “la dolce vita” a little sweeter. Click here to learn more about tips and trips to our beloved Italy