I cannot say or emphasize it enough if you are going to Italy please please PLEASE learn at least enough of the language to communicate! I studied for 6 months before our trip so I was not fluent but it made for a wonderful experience to be able to communicate. Some of the worst behavior I have ever seen was from frustrated American tourists who fully arrogantly expected the Italians to speak flawless English while they themselves did not bother to learn a word of Italian. I have found that if you show the respect of at least trying to speak the language, no matter how badly mangled you will receive a warmer reception than those red in the face who think that yelling is going to get their point across. Remember we're visiting their country, why not learn a little bit before you go? That said, in the cities English is more prevalent but where we liked to eat in the family run trattorias the only English you would hear was, "No speak English!"
Italy is a wine country and they don't brew good beer. Local beers are quite similar, all too malty and sweet. Birra Peroni, Nastro Azzurro and Moretti are some examples of mainstream beers. Beers in supermarkets are qute reosanably priced, you can get a 0,66 litre bottle for around 1 euro. Expect to pay ~20 cents more for cold beer. The main import beer is Beck's, a bad example of German lager. Danish so-called pilsner Tuborg is also widely available.
The tap water in Rome is excellent because it comes straight from the mountains. Even the residents fill bottles from the "nasone", meaning "the big nose" - look at the picture and you'll understand. These little fountains are everywhere, and once you check the price of bottled water, you'll be very happy to see one. Close the hole with your finger to make the water spout.
As you probably have heard, Italians have only sweet stuff for breakfast. In the B&B we stayed in Rome, we had bisquits, cookies, pies, sweet bread, jam, muesli and so on. Different kinds of yoghurt juice and latte were also available. And of course there was a nice Pininfarina-designed coffee maker, brewing a great cup of caffè (known as espresso in other parts of the world, where coffee is made also by less authentic methods). If you happen to be English, you can also make yourself a cup of Earl Grey :) But as they say - when in Rome, do as the Romans do!
Opera is at the heart of Rome. It is what fills the air.
My first major in college was Opera Performance. It is such a challenging art form that takes so much work (and that's an understatement).
Rome appreciates it. Opera is her baby. And therefore, respect it please.
Yes, in America we laugh at it. It's the grunt of the jokes from American male tv shows. They also make fun of it and talk about how boring it is.
But, this is Rome. You're gonna have to change your attitude and take a step back and realize that power and training that one must have to perform such a pure musical ability. That's right...there are no added machines funneling their voices. This isn't a CD that has been digitally mastered like recording artists.
This is an Italian custom in general, rather than just Roman, but because I have not created Italy page yet I will write about it under my Rome page.
In Italy when you go to a wedding or baptism ceremony you will receive a gift from newlyweds or during baptism from parents of the child.
Usually it is something made from silver, for instance I received a silver spoon and a silver tea pot. It can be also a crystal vase or a typical, hand-made Sicilian vase.
Plus you will receive confetti: sweet almonds wrap in a small, cute bag.
I was very surprised at first when we receive "la bomboniera" at the wedding of my husband's brother, but later on I discovered that Italians like a lot to give small souvenirs during different occasions just to remember them.
All around Italy there are thousand of shops which sell only le bomboniere.
I was positively surprised how many people in Rome spoke very good English. I wasn't expecting very much and wondered how I'd get by.. I did learn a few phases before going such as "Il conto, per favor" (Can I have the bill, please?) which was very useful. It seemed like the locals appreciated it if you tried to say something in Italian, although they wouldn't expect you to able to say very much.
I like the sound of the language and it's quite easy to read it, if you have studied Spanish, since it's similar. In addition, many words in English are very similar to those in Italian such castel (castle), musei (museum), teatro (theatre) and so on.
Useful to know at the metro:
Uscita - Exit
Prossima fermata - Next station/stop
Italian people are extremely warm, hospitable and kind. They like to talk a lot and they're used to deal with tourists. Although they'll do their best to try to speak to you in English (not many people in Italy speak it, though), they highly appreciate it when you try to speak to them in their own language. Italians like to talk a lot, and loud. If you have a good sense of humor and smile and joke with them, they will be more than pleased.
Talking about restaurants & service in general, although the service is already included in restaurant checks, you should leave some more money for the waiter on the table before you leave.
Dressing code: no matter how hot the weather is, you're not supposed to wear short pants or sleevless shirts or short skirts/dresses if you plan to visit a church, especially Saint Peter's.
Shopping on the street: when buying stuff from street vendors you can sometimes bargain the price, depending on the item and on the vendor. Of course knowing the local language will help you tons, since -as it happens in all touristic places- the more you look like a tourist the more they will try to raise the price.
To sum up, I can say I was very well received by all people in Rome, especially my friends, who were extremely kind and hospitable to me. Thank you guys, you are THE BEST!!. I miss you and I'll go back someday! On the picture you can see a VERY hospitable and warm Roman family receiving 2 foreigners with open arms...
Spending the new year in Rome is quite funny, especially if you stay sobber to watch the silly things people do around you :-)
I spent the midnight at home, because it can be an adventure to get to the city centre by car when there are thousands of people in the streets. Via dei Fori Imperiali, all the way down to the Colloseum, was packed with people watching the italian (roman) singer Giorgia's concert.
There are fireworks all over the city, so you don't need to go to the centre if you don't like crowds. Of course, watching fireworks with the Colosseum in the background must be great - maybe I'll try it next year!
Anyway, take your bottle of champagne and come out to the street to celebrate! Italians are very efusive and outgoing people, so be prepared to answer when they wish you 'auguri'!
Ah, I didn't see that street the next day, but I hope someone cleaned all that mess...
Some of the fountains are there for people to drink from (you'll either see a sign telling you the water is drinkable and/or people refilling their water bottles). No need to buy a new water bottle every few hours, just re-fill it at one of the fountains. Most of them are a spout coming out of a wall. You can also use these to wash your hands or splash your face with water if the weather is extremely hot.
We all know Italians love their wine. So, make sure and have some! Wine is served at most meals. I wouldn't say a bottle of wine is served at breakfast but mimosas (champagne and orange juice) were common. I felt out of place, as this was my first international trip, therefore if you are feeling uneasy have a glass of wine! It made me feel more relaxed and helped emerse me into the Italian culture. Just a hint on your first night!
And another thing that had moved on since I had got my ideas of Italy inculcated.
The ubiquitous scooters were no longer called Vespas. Motorini. (Singular motorino, I think.)
Any language is always moving on of course. Each new generation likes to put their stamp on it.
The little motors were everywhere still. Often ridden by people who were smoking a cigarette and talking on their mobile phone (cellulare).
But I was glad to say I rarely saw someone without a helmet.
Eavesdropping on the train I would hear people on their cellulari say something like -
"Pronto. Certo. Certo. Treno. Cinque. Piazza Venezia. Ok. Ok. Graz'. Ciao ciao."
I had a pretty fair idea of what was going on.