Italy is often summarized as the country of food, wine, history, and nature. But even more than any of these, family is everything in Italy. I had never known this to be more true than during the months that my team and I worked on a special trip to Italy for Joseph and Irene.

Knowing barely a sentence of Italian and hailing from upstate New York, Irene and Joseph, 85 years young, reached out to Ciao Andiamo to help connect them to their Italian heritage. Joseph’s parents had been born in the late 19th century in Italy, outside of Bari, Puglia. Although Joseph and Irene had visited Italy a number of times, they had never before been to the place of Joseph’s roots.

Joseph decided that now was the time to seek out his family history, to track down the place where his parents had grown up and perhaps even find some living relatives from their hometown.

Uncovering Joseph’s Italian Heritage

After hearing their story, we designed a two-week-long trip down the Adriatic coast, spanning the regions of Abruzzo and Puglia, and concluding near the town of Bari, where we hoped to help Joseph discover pieces of his ancestry.

Working with our incredible Italy team and genealogy experts based in southern Italy, we began our search. We weren’t armed with much: rough birth year estimates of Joseph’s parents, a surname whose spelling had changed after Joseph’s parents had immigrated to America, and the name of a hometown somewhere near Bari – which, as we would soon find out, was incorrect.

But after weeks of hard work, we were able to track down something quite special.

Finding More Than We Expected

First, we found the official birthplace of Joseph’s father, in the small town of Toritto. We started tracking down birth certificates and names of a couple of living cousins.

We found that one of the cousins, whose grandfather had been the brother of Joseph’s father, was still living in Toritto, and he had a brother who was also alive and well living in Canada. The cousins were overjoyed to learn about their American relatives, but we decided to keep the news quiet from Joseph and Irene for now, until we could be sure it was true.

We continued our research and met with more and more local residents in Toritto. Toritto is the kind of small Italian town where everyone knows everyone, and we were amazed to witness the whole town start to become abuzz with news of Joseph and Irene and their planned visit mere months away in the early fall.

A Touching (and Memorable) Reunion

October finally arrived, and Joseph and Irene set off on their journey to southern Italy. After a number of days relaxing and exploring different coastal and countryside towns, they spent two days at a local masseria, a farmhouse, near the historic center of Toritto. It was here that their Italian family would come to meet Joseph and Irene for the very first time.

I had the incredible fortune to be part of this meeting at the masseria. I arrived with our local partner Max to assist with translation and logistics and photographer Ksenija to document the reunion. We were incredibly honored to be included in such a special experience and were, of course, delighted to continue to help.

Excitement mixed with nervousness. We weren’t sure how the events of the family reunion would play out. Would the one cousin we had spoken with even show up? Would he bring along one or two other relatives as well? How long would they want to stay and visit, and what would they say?

On the day of the event, something amazing happened. Not one, not two, but 27 family members would show up at the masseria throughout the course of the evening, in what would turn into a beautiful six-hour-long reunion full of hugs and stories, laughter and emotion.

As you might imagine, the conversations were loud, animated, and at times confusing – deciphering all the intricacies of the family tree and translating between the English spoken by Joseph and Irene and the Italian dialect spoken by everyone else. But somehow, magically, the evening worked, and they were truly united as a family.

Celebrating La Famiglia

Since we had never imagined that so many people would be joining, the owners of the small masseria were only prepared for a dinner of 5-8 people. But when you invite guests over in southern Italy, you invite them, and we would need to find a way to pull together enough food and wine to accommodate a celebration for over 20 guests.

Incredibly, the owners and their small staff managed to whip up a huge feast in the kitchen, and we dined and drank wine into the wee hours of the morning.

Joseph, beaming from ear to ear throughout the night, made no fewer than three toasts to his new-found Italian family and those who helped make the evening possible.

The next day, we took Irene and Joseph to the historic center of Toritto, showed them the street where Joseph’s father was born, and dropped them off at Joseph’s cousin’s house, as the family had insisted that they join them the next day for lunch for a part two of the family reunion.

I am so incredibly grateful that I had the chance to lend a hand in writing such a beautiful story of Italian family, and to help create an experience that a teary-eyed Joseph told me he will always remember. I know I certainly will.

Similar stories

5 Reasons to Visit Italy in December

An Easter Feast!

Carnevale in Italy: What it Is and Where to Celebrate

As a Ligurian native, I’ve seen the Cinque Terre evolve over the years into the well-known Italian jewel it is today. Cinque Terre translates to English as “the Five Lands,” and during my childhood, I knew them as the remote fishermen villages, with friendly locals bouncing around small shops, booths of fresh vegetables, and the church, which was always open, all overlooking the breathtaking Ligurian Sea. The Cinque Terre are idyllic Italian coastal villages, and as a teenager, my friends and I would take Sunday trips down to the small towns on the Ligurian coast. We would ride our moto over 50 miles down the Via Aurelia – a coastal road built by the Romans in 241 BC – past dozens of little villages, on an epic journey to Monterosso and Vernazza, the most lively towns of the five. We would hike the paths between the villages and the vineyards, sometimes passing the local farmers coming to and from their fields, and hunt around the villages for a good lunch.

 

In the past two decades, the Cinque Terre have evolved from the quiet, remote fishermen villages to bustling, lively travel destinations, filled to the brim with boutiques, hotels, and tourists. Seeing these small towns explode with international popularity has been bittersweet; while it is fantastic to see so many travelers come to enjoy the Cinque Terre, the villages are packed with tour groups, bustling through the hotels and tourist shops. Yet the authentic Ligurian coastal towns are not all lost, and I take great pleasure in bringing my guests to the hidden corners of Cinque Terre, climbing through the right streets to re-live the coastal charm and quaint atmosphere from my youth.

The “Five Lands”

The Cinque Terre consists of five towns, once small fishermen villages, that span the coast of the Ligurian Sea. From east to west, the towns are Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare.

Riomaggiore and Manarola

As the smallest of the towns, Riomaggiore and Manarola resemble the old fishermen villages the most, with only one narrow main street and many small paths that climb up the mountains to reach the buildings above. The views are idyllic; I love to visit Manarola to enjoy the regional troffie al pesto* in my friend Cesare’s little restaurant, overlooking the majestic cliffs and blue Mediterranean Sea.

The path between the top of the two towns to the bottom of the coast and bay is both lengthy and downhill, taking 10 to 15 minutes on a typical day, and is perfect for the adventurous traveler. The bay hosts fishermen boats that rest in small platforms next to the water for safety, and in Manarola, you might even catch sight of the cranes lifting the boats to and from the water.

There are no beaches, so one should not expect to be relaxing by the waves in these quaint towns; the coastline consists of ragged rock, best experienced with sneakers instead of flip-flops. In the summer, the coastal rocks are extremely hot, so travelers must consider the heat if they plan on taking the trek downhill, making sure to pack water accordingly.

Corniglia

The least crowded of the towns and yet still picturesque, Corniglia sits at the top of a hill, far above the water. The scenic cliff is 100 meters above sea level at its peak, and the top of the village provides a spectacular view, full of colors especially towards sunset.

Corniglia is the most difficult of the towns to reach, as the train station is closer to the water with a 30 minute walk to the village. Luckily, the town is also typically the least crowded, so the trip is well worth the walk.

Vernazza

My personal favorite of the Cinque Terre, Vernazza boasts the traditional charm of the Ligurian fishermen villages coupled with modern features for the 21st century traveler. The town hosts a small beach, many little shops, lots of trattorias, and delectable bakeries, where you can find the local specialties such as the focaccia alla genovese o al formaggio* and the best spaghetti con vongole or pansoti con salsa di noci*. The main street is lively and often bustling, and the square at the end of the street has the perfect balcony to relax with a glass of wine before dinner.



Monterosso al Mare

The western-most village is also the most visited; Monterosso al Mare has the most conveniently-located train station, and it also boasts the best parking of the Cinque Terre. The town has a wide, relaxing beach, set just below the colorful town. The area is renowned for both its lemon trees and its white wines, so make sure to try a glass of vino bianco at lunch or dinner.

Monterosso hosts many historical sites, including a castle, convent, churches, and the Monterosso Giant, Il Gigante, a massive sculpture of Neptune bearing a villa terrace on his shoulders. The town is a perfect match for travelers who wish to explore the wonders of historical Italy and relish in the natural beauty of the coast.

The Paths of the Cinque Terre

The five villages of the Cinque Terre are interconnected through a web of both roads and trails. The walking paths throughout the Cinque Terre have been used for centuries, and today, they are well-known and well-maintained, often featuring breathtaking views. My favorite path, 2D from Vernazza to Monterosso is unbeatable, with the view of both the villages and the sea, best experienced close to sunset. Many paths also have impressive terraces where the locals still cultivate gardens, full of grapes or veggies. In my childhood, we used to pass farmers on these routes, on their way from producing the local wines, il Pigato* or the precious sciacchetra*.

The most famous of the paths, the Via Dell’Amore or Love Path from Riomaggiore to Manarola, is partially closed due to a mudslide that destroyed parts of the pavement. It is set to be reopened in late spring 2019.

The walking paths are not the easiest of treks, as they are no walk in the park. The Ligurian coast is entirely mountainous, so all of the paths are steep and narrow. While they are not dangerous, travelers best be prepared for an adventure with sneakers, water, and even walking sticks to really enjoy the landscape.

Visiting the Cinque Terre

When to Go

The most important factor that a traveler should consider when seeking out Cinque Terre is timing. For three or four months out of the year, between June and September, it is nearly impossible to navigate the villages because of the seas of tourists bustling through the streets. During this time in the main areas within Cinque Terre, prices skyrocket compared to neighboring towns.

How to Get There

When traveling to the Cinque Terre, avoid trying to travel by car. Due to the small nature of the villages, parking lots are few and far between, and they are filled to the brim between April and October. The road connecting the Cinque Terre is extremely steep, narrow, curvy, and dangerous, and only the most experienced Italian drivers try to drive it. Instead, take the train from Milan (3 hours) or Rome (4.5 hours).

Taking the train between the villages will also save you time, money, and frustration. Travelers will often stay in or drive to nearby towns, such as the coastal Sestri Levante, to travel via rail to and from the Cinque Terre. Of the five towns, Monterosso has the largest capacity of parking spots, so many tourists park there to take the train to the other villages. The train ride between Monterosso and Riomaggiore, the outermost towns, is a mere 15 minutes. A special pass, the “Cinque Terre card,” allows travelers to use the regional train to and from the town with no limitations and free shuttles from the stations to the heart of the towns, as many of the train stations are located at a distance. The pass is little more than 10 Euro a day and allows natives and travelers alike to move between the Cinque Terre with ease.

Ready to explore the Cinque Terre? Visit like a local on our tour of Italy’s Finest: Cuisine to Coast.

Similar stories

How to Pack for Your Italian Vacation

What You Absolutely Have To Eat in Autumn in Italy

Ciao Celebrates 9 Years

My husband and I play a game whenever we travel – “spot the Italian.” Even in the middle of a crowded airport, we can always recognize another Italian by their distinct style. Italians pride ourselves on being fashionable and on their own bella figura, or making a good impression so it’s no wonder that travelers often ask us what they should pack in order to “fit in.”

Beyond fashion, Italy is also a narrow peninsula with distinct weather patterns that will impact your wardrobe. With that in mind, here are a few packing tips to help you dress your best on your Italy vacation.

Stay Breezy in Summer

A close up of shoes, scarfs and a panama hat – all perfect to pack for your Italian vacation

Summer in the north of Italy is very hot and humid, and the south is warmer all year round. Bring lightweight clothes in cotton or natural fibers such a linen to feel fresh throughout the day. Men can wear shorts, but many Italians prefer lightweight trousers. Sundresses are a popular, and breezy, option for women. You won’t see many Italians past high school age in denim shorts and flip flops, and make sure to bring dressier options for dinner. Don’t forget a bikini, sunglasses and sunblock if you’re headed to the beach!

Layer Up for Spring & Autumn

An above shot of the essentials to pack for your Italian vacation: leather purse and belt, sturdy shoes, sunglass, watch and camera. Change purse, t-shirt and versatile scarf.

Travel in the shoulder season can be ideal, since prices are usually lower and popular destinations less crowded. The weather during these seasons can change day by day, so be sure to pack layers and versatile items. In spring, the temperature can range from the high 50s to low 80s depending on the city and time of day. Pants, a lightweight shirt and a jacket or sweater should carry you through the day. Rain showers are common in the early afternoon, so don’t forget to pack an umbrella.

Cover Up in Winter

A pile of thick knits, pack at least one on an Italian vacation

Though we might imagine this Mediterranean country as the home of eternal sunshine, the winter can be cold in Italy. Northern Italy is cold in winter and even the more mild south can still get quite chilly. The weather can be windy but snow is usually reserved for the mountains. If you want to dress like an Italian, tour around with a puffy jacket, scarf and boots, but even gloves and a hat. Italians don’t shy away from the outdoors in the winter, but they do tend to dress for the occasion. Winter travelers can expect some sunshine in the afternoons to warm up an Italian winter day. 

Accessorize Like an Italian

A close up of nice leather boots

Comfort is key when traveling, especially in major cities where you’ll do a lot of walking. In summer, canvas shoes or sandals will work best. Italians only wear flip flops on the beach or at the pool, so you may stand out by wearing them in a city. Some restaurants will not allow flip flops, so bring a change of shoes for dinner. Boots or canvas shoes are good options for fall, winter and spring, and make sure they’re waterproof. If you want to take a page out of an Italian’s stylebook, you can also buy leather shoes during your trip, especially if you’re visiting Florence.

Italians have a love affair with pashmina scarves. In the colder months we wear cashmere or wool scarves, but we even have silk and cotton options for summer! Pashminas make a great souvenir as well, so look for them in local shops and markets.

Pro Tip

Italian churches require visitors to cover their shoulders when entering. Avoid any entrance issues by carrying a scarf or sweater in your bag to cover up – even in summer – and be sure your hemline is low enough to be respectful.

Now that you know exactly how to dress on your vacanza italiana, travel in style on a VIP private day tour

Similar stories

Discover the Dolomites: What to Know and Where to Go

Carnevale in Italy: What it Is and Where to Celebrate

Finding Your Italian Heritage: The Story of Joseph & Irene

Reading a menu at an Italian coffee bar can feel like more than just a foreign language – it’s a glimpse into Italy’s culture and identity. Unlike American coffee, Caffè Italiano revolves solely around espresso and the different ways it can be served. Here’s an in-depth guide to your options for all things caffeinated. 

The Basics

Caffè: A simple espresso. Though caffè means “coffee” in Italian, it isn’t your standard American coffee. If you’re unfamiliar with espressos, you’ll be getting a small cup of strong coffee served on a saucer with a spoon.

Cappuccino: An espresso with steamed whole milk and foam, an Italian favorite typically served in a slightly larger cup than the espresso.

Caffè Latte: An espresso with hot milk, served in a glass. Make sure to order caffè latte and not just latte, as you’d be getting a glass of milk from the barista instead!

Caffè Macchiato: An espresso with a bit of foamed milk on top. Macchiato means “marked” or “stained,” so it is an espresso “marked” with a little foamed milk.

Latte Macchiato: A glass of steamed milk with a bit of espresso, or “marked” with a small amount of espresso. If you want a bit more espresso, like a double latte, order a dark version, or latte macchiato scuro.

More Than Milk

Caffè con Panna: An espresso topped with sweet, often fresh, whipped cream. This drink is especially for those who want a sweeter version of the caffè macchiato.

Caffè Corretto: An espresso with a drop of liquor. Popular choices are grappa, Sambuca, or cognac.

Caffè con Zucchero: An espresso with sugar added for you. Most bars have patrons add their own sugar from a packet or container at the bar.

Less Caffeinated 

Decaffeinato or Caffè Hag: A decaffeinated espresso. Hag is the largest producer of decaf coffee in Italy, so some bars will write their name on the menu instead of decaffeinato.

Caffè Lungo: A “long” espresso, when the barista allows the machine to run longer, adding water and making the coffee a bit weaker.

Caffè Americano: An espresso diluted with hot water, the closest drink to American filtered coffee you’ll find in an Italian bar.

Caffè Americano Decaffeinato: A decaf espresso diluted with hot water, the closest drink to American filtered decaf coffee.

Cold Coffee

Caffè Shakerato: An espresso shaken with sugar and ice, typically served in a martini or cocktail glass. Some bars add chocolate syrup for an extra layer of sweetness.

Caffè Freddo: An espresso served iced or cold, typically served in a glass. If you order a caffè freddo alla vaniglia, you can add vanilla syrup or vanilla liquor to the mix.

Granita di Caffè: An espresso-flavored icy slush, typically with added sugar, almost like a coffee snow cone. Not all places will have this available but some ice cream shops will!

Regional Specialties 

Espresso in Naples typically comes with the sugar added. If you don’t like your coffee sweet, order un caffè sense zucchero. Or try caffè alla nocciola, an espresso with froth and hazelnut cream, for a special local treat.

In Milan, coffee bars serve an upside-down cappuccino called a marocchino. Served in a served in a small glass sprinkled with cocoa powder a marocchino starts with a bottom layer of frothed milk and is finished off with a shot of espresso.

The Piemontese enjoy a traditional drink created from layers of dense hot cocoa, espresso and cream, called bicerìn.

Now that you’ve perfected your order, read our guide to mastering the Italian coffee bar and enjoy your Italian caffè! 

Similar stories

How to Pack for Your Italian Vacation

What to Do Before Your Trip to Italy

This is the Region with the Most Prestigious Wines in Italy

My first visit to Sardinia felt like a dream. I was only 10 years old and visiting my cousins in the capital city of Cagliari. Their house was right on the beach, and my young cousins caught fish along the shore. The colors of the island are still vivid in my mind, the turquoise water against the white sand dunes. Ever since that first visit, my family returned every year to find the same unspoiled views.

Explore an Island of Myths & Culture

Sardinia is located in the middle of the Mediterranean sea. Like Sicily, the other major Italian island, the culture and history of Sardinia are very different from mainland Italy. Sardinia’s past is rich with legends and mythology, starting with the Nuragic civilization, which inhabited the island during the Bronze Age. Nuragic relics remain preserved on the island to this day, including distinct circular towers called Nuraghi and huge granite tombe dei giganti (giants’ tombs).

Due in part to its remote location, Sardinia feels like its own continent with unique traditions. Even the language is distinct – a dialect unfamiliar to mainland Italians. Sardinians celebrate their heritage with folk festivals and celebrations. Hundreds of Sardinians gather every May for two major cultural events, Cagliari Sant’Efisio Festival (May 1 in Cagliari) and Sardinian Cavalcade of Sassari (late May in Sassari). At these festivals, which each last several days, people from across Sardinia celebrate their culture with parades, horseback riding, traditional clothing and, of course, food.

Enjoy the Best of Mountains & Sea

Sardinia’s landscape is also unique. Sheep roam across the heart of the island, which is made up of rugged plateaus, plains and mountains. Centuries of strong winds and rains created a rugged coastline featuring amazing natural rock formations. Most famous of these formations is the Capo d’Orso, which resembles a bear sitting atop a hillside in Palau. From the Northern coast, you can also visit the Maddalena Archipelago, a national geo-marine park with an uncontaminated, paradisal feel.

The combination of coastline and mountains also lend themselves to an extraordinary food culture in Sardinia dominated by equally delicious seafood and meat. The sea yields fresh tuna, swordfish, mussels, prawns and sea bass, while the mountain cuisine features suckling pig, goat, beef, pork, rabbit and more. Both fish and meat are served with vegetables, local herbs and homemade pasta. Sardinia’s olive trees deliver a distinctly flavored olive oil that is fruity and slightly spicy. Wine drinkers will delight in the red Cannonau di Sardegna, the most famous producer being Sella & Mosca, and the white Vermentino, which pairs perfectly with fish.

Bask in Sunshine on the Emerald Coast

While parts of the island feels unspoiled and unexplored, the past fifty years have seen the Emerald Coast, Costa Smeralda,  become a hotspot for celebrities and European tourists. The popularity is well-deserved, as the Emerald Coast boasts white sand beaches and transparent water. Wild herbs such as thyme, rosemary and oregano fill in the air with their perfume, and the local dishes feature the region’s bright and delicious saffron. The Emerald Coast is also home to the Porto Cervo Wine Festival (May) and Food Festival (September).

Adventure Through Sardinia’s Great Outdoors

Adventurous travelers will delight in the possibilities afforded by both Sardinia’s mountains and the sea. Hike along picturesque coastal trails, bike down the inland mountains or climb the island’s sheer cliffs. Dive below the brilliant blue waves of the Mediterranean, kayak through pristine bays or kite surf across the waves.

What to Know Before You Go

Summer is undeniably a great time to visit, when you can enjoy a refreshing swim in the Mediterranean on a sunny day, though the Spring and early Autumn are also beautiful. In May, early June or September, visitors can enjoy all that Sardinia has to offer, minus the crowds.

Sardinia offers a range of beautiful accommodations, including both romantic and family-friendly options. Most high-end coastal hotels will have beach access with sun beds and umbrellas, and there are several quality spas.

Similar stories

5 Reasons to Choose a Small Group Tour in Italy

A Guide to The Holiday Season in Italy

A Guide to Piedmont: What to Do, See and Eat in One of Italy’s Top Culinary Regions

Planning a getaway to Italy? Whether it’s your first time to the bel paese or you’re a travel veteran, here are some pro tips to help you feel right at home in Italia.

1. Buongiorno Will Only Get You So Far (in the Day)

Your guidebook may have told you that boungiorno means “hello,” but Italians use it to mean “good morning.” Switch to buonasera (good evening) in the mid-afternoon, or, if you’re feeling ambitious, use buon pomeriggio to wish someone a good afternoonOnly say buona notte (good night) at the end of the night, when it’s time for bed!

2. Lunch and Siesta Like an Italian

Lunch is traditionally the biggest meal of the day, and an important social occasion when families get together. Meal times can vary by region; the further south you go, the later lunch typically begins. As a rule of thumb, restaurants won’t open for lunch before 12:30 pm, or 7:30 pm for dinner. Shops typically close between 1-4pm for siesta, especially in smaller, less touristic towns, so make like a local and relax after a big meal.

3. Say Arrivederci to Spaghetti and Meatballs

You won’t find spaghetti and meatballs or fettucine alfredo on any true Italian menu! Embrace la cucina Italiana and try some of the local cuisine, which can vary across the country. Each region features dishes that highlight its own local ingredients and unique cooking styles. In Rome, you’ll find cacio e pepe, pasta with pecorino cheese and peppercorns, and carciofi alla roman, Roman-style artichokes. Milan is famous for its risotto, and Tuscan cuisine features bistecca fiorentina, Florentine steak, and simple dishes like panzanella, bread salad.

4. When in Rome, Do as Romans Do

If you are seeking an experience that is authentic and off-the-beaten-path, look no further than the local Italian favorites. Some of the most authentic Italian jaunts may appear simple and nothing special from the outside, but they make for some of the richest and most delicious dining experiences you can find. These places are often unassuming and removed from the most heavily toured sites. For instance, if you want an authentic dining experience in Venice, you shouldn’t eat right in Piazza di San Marco. Be adventurous, and embrace the real local culture!

5. Visit the ‘Bar’ Morning, Noon and Night

In Italy, ‘bar’ has a different meaning – it’s a place where you can go to get a caffé (espresso) or cappuccino, or perhaps a little pastry or sandwich. Italians stand at the counter just long enough to drink an espresso and chat with the barista before heading on their way (for more, read our tips for navigating an Italian coffee bar). Italians often visit their favorite bar multiple times a day for a little caffeine boost, so be sure to taste your way through the menu of espresso options

6. Take a Break From Brunch

Italian breakfast is typically a lighter meal, with maybe some cereal and yogurt or toast with nutella or jam. If you are eating in a hotel, you can enjoy a buffet with these options and some cheeses and sliced meats. If you venture out to a coffee bar, order a cappuccino or espresso and pastry with chocolate, jam, or cream. Italians only really drink cappuccino in the morning, and never after lunch or dinner.

7. Take It Slow at the Table

In Italy, there is a standard order of Italian courses (antipasti, primi, secondi and contorni, dessert and espresso). You don’t have to eat a full 4-course meal every time, but this is the order in which they serve the different dishes. Primi are ‘first courses’: a pasta, soup or rice dish. Secondi are ‘second courses,’ being meat, fish or poultry. When dining, waiters typically won’t check on a table very frequently, as it is custom to let diners linger and enjoy pauses between courses without being disturbed. Instead, if you need your waiter, flag them down. Dining in Italy is a social experience, so take your time soaking in the amazing food and wine with family and friends!

8. Tip (or Don’t Tip) Like an Italian

If you come from a tipping culture, it can be tough to get used to the idea of not leaving tips for waiters, taxi drivers, and hotel service. But Italians do not tip. In a restaurant, locals will often leave nothing at all, or at most 2-5 Euro, regardless of the bill. If you can’t help yourself, a good rule of thumb is to leave the change from your bill or at most 5-10%.

9. Master Public Transportation

When riding the bus or train, don’t forget to get your ticket stamped before getting on board. Look for the little yellow machines at the train terminals or on the bus, where you can stick your ticket in to get it validated. In some places, like Venice, when riding on the public water taxi, tickets are electronic, and you can hold your ticket up to the machine for it to scan.

10. Get Behind the Wheel

Driving from town to town in the countryside or on the highway is often manageable, with easy-to-follow signs pointing the way towards different destinations. However, the arrival and departure from big cities can be harder to manage and very stressful, especially in cities like Rome where there are no rules, and lots of vespas weaving in and out of traffic aggressively. Don’t be intimidated by Italians’ reputation as aggressive drivers. Driving beyond the major cities and towns is sometimes the best way to discover the real Italy – all the local favorites and hidden gems Italia has to offer!

Similar stories

8 Reasons Why You Should Visit Matera

What Do I Order? A Guide to Italian Coffee

Everything You Need to Know About Florence’s World-class Museums

From espresso to caffè latte, Italian coffee is famous throughout the world. The delicious roast and small shots of caffeine are ubiquitous to Italy – and necessary for a jet lagged traveler! When in Italy, make your way to the local coffee shop (called a bar here) and order your favorite. Ordering coffee in Italy is taking part in an ingrained ritual of Italian culture. Here are five tips for getting your caffeine fix – the Italian way.

1. Milk is for Mornings Only

A cappuccino and pastry, the perfect Italian coffee to order for breakfast

The only people drinking coffee with milk after breakfast time are surely not Italian. The rule? You shouldn’t drink any coffee beverage that includes milk, be it a cappuccino or caffè latte, after 11 am or after a meal. Italians believe that the combination of hot milk and food in your stomach has an unsettling effect, so make sure to order your cappuccino before you start your day. Many Italians will have a breakfast of un cappuccino and a pastry, like a brioche al cioccolato. After lunch Italians order un caffè which means a normal espresso or at most un caffè macchiato, which is an espresso topped with a dollop of foamed milk. 

2. Stay on Your Feet

If you’re ordering un caffè in an Italian coffeehouse, you’ll probably notice that most Italians are standing and drinking their coffee. In Italy, cafés are known as bars, and for good reason – Italians order their coffee at the bar, drink their coffee at the bar, and pay for their coffee at the bar, all while standing. This is for a variety of reasons. For one, the coffee is short and taken almost like a shot. There’s no need to sit down and nurse an espresso cup. Not only that, but Italians usually have their morning coffee with just a small pastry or nothing at all, so there’s no need to sit down. Finally, some bars will even charge a bit more if you have your coffee at a table!

3. Pay Like a Local

Different bars have different methods for their patrons to pay for their coffee. Some cafés have you order and pay at the register before bringing your receipt to the barista to make your drink. Others allow patrons to order and drink their coffee at the bar first, and then tell the cashier what they had to pay before leaving. To be certain, take a look at what the other customers are doing and follow suit.

4. Know Your Order

When ordering your coffee, there’s no need to say espresso – a single espresso is un caffè. For those unfamiliar with espresso, you’ll be getting a small cup of strong coffee served on a saucer. If you ask for a latte, you’ll be getting a tall glass of milk. Order a caffè latte instead. There’s also typically no extensive list of flavored coffee, so try to keep your order simple. For a more detailed list, check out our guide to Italian coffee.

5. Become a Regular

Italians typically don’t drink un caffè doppio, a double espresso, but it’s not because they don’t consume as much coffee. Rather, Italians visit their local bar multiple times a day to drink several small cups of coffee, often chatting with the barista before going to their next appointment or errand. There’s no better break during the day then a visit to the local coffeehouse. In just a few minutes customers share information, make business deals, gossip and reset for whatever comes next in the day, all with a delicious sip of Italian coffee.

If you don’t have the Italian coffee rituals memorized, don’t worry – the servers will be there to assist you, as most of them are friendly and happy to help.

Enjoy your caffè!

In love with Italy’s food and wine culture? Taste your way through Parma and the Emilia-Romagna region, a food lover’s paradise, before heading to Liguria to visit seaside towns and feast on pesto and seafood caught fresh that day on our mouthwatering Reveal on the Riviera trip.

Similar stories

The 9 Things Every Italian Has in The Pantry

A Guide to The Holiday Season in Italy

8 of the Most Beautiful Churches in Florence

Summer may seem like the obvious choice for vacation, and more travelers are embracing the shoulder season, but we’d like to make a case for the off-season: Italy in December. With its festive atmosphere and mild weather, the holiday season can be the best time to experience Italy.

Here are five reasons to add a December vacation to your wish list:

1. Festive Lights & Open Air Markets

December marks the season when cities and small villages throughout Italy shine brightly with Christmas lights. Locals flock to open air markets to buy holiday gifts and enjoy December nights with friends and family. Not only is it simply beautiful, it’s also a unique way to take part in the Italian experience.

Christmas lights and massive trees add to the festive atmosphere of December in Italy
Christmas lights and massive trees add to the festive atmosphere of December in Italy

2. Plenty to Do Outdoors

Italians spend the winter hiding inside. Besides the wonderful Christmas markets to explore, you’ll find outdoor ice rinks set up in most major cities during the holiday season – and they’re not just for the tourists! The rinks are filled with families, teenagers, and children enjoying the holiday cheer and a festive way to ward off the winter chill. If you’re not feeling up to lacing up your own skates, you can grab a cappuccino at a nearby cafe and people watch to your hearts desire. Cafés in Italy will often have outdoor tables available throughout the winter, with heat lamps, fires or even blankets to keep guests warm. Do like the locals do and find one during the day to soak in every ray of sun available. Beyond that you can ski in the mountains, go snow-shoe hiking, window shop and generally enjoy your time outside, no need to hide!

3. Sweet Treats Galore

In December, stores and markets throughout Italy are stocked with traditional Italian dessert breads – panettone and pandoro. Both are sweet yeast breads found only during this time of year. Pandoro, traditionally from Verona, means bread of gold and was a staple on the tables of the rich Venetians during Christmastime. Today it’s a Christmas classic for all Italians. 

Panettone is the Lombard answer. A tall loaf, panettone is filled with dried fruit and candied citrus and is a Milanese tradition. Of course at any Christmas market you can find a wealth of sweet treats, but it isn’t Christmas in Italy without one of these traditional sweet breads!

A shop window shoes row after row of traditional Italian panettone
You can only find this delicious Italian sweet bread in December.

4. The Weather is Just Right

Sure, you might need to pack a winter coat and scarf, but Italy in December is actually quite moderate and for many preferable than the scorching summer for touring. Temperatures in the north range from 25 – 45 degrees Fahrenheit (though the mountains have their own microclimate) while the south easily enjoys an average of 50 degrees and in Sicily it may get as high as 60 degrees Fahrenheit in December. January and February run colder and November rainier, but December is a sweet small in-between. 

5. It’s Italy Without The Crowds

Plain and simple: December may be the best time to visit some of Italy’s most popular and heavily touristed destinations such as Venice or the Italian Riviera. Imagine all the picture-perfect beauty of Italy, but without the crowds and selfie sticks. It’s a whole different experience to stroll through the enchanted city’s winding side streets, walk through Piazza San Marco and overlook bridges and canals or hike one of the famed Cinque Terre trails when it feels like you have all of the city to yourself. 

The port in Camogli Italy
December in Italy means having small towns like Camogli all to yourself

Ready to experience the magic of Italia for yourself? Contact us to begin planning!

Similar stories

ETIAS Travel Authorization: What It Is, Why You Need It and How to Get One

Le Marche: Where It Is and Why You Should Go

Everything You Need to Know About Florence’s World-class Museums