Learn about the culture and customs of your destination. Know something about the politics. So fundamental is this advice that the US government provides Background Notes for you! Check out the Travel Warnings too.
You Call This a Line?
Italians would never make it through American first grade – lining up single file just doesn’t come naturally. Yet, “cutters” are not tolerated. To avoid looking like a total dunce, don’t be polite and let others get ahead of you. Pay attention to who came in ahead and after you and assert your place when the time comes for service at a bar or restaurant.
Those Famous Bathrooms
The most accessible bathrooms are those found in bars – but don’t expect to find toilet paper at most of them. The major tourist sites have the most modern facilities and you can expect to part with coins for both the attendants who work there and the stalls themselves. Fast food restaurants and department stores may provide decent bathrooms, as well. By the way, there is often a cord in the shower/toilet in the small hotels of Italy. This is an emergency cord, so don’t pull it expecting hot water or a toilet flush!
The Almighty Lira, Now the Euro
Offering a shopkeeper a L50,00 or L100,00 note when you’re buying a bottle of shampoo is the equivalent of trying to buy a postcard with a $100 bill. Take care, too, not to use a credit card to pay for items costing L10,000 or so. Don’t be an annoying tourist – observe the same monetary courtesies you would at home And did you know that prices are rounded up to the nearest L50?
No Need to Walk a Mile for a Smoke
Cigarettes can only be sold legally by tabacchi (tobacconists), which are housed in buildings with bold white T’s on black or dark blue signs. You won’t just find tobacco there, which makes the tabbachi fun to visit. Expect to see any or all of the following: salt, postage stamps, official stamps and stationary you need when dealing with Italian bureaucracy, bus/Metro/train tickets, phone cards, lottery tickets, sweets, toiletries, postcards, and souvenirs.
Yes, we’re talking about men! Female travelers need to use the same basic common sense that protects them at home. Ignore unwanted advances and they will probably go away. In Rome, the Piazza di Spagna and Fontana di Trevi are the spots where young Italian men prowl for foreign ladies. If you want to avoid being prey, head for the areas around Campo dei Fiori, Testaccio and Trastevere. But wherever you are, expect more attentention than usual form the Italian male.
Condoms can be purchased at supermarkets or at pharmacies, but they tend to be more expensive than they are in America, so you might want to pack a few of your own from home. Feminine products are sold in supermarkets and drugstores.
What Can I Say?
Acceptable topics for conversation: soccer, family affairs, business, local news.
Unacceptable topics: American football and politics (it’s probably wise to lay off religion, as well).
For the Reading Public
Rome has a huge assortment of libraries. If you’re there to do some research, bring lots of patience. You’ll spend more time than you’d like dealing with red tape and longing for the Dewey Decimal System.