Italy Travel Tips for Restaurant Etiquette: What to Expect When Dining in Italy
Italy Travel Tips #1: Mealtimes
In Southern Europe, meal times are somewhat lax and more likely to be later than what you might expect. The amount of food eaten is different as well. Stateside, we are told breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but in Italy, breakfast (Colazione) is a very light meal. No eggs, bacon, and pancake houses here. Italy doesn’t have what we would consider breakfast places. Your meal will consist of a light pastry filled with jam and a coffee or espresso. Lunch (Pranzo) is around one o’clock and is probably the most important meal of the day, and it is also the largest. Everything in Italy shuts down (except restaurants and other eateries) around lunch time for the pausa pranzo, so people can go home and eat. Dinner (Cena) is late – about eight o’clock, and is typically a light meal. Most people prefer a small antipasto – think soup, salad, cold cuts – before having a light dessert and coffee.
Italy Travel Tips #2: The Menu
Understanding a menu is undoubtedly one of the most important aspects of traveling. As you can gather, cuisine is kind of a big deal in Italy. The country itself is synonymous with some of our favorite dishes and desserts – pizza, spaghetti, lasagna, and tiramisu. When dining out, your meal will typically consist of multiple courses. Italians don’t normally order a cocktail while waiting for their food. Cocktails (or the Apertivo) is something you do before getting to the restaurant and involves a different etiquette. The antipasto is your starter, or appetizer. Here you will likely have bruschetta or cold cuts. The first course (Primo) is your pasta or risotto. The second course (Secondo) is your main entrée and will have your meat accompanied by the contorno – or side dish. The contorno is a vegetable side dish or salad and is served separately from the main entrée. Most restaurants dedicate a course to the local cheeses and seasonal fruits. Dessert (Dolce) is your sweet of choice, often accompanied by coffee or a digestive liquor. If you order coffee, realize it means you’re getting an espresso. Italians don’t drink cappuccino after eleven in the morning because it is heavy. If you need your coffee a little lighter, try a Caffe Americano – it’ll be similar to what you get at home.
Italy Travel Tips #3: The Check
In the US, you might be used to waiters hovering around you and constantly asking about your needs. How often have you been given your check before you’re even halfway through your meal? In Italy, it’s considered rude to interrupt your meal and ask if you’re ready for the check. For them, it’s tantamount to rushing you out the door. If you rush, how can you enjoy the delicious meal the chef has prepared? When you are done, don’t be surprised if you end up waiting a bit for your bill. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the company!
Italy Travel Tips #4: Tipping
Waiters stateside would be really unhappy if you didn’t leave them a fifteen or twenty percent tip. In Italy? Tipping is not mandatory. Why? Well, unlike the customer service industry in the U.S., Italian wait staff is paid quite nicely and do not rely on tips to make up the difference in wage. Most Italians leave a small portion, and most restaurants already include a bread and cover charge in the bill. This charge comes to about fifteen percent of the bill, so it’s like they’ve included the tip for you. If you decide to tip, just do as the Italians do and leave a few coins.
Looking for more Italian travel tips? Ask your Trips 2 Italy representative for more information. They’ll be able to help you navigate the country with ease. Trips 2 Italy will offer more travel tips to help you truly experience the charm and delectable wonder of Italy!