16 Common Travel Mistakes in Italy and How to Avoid Them

Steve Cummings

Italy is one of the most popular countries to visit for a summer vacation and with good reason. There are thousands of things to see and do: new experiences, history lessons, sunbathing at out-of-this-world beaches, and much more. Many people must realize that although you may come across many English speakers and expat Americans living in Italy, it is a different place with different rules and customs. 

Therefore, when planning your trip to Italy, you must pay close attention to the travel mistakes many people have made before you and avoid them.

Our guide examines some of the most common travel mistakes in Italy so you won't have to. 

1. Not Booking the Most Popular Attractions and Sights in Advance

Milan Italy
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One travel mistake in Italy is not booking their tickets for admission to the biggest and most popular places around the country before arriving there. The most popular sites like the Sistine Chapel, the Colosseum, and many of the churches where great works of art like Di Vinci's fresco of The Last Supper have exceptionally long queues if you decide to turn up on the day and try your luck on getting in. 

Like most places nowadays, many of the biggest draws in Italy offer the choice to book advanced entrance tickets, which means you can turn up on the day you have arranged to visit and then skip the general admission queues and explore. It also helps you save a little money by reducing the waiting time, which is handy if you have a tight itinerary. 

2. Always Eating the Same Food

Fast food apps
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If you are traveling around many different places throughout Italy but are not particularly adventurous, you may miss out on the culinary delights of other regions. Although not an Italian travel mistake, you should avoid sticking to what you know and plunge into the regional tastes of wherever you are. You can get gelato, pizza, and pasta anywhere, but things like Bistecca alla Fiorentina from Florence and risotto from Milan will give you an even more memorable experience.

Try asking the wait staff in the different locations what they would recommend. You may be surprised what you discover as a local delicacy and how tasty it really is. 

3. Eating In Tourist Trap Restaurants

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Too often, too many travelers fall for the same tricks of the trade and eat in Italian tourist traps in and around Italy. Look out for the tell-tale signs, like the menu being in 5 different languages. That tells you that it won't be the most authentic dining experience. One of your friends when trying to find genuinely good authentic Italian restaurants and eateries is Google, places like TripAdvisor, and our blog here. 

Avoid the enormous, sprawling menus with all the flags and all the languages, and look for the more subtle and conservative places with just Italian on the menus. 

4. Trying to Avoid the Reasonable Coperto

Waiter serving water
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In most restaurants across Italy, you will find a Coperto. However, in Lazio and its central city of Rome, it is technically against the law. This is standard practice and usually amounts to an added 1 to 3 euros on your bill. If you are wondering, “what is a Coperto in English,” it simply means “cover charge.”

It is not a con designed to fool tourists, as locals also pay for it. So don't turn around and walk out of a restaurant just because they ask for this, or worse yet, try to argue your way out of having to pay for it. Just accept it and move on.

5. Not Understanding Italian Breakfast Culture and Italian Coffee Culture

French Pastries
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In many ways, Italy is much the same as France; they don't tend to have egg dishes for breakfast. Therefore, if you find yourself in a café or eatery serving eggs at breakfast, you are in a tourist restaurant, not a more authentic Italian restaurant.

Similarly to France, Italian breakfasts consist of coffee and pastry, known as Caffe e cornetto. This is usually eaten and drunk standing at the coffee bar.

Another bonus tip is not drinking cappuccino in Italy after 11 in the morning, as it is not the done thing. You should avoid asking for these or similarly heavy drinks after a meal.  

6. Not Learning Italian

travel apps
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While we're not suggesting that you become fluent in Italian before you visit the country, it does help you understand the language a little. Most Italians in the tourism industry speak a certain amount of English. As well as making it easier to navigate around the country, it is also a polite and fun way to enhance your Italian adventure.

The locals are generally very gracious when you try to speak to them in their native language and will always be very patient and friendly if you at least give it a shot. 

7. Trying to Pay for Everything With Plastic

Credit cards

It's 2024, of course, and Italy is a forward-thinking country; therefore, credit and debit cards are accepted in most places. However, if you are wondering, “Do I need to take Euros to Italy?”, know that there are times when you can only pay for things, usually small items like gelato and coffee, with cash. Without extensive research, you never know when the next hotel, tourist attraction, café, or restaurant will be a cash-only establishment. So, it makes sense to go prepared with some spending money in cash and some on your plastic.

8. Not Familiarizing Yourself With Opening and Closing Times Before Arriving

This is a common Italian travel mistake that people need to correct. They assume that all places will always be open. In Italy, most of the major museums are closed on Mondays. That includes Florence's Uffizi and Rome's Borghese. While Pompeii is available every day, and Vatican Museums are only closed on Sundays. 

Restaurants and dining times are different in Italy, too, as most Italian restaurants are only open between 6 or 7 pm and 10 pm. Pizzerias are one of the main exceptions to this rule, though. 

So, it's always a good idea to familiarize yourself with the opening and closing times of the places you are planning on going so you can plan your trip more efficiently to avoid disappointment.

9. Not Validating Your Paper Printed Train Ticket 

Woman with Flight Tickets
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Many visitors to Rome and Italy need to realize that if you buy a paper train ticket through Trenitalia, which covers Leonardo Express, a famous journey from the airport to the city, you must validate your ticket before boarding your train.

You will find a small machine on the platform where you do this – so make sure you don't accidentally walk by and forget. What's the big deal, you may ask? If you don't have a validated ticket, you can be fined and even told to get off the train. 

The easiest way to avoid this is to buy your train tickets online and store them on your cell phone rather than carrying paper tickets. Digital tickets do not need validation. 

10. Avoiding All Tours

Old Town Trolley Tour
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We're not suggesting you can't go off the beaten path and discover the “real Italy” yourself. Places like Rome, Milan, and Naples are easy enough to get strategically lost in without hassle. However, not all guided tours are tourist traps, and some allow you to visit many key locations, sights, and attractions in one smaller period with the benefit of a local who can give you interesting insights and facts about the particular landmark or destination you are visiting. 

A good idea is to mix things up. Handle a lot of the traveling on your own if you feel confident, but then take some of the high-scoring tours for the places where insider knowledge can be helpful and an enhancement to the overall experience. 

11. Dressing Inappropriately

designer clothes
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When doing our research, we found a lot of questions about what to wear in Italy in the summer. Generally speaking, Italy is not a very modest or religious country. However, many attractions are very sacred places of worship with a strict dress code you are expected to follow. You must stick to the dress code to enter, whether or not you have paid for entry. For example, men and women should have a shawl or scarf to keep their elbows, knees, and shoulders covered when walking into places of worship and wear full pants and closed-toe shoes for many places, too. 

If you have any doubts about the rules and regulations of specific places, there will usually be information on their websites. You can always phone the establishment before your trip if you have further questions. 

12. Tipping

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While this is not the biggest and most heinous mistake you could make when traveling in Italy, tipping in Italy unnecessarily may draw curious and confused looks from locals. Unlike the US, where wait staff rely on the generosity of the people they serve to supplement their pay with tips, Italian restaurants and bars pay their staff well. It is not expected or even customary to tip. Usually, as mentioned earlier, there is a cover charge that covers everything, like the extras of olives, oil, and bread that are brought to your table. If you feel compelled to because you received excellent service, leave a small tip, but don't feel obliged to. 

13. Not Checking the Weather in Advance

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It is essential to understand that the weather in Italy in summer is scorching, so you must dress accordingly and even plan your trip based on what the weather will be like. Many of the modern and historic buildings lack the air conditioning that places in the US have. This may mean that your trip to a particular museum or church is less comfortable and enjoyable during the hottest part of the day.

You don't need to plan things thoroughly to align with the perfect weather, but knowing the seasons and when it will be blazing hot or freezing cold is essential. 

14. Stick to Small “Small Talk”

Two old men having conversation
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Okay, this is pretty self-explanatory in the most general sense if you were traveling anywhere. You want to make sure you refrain from starting conversations on hotbed topics. Remember, Italians are proud of their heritage, cuisine, and culture, so if you start speaking negatively about them, it's likely to go down badly. Avoid mafia references and anything about the differences between the North and the South. 

15. Don't Cut pasta or have Parmesan on Seafood Pasta.


These are rules to ensure you don't look like a fool and stir up contempt in the wait staff and locals. When you have pasta, like spaghetti or tagliatelle, in Italy, you do not cut it with a knife and do not use a spoon to eat it. It would be best if you ate it with a fork. Also, the biggest bad thing you can do with pasta is ask for parmesan if you have a seafood pasta dish. If you doubt whether you should or shouldn't request parmesan, don't go to any place that doesn't provide it as standard.

16. Don't Touch Stuff When Shopping

Grocery Shopping Assistance
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Finally, and this is important when getting involved in retail therapy, you must ensure you refrain from touching the merchandise you are looking at. Always ask the store assistant for help, and if you are buying fresh fruit and veggies, plastic gloves will be available for you to wear to handle them. 

Final Thoughts

It may sound like a strict place from our guide, but Italy is a very relaxed and friendly country, and these Italian travel mistakes will never get you into any real trouble. If you stick to our tips and recommendations and try to observe their customs and rules, you should have faux pas-free time. If you make a mistake, you can always apologize, in Italian, to show you are genuinely sorry for any offense or upset your actions may have caused. Italians are reasonable people, after all, and are unlikely to forever hold a simple mistake against you.

Are there any other faux pas we should mention in the guide above? Please let us know in the comments section above so we can help anyone visiting Italy have the best experience.

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