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Summer Vacations in Italy: Essential Travel Phrases and Tips

Planning a summer trip to Italy? Unsure of what to do or in doubt about what to say in the most common situations? Well, have no fear and keep reading! We’ll unfold some basic travel vocabulary and give some essential tips.


First things first: Despite being tiny, Italy has very diverse landscapes and climates, so all four seasons are good for a visit. Summer is generally very warm, if not hot, everywhere. In the last few years, as everywhere else, temperatures and humidity have been steadily higher than the pre-global warming usual. So, given the rules of common-sense, cities are generally warmer, while mountains offer a break from the heat, at least overnight. From there, it’s up to you! Pick Northern Italy if you’re into mountains, lakes, art, and unique gems. See Venice and Central Italy for art and sweet fairy-tale hills, or visit Southern Italy for art (again!) and the gorgeous sea and seaside towns. Aside from art and history, which you’ll find everywhere, another common feature is food, an essential part of the Italian experience everywhere you go.


Basic Travel Vocabulary

Regardless of where you’ll be and what you’ll do, you will interact with locals. When it comes to speaking English, Italians are not the biggest champs, but in most touristy destinations, people speak a little bit of (often broken) English and are willing to help. Also, you’ll be there to practice your Italian, won’t you? Don’t be afraid: Italians are usually willing to communicate, even when your Italian is not impeccable—in fact, they will likely help you with that!


The first rule that might not be super obvious to English speakers is linguistic, but also cultural—that is, using formal versus informal address. While the golden rule is “use the informal address with people you would call by their first name and the formal with everyone else,” in reality, things are not that well defined. When entering a store, young sales assistants would probably greet you—meaning, in general, teenagers and young adults—with a Ciao and would use the tu, informal address. An exchange between two young adults, even strangers, with the formal Lei would sound really odd in anything but an unmistakably formal situation. When in doubt, you may ask Posso darti del tu? (May I use the informal address?)—or, to be on the safer side, wait for the other person to ask you that.


Quanto costa? /Quanto costano? is how you ask for a price. Or you can just say Quanto? and indicate the item you’re interested in. When stating prices, Italians say tre e quaranta to indicate tre (euro) e quaranta (centesimi). Note that tipping is not expected in caffè, bar, pizzerie, trattorie, osterie or any other informal place where you have food or drinks.


Say Cosa significa? when you don’t understand something; Non capisco, può/puoi parlare più piano?  when you’re confused because of the speaker’s pace (Italians tend to speak very fast), and do not forget your per piacere/favore, grazie (mille), and prego, making sure to follow your basic how-to-be-polite rules. Basically, be open and nice, and you’ll have no issues. Do not be shy about showing  off some specific or difficult terms; you’ll be complimented!


Tips and Tricks

In addition to the tipping etiquette mentioned above, interacting with Italians is just a matter of common sense and politeness, pretty much like everywhere else. Here some tips to avoid missteps whose consequences would be funny, even in the worst-case scenario (so, no sweat!): Do not order a cappuccino after breakfast time, let alone with a meal. Do not ask for latte (unless you’d like a glass of milk) or any complex coffee mix, just order un caffè—no need to specify espresso, since caffè IS espresso in Italy. Do not order a salad as a side to pizza, or even ask to share a pizza—as the rule is one person, one pizza. Do not expect garlic bread to be served with your meal—you’ll receive plain bread instead, and maybe grissini or some other type of garlic-free bread-like product. Do not show up at restaurants at 5:30 p.m.; dinner starts at 8:00 p.m. As we said, the worst thing that can happen is that you’ll be labeled as a tourist, so no big deal, but it’s nice to blend with locals, so Quando sei a Roma, fai come i Romani (no translation needed, right?). As an alternative, and in case you really are homesick, just know that Starbucks are popping up in major cities. Buone vacanze!



By Claudia Quesito


Also read:

Exploring Italy (In Person or from Home): A 2023 Summer Guide

Why You Should Go to Italy for Your Summer Abroad Program

12 months to visit Italy


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Gelato: Exploring Italian Gelato Culture
7 days ago

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