General FAQs for Italy Travel

Planning an upcoming Italy trip? There are many questions I constantly receive so save this FREE guide to save you time from searching hours online, before your Italy travels. From dining, travel, customs, transportation questions, make sure to save this guide to be updated!
ago
Free

Dining

What is a coperto?

A coperto is essentially a table tax. For restaurants this helps cover the cost of supplies like napkins. You're only charged this if you sit down at a restaurant. It is not a tip / nor does it go towards the staff for a tip.

What Time Do Italians Eat?

Typically lunch is around 12:30-15:00. Most restaurants open around 12:00 and close around 14:00-14:30. 

La Scarpetta

You see the bread sitting on your table as you wait for your meal to arrive. DON'T EAT IT.

First off, if you're in Florence for example, expect saltless, flavorless bread. During the Middle Ages, when Pisa was in power, salt was heavily taxed, so the Florentines decided, they didn't want to pay it, so they stopped using it in their bread. Even after the tax was lifted, the salt was never included back into Florentine bread, as the rest of the meals already have so much flavor, extra salt wasn't deemed necessary.

In Italy, scarpetta means soaking up all the sauce left on your plate (with bread. The literal meaning of the term is “little shoe,” which comes from the fact that a shoe, just like the bread on the plate, drags up what's on the ground. Instead of eating your bread that is put on the table at the beginning, before your meal, if you want to be like a local, make sure to save your bread for the end of the meal instead, to soak up all your pasta sauce. 

Are Credit Cards Accepted?

Back a few years, it was very rare to use credit cards in Italy, but nowadays most restaurants, bars, cafes accept and use credit cards. I always tell people to carry cash on them, because many places don't want you to use a credit card for small purchases OR you can get better deals/discounts if you pay in cash. 

Also some restaurants don't like to split bills, so it's best to bring cash to contribute and let one person put their card down.

Some taxis accept credit cards, while others don't.

Is Tipping Expected?

Tipping is never expected (while dining)***, but greatly appreciated. Usually people will round up the bill a couple euros, or leave something small if they feel inclined or that the service was really nice.

***This expectation is a little more critical for tour guides however*** 

My "Secondo" Didn't Come with Anything... Why?

In Italy, it is not normal to order a "Secondo" or meat/fish dish and expect a side with it. For example if you order a filetto or chicken it will arrive on the plate, usually, just the meat. If you want some veggies or a salad, or potatoes, you must order a "Contorno" side dish with it, which is very normal for Italians.  Unlike in America, where many restaurants serve a fish or meat with 2 sides on the same plate.  

Following along with this, pasta is not served WITH a meat dish. Pasta or "Primi" dishes are served before the "Secondi" or second courses, not together. So you won't find certain Americanized-Italian dishes like chicken parmigiana with a side of penne pasta. 

What is an Italian Breakfast?

A typical Italian breakfast is a coffee of some sort and a pastry. Italians typically eat very sweet breakfasts. Cornetti (croissants) and other pastry items are very common.

I ordered a Latte, but why did I get a glass of Milk?

In Italian, Latte means milk. If you want an espresso with some milk in it, you can get a caffè macchiato or a cappuccino.

Driving

If you've decided to rent a car here's some tips:

1. Make sure to already have an IDP (Intl Driving Permit).

US licenses aren't valid as a drivers license in Italy, without an IDP, which you can easily get online or at AAA before leaving America. 

2. Autovelox  - SPEED TRAPS

So many tourists have an enjoyable trip and go home to find their mailbox FULL of fines from their rental car service in Italy.. why, well often for 2 reasons, the first being the Autovelox speed traps.  

I highly recommend downloading and using Waze for directions in the car, as the settings (make sure yours are on) are set up to alert you for the autovelox speed cameras. 

It's also important to know because most Italians drive WAY past the speed limit and know where the autovelox machines are, thus SLAMMING on their breaks at the last second to not get "caught" by the speed cameras, just to then take off flying again. To avoid getting in an accident and rear ending a car, be sure to be aware of these speed cameras.  

3. ZTL - Zone Traffic Limitations

Most historic cities in Italy have ZTL which means the area is controlled and does not allow for traffic to enter at all times. There are specific hours/days when you can drive in a ZTL area otherwise, the cameras will catch you and you will arrive home with some hefty fines. Usually it's best to park outside the ZTL area, and walk within the city. 

You will typically see images like this: and if it says ZTL Attiva - or is RED you shouldn't enter, only enter if the black sign is lit GREEN

4. Driving Toll Roads

Gates dedicated to Telepass customers have signs above the projecting roof with a yellow background and the wording "reserved for TELEPASS customers".

All the other gates that issue tickets are marked by signs placed below at the entrance to the gate. Make sure to take a ticket and don't just drive directly through when entering. 

When exiting you will give the ticket and pay the fee. There are specific lanes for Telepass, credit card or cash. 

Transportation

Where to buy tickets for the bus/trains?

For bus tickets you can go to a Tabacchi/Tabaccheria and simply ask the person at the counter for a bus ticket. In Florence, if you're traveling within the city (the urban lines) it should cost €1.50. (The extra-urban lines, into the countryside for example, cost a little more) Some of the larger bus stops, where many bus lines pass through (like Piazza San Marco or Fiesole) have a little machine that you can buy your ticket at, and pay with card/cash but not always) It also depends which city you are in. For example, in Bologna you can buy your bus ticket ON the bus from one of the little machines, whereas in Florence no. 

***Make sure to validate your ticket once you get on the bus. 

For train tickets you have essentially 2 options. Online or at the train station. Trenitalia is the main rail system in Italy, (where you can take either the fast train or the regional train). There is also Italo, which sometimes gives you more fast train options and different (sometimes cheaper prices) 

Italo is a private train line in Florence that offers fast trains to major cities.

I found this website, Trainline, for looking up overnight trains to other countries from Italy. 

Do I need to buy my train tickets in advanced?

I would say it always depends where you want to go. Some trains, (regional) don't typically change prices, however the fast trains do and some trains will sell out (not super common - but especially in summer, depending where you go - it does happen). 

For the best prices, book directly with the train operator as far ahead as possible. If you're an advance planner, you might feel more secure purchasing your tickets in advance and having all your travel days and train journeys planned out. If you want more flexibility during your trip, you can wait and purchase tickets as late as the same day or travel, but be aware that for busy Frecce and Italo train routes, your first choice of train time might not be available. Tickets go on sale 4 months before travel, and the cheapest tickets often sell out quickly. The prices keep going up as the travel date gets closer. Regional trains don't always change prices, since they are the slow-cheapest trains, but they may run out.

Do I need to validate my train ticket?

If you buy your ticket online, there is no need to validate it before boarding. However, if you buy your ticket from the station you must validate at the platform prior to boarding your train.

Is there Uber?

Most cities don't have Uber in Italy, or if they do, it really just connects you to a taxi service via the app. 

AppTaxi, FreeNow, itTaxi are a few options where you can order a taxi and pay through the app.

Taxis

Why don't Taxis stop when I flag them down?

Taxis will not pull over for you if you're standing at a random corner, trying to flag one down, unlike NYC. In Italy, there are specific taxi stations, where taxis line up for passengers and you must get in line to wait for your taxi. They will NOT stop on the street for you. 

For example in Florence you will find them at the major squares or airport/train stations or you can call ahead and reserve where they will come pick you up from.

- Florence Airport - as you exit the airport turn right immediately

- Outside the Firenze SMN Train Station

- Piazza Santa Croce

- Piazza Santa Maria Novella.

Can I call and Reserve a Taxi in advance? 

Yes! There is a small reservation/calling fee, that will be included in your fare. You can call this number +39 0554242 and reserve your taxi in advance. 

Or you can use the app AppTaxi to reserve or call a taxi.

Taxi Costs

FROM Florence, here's the costs offered as approximate from the 4242.it website:

From Firenze Vespucci Airport within the central area of the city and vice versaDaily rate (6:00 – 22:00): € 22,00Night rate (22.00 – 6.00): € 25,30Holiday rate: € 24,00

PREDETERMINED RATES

For each rate below, any baggage surcharge (€1.00 each) must be added.15€ – Torregalli Hospital22€ – Amerigo Vespucci Firenze Airport10€ – Campo di Marte Station10€ – Rifredi Station10€ – Novoli University Area

**This is not advertised on the site but I have heard if you are a woman traveling in the city center and have to get back to your hotel or apartment alone at night, take the taxi! Be safe and get a 10% discount off the fare if you travel alone between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. - the discount isn't automatic, so ASK FOR IT!

Are Taxis Accessible for People with Wheelchairs? 

Taxis are accessible to people with disabilities with the possibility of transporting companions as well.

Sightseeing

Do I need to book things in advanced?

Tickets to museums (all depends where) and tours could sell out days before, so it's best to reserve your spots in advanced. 

I lost something

In Florence, the police visit Lost and Found Firenze three times a week to drop keys, bags and wallets and many other things found on the street. Go to Oggetti Trovati Via Veracini n.5 int.5 in the piazza Puccini neighborhood - there are a lot of keys usually.

What to Wear

Do I need to cover up for churches? 

Yes! If you plan to visit religious sites, like the Vatican, the Duomo, and other smaller churches, remember that they are religious sites, so covering shoulders and knees is usually necessary. During hot summer months, pack a light shawl, or scarf, to cover up and a long skirt or light, flowy pants (linen!)

If this doesn't answer all your questions, remember to book a phone consultation! 

And check out my FREE Complete Italy Guide

For more information on travels to Florence, Rome, Bologna, Veneto, Puglia and more!

Thank you for your support!

I hope you have a great trip! If you appreciated this map at all, please consider leaving a tip and spreading the word to anyone you know about this service. Thank you so much for your support!

* * *
CURATED BY
Ciao! My name is Danielle and I'm a Californian from San Diego, who's been living full time in Florence, Italy since 2020. I studied in Florence in 2016 and absolutely fell in love with the food, culture, and history, and made it my mission to move back. I moved right before the pandemic, and staying here through all the lockdowns and pandemic life really helped me discover slow travel and find all of Italy's beauty, including lesser known gems, and off the beaten path travel spots. During my three years in Florence, I have wrote for publications like The Florentine, done freelance marketing with restaurants and a travel agency, giving me high insight into the best destinations, foodie spots, and more. I am here to help you make the most of your vacation in Italy with curated itineraries for every type of traveler and digital maps to help you enjoy THE BEST food each region has to offer. Let me do the work so you can just relax and enjoy, without any stress! I've had a very unique experience living in Italy the last 4 years, as I made my official move right before the pandemic, after visiting for years. Because of this I learned to travel locally and deeply throughout the numerous incredible destinations in Italy and for that I cater my travel services to finding the most local and mindful experiences, keeping true to discovering and appreciating Italy's culture.
Send A Tip
Support Danielle Cohen’s work.
Select your tip amount
$5
$10
$20
$50
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Powered by Thatch
The home for unique & authentic travel
Powered by Thatch: Where great trips are made.
© Danielle Cohen Privacy Terms

General FAQs for Italy Travel

Planning an upcoming Italy trip? There are many questions I constantly receive so save this FREE guide to save you time from searching hours online, before your Italy travels. From dining, travel, customs, transportation questions, make sure to save this guide to be updated!
ago
Free

Dining

What is a coperto?

A coperto is essentially a table tax. For restaurants this helps cover the cost of supplies like napkins. You're only charged this if you sit down at a restaurant. It is not a tip / nor does it go towards the staff for a tip.

What Time Do Italians Eat?

Typically lunch is around 12:30-15:00. Most restaurants open around 12:00 and close around 14:00-14:30. 

La Scarpetta

You see the bread sitting on your table as you wait for your meal to arrive. DON'T EAT IT.

First off, if you're in Florence for example, expect saltless, flavorless bread. During the Middle Ages, when Pisa was in power, salt was heavily taxed, so the Florentines decided, they didn't want to pay it, so they stopped using it in their bread. Even after the tax was lifted, the salt was never included back into Florentine bread, as the rest of the meals already have so much flavor, extra salt wasn't deemed necessary.

In Italy, scarpetta means soaking up all the sauce left on your plate (with bread. The literal meaning of the term is “little shoe,” which comes from the fact that a shoe, just like the bread on the plate, drags up what's on the ground. Instead of eating your bread that is put on the table at the beginning, before your meal, if you want to be like a local, make sure to save your bread for the end of the meal instead, to soak up all your pasta sauce. 

Are Credit Cards Accepted?

Back a few years, it was very rare to use credit cards in Italy, but nowadays most restaurants, bars, cafes accept and use credit cards. I always tell people to carry cash on them, because many places don't want you to use a credit card for small purchases OR you can get better deals/discounts if you pay in cash. 

Also some restaurants don't like to split bills, so it's best to bring cash to contribute and let one person put their card down.

Some taxis accept credit cards, while others don't.

Is Tipping Expected?

Tipping is never expected (while dining)***, but greatly appreciated. Usually people will round up the bill a couple euros, or leave something small if they feel inclined or that the service was really nice.

***This expectation is a little more critical for tour guides however*** 

My "Secondo" Didn't Come with Anything... Why?

In Italy, it is not normal to order a "Secondo" or meat/fish dish and expect a side with it. For example if you order a filetto or chicken it will arrive on the plate, usually, just the meat. If you want some veggies or a salad, or potatoes, you must order a "Contorno" side dish with it, which is very normal for Italians.  Unlike in America, where many restaurants serve a fish or meat with 2 sides on the same plate.  

Following along with this, pasta is not served WITH a meat dish. Pasta or "Primi" dishes are served before the "Secondi" or second courses, not together. So you won't find certain Americanized-Italian dishes like chicken parmigiana with a side of penne pasta. 

What is an Italian Breakfast?

A typical Italian breakfast is a coffee of some sort and a pastry. Italians typically eat very sweet breakfasts. Cornetti (croissants) and other pastry items are very common.

I ordered a Latte, but why did I get a glass of Milk?

In Italian, Latte means milk. If you want an espresso with some milk in it, you can get a caffè macchiato or a cappuccino.

Driving

If you've decided to rent a car here's some tips:

1. Make sure to already have an IDP (Intl Driving Permit).

US licenses aren't valid as a drivers license in Italy, without an IDP, which you can easily get online or at AAA before leaving America. 

2. Autovelox  - SPEED TRAPS

So many tourists have an enjoyable trip and go home to find their mailbox FULL of fines from their rental car service in Italy.. why, well often for 2 reasons, the first being the Autovelox speed traps.  

I highly recommend downloading and using Waze for directions in the car, as the settings (make sure yours are on) are set up to alert you for the autovelox speed cameras. 

It's also important to know because most Italians drive WAY past the speed limit and know where the autovelox machines are, thus SLAMMING on their breaks at the last second to not get "caught" by the speed cameras, just to then take off flying again. To avoid getting in an accident and rear ending a car, be sure to be aware of these speed cameras.  

3. ZTL - Zone Traffic Limitations

Most historic cities in Italy have ZTL which means the area is controlled and does not allow for traffic to enter at all times. There are specific hours/days when you can drive in a ZTL area otherwise, the cameras will catch you and you will arrive home with some hefty fines. Usually it's best to park outside the ZTL area, and walk within the city. 

You will typically see images like this: and if it says ZTL Attiva - or is RED you shouldn't enter, only enter if the black sign is lit GREEN

4. Driving Toll Roads

Gates dedicated to Telepass customers have signs above the projecting roof with a yellow background and the wording "reserved for TELEPASS customers".

All the other gates that issue tickets are marked by signs placed below at the entrance to the gate. Make sure to take a ticket and don't just drive directly through when entering. 

When exiting you will give the ticket and pay the fee. There are specific lanes for Telepass, credit card or cash. 

Transportation

Where to buy tickets for the bus/trains?

For bus tickets you can go to a Tabacchi/Tabaccheria and simply ask the person at the counter for a bus ticket. In Florence, if you're traveling within the city (the urban lines) it should cost €1.50. (The extra-urban lines, into the countryside for example, cost a little more) Some of the larger bus stops, where many bus lines pass through (like Piazza San Marco or Fiesole) have a little machine that you can buy your ticket at, and pay with card/cash but not always) It also depends which city you are in. For example, in Bologna you can buy your bus ticket ON the bus from one of the little machines, whereas in Florence no. 

***Make sure to validate your ticket once you get on the bus. 

For train tickets you have essentially 2 options. Online or at the train station. Trenitalia is the main rail system in Italy, (where you can take either the fast train or the regional train). There is also Italo, which sometimes gives you more fast train options and different (sometimes cheaper prices) 

Italo is a private train line in Florence that offers fast trains to major cities.

I found this website, Trainline, for looking up overnight trains to other countries from Italy. 

Do I need to buy my train tickets in advanced?

I would say it always depends where you want to go. Some trains, (regional) don't typically change prices, however the fast trains do and some trains will sell out (not super common - but especially in summer, depending where you go - it does happen). 

For the best prices, book directly with the train operator as far ahead as possible. If you're an advance planner, you might feel more secure purchasing your tickets in advance and having all your travel days and train journeys planned out. If you want more flexibility during your trip, you can wait and purchase tickets as late as the same day or travel, but be aware that for busy Frecce and Italo train routes, your first choice of train time might not be available. Tickets go on sale 4 months before travel, and the cheapest tickets often sell out quickly. The prices keep going up as the travel date gets closer. Regional trains don't always change prices, since they are the slow-cheapest trains, but they may run out.

Do I need to validate my train ticket?

If you buy your ticket online, there is no need to validate it before boarding. However, if you buy your ticket from the station you must validate at the platform prior to boarding your train.

Is there Uber?

Most cities don't have Uber in Italy, or if they do, it really just connects you to a taxi service via the app. 

AppTaxi, FreeNow, itTaxi are a few options where you can order a taxi and pay through the app.

Taxis

Why don't Taxis stop when I flag them down?

Taxis will not pull over for you if you're standing at a random corner, trying to flag one down, unlike NYC. In Italy, there are specific taxi stations, where taxis line up for passengers and you must get in line to wait for your taxi. They will NOT stop on the street for you. 

For example in Florence you will find them at the major squares or airport/train stations or you can call ahead and reserve where they will come pick you up from.

- Florence Airport - as you exit the airport turn right immediately

- Outside the Firenze SMN Train Station

- Piazza Santa Croce

- Piazza Santa Maria Novella.

Can I call and Reserve a Taxi in advance? 

Yes! There is a small reservation/calling fee, that will be included in your fare. You can call this number +39 0554242 and reserve your taxi in advance. 

Or you can use the app AppTaxi to reserve or call a taxi.

Taxi Costs

FROM Florence, here's the costs offered as approximate from the 4242.it website:

From Firenze Vespucci Airport within the central area of the city and vice versaDaily rate (6:00 – 22:00): € 22,00Night rate (22.00 – 6.00): € 25,30Holiday rate: € 24,00

PREDETERMINED RATES

For each rate below, any baggage surcharge (€1.00 each) must be added.15€ – Torregalli Hospital22€ – Amerigo Vespucci Firenze Airport10€ – Campo di Marte Station10€ – Rifredi Station10€ – Novoli University Area

**This is not advertised on the site but I have heard if you are a woman traveling in the city center and have to get back to your hotel or apartment alone at night, take the taxi! Be safe and get a 10% discount off the fare if you travel alone between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. - the discount isn't automatic, so ASK FOR IT!

Are Taxis Accessible for People with Wheelchairs? 

Taxis are accessible to people with disabilities with the possibility of transporting companions as well.

Sightseeing

Do I need to book things in advanced?

Tickets to museums (all depends where) and tours could sell out days before, so it's best to reserve your spots in advanced. 

I lost something

In Florence, the police visit Lost and Found Firenze three times a week to drop keys, bags and wallets and many other things found on the street. Go to Oggetti Trovati Via Veracini n.5 int.5 in the piazza Puccini neighborhood - there are a lot of keys usually.

What to Wear

Do I need to cover up for churches? 

Yes! If you plan to visit religious sites, like the Vatican, the Duomo, and other smaller churches, remember that they are religious sites, so covering shoulders and knees is usually necessary. During hot summer months, pack a light shawl, or scarf, to cover up and a long skirt or light, flowy pants (linen!)

If this doesn't answer all your questions, remember to book a phone consultation! 

And check out my FREE Complete Italy Guide

For more information on travels to Florence, Rome, Bologna, Veneto, Puglia and more!

Thank you for your support!

I hope you have a great trip! If you appreciated this map at all, please consider leaving a tip and spreading the word to anyone you know about this service. Thank you so much for your support!

* * *
CURATED BY
Ciao! My name is Danielle and I'm a Californian from San Diego, who's been living full time in Florence, Italy since 2020. I studied in Florence in 2016 and absolutely fell in love with the food, culture, and history, and made it my mission to move back. I moved right before the pandemic, and staying here through all the lockdowns and pandemic life really helped me discover slow travel and find all of Italy's beauty, including lesser known gems, and off the beaten path travel spots. During my three years in Florence, I have wrote for publications like The Florentine, done freelance marketing with restaurants and a travel agency, giving me high insight into the best destinations, foodie spots, and more. I am here to help you make the most of your vacation in Italy with curated itineraries for every type of traveler and digital maps to help you enjoy THE BEST food each region has to offer. Let me do the work so you can just relax and enjoy, without any stress! I've had a very unique experience living in Italy the last 4 years, as I made my official move right before the pandemic, after visiting for years. Because of this I learned to travel locally and deeply throughout the numerous incredible destinations in Italy and for that I cater my travel services to finding the most local and mindful experiences, keeping true to discovering and appreciating Italy's culture.
Send A Tip
Support Danielle Cohen’s work.
Select your tip amount
$5
$10
$20
$50
Or type in other amount
Powered by Thatch
The home for unique & authentic travel
Powered by Thatch: Where great trips are made.
© Danielle Cohen Privacy Terms