So I’m fresh back in the states after my first visit to Italy last month. It was a semi-spontaneous trip that was planned for my birthday (February 11) because of other plans that fell through. Really, it was a lesson to be thankful for closed doors because Italy is a gorgeous country, and the history astounded me every day. What an amazing trip to be able to see and hear about everything I’ve read in history books growing up. NOTHING beats learning about something by seeing it with your own eyes.
Nevertheless, after countless research, I hadn’t read anyone mention these five things. Though they are small details, it would’ve been nice to know what to expect. Coming from the US, this might have been a tiny bit of culture shock. Though, it definitely didn’t ruin my time in Italy, and I’d definitely go back in a heartbeat (Hellooooo repeat trip to Firenze!). Here are the 5 things nobody told me about Italy before I visited. In addition, five beautiful pictures of Italy to still encourage you to GO.
1. Dogs are EVERYWHERE.
As a dog lover, I was tickled to death when I saw all the pooches! And as a dachshund lover, I just about tinkled with excitement when I saw a majority of people, in Rome specifically, walking their dachshunds! I once even saw four playing with each other in a piazza….and yes I totally squealed when I saw these cuties. Most of the dogs we saw were smaller, but all were very well behaved while walking through the large crowds.
2. Public toilets don’t have toilet seats.
No, I do not mean no toilet covers… I mean no toilet seats. I’m not typically a germaphobe, but it’s quite startling to walk into a public bathroom (in a restaurant, train station…anywhere except our hotel) to find a toilet covered in pee. Only time in my life I wished I could pee standing up. Now, this detail didn’t ruin my trip, and we were fortunate to find ONE public bathroom that had a toilet seat and was especially clean. Nevertheless, this is just something I would’ve liked to have read about before arriving…. You know, to brace myself so I’m not completely shocked, and unsure of what to do with a full bladder.
Plus, if I have to pay to use public toilets, I would hope they were beautiful. Public toilets in the USA aren’t always beautiful (gas/petrol station bathrooms for example…), but as a majority, they aren’t covered in visible urine. But hey, perhaps we were just very unfortunate with 95% of the bathrooms we saw.
3. There are a lot of smokers.
I haven’t been all over Europe (yet) so I can’t say if this is European culture or just Italy. Compared to the US, I noticed 2x as many people smoking in Italy than back home. We have plenty of smokers in the states, but they’re usually off to the side to quickly finish their cigarette before they go on with their day or task. It seemed to be more of a social construct in Italy, and unfortunately, for me, I experienced more smoke clouds in my face than I would’ve liked.
4. The overwhelming wandering “salesmen” in tourist hot spots.
I think you know what I mean—those guys holding bracelets, random bowls, scarves, or any other item hounding tourists. I swear these guys were worse than the Jamaicans trying to sell me weed brownies on Negril Beach. In Jamaica, you say “no thank you,” walk away, and that’s it. If you walk past them again, they leave you alone. These salesmen (which, disclaimer, aren’t of Italian descent) will shove it in your face no matter how many times you say “No!” How come nobody mentions these people?
5. YES, you CAN find a standard restaurant to eat at 5:00 PM
I lost track how many articles and blog posts I’ve read saying, “Italians eat dinner at 7:00 PM so you won’t find a standard restaurant open before then.” They followed this with advice on best cafes to get a sandwich and other light snack foods. While they’re probably correct on the fact that Italian culture means 7 PM is dinner time, they made it seem absolutely impossible 100% to find a restaurant open earlier. We found this incredibly false, which to us was a nice surprise. Depending on our schedule, we ate at standard restaurants at 4pm, 5-6, and even after 7:30 PM.
I’m sure, though, this depends on different variables. Are you staying in a small town or visiting a big city like Rome, Florence, Venice, or Milan? Maybe a more touristy spot? Are you in a hotel or an airbnb just outside the city? Plus so many more. In Rome, we stayed in a relatively touristy spot. (The obvious indicator of 10 souvenir shops on each block surrounding our hotel). In Florence, our locationfelt a little more residential, and we had to walk a bit further to hit any shopping areas.
We all know information gets repetitive on the internet, so I wanted to share something different about my experience there! I’d absolutely love to hear your “nobody told me…” stories in the comments! What’s something nobody told you, or didn’t come up in your research, about a country or city you visited for the first time?