Italians take dress very seriously, therefore smart clothing should be worn, especially in business settings where it is recommended that both men and women wear suits. Outside business, casual clothing is fine, but stay tidy if you don’t want to feel out of place. Italians dress up whenever possible, so wear a jacket and smart trousers to restaurants and theatres.
Greeting Someone in Italy
The Italians are keen on the most enthusiastic forms of greeting. Hugs, kisses and handshakes are all bestowed upon meeting a friend, or even a mild acquaintance, regardless of sex. However, foreign visitors are not expected to join in with these warm hellos except, of course, for the handshake, which is compulsory both socially and in business.
Business Hours and Banking
Italian banks are open on weekdays from 08:30 or 09:00 to 12:30 or 13:00 and from 14:20 or 15:00 to 16:00. Commercial officehours vary from one industry and sector to another but in general, most will operate somewhere between 08:30 and 18:30, Monday to Friday.
Bring your ATM card with working PIN, so you don’t lose your money, time or temper trying to exchange dollars or traveller’s checks. Using an ATM (in Italian, ” bancomat “) gets you the bank’s own daily adjusted commercial bulk exchange rate, with no commission; the only extra cost would be the fee paid to your own bank for using a foreign ATM.
For sun-sensitive people, please bring protection (sunscreen, sunblock, a hat or even a collapsible umbrella) in June, July and August. The sun can be quite intense here. For those sensitive to heat, take the necessary precautions (salt tablets, a small bottle of water, etc.).
The water that flows freely from Rome’s hundreds of fountains is even better than the bottled water. Do what the Romans do: buy one small bottle of water and then keep refilling it for free at almost any fountain in town. (Only a very few fountains will say “Acqua NON potabile” – “water NOT drinkable”.)
Coffee and snack bars – you will see “BAR” everywhere; this means coffee and snack bars, not a place for getting drunk. There are two different standardized price lists in bars here: the lower prices for drinking or eating while standing up at the counter, and the much higher prices for sitting at a table and requiring waiter service.
In cabs, one or two euros is fine, except for a long haul, such as to or from the airport; then a 5-10% tip is a good gesture. In restaurants, some will say that gratuities or service is included, some will not. The rule of thumb is, if you enjoyed your meal, to leave the change or at least a couple of euros on the table; if you have a large dinner with many people, or if you really loved the meal and the service, then a 10-15% tip is a very nice way to say thanks. There is no way to put the tip on your credit card here, so it must be in cash. Here in Italy, it is not so much the exact amount that one leaves, as the good will gesture of leaving something on the table.
Rome has the best of everything, including the sneakiest pickpockets in the universe. When in crowded tourist sites, and especially on the overcrowded buses and subway, do NOT keep your wallet in a back pocket or a backpack on your back. Do not let Gypsies surround you – even their children, sad to say, have been intimidated and indoctrinated by their parents to steal.
1 January: New Year’s Day
3 January: Bank holiday
6 January: Epiphany
25 April: Liberation Day
1 May: Labor Day
2 June: Republic Day
24 June: Florence Patron Saint’s Day
29 June: Rome Patron Saint’s Day
15 August: Ferragosto
1 November: All Saints Day
7 December: Milan Patron Saint’s Day
8 December: The Immaculate Conception
25 December: Christmas Day
26 December: Feast of St Stephen
When you come to Italy, especially in the South, you notice our unmbrella-pines!! With their rough textured bark in shades of caramel, nutmeg and honey, their lofty fragrant canopies provide homes to chittering birds in winter and spring, chirring cicadas in summer and autumn. These trees offer cool shade in the summer and shelter from rain in the winter. The umbrella pine – pinus maritimus – was a striking feature of the Italian coast even in Roman times. Pliny the Younger says the cloud emerging from Vesuvius looked like an umbrella pine, ie. a trunk-like column of smoke rising up and then flattening out at the top.