Everything Americans Should Know about Italy Before Living Abroad

Italy is a magical place to visit, which is why over 58 million people worldwide travel there each year. Here is Italy travel information that will make your trip go smoothly.

1.) No air-conditioning-no problem

I am very surprised to find out that many places in Italy do not have air conditioning. With similar weather conditions to the states I assumed I would hate this abrupt change. However, it actually feels better because my body adjusts to the heat. I am only in Italy for the tail end of summer, but the heat is tolerable with a couple fans and keeping my window open at night.

2.) Smoking is common  

Smoking is a common vibe of many local Italians. In fact, the smell of sweet nicotine reminds me of Italian street life. Walking down the street in Certaldo Basso and in Florence you can find cigarette dispensers. Don’t even be surprised if you see a younger kid smoking. It is just a part of the culture.

3.) Pizza in Italy doesn’t taste like pizza in America- It’s better

Italy travel information- Eggplant Italian pizza
Eggplant Italian pizza

The first time I saw Italian pizza I remember thinking that is exactly how pizza should be. Mine had eggplant, leafy green, a delicious tomato sauce, and a little bit of cheese. Italian cheese is nothing like American cheese. Now I love American pizza just as much as anyone else, but, this pizza tasted more like a fresh garden than a slice of Papa Johns.

4.) PDA  

When I greeted my landlord for the first time she kissed both of my cheeks. Not at all expecting this, I just went along with it. After the initial invasion of privacy I got used to thinking this as a sweet way of greeting others. In fact, greeting new friends with big hugs and kisses became a tradition I wish I more Americans would adhere too.

5.) They are grateful when you try to speak their language

Even if your Italian is broken the locals will appreciate your efforts to communicate with in their language. It might be awkward at first, but when in Italy do like the Italians do. Learning easy terms and phrases is beneficial when ordering food or asking where the bathroom is. I didn’t know a lick of Italian before heading overseas, but I regretted it. Once in Italy learning the language became tricky because I had to learn so quickly.

6.) Carbs- Carbs- Carbs

Italy travel information- Homemade Italian pasta with pesto and tomato sauce
Homemade Italian pasta with pesto and tomato sauce

If you are not a meat eater like me protein can be a little hard to come by. Delicious pasta dishes and rice are plenty, but beans and tofu are typically not on the menu. I suggest always eating a balanced amount of protein when you are cooking for yourself. That way when you go out you can splurge on that big bowl of spaghetti. Even for breakfast there is always a wide variety of pastries, usually stuffed with lemon cream or Nutella. Which are delicious, but I certainly could not eat them everyday.

7.) Siesta time happens everyday 1-4pm

From 1-4 everything is closed for siesta time .I thought I left behind my last official nap time in kindergarten. Nope. Italians need their rest, and daily nap time is encouraged. Even though 1-4 are popular dining and shopping times for many Americans, most stores and restaurants close between these hours.

8.) Finding peanut butter is a scavenger hunt 

I found peanut butter in an Italian grocery store- Italy travel information
I found peanut butter in an Italian grocery store

Going to the grocery store one afternoon I am shocked to discover only one kind of peanut butter and thirty different kinds of Nutella. In an American grocery store you find many different brands of peanut butter. You will not find Jiff,  Skippy, or Peter Pan anywhere in Italy. As a peanut butter addict this Italy travel information was imperative to have before departure. I came prepared though, bringing 6lbs of the good stuff in my checked bag.

9.) Washing machines will die your clothes & there are no dryers 

italy travel information

A cyle of washing clothes usually takes around three to fours hours. Which is much longer than the thirty-four minutes it takes me to wash clothes at my university. Due to the intensity of the cycle these washers died my clothes, even when I added a color catcher. Italians joke that their washers take as long as they do because they actually wash the clothes, but I am just fine with my thirty-four minute wash back home. Once your clothes are clean they will hang on drying racks, instead of thrown into a dryer. Even though most Americans have dryers, it is uncommon for Italians to have them. They prefer air-drying clothing, and I didn’t mind it until I decided to wash clothes the night before a 10-day trip. Let’s just say I ended up packing some wet clothes in my backpack.

10.)Local markets are in every town

Marketplace in Certaldo Alto- Italy travel information
Marketplace in Certaldo Alto

At the heart of almost every town there is a marketplace where locals purchase fresh fruits, fish, clothing, and home essentials. Every Wednesday in Certaldo Basso there is a huge local market from 9am-1pm. This is where you can buy cheap clothing and local produce. In other towns I visited throughout Italy the city market is similar. One of my favorite markets is in Florence. If you get a chance to go the dried strawberries are the most delicious thing I have ever tasted.

11.) Haircuts are expensive 

I am cheap so normally I pay around $17 in the States. While in Italy, I couldn’t find a haircut under 50 Euros (which is about 70 US dollars). In desperate need of a trim, getting a haircut was first on my to-do list once I got once.

12.) Be aware of cars- I GOT HIT

There are parts of Italy where the city bleeds into the sidewalks. One day walking in Florence a truck hit me, thankfully he wasn’t going very fast. He looks at me and says, “Are you okay? Sorry, I am very sleepy this morning”. He was very nice about it, but watch where you are going and be sure to stay on the side walk.

13.) If you ask for water you will get frizzante

Personally, I blame Italy for my obsession with sparking water and club soda. If you ask for water Italians will assume you want carbonated water. If you want regular tap water you must ask for naturale, but I wouldn’t do that because let me tell you frizzante is the good stuff.

14.) Fruits & veggies go bad fast because they are are fresh 

A key Italy travel information nugget is understanding how food is produced and distributed. In America it takes weeks or even months before an apple goes bad. In Italy, fruit and veggies tend to get moldy faster. This is due the lack of preservatives and chemicals. Typically, fruit and veggies need to be consumed in the same week they are purchased in, or else you will come home to soggy apples. I am not complaining though. Everything in Italy is fresh. When I moved back to America my stomach didn’t do well with American food. I got used to eating the fresh food in Italy

15.) Vinegar is used for cleaning everything

I am used to cleaning with popular American brands. However, in Italy mixing water a vinegar is commonly used to clean just about everything.  From the shelves of the refrigerator to mopping the floor, vinegar and water are the way to go.

16.) Croissants & Cappuccinos are staple breakfast items 

Eggs and pancakes are common breakfast item America, but in Italy you can expect croissants and cappuccinos. I am not complaining. In fact, I loved eating bread for breakfast, lunch, and dinner while Italy. My favorite croissants are filled with green pistachio cream, only found in Italy.

17.) All architecture is picturesque 

italy travel informationItaly travel information

While this Italy travel information can be found on every Pinterest page, it is important to reiterate. The buildings in Italy date back too much later than most buildings in America. The ancient architecture have an aesthetic to them unlike anything I have ever seen. You will want to take a picture of everything.

18.) The green t sign means pharmacy 

Italy travel information- Pharmacy Sign
Italian Pharmacy Sign

The Red Cross is symbolic in America for pharmacies but in Europe the cross is green. If you are ever in need of a pharmacy just look for the green t electric sign.

19.) Traveling to other countries is not as easy as people say if you are balling on a budget 

Italy travel information
My trip to Lake Como was worth it, but pricy!

Yes, I flew to Barcelona and Germany but both of those tickets were EXPENSIVE. Both tickets were over 100 Euros. I have heard about how easy it is to travel between countries is not difficult but it will cost you a pretty penny. Even train rides can easy cost 80 Euros. In fact, sometimes train rides can be more expensive. This was in part because I only had specific days I could fly out, due to school. If you can be more flexible with departure and arrival dates you will likely have an easier time finding the cheapest ways to travel.

20.) You will fall in love with Italy


Italy holds a special place in my heart, and it always will. After living there there is so much I learned about the beautiful Italian culture. I have never been anywhere like it, and I can’t wait to visit again.

I hope you find my Italy travel information helpful for your own trip.

Other articles about Italy: 

All Things Gelato In Florence, Italy
A Chilly Fall Day In The Tuscan City Of Siena, Italy
7 Iconic Places Of Ancient Glory In Rome, Italy
Why The Small Medieval Town Of Orvieto Is A Hidden Gem Of Italy

One response to “Everything Americans Should Know about Italy Before Living Abroad”

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