Italy Surprises! 5 Common Things You Weren’t Expecting on Your Trip to Italy

Written by Megan June 14, 2016

The large majority of Americans are not accustomed to European lifestyles. For me, it took around two weeks to finally grasp the common ins and outs of daily Italian life. My frequent comment of, “I was not expecting that”, quickly became, “It’s an Italian thing”,  as I continuously ran into the following five Italian norms:

1. Bathrooms will Cost You – It’s not a joke. In Italy, using a public restroom usually requires a payment. Although the costs are not very expensive (usually around one euro), the stops can add up. You can appreciate your euro spent, however, while using the facilities because the money earned from guests goes to keeping the bathrooms clean and maintained.

2. Credit Card Limits – In Europe, the taxes and penalties for using credit cards is very different than it is in the United States. Many companies in Italy will not accept credit cards or only accept a transaction if there is a minimum payment of ten euros. This is important to remember when you are budgeting your euros. The rule of thumb is to always use your credit card when you can if you have a limited amount of euros with you. 

3. Split Bills – As a waitress back in the United States, this was surprising to me. Typically in Italy, most restaurants don’t split bills, and they definitely don’t split single items in half (ex. a 12 euro bottle of wine split into 6 euros for each bill). When you are going out with a group of people and want to split your bill, make sure you all have euros to pitch in or clarify with the waiter beforehand whether or not the restaurant can split the bill.

4. Coffee Anytime of the Day – While Americans associate drinking coffee as a morning routine, Italians drink coffee at anytime of the day. The coffee portions they drink are quite petite, but very strong. Drinking coffee in Italy is seen as a social and sit down event, and very rarely is taken to-go. Almost anywhere you visit in Italy serving drinks or food, there will also be an espresso machine ready to go. 

5. Water Is Extra – This seems to be the kicker. Water is not free in Italy. When you go to a restaurant, keep in mind that you will be paying for the water if you ask for it or open it. Many times you can avoid the charge by asking for tap water, but often restaurants will not serve you tap water for health liabilities. To get enough water, make sure to keep a water bottle on hand and ask hosts or locals if the running tap water is safe to drink.