Part of enjoying Italy comes from embracing our differences and being aware of how we are presenting ourselves. Understanding Italian culture with mindful travel will help to minimized frustrations on your trip and increase your appreciation of their robust attitudes. I have tried to put together my impressions from an outsider’s perspective to help you enjoy your experience. Make sure to brush up on everything you need to prepare for your trip with our Travel Tips HERE.
I find that Italians are one of the most welcoming groups of people around and they will try their hardest to help you and to communicate with you. As a rule, the people are very intense and very dramatic. You will see heated conversations end in warm embraces. Grown men walk down the street arm in arm. Lovers quarrels echo down quiet streets. Elderly women elbowing past you for front row positioning at the market. They live life in the moment and with zest without apology. I always get swept up in living and loving life when I’m there. For me, this is such a refreshing attitude and I find my anxieties melt away in Italy.
Common courtesy, kindness and cultural understanding will make you stand out from the demanding and draining tourists and open up so many doors for you. I have been personally escorted to a restaurant more than once, given extra scoops of gelato to make sure that I didn’t miss out on the ‘perfect combination’ and even had mini impromptu history lessons.These special moments did not happen because I’m fluent in Italian (far from!) or because I was just lucky. They happened because I travel with an open mind and an open heart. I call this Mindful Travel.
Mindful Travel is quite simple and I have broken this into five key steps.
- Put yourself in their shoes.When you begin to try and trade places with the locals, you see things in a new light. A crabby waiter suddenly becomes a harried worker trying to please patrons from around the world.
- Make the first attempt in communication – in their language.Learn to say a few simple and polite phrases in Italian. Nothing screams “I don’t care about you” like a tourist rattling on in English on the assumption that the listener understands. Everyone appreciates even a simple effort on your part. You will also find that people are more likely to go out of their way to help if you have tried to communicate on their terms first.
- Try to blend in.Watch the locals. See a crowd hanging out somewhere? Go check it out. Forget trying to explain “double tall non-fat sugar free vanilla latte” and belly up to the bar for whatever they are having.
- Keep an open mind.It is a big world out there, and nobody does it exactly like we do. Don’t pretend you aren’t a tourist, but leave your expectations behind. Stop comparing things to how we would have done it back home. There is always more than one way to get something done and you might actually discover something better.
- Relax and enjoy.This will not be the perfect trip because traveling in Italy is never predictable, but this will be an amazing adventure. Roll with the punches and always be on the look out for an opportunity to get to know Italy personally. A rainy day could become your favorite memory. Travel, like life, is full of ups and downs. The trick is to be prepared for the worst while enjoying whatever is thrown your way.
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Once in a Lifetime Travel is a passionately run company focused on mindful and fearless travel through authentic experiences and connections. We feature small, fully
guided group tours to Italy for women
Italian travel consultant
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Go Travel, and Travel Fearless.
Andi Brown, Once in a Lifetime Travel