BREAKING THE ICE
The Italians are incredibly warm and friendly people who will try hard to communicate with you, but they can be a bit shy to start a conversation. I have found many tricks to get an interaction going that often ends in a warm embrace.
The easiest way to break the language barrier is through pictures. I always carry a small photo album with me filled with pictures from around my home town and lots of photos of my family and even my pets. Sometimes I will just bring the album with me to dinner and set it on the table. You never know who you might sit next to and it is a great conversation starter.
Italians love their children and I make sure to play with kids and smile at babies all the time. I’ve kicked balls around the piazza and even strolled up and down the village square with a grandma proudly pushing her newest grandchild in a stroller.
They also love their dogs and if you are a fan go ahead and give them a pet. Cats on the other hand are not considered pets and you will be looked at strangely if caught petting any of them (except in the Cinque Terre).
Sharing your food if you happen to be on a train or out for a picnic is a good way to create an impromptu feast and gain friends.
It is always hard to make the first move and there have been times I have shied away from an opportunity, but I always regret those decisions. The times I have taken a deep breath and stepped outside of my comfort level are the times that have given me the best memories.
There are a few simple ways to make your dollar go further in Italy without taking away any of the enjoyment. Hotels often offer a so-so breakfast but what they don’t tell you is that you can skip it and save yourself as much as 10 euro per person. Italians aren’t big into breakfast, but for half the price you can enjoy a cappuccino and croissant. Lunches can be made from items bought earlier in the morning market or you can find a little pizza shop and get a slice to go or eat at the bar. I usually wash it down with a gelato or caffe. This way I can eat a nice dinner without the guilt. Look for places to eat that are out of the main tourists areas, avoid places that advertise that they speak English and accept credit cards. At dinner drink the house wine ‘vino di casa’ which is good. Split or skip the secondi course, which is always the most expensive. Don’t over tip and don’t feel guilty about it.
Take advantage of the international calling cards if you need to call home and even better would be using just the Internet to keep in touch. Using public transportation in the cities or even just walking versus taxis will save you a ton. Walking is easy to do in Italy, even in the biggest of cities. Most of the important sites are central and city centers have always been set up for residents to walk around easily.
Longer stays at your accommodations will often give you better prices as will paying in cash. You also get to know an area and have a better chance of finding good deals and creating relationships with the locals.
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Copyright 2014 Andi Brown, Once in a Lifetime Travel
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