Dos and Don’ts

Appropriate Dress: Be respectful when visiting churches. Women should cover shoulders and knees. Neither men nor women should wear shorts in churches.

Religious Services: Many visitors flaunt this cultural rule, but you should resist the temptation to walk around churches while services are in progress.

Smart Casual: Italians tend to dress more smartly for social occasions, including eating out, than most U.S. and other European visitors. Men will only need a jacket and tie for the grandest restaurants, but should avoid sneakers, shorts, and sportswear, especially when dining out in the evening.

Alcohol: Most Italians drink the odd glass of wine with meals, but excessive drinking and public drunkenness are rare and frowned upon.

Good Impressions: Italians respond well to foreigners who make even a small effort to speak their language. Say “good day” (buongiorno) or “good afternoon/evening” (buona sera) in cafés, shops, hotels, and restaurants, and learn one of the expressions for “thank you very much” (grazie mille, grazie infinite, grazie tante).

Café Culture: Most Florentines stand at the al banco (bar) to drink their coffee. First, pay for what you want at the la cassa (cash desk) and then take your scontrino (receipt) to the bar and repeat your order. If you wish to servizio al tavola (sit down), then it is waiter service and you will pay more. Never pay bar prices and then attempt to sit at a table.

Smoking: Smoking is banned in enclosed public places, including cafés, bars, and restaurants, but be aware that Italians still smoke more than most Europeans and North Americans.

Phrase Book

Sì: Yes. Pronounced see.

No: No.

Per favore: Please. Pronounced pair fa-vor-ray.

Grazie: Thank you. Pronounced gra-zee-ay.

Mi scusi: Excuse me, as when making one’s way through a crowd. Pronounced me scoosy.

Mi dispiace: I’m sorry. Pronounced me dis-pee-a-cha.

Posso?: May I/Can I? Pronounced poss-oh?

Buongiorno: Good day (until noon). Pronounced bwon jornow.

Buona sera: Can mean either good afternoon or good evening, depending on the time. Pronounced bwona sarah.

Buona notte: Good night. Pronounced bwona knot-ay.

Ciao: Hi or goodbye (informal). Should only be used with close friends. Pronounced chee-ow.

Arrivederci: Goodbye (formal). Pronounced a-riva-dare-chee.

Un po di questo per favore: Some or a little of this, please. Using this phrase and pointing at what you want is helpful when food shopping. Pronounced oon po dee quest-oh pair fa-vor-ray.

Vorrei: I would like. Pronounced vor-ray.

Quanto costa?: How much? Pronounced kwanto costa?

La lista: The menu. Prononced la leestah.

Il conto: The check. Pronounced eel con-tow.

Dov’è: Where is …? Pronounced doh-veh …?

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