Over 46 million tourists visit the boot-shaped peninsula each year! They come from all over the world, and many return again and again for a magic that only Italy can deliver.
As Samuel Johnson said, "A man who has not been in Italy, is always conscious of an inferiority, from his not having seen what it is expected a man should see."
Italians are very kind, and extremely patient (unless they're driving). They are the guardians of some of history's most magnificent treasures, and they are used to sharing them. However, there are a few things Italians want Americans to know before you arrive in their country:
1. Dinner: It's between 7:30-9:00 p.m. Pressing your hungry face to the restaurant's window at 6:00 p.m. will not change that. Calling for a reservation, and dressing up for dinner, however, will be appreciated.
2. Skin: Not shown so much in Italy. Short skirts, daisy dukes and halter tops do not epitomize the classical fashion taste of Italians. So cover up, unless, of course, you really are at the beach.
3. Bread: It won't be served with oil and balsamic vinegar (unless the restaurant caters to Americans), so resist asking the server to provide them. Also, bread is not to be eaten with pasta. It's used to "fare la scarpetta" or "make a little shoe", to clean the plate of sauce. To do so in a restaurant is a debatable point, so I will let you make that decision! Basically, bread is provided to accompany an appetizer.
4. Simplify Your Schedule: Leave time to wander the crooked, ancient streets on your own. Often, just a few blocks from the main attractions, day-to-day life is unfolding. Leave the crowds. Pause to listen to a street performer. Plan some time where you can get off the well beaten path for a gelato, coffee, or traditional meal with the locals. Besides, if you over schedule, you just get grumpy.
5. Afternoon Closings: This still surprises and perplexes Americans. Many shops will close down for the afternoon from 1:00-4:00 p.m., especially outside the city center. Italians go home to enjoy lunch as a family and relax. Try it!
6. Taxis: You need to call for a taxi, or go to an actual taxi stand. You cannot hail a cab on a street in Italy, although it's amusing to watch Americans try! The taxi service in Florence is amazingly efficient and punctual, especially when compared to the post office.
7. Italian: It's what is spoken! Learning a few words and common phrases will make a big difference in your experience. Rather than launching immediately in English, and assuming you will be understood, it's polite to ask, "Parla l'Inglese?"
8. Coperto: The amount charged, per person, to sit down at a table. It's not a ploy to take advantage of you because you are a tourist. While a coperto is not the same thing as a tip, tipping in Italy is not necessary, and never more than 5-10 percent.
9. Ask for the Check: It won't be automatically delivered to your table after a meal in a restaurant. That doesn't mean you are being ignored. Food and conversations are to be enjoyed, not rushed. When you are ready to leave, ask for the bill, "il conto."
10. Slow Down: You can't see it all. Trust me on this one. The reason 46 million tourists descend on Italy each year is because there is so much beauty to see and experience. A plethora of culture, art, vineyards, food, and museums -- a lifetime is not enough. So, slow down, savor and appreciate what you do see.
11. Smile: You've made it to a country that has inspired visitors for centuries. Melt into its beauty and lifestyle, its art, music, and literature. Trade smiles with Italians and take home memories of a truly magnificent country, unlike any other in the world.
"When traveling it's important to know what medications you're on and to make sure that they don't cause a change in your behavior," said Dr. Adelman. Some medications may increase blood clotting, which could be troublesome on a long flight or on a vacation where you aren't moving as much, according to Dr. Adelman. "Arrange to get a bulkhead or aisle seat so you can get up, walk, and stretch. Also, avoid crossing your legs -- it increases the likelihood of clots."
"A travel medical specialist can really understand where you're going and what you'll need if you change your itinerary," said Dr. Adelman. Proper immunization is important before going away, according to Dr. Adelman. "You need to be strict about where you're going," said Dr. Adelman. "If you take a side trip you have to be sure you're properly immunized. You need to make sure you adequately brainstorm where the possible trip might lead you with a travel doctor." Travel medical specialists, as well as information on vaccinations, can be found at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which also lists resources for health departments by state. Travelers can access lists of travel medical specialists by country, city, or clinic name through the International Society of Travel Medicine, or by country or state/province through The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.
Finding a dentist while on vacation could prove to be a difficult process, according to Dr. Adelman, who suggests making a trip to the dentist before leaving a priority. "Make sure you go to your dentist and get a dental checkup," said Dr. Adelman. "You really don't want to need emergency dental care while you're away."
Dr. Adelman suggests vacationers take with them a list of all of their medications and medical conditions. "Bring a copy of your EKG if you have a heart condition," Dr. Adelman said, adding that if you suffer a chest ailment, the data will be helpful for doctors to make comparisons. "Ask for essential copies of tests. If you were hospitalized, obtain a report of what that involved. It's nice to have the most updated information."
It's important to drink a lot of water, especially if you're on a diuretic and taking a flight, according to Dr. Adelman. "In flights you get dehydrated easily," said Dr. Adelman, who adds that vacationers should generally avoid alcohol on flights, as well. He also advises to know where you can drink untreated water while away. "Be aware as we age we don't feel thirst in the same ways," said Dr. Adelman. "If you're walking in a brutally hot area, make sure you replete with water constantly. Even if you're not feeling thirst, you should constantly be drinking."
It's important to know your own physical limitations, according to Dr. Adelman, adding that vacationers should plan trips where they can have a place to stop, rest, and cool off if needed. "Don't be pushed by group pressure," said Dr. Adelman. "People have to be smart. This doesn't mean you can't go on vacation, just be wise about your capacity. Make your needs known and be very explicit."
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