Spur of the moment, I booked a trip to Italy for what was supposed to be a 5-day trip. I loved it so much that I ended up extending my trip an extra 13 days and stopping in three cities I hadn’t originally planned. I was completely hooked on Italy; everything from the food, to the culture, and obviously the wine. The breathtaking scenery of the green, rolling hills and vineyards stretched out before you. Add on to the fact that every city feels so different from the next, moving from city to city makes you feel as though you’re moving from country to country.
And while Italy has a special place in my heart – and always will – I wish I had been forewarned about some of the issues that I encountered during my travels.
Before reading any further, I highly encourage everyone to visit Italy at least once in their lifetime. It’s an incredible place filled with incredible people. I’m simply writing about the things that I personally experienced so that you can perhaps learn from my mishaps. I will 100% be visiting Italy again and I still have the fondest memories from my trip.
I Love Italy… But I Don’t Love…
I adore Italy. Everything about the country is breathtaking, real, and raw. However, there were some things that I could’ve done without. For starters, before you visit Italy you have to be aware that people visit for a reason – meaning there are loads of tourists in the country every single day. Especially if you’re traveling through well-known cities (Rome, Venice, Florence), you should be aware that the locals are around tourists all the time. So while certain things annoyed me, I could still appreciate that people are just trying to make a living.
That being said, Italy is filled with workers who may push you too far. Before visiting you need to know how to firmly say no, and walk away. You’ll encounter restaurant workers who try to guide you into their restaurants regardless of you shaking your head no. You’ll encounter people at famous tourist sites who will hand you objects expecting money in return – even if you didn’t ask for said object. And at all times you should be mindful of your wallet and phone. Several times I witnessed pickpocketing instances and each time I walked through crowds I guarded my belongings with my life.
So Italy, I love you. But I still need to warn others what to look out for when visiting. Below you’ll find some of the issues I dealt with when traveling through the country.
Beware of: The Train Station
Naples was the first city I arrived in when I first set foot on Italian soil. When the plane hit the runway, I was all smiles. An ear-to-ear grin stuck on my face the entire weekend I was there. Naples was like getting a true and authentic Italian experience. Locals vibrantly yelling at each other across the street. Motorbikes weaving through traffic. Trying to navigate through the crowds while still taking in the beautiful buildings and architecture. And don’t get me started on the food! The smell of pizza wafting from each store. The sight of pasta being rolled out through shop windows.
When I purchased my train ticket to go from Naples to Rome, I purchased it knowing that it was a flexible ticket, which a local confirmed to me. I missed my train due to traffic, but knowing that a train leaves almost every hour I didn’t sweat it. When I pulled into the station, someone from security stopped me. And although I was the only person stopped in the crowd of people, I figured I must have just looked lost.
He noticed that I had missed my previous train and told me that I would have to purchase another ticket. I reiterated that I was assured this ticket was flexible and a local had told me I’d be able to get on the next train. After a bit of back and forth, I stood my ground. I didn’t end up having to pay for another ticket, and he let me go.
Lesson: Stick up for yourself and when something feels fishy… it probably is
I would also like to point out that when my parents were visiting Italy on a separate occasion, they too were almost scammed at a train station. They showed up at the station to purchase tickets and a local approached them and saying that if they gave him cash he could get them tickets at a discounted price. Luckily a police officer stepped in. My dad said that the local was so convincing he would have given him the cash.
Beware of: Tourist Hot Spots
The Roman Colosseum is the largest amphitheater ever built and is recognized around the world. It is a sight to behold and has made the list of the “New7Wonders” of the world. You can’t miss touring it while in Rome, whether alone or with a tour guide (although I recommend hiring a tour guide).
I originally booked a tour with “Colosseum Rome Tickets”, seeing as the tickets were cheaper than other companies. The price was supposed to include a comprehensive tour of the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill, with a professional guide, as advertised online. The website, however, failed to disclose that if you visit during the winter months, the price of your ticket doesn’t change, but what is offered on the tour does. You don’t get entrance into the Colosseum, Forum, and Palatine Hill. You tour the Colosseum and talk about the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill from the outside, without being able to enter.
Luckily my guide was happy to give me my money back, seeing as the tour was falsely advertised online. I re-booked with The Roman Guy and had a fantastic time. Plus I was able to enter all three sites, as advertised online.
Lesson: Cheaper isn’t always better
Beware of: Locals Asking For Directions
While this particular “scam” didn’t happen to me, it did happen to my friend. She spent a few months in Florence one summer working as an English-speaking tour guide for tours throughout Florence and neighboring regions. TWICE she got her phone stolen. The second time it was stolen it happened she was texting; a local walked up to her asking for directions. Annie had her phone in her hand and she pointed the man down the road. He grabbed her phone and took off. Luckily a bouncer witnessed the incident and was able to stop him.
Lesson: Always be aware of your surroundings and keep your phone in your purse when able
Beware of: Misunderstandings
After visiting six cities in Italy, I can say that Verona takes the prize of being my favorite. But that’s not how it started. On my very first night in Verona, I popped into a wine bar that a local had suggested. I ordered myself the meat and cheese plate and waited with a glass of sauvignon blanc. What came out was a cheese plate, made up of one type of cheese. I pointed out to the waiter that I ordered a meat and cheese plate and sent it back. What came out next was a meat plate, made up of one type of meat. Again, I reiterated that I ordered the assortment of meats and cheeses and even got a second waiter to come over and listen. They took the meat plate away and I waited… again. The third time they ended up getting my order right.
When I went to pay for my meal they charged me for all three dishes that came out. I was beyond stunned and didn’t even know what to say so I simply paid and left. What was supposed to be a $15 meat and cheese plate turned into a $40 fiasco.
Lesson: In Europe, the customer is not always right. You can choose to let this annoy you and ruin your day or appreciate different cultures, smile, and move on. Looking back, I would’ve handled this differently and stood my ground a bit firmer.
Beware of: Touristy Restaurants (Restaurants Near Famous Tourist Sites)
I had been craving a chocolate croissant for some time, but it wasn’t until I got to Venice that I began my hunt to find a gooey chocolate-filled croissant to accompany an espresso. When I passed a restaurant along the canal, a waiter asked me if I’d like to come in and have a bite to eat. I told him that I was on a mission for an espresso and a chocolate croissant and I don’t think he’d be able to help me. He told me otherwise, led me in, and sat me at a table. When he brought the menu I told him I didn’t see a croissant offered. He said yes, but there’s espresso! Without placing an order, I left to continue my search.
A few hours later and with no such luck, I was about to give up when I passed a sweets shop with a croissant in the window. Mouthwatering, I popped in and pointed to the croissant. I asked the English-speaking waitress if the croissant was filled with chocolate because that is the only kind I wanted. She very clearly told me that, “Yes, there is chocolate inside; after all, there is chocolate on top of the croissant so why wouldn’t it be inside as well?”
Come to find out, she lied. When I bit into an empty, stale, and flavorless croissant, I was so disappointed tears started to well in my eyes. This was an eight Euro croissant that I had been searching the city high and low for. And the waitress blatantly lied to my face. I left it on the table and when I went to pay I simply stated, “There was no chocolate in the croissant..” She replied, “I know”. With that, I paid, turned on my heel, and walked out.
Lesson: All you can do at this point is appreciate that you never have to go back to that place again. Plus, it is always helpful to do a little bit research beforehand. As pointed out by someone in the comments, an 8 Euro croissant is entirely too expensive!
The Scam – Helping a Tourist Who Doesn’t Ask for Help and Requiring a Payout
And the final straw of it all, and what prompted this blog post was when I was on my way out of Italy. I had truly been fed up after an awful Airbnb experience (not mentioned here because one person doesn’t reflect an entire country), and in a flurry, I booked a ticket to Salzburg, packed my bag, and left. My Airbnb was close to the train station, but I still had to lug my 25 kg suitcase up and down eight bridges to get to the train station. When I came to the very last bridge before the train station, a local approached me and asked if I needed help. I had already crossed seven bridges, by myself, and told the local that I could carry it on my own. He insisted – by that I mean he wouldn’t leave me alone – that he helps me, so I eventually gave in and let him. When we got to the end of the bridge he held out his hand and said, “Now you have to pay me”. And with that, I couldn’t get out of Italy fast enough.
Lesson: Nothing is ever free.
Regardless of some not-so-great experiences along the way, I still maintain my original stance – I love and adore Italy. Despite a few negative experiences I had so, so many more positive experiences. I was invited to dinner with locals in Florence where we sang karaoke to Taylor Swift until 2 am. I met the most lovely people while eating pizza in Naples. And I have even been invited back to stay in a locals house the next time I come to visit.
And will I ever go back to visit? Absolutely.
If you plan on visiting Italy, make sure to read these posts to better guide your travels: