10 Quirks of Student Life in Italy

Samuel Tracy is a student at the University of California, San Diego and an ISA Featured Blogger. Samuel is currently studying abroad with ISA in Rome, Italy.

A lecture on architecture at the Piazza Venezia.

One week of school in Italy is like a month in the States. Arriving on a weekend we were free to explore Rome, get lost, and learn that the best restaurants are most often down side alleys instead of the main street. Here are some quick pointers for traveling in Italy that I have either learned through personal experience, friends, or through the advice of my Italian neighbors and my ISA contact, Andrea:

1. Go out in the morning and at night, the afternoon is a time to hide from the sun.

2. If a restaurant has pictures of the food outside, keep looking.

3. Eat all of the food on your plate or don’t order. Depending on where you go they may be ok with it, or they may be very insulted.

4. Don’t assume that someone speaks English, or any language really. Beginning a conversation in Italian and asking “parla Inglese?” is very easy, and they will normally chuckle at your horrible accent before obliging, or will at least attempt to help you instead of writing you off as an uncultured ignoramus.

5. Forget about timing and your schedule. One, it’s not really that important, you’re supposed to be experiencing something new anyway. Two, timing no longer exists. Italy goes with the flow so you should too. Well, actually, you have to so just accept it.

A view of Rome from near the apartments.

6. Italy is hot but many of the sights to see are holy or sacred (specifically churches) and you won’t be able to see them unless you look respectable. This means shoulders and knees covered. Although, you may get lucky and be given a hospital-style cloak if you forget.

7. Only tourists order a cappuccino after 11 am. An espresso is perfectly acceptable, however. Apparently, it is bad to drink milk in the afternoon.

8. Tipping is unnecessary, it’s actually included in the bill.

9. A lot of places don’t take cards. Cash is the way to go, and their system makes it easy–pricetag is what you pay and nearly everything is rounded off.

10. Small groups are better than large groups. They involve less stress, are easier to manage when paying together, and people are more receptive to you.

Hopefully you find these useful. There are quite a few quirks in the Italian culture that I haven’t gotten used to yet (like never wearing flip flops outside), but I suppose I’ll learn soon enough. Up next week is the Colosseum, followed by a weekend in Naples. Definitely excited for that adventure. Until then, ciao!

9 thoughts

  1. This is a great post! I am preparing to spend a semester in Italy this fall so this will help me out A LOT!!! Thanks!



  2. Thanks for these great pointers! I’m interested in going to an international design school in Florence for 3 years. Anyone do this or have a similar experience with studying in Italy long term? Please contact me if you have any advice, schools that you would recommend, etc..
    Thank you in advance!

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