Sunday, August 10, 2014
Sounds like silly advice, but it's true. The differences you expect, or intuit, are manageable. It's the ones you don't expect that blindside you.
Next...try to find out as much as you can before you go, but, once there,...More......
...put the surprises in perspective. (Somehow, we've gotten to the ridiculous place where our lives have become unbearable if we can't find our favorite shampoo just right to make our hair curly / straight / fluffy / soft / resistant / stand up / lie down / stick out / fall into place.)
So here are a few hints about daily life in Italy that might help you encounter fewer unpleasant surprises while visiting. Forewarned is forearmed.
For trains, if the ticket has a seat and day and time reservation printed on it, you don’t have to stamp the ticket before getting on (but just to be safe, I do it, anyway). The little yellow machines are at the head of the train platforms. Slip one ticket end all the way into the horizontal slot, and, if it’s working, the machine will stamp it, and maybe even bite a little chunk out of a corner.
Tips for taxi drivers and waiters usually suffice at a Euro, or two.
Don't expect a little flip-down purse shelf in the stall, either. Maybe I've seen ONE in all these years, or maybe it's a dream. You'll be lucky if there is one flimsy coat hook. Moral of the story: leave your bulky stuff with a trusted friend, while making the trip to the john.
All done? Time to go to the check-out lines. My first time, though, the clerk stared at me as I waited for someone to come to bag my groceries. That was twenty years ago. Last time I was in the States, I noted that that has gone the way of the dodo there, too. You'll have to ask for bags (for which you are charged a per bag fee) and, as the clerk passes the tags through the price recognition scanner then hands the stuff to you, you'll have to bag it yourself, rapidly. When it's time to pay, whip out your ATM card ("bancomat"), or cash ("contanti"), or even credit cards ("carta da credito"). If you whip out a card, the clerk will ask, "carta da credito o bancomat?". Forget checks ("assegni").
DON'T TAKE YOUR SHOES/SANDALS OFF IN PUBLIC AND DON'T DON'T DON'T PUT YOUR FEET UP...ON ANYTHING...EVER. Been there, know what it's like to travel your dogs off, and need to put your feet up ("Heck, I've got newspaper under my feet to protect the seat, don't I?"). It's considered very very disgusting and very very rude.
Oh, yeah, keep your voice down, even during normal conversation. Americans have very loud voices, and it’s very annoying to those around you. Even to me, an ex-pat.
I hope these hints can help you enjoy your travels in Italy, even more!