Italy Roundtable: What is it that bugs you about Italy

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When I first started to think about the theme for this month’s Italy Roundtable, BUGS I thought of mosquitoes and immediately wrote about them.

They are not my favorite, but I love the * word.

Then I discovered a side-track in my brain that led me to a strange little secret. I went from bugs being actual bugs to bugs being something annoying.

We are now.

Oh, and I also included some photos of bugs.

There are always things we don’t like about something. These small things may seem manageable at first, and they might be charming, but when you get tired, hungry, or frustrated, these little infractions can become more serious.

Yes, Italy can sometimes drive you crazy.

What do you find most annoying about Italy? It is often things we don’t understand or have a good understanding of. Here are some of the responses I received. I hope they help you to turn your frustrations into lessons that can help you avoid the same fate.

Before I get into the details, I want to clarify: This article is not intended to be a diatribe about all the things that Italy does. I welcome your comments. Please leave a comment if you have any questions or concerns about Italy. Keep it positive, okay? All of us need to be kinder.

It’s a bit of a mystery, isn’t it?

“Eating the same food from different countries is a good habit. Although I love Italian food, it can get boring to eat every day.

– Kerstin,

Although you may have read my article stating that there is no Italian food, Kerstin is correct – you won’t find the same variety of Italian cuisine in Italy as in a multi-cultural city such as London or New York.

These are some tips to help you take a break when you’re looking at a Italy menu.

  • When you can, eat regional cuisines. You should research what is seasonal and regional, and make sure you order it (especially if it’s not pasta). ).
  • You can skip the first course. For a change of pace, skip the first course, which is almost always full of pasta (and sometimes risotto). Instead, check out the second course, which is usually meat or fish.
  • A meal of appetizers can be made. Aperitivo bars can be enough food to make dinner in some cities. Sometimes, smaller plates and side dishes can be enough to make a meal. This is often more enjoyable when shared.
  • Take a picnic. Grab whatever you like at the local outdoor food marketplace.
  • You should try any foreign restaurant you can find. If all else fails, try the Chinese restaurants and kebab take-out places in larger cities.

“How rigid is the food culture. Travelers sometimes feel hungry when certain foods are available at specific times of the day. One day, we were starving and found a cafe that had plenty of bruschetta. It looked delicious, but I wanted something smaller. I was not allowed to buy any from her because it was only for aperitivo.”

– Ali,

I’ve made the error of getting on a train at 11am without food, and with a 2-hour train ride ahead of me more times than I can remember. The result is that I arrive at my destination hungry, sometimes well into the hours of Italy’s lunch hour, and have very limited options for food other than fast food.

This is not a pleasant feeling.

It seems that Italy enjoys making tourists adjust to its peculiarities. While I have learned a lot from Italy about how to relax and follow the flow, it is best to have some solid plans to get you started. This means that you eat when the Italians eat.

Perhaps you eat a large breakfast. Italians don’t eat big breakfasts so it is important to have snacks and fruit on hand to keep you going after your small coffee and cornetto have gone. Outdoor food markets are your best friend for snack-y items. This should last you until about 1pm, when Italians have lunch.

Don’t limit yourself to a small snack. Even if you don’t normally eat large meals, you’re still being active while traveling. Walking everywhere is more fun than sitting at a desk. You need to eat healthy, so pack your calories! You can make it to aperitivo faster by packing a bigger lunch. This bridges the gap between dinner and aperitivo.

“Bureaucracy. It’s sometimes very heavily followed and applied, while other times it’s totally ignored when you’re ready. It is difficult for Italians to gather information and self-inform.

– Sara,

Sara went on to give her advice. “Never accept any answer that you don’t like, except it’s the right one.”

Mama won’t allow you to have dessert so ask Dad. We’ve all played this game.

Visitors often overlook much of the bureaucratic chaos that Italy is. If you don’t live in Italy, there won’t be any lines at the post office for paying utility bills. You might notice your trash cans filling up when the garbage company goes on strike, but that’s only temporary. You can move on in a few more days.

Travelers who don’t know or understand enough Italian can have trouble in the bureaucracy department. Ask your question at a ticket counter at a train station, and you will get a partial answer (or brushed off). Next, find another employee to help. If you have to, ask another.

It’s important to be polite and firm, even when it can be frustrating. You can learn polite Italian phrases and use them in any request you make. It is possible. Be prepared to accept that the final answer may not be what you want. We can’t always get our way.

“Restaurant bathrooms are almost always disgusting in Italy.”

– Johanna,

I was blessed with a large bladder. I’m great for road trips. Some people are not as picky as me about their toilets. If you need to go frequently, you might find some unattractive lavatories in Italy.

A cramped bathroom stall might be half the size, a small toilet without a seat or a hole in a floor. This is commonly known as a “squatty pitty”. You should be extremely grateful if you can find enough toilet paper, regardless of the type of commode. These are some ways to make the Italian public toilet experience less frightening.

  • Always keep a pack of tissues and, if possible, wet wipes with you. As needed, replenish. Italian grocery stores sell packs of about 10 travel-sized tissue bags. Make sure to stock up before you leave for your trip. If you don’t have any hand soap, it is a good idea to bring some.
  • No matter if you have to go, always check out the options for bathrooms. Find the bathroom when you stop for coffee, a meal, or to visit a gallery or museum. You should use it if it’s clean before you go. You have options. You won’t have the ability to use the restroom in a coffee shop or restaurant until you purchase something.
  • To use the restroom, take advantage of a newly renovated museum. The Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in Florence was home to one of the best lavs that I’ve seen since my last trip to Italy. They had not only renovated the museum spaces but also remodeled the toilets. It was beautiful.
  • You should always have small change, usually one to two euros coins, on hand for toilets that charge an entrance fee (often at train stations). These are usually the cleanest options. Those coins pay someone to keep them tidy, so don’t be too stingy about paying for your pee.
  • McDonalds and Burger King are the best options. You won’t find them begging you to buy something if you need it. They’re also usually clean. However, they don’t always have toilet paper.
  • Centrally located. You can easily make a pit-stop between museums if your apartment or hotel is located in a central location.

Johanna also complained about Johanna’s inability to understand why Italian women walk on cobblestone streets wearing high heels.

What are your biggest problems?

There were so many wonderful responses to my initial questions, that I had to pick just a few to feature here. This means that there will be more articles like these in the future. This also means that I may feature your comments on Italy in future articles. Keep it light, everyone.

You can leave a comment below and tell me something you dislike about Italy. Or email me.

Italy Roundtable: Other Voices

I am curious to see what bugs my coworkers are discussing this month. Click the links below to follow me. Please leave comments and share your posts with your friends. And don’t forget to tune in next month to another Italy Blogging Roundtable topic.

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* It is zanzara by the way. That’s mosquito in Italian. If you are referring to a swarm, Zanzare is the correct term. That sounds great, doesn’t it?

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21 Responses to “Italy roundtable: What bothers you about Italy?”

  • It was a fascinating read. However, I was surprised to find the first bug on the list being a dislike of Italian food. This is something I can’t imagine I would ever tire of. The schedule can be very hard to adjust to, as you said. It is important to plan for something that is not natural to an Italian. Although the bureaucracy speaks for themselves, I would like to add that you should not stockpile tissue before you leave your home. It is thicker than the American tissue packets. They have the consistency of paper napkins. This is great for all the uses they serve!


    • Jess has the following:

      Yes, I said that too. They’re invaluable!


  • This line is a favorite of mine: “Italy seems relish making travelers adapt to its idiosyncrasies.” Jessica.


    • Jess has the following:

      Heh. Thanks, Laurel.


  • Thanks for the great list! My husband asked me what I would like to eat for dinner the other night. I replied, “Not Italian.” Although I love the Italian cuisine, I do sometimes crave Indian or Thai food. I can order spices online and grow my own herbs, such as cilantro, and make it myself. It’s easier to make it in bigger cities than on the Amalfi Coast.

    Ciao Amalfi” class=”comment-reply-link” data-belowelement=”div-comment-19456″ data-commentid=”19456″ data-postid=”2362″ data-replyto=”Reply to Laura Thayer

    • Roma doesn’t have cilantro. We ate non-Italian food all over London, Paris, and Switzerland.


      • It is easy to find cilantro at most of the Rome markets, especially Mercato Trionfale. There are at least three stalls near the entrance selling cilantro as well as other Thai/Philippine foods. Keep an eye out!

        Jess, thank you for including me!


        • Jess has the following:

          Of course, dahlink!


        • I’ll look. We visit Mercato Trionfale a few times a month, but it is something I have never seen before. Because they have a reliable source of limes, I know that there is a place with many Filipino/Asian products. Next weekend, I will be heading over. Thanks!


    • Jess has the following:

      I recall trying out a new Mexican restaurant near Milan once, because I needed a break from Italian food. Although it wasn’t Mexican food, it was a nice change from Italian cuisine.


  • Gabe Rossetti:

    After having been to Italy several times in the last 20 years, I have become annoyed by the constant stream of people trying to push a selfie stick into my path to get me to buy it. Or throwing those whirly objects into the air in an effort to get me to buy them. While I understand that everyone must make a living, I hope the authorities can do something about it


    • Jess has the following:

      Gabe, thanks for your comment! This one will be added to my future articles.


  • Lee Says:

    I spend three to more months each year in Italy, so I’m interested in ‘things’ once I slow down I enjoy every day in Italy.

    But, often I cannot find the answers to my questions.

    When Italians insist on walking two or more people across a narrow sidewalk, I need to know who has right of way.

    We have been told that baby carriages are the most important, and the handicapped second. But what happens when there is an incessant stream of casual walkers on the sidewalk?

    Thought there was an universal rule for stepping aside ……….


    • Lee, you have hit upon the one thing I find most irritating in Rome, and that is people’s inability to stay to the right. Why do 5 children march towards us, a senior couple, on the sidewalk? What is the point of a single person walking down the sidewalk? It makes it difficult to pass. Romans gather in the middle to converse and cause everyone to veer around them, as opposed to moving away, like we are taught in the U.S.


      • Lee Says:

        After 3 months living in Sorrento, I was able to observe the “sidewalk” policy.

        They closed the main street every night for the community to walk and mix, which is one of the best parts about living in the area.

        Perhaps in a larger city the sidewalk serves the same as a square or a piazza…………..i am thrilled they still ‘talk’ to each other but what i have come to realize there is NO peripheral vision in Italy and some of my contacts there may agree. They don’t even look at the sides or feel like someone is walking behind.

        I did not find it in Lecce, Puglia. However, many streets are pedestrian-friendly.


      • Jess has the following:

        This is one of the most mysterious things about Italy. It was a long time before I realized that this is how Italians move on sidewalks. This is the usual practice, and it happens on both sidewalks and streets for cars. This “rule” seems to be applicable to all situations, except for the extremely rude and obnoxious children who refuse to move for anyone. Now, I believe there is no such thing. It would be a great pleasure to find out if any etiquette is taught in Italy about this, or if it’s just a matter of personal preference.


        • My friend, who was born in Palermo but raised in New York City, said that they were taught to both in Italy and in NY. Explains a lot. It is around 60% of the time that they veer left while walking, if any. It is worse in Rome than anywhere else.


          • Lee Says:

            Great explanation! I appreciate your explanation!

            This is only half the reason. It is not the same as here.

        • Lee Says:

          I will have to keep an eye out for “move left” in Rome in oct that may be the answer. i am doing it backwards


  • Fox Emerson – says:

    The biggest problem for me is actually zanzare (mosquitoes), which I thought this article would be about!

    All other topics seem to be covered mostly by the comments section. Sometimes, I have no peripheral vision when walking on sidewalks.

    Beauracracy is a different plane in Italy. Either you accept the fact that things will be done or not, or you get frustrated.

    Emails are not answered.

    To try out a simm for a month, I signed up for WIND mobile at EUR19. I was charged EUR100 per month for 6 months regardless of how many times I called or emailed.

    I ended up closing the bank account, and have given up trying to recover my money. WIND has not responded to me.

    Italo’s ticket machine didn’t give me a ticket so I was instructed to email them. Needless to mention, it has been several months since I received an actual ticket from italo. None of my emails have been answered.

    I once sent an email to Florence Comune regarding a problem and did not receive a reply.

    I love Italy as long as I don’t have to do any administrative work.


    • Jess has the following:

      Haha! Sorry for the bait-and switch on the zanzare. Thank you for your comment!


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