A Little Perspective

The Local Host With the Most… Suggestions, That Is!

September 16, 2016

How to look like a Guiliani when you’re basically a Jones

A guide to looking like a local in Italy.

With its fashion, food and historic fountains, the alluring land of Italy is naturally at the top of most travelers’ wish lists. Yet no one wants to go to a foreign country and stand out like a sore thumb, especially in iconic cities like Rome, Florence, Milan and Venice. So if you’re thinking of traveling across the boot and want to pass as a Marco instead of a Mark, or a Francesca instead of a Fran, here are five ways to look like a local while living la dolce vita.

Stand up for your coffee.

Tourists may like to linger at Italian cafes, but the locals order and drink their coffee standing at the bar. Not only will you look like a regular, you’ll pay up to half the price of sipping your espresso at a table. And don’t order a cappuccino after lunch or dinner. This is an Italian no-no, as the locals believe that dairy is bad for proper meal digestion.

Drink from the big nose.

During the summer months, the heat rising from Rome’s dark cobblestone streets can reach record highs. Yet Italians don’t waste their euros on overpriced bottles of water. They carry their own bottles and refill them at the “big noses” – the cylindrical cast iron public water fountains at corners throughout the city whose protruding faucets look just like – a big nose.

Avoid bright colors.

We’re not talking wardrobe here – we’re talking gelato. Creamy, flavorful and decadent, authentic Italian gelato is made with no preservatives or artificial colors. So if you’re seen with a scoop of fluorescent-green pistachio of blinding-yellow lemon, you didn’t get the good stuff, and everyone will know it.

Lose the baseball cap.

In the fashion mecca of the world, it’s unrealistic to tour the sights in couture and heels. But that doesn’t mean you can’t look smart. Trade shorts for slacks and logoed shirts for solid button downs. As for sun protection, opt for a simple straw hat. You rarely see an Italian in a baseball cap, and if you do, it never says Cubs.

Cross with confidence.

Italy’s major cities have many pedestrian crosswalks with convenient electronic signals – and many without. If you wait at one of these painted crosswalks for some nice local to stop the car for you to cross, you’ll be standing there for your entire vacation. Find a break in traffic, take a deep breath, and just start crossing. Then – and only then – will local drivers reluctantly break for you to cross the street. Your odds are even better if you’re not wearing a baseball cap.