When I first sat down to think about this month’s Italy Roundtable theme, BUGS, I immediately thought I’d write something about mosquitoes.
Not because I have any fondness for them, mind you – just because I adore the Italian word*.
But then I went down a weird little side street in my brain (what, don’t you have those?), from bugs being literal bugs to bugs being something bothersome.
So here we are.
And, what the hell, I’ve thrown in some pictures of bugs, too.
As much as we might love something, there are inevitably things that bother us about it. They may start out as little things, manageable things, things you might even think are charming at first… But when you’re tired or hungry or frustrated those small infractions get amplified.
Yes, even Italy can drive you nuts sometimes.
I recently asked the question in a couple Facebook forums, “What bugs you about Italy?” I find that often the things that bother us about another country or culture are things that can be mitigated with a little context or understanding. So I’ve chosen a few of the replies I received to highlight here and – I hope – turn frustrations into lessons that may help you avoid the same fate.
Before I dive in, however, I want to make something clear: The intention of this article is not to start some diatribe on all the ways Italy sucks. I welcome comments on this article. If you’ve got something that bothered/bothers you about Italy, please leave a note – and if you’ve got a solution, something you did to remedy the situation, even better. Just keep it kind, okay? We all need a little more kindness.
– Kerstin, MsMarmiteLover.com
Even though you may have already read my article declaring that there’s really no such thing as Italian food, and even knowing that each region has its own list of specialties, Kerstin’s right – there isn’t the same culinary diversity in Italy as you’ll find in an extremely multi-cultural city like London or New York.
Here are a few tips for when you need a break, so your first though when looking at a menu in Italy isn’t a resigned, “Oh, great, more pasta.”
– Ali, Travel-Made-Simple.com
I have made the mistake of boarding a train at 11am with no food (and a 2-3 hour train trip ahead of me) more times than I can count. The end result is that I arrive in a new city famished, often well past Italy’s traditional lunch hour, leaving me with very few options other than fast food.
This is not a fun feeling.
Italy seems to relish making travelers adjust to its idiosyncrasies. As much as the country has taught me to relax and go with the flow, I find that works best if you’ve got some decent plans in place to start. In this case, that means eating when the Italians eat.
Maybe you typically eat a big breakfast. Italians don’t, so you’ll need to have a stash of snacks or fruit at the ready to keep you going long after your cornetto and tiny coffee have worn off (outdoor food markets are your friends for grabbing snack-y supplies). That should help you last until 1pm or so, when the Italians have lunch.
And don’t just have a snack-sized lunch, either. Even if you don’t normally eat big meals, remember that you’re being a lot more active when you’re traveling than you usually are at home. You’re walking everywhere, and you’re on the go all day long, rather than sitting behind a desk. So pack in those calories, folks! A bigger lunch can help you make it until aperitivo, which bridges the (admittedly brief) gap until dinner.
– Sara, MsAdventuresInItaly.com
Sara actually went on to provide her own little advice tidbit: “Never accept the first answer you get, unless it’s one you want.”
Mom doesn’t let you have dessert, so go ask Dad – we’ve all played that game.
Much of the bureaucratic nightmare that is Italy goes unseen by visitors. You won’t encounter lines at the post office to pay utility bills unless you live there. Sure, you’ll notice trash cans overflowing when the garbage company is on strike, but it’s a temporary annoyance – you move on in a few days.
But travelers can encounter difficulties in the bureaucracy department if they don’t speak or understand much Italian. Ask a question at one train station ticket window, get a half-answer (or brushed off), then find another employee to ask. And another, if you need to.
I think it’s important to be firm but stay polite, as frustrating as that can be. Learn your polite Italian words and sprinkle them liberally throughout any requests you’re making. It can absolutely help. And, of course, be prepared for the answer you don’t want being the final answer. We can’t always get our way.
– Johanna, TravelEater.net
I was blessed with a huge bladder. (I’m great on road trips, y’all.) Not everyone gets to be as picky about their toilets as I can be, though, so if you’re someone who needs to use the loo frequently you may face some (ahem) unsightly lavatories in Italy.
You might find a room half the size of a cramped shower stall, a toilet with no seat, or a hole in the floor (affectionately known as a “squatty potty” by many). No matter the style of commode, you should consider yourself extremely fortunate if you find an adequate supply of toilet paper. Here are a few ways to keep the Italian public toilet experience from scarring you for life:
As an (unrelated) aside, Johanna’s other gripe was that she “can’t possibly understand how Italian women can walk on all those cobblestone streets in their high heels.” I so wish I could help with that one, but sadly I’m as befuddled about that as you are, Johanna.
I got so many great replies to my initial questions that I’ve had to choose only a few here – which means there will be more of these articles in the future! Which also means that if you’d like to chime in on what bugs you about Italy, I might just feature it in a future article. Just remember to keep it kind, y’all.
Leave a comment below with something that bugs you about Italy, or you can email me if you like.
I’m really curious what bugs my cohorts are talking about this month… Click along with me through to the following links to read each of their posts – and please leave comments, share them with your friends, and tune in next month for another Italy Blogging Roundtable topic!
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* It’s zanzara, by the way. That’s mosquito in Italian. Zanzare, if you’re talking about a swarm. Now doesn’t that feel great to say?