Dreaming about a trip to Italy? You are probably not alone: According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization's newest study, Italy ranks at number five on a list of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. And as the home of pizza, pasta, and great wine, Italy is clearly a top target, especially for a travelers looking to see the world food first.
But while Italian cuisine is popular in countries all over the world, dining in Italy might still cause some confusion and misunderstanding when it comes to what and how to order. Clearly, the language barrier is there for anyone who doesn't speak Italian, and though most locals in bigger cities can converse in English, a basic knowledge of some simple Italian terms, as well as a pocket-sized dictionary, will definitely come in handy.
Besides the language barrier, getting accustomed to Italian culture and dining customs is a good idea if you're hoping to avoid embarrassing misunderstandings, or if you're looking to fit in with the locals. Especially since Italian food is so commonly known around the world, it might be easy to forget that Italian food and dining customs in Italy might not be the same as Italian food and dining customs in America.
For example, sitting down at an Italian restaurant in Italy and ordering the creamy, delicious fettuccine Alfredo might just make your waiter give you a confused look or smirk. This popular American-Italian dish basically does not exist in Italy, at least not under the name "Alfredo," and if you do find it, it probably won't be as creamy as you’d want it to be. Swirling your spaghetti up on a spoon before eating it or cutting into your pasta with a knife are also things you want to avoid if you're looking fit in among locals. And when it comes to breakfast, don’t expect a fluffy omelette or a pile of pancakes — in Italy, a strong espresso and a sweet pastry is usually the way to start a day. And as for the coffee, a black, strong, shot of espresso is what "un caffè" will get you — and get used to it, as one of the top clues that you're a tourist in Italy is to order a latte or cappuccino, especially in the afternoon or evening.
To know more about what you should and shouldn’t do to dine like a local during your next trip to Italy, click through our slideshow with tips of what not to do when dining in Italy.