Etiquette

  • Greetings Shake hands and say 'buongiorno' (good day) or 'buona sera' (good evening) to strangers; kiss both cheeks and say 'come stai?' (how are you?) to friends. Use 'lei' (formal 'you') in polite company; use 'tu' (informal 'you') with friends and children. Only use first names if invited.
  • Asking for help Say 'mi scusi' (excuse me) to get someone's attention; say 'permesso' (permission) when you want to pass someone in a crowded space.
  • Religious etiquette Dress modestly (cover shoulders, torsos and thighs) and be quiet and respectful when visiting religious sites. Never intrude on a church service.
  • Eating and drinking At restaurants, summon the waiter by saying 'per favore' (please). When dining in an Italian home, bring a small gift of sweets (dolci) or wine, and dress well.
  • Scheduling Take official opening hours and timetables with a grain of salt.
  • Avoid Discussing the Mafia can be a touchy subject.