Italy is a surprisingly formal society; the following tips will help avoid awkward moments.
- Greetings Greet people in shops, restaurants and bars with a buongiorno (good morning) or buonasera (good evening); 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. With older people, only use first names if invited.
- Asking for help Say mi scusi (excuse me) to attract attention; use permesso (permission) to pass someone in a crowded space.
- Religious etiquette Cover shoulders, torso and thighs when visiting religious sites and never intrude on a church service.
- Dining out Dress smartly when eating out at restaurants.
- At the table Eat pasta with a fork, not a spoon; it's OK to eat pizza with your hands. Summon the waiter by saying mi scusi (excuse me). When dining in an Italian home, bring a small gift of dolci (sweets) from a pasticceria (pastry shop) or wine, and dress well.
- Scheduling Take official opening hours and timetables with a grain of salt.