Etiquette

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. 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.
  • Dress Cover shoulders, torso and thighs when visiting churches and 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).
  • Gifts If invited to someone’s home, traditional gifts are a tray of dolci (sweets) from a pasticceria (pastry shop), a bottle of wine or flowers.