As part of the A-List announcement, Travel & Leisure will feature us in the upcoming September issue of the magazine. Here’s a preview:
On the blog, we usually like to keep things short, but we recently did a feature on Italian beaches in the newsletter, and I couldn’t contain myself.
With 4,725 miles of coastline with beaches of every color, temperature, variety and backdrop, it’s impossible not to gush.
Since Roman times, the coasts of Italy have hosted vacations to stars and powerful political figures from around the world. But they're not just for the rich and famous, of course.
For the summer, Italians everywhere decamp to the coast, whether near, such as the lucky Ligurians and Puglians who really don't have very far to go, or far, like the Romans who head to glamorous Amalfi or Ponza, undiscovered by US market, or the well-heeled Milanese who like to spend their summers "roughing" it in Calabria or travel down to the heel to Puglia.
Here’s our guide to Italy’s best beaches on each coast of the boot:
If you leave a “normal” American tip, depending on where you are, the recipient may try to give it back to you, saying you paid too much. The waiter may even run out of the restaurant after you!
But this typically happens more in smaller towns, the kind of places where the proprietor is much more likely to give you an after-dinner amaro for free or take dessert off your bill for no reason than stiff you on extra service charges.
What to Tip in Restaurants in Italy
Rome, famously, has outlawed several types of service fees and charges added to the bill in light of confused visitors who don’t understand why they are being charged for bread even when they didn’t ask for or eat the bread.
Still there are many places where various fees, including for service, are added to your check automatically. You’ll usually see one fee called the coperto or pane, which is not for bread but actually more of a per person basic charge for dining in a restaurant.
“Servizio,” or service, is also often charged automatically on restaurant bills, in part because waiters in Italy are paid very differently than in the U.S. (i.e. better), but also because you will often be helped by multiple people throughout your meal.
You don’t really have to leave anything in addition to this, but it is customary to round the bill and leave some extra “spiccioli” or loose change with the rest of the bill.
Tipping for Taxis and Other Services in Italy
Outside restaurants, the tipping situation is much easier to navigate. In taxis, tipping is not necessary and you can tell them to keep the change.
For porters or maids at the hotel, follow the standard one euro per bag or room night formula
For guides, translators, drivers and other special, personalized services, tip as you feel appropriate, but 10-20 euros for a full-day is customary.
Italian Tipping Vocabulary
- conto: the bill
- coperto: the base per person cost of dining in a restaurant. Though it is often thought of as a fee for bread and water, you must pay it even if you don’t partake in those “complimentary” offerings
- servizio: fixed service charge—usually an amount though sometimes a percentage—that appears on restaurant bills
- incluso: included
- spiccioli: small change or loose change. Often referrers to very small denominations, but it typically used just to mean whatever random change you have in your pocket.
Photo by Flickr user John Wood
Italian soccer season begins in August, and let me tell you, in Italy, soccer is serious business.
Italians even have a different name for the sport than most European languages - calcio rather than futbol – because they’ve been playing some version of the sport since Roman times!
Next to a meal with an Italian family or a palio celebration, attending a soccer game in Italy is one of the best ways to dive into and fully experience Italian culture.
How to Get Tickets to an Italian Soccer Game
Photo by Flickr user Nick
As most Italians take an extended summer holiday, the soccer season runs from August through May. Sunday is the most popular day for games, followed by Saturday.
Before you look at the season’s schedule, decide what type of game you want to see. The top teams, those known around the world like AC Milan, Roma, Inter, Fiorentina, play in the Series A, and those tickets can be expensive and hard to come by, especially in the case of important match-ups.
If you want to catch a game, but don’t particularly care who you see, check for any series to see what games are available while you’re in town.
You can often get tickets online, usually from the club or team site, but there are hefty fees that border on scalped ticket prices. The best way to get tickets is in person, at the stadium, but you’ll need to do it in advance and unfortunately most stadiums are well out of the city center and only take cash.
When you buy tickets and arrive at the stadium, you’ll need to show a photo ID as Italian soccer tickets have the attendee’s name printed on them.
Attending an Italian Soccer Game - What You Need to Know
Photo by Flickr user Fatoom Qoughandoqa
Games between rival teams aren’t just heated; they can be dangerous.
Fans from the away team sit in an enclosed area to keep the home team fans from throwing things at them or attacking them and visa versa. It’s best not only to avoid sporting the away team’s colors, but not to cheer for them at all.
To keep things calm, or at least as calm as possible, Italian stadiums are alcohol-free, though smoking is incredibly common. At the entrance gate, guards check bags for bottled liquids, confiscate any alcohol, and remove the caps from any permitted beverages.
Excited fans tend to throw things on the field, either in happiness or disapproval, and there were some incidents of players being injured by projectile soda bottles several years ago.
But it's not all dangerous. The enthusiasm is contagious, so don't be surprised if you leave the game with a new pack of Italian friends.
Sambuca and dessert wine, primarily moscato, where the main Italian exports in this category for many years until a new crop of chefs, dedicated to bringing an authentic Italian experience abroad, started highlighting some of Italy’s most intriguing alcohol-based treasures: its amaros (bitters).
What is an Italian Amaro?
Usually when you thing of an alcoholic bitter, it’s those uber concentrated concoctions like Angostura bartenders add to drinks with pipettes looking a bit like a mad scientist playing in the kitchen.
Italy’s “bitters” are very different though. Rather than used for only a few drops as flavoring to other drinks, amaros are typically drunk on their own, often on the rocks, after dinner as a digestive because of their medicinal properties.
Amaro originated in monasteries and pharmacies as a medicinal drink, composed of a variety of (always secret to protect the long-researched recipe) herbs, roots, barks, and citrus peels soaked in alcohol or wine and aged.
Even today, many amaros trace their origins back to the 1800s, and have often been made continuously by the same family for hundreds of years.
The Most Popular Italian Amaros
Available in both Fernet Branca and Fernet Menta, Ferbet is commonly referred to as an acquired taste. One of the most strong, almost into the realm of pungent, amaros, Fernet is interestingly easy to find in the U.S., even though it can be hard to find people who appreciate it.
Made by the producers of the equally divine Grappa Nonino, Amaro Nonino is one of the smoothest amaros, flavored less with herbs than and more simply with the incredibly high quality of the grapes that make the base liquor. Though it is imported to the U.S., many places that stock it have a hard time keeping it on the shelves, as afficianados usually stock up whenever they see it.
Amaro Lucano & Amaro Montenegro:
Occasionally confused because of their similar labels—both a creamy yellow with old-fashioned drawings—Amaro Montenegro in its short, squat fiasco-like bottle and Amaro Lucano in its tall, elegant bottle are also similar tasting in that they are easy drinking amaros ideal for new amaro drinkers.