My husband and I have spent the last four years in the Southern Italy tourism industry and we’ve learned a lot in that time. Between the guests we host at our Calabrian bed and breakfast and the clients we help through our travel consulting business, we’ve seen travelers on every end of the spectrum … from open, generous and kind to well, uhm, uhm … stressed.

I made note of their experiences and compiled them into a Calabria travel tips eguide that I’ve been selling here on My Bella Vita for the last year. Still, I notice there are about five mistakes that keep popping up.

Here are five of the biggest mistakes travelers make when visiting southern Italy.

1. They get uptight
I’ve written about how your attitude can make or break your trip and I am a firm believer that attitude is everything when you are visiting southern Italy. Southern Italy isn’t like its northern counterparts that might cater a bit more to tourists. Keep that in mind when you are visiting the south and try to appreciate and all of her charm.

2. They tip
I’d run out of room if I listed every expat here who has tried to teach the traveling tourist about tipping, yet I think it bears repeating. You don’t tip in southern Italy. You don’t tip in southern Italy. Seriously … you don’t tip in southern Italy. No one is going to look at you funny or think you are cheap. In fact, they’ll think you unsavvy if you insist.

3. They think they can eat whenever they want
I know it is hard to visit a new place and not make certain assumptions based on your life “back home.” That being said, southern Italy isn’t like America. The culture, customs and habits of the locals are different and so, dear southern Italy traveler, so are their mealtimes. If you arrive in the mid-afternoon, don’t expect to find a restaurant open for a late lunch … and you can forget about an early dinner.

4. They assume that because Rick Steves hasn’t written about it … it’s not worth seeing
A lot of independent travelers will tell you they want to get “off of the beaten path” and explore real Italy. However, when you ask them about their preferences and recommend obscure villages, restaurants or hotels … they aren’t always on board. I know it is hard to know where to go in southern Italy … that’s where a local travel consultant can make the difference.

5. They aren’t prepared
Ok. I’m gonna admit to having a not-so little pet peeve when it comes to travelers I’ve met in southern Italy. Time and time again, I’ve heard them say, “We know there is nothing to do here (in Calabria), we just wanted to see the village where my so-in-so was born.” Or, sometimes, “We have seen everything there is to see here, so we are going to head back (up to Rome),” … to which I want to respond, “I’ve lived here four years and haven’t seen EVERYTHING … there’s no way you saw it in three days.”

But I don’t.

What I did, however, was create a Catanzaro and surrounding areas e-book to give away (for free) to every English-speaking guest who books a room at our B&B. My hope is that it will help them prepare a bit more for their central Calabria vacation and that they’ll know there is a lot to do and see here … even if Mr. Steves hasn’t made it down.

What other mistakes do you see tourists making in southern Italy?

Until next time … Buon Viaggio!

Traveling to southern Italy? Click here to see how I can help you plan your trip to Calabria or southern Italy.

4 Responses
  1. Hi Cherrye,
    I just wanted to say that even though the Amalfi Coast is classed as South Italy it must have more of a northern mentality when it comes to tipping. Workers here in hotels, restaurants and other tourist related jobs really rely on their tips to help them get by every month. Tipping here on the Amalfi Coast IS done and highly appreciated, we, who live and work here wouldn’t dream of not tipping after a meal out, even if we know the waiters. Tipping is not obligatory, but generally tips are given after meals or a day trip or even lots of good friendly advice, and are always appreciated!

    Great info, Charlie. Thank you so much for giving us a local’s opinion on tipping on the Amalfi Coast!

  2. Well, one mistake I saw recently in my little village in Sicily–I heard an American tour guide say to his group, “I’m going to let you explore on your own now. Just one piece of advice: watch for pickpockets.” I couldn’t believe it. Towns in Sicily are far safer than similar-size places in the US. There is hardly any crime where I live. Palermo and Catania, yes, you have to be careful, just like you have to be careful in Chicago or New York. But tourists should NOT be fearful wandering around towns and villages in Sicily on their own.

    Re tipping–it’s not done where I live, but perhaps in Taormina and in the posh restaurants (where tourists go), locals have come to expect tips.

    Thanks a ton. I definitely think the tipping thing is more expected in touristy cities/villages. Still, I know expats in Tuscany, Milan and Rome who have said the Italians don’t tip. So interesting … .

  3. Margaret Cowan

    Great advice on travelling in southern Italy! I love your idea of your e-book telling your guests of all they can experience in Catanzaro and area.

    I’m sure those planning a trip to Calabria would love to read it as they do their trip planning so they can set aside more days to spend in Catanzaro and environs. How could you make it available to them?

    If you decide to make it more widely available, I’d review it for you in my newsletter and I’d learn more about your part of Calabria too!


    Thanks, Margaret – see your Inbox for more details!

  4. maria

    Just to add my 2 cents….just got back from beautiful Italia, I was born in MONTE DI PROCIDA NAPOLI….I’m tired of Napoli’s bad reputation & from NOW ON WILL DEFEND…..I agree with Jann….there is good & bad EVERY WHERE IN THE WORLD…I always feel VERY SAFE IN NAPOLI & ALL ITS BEAUTIFUL GORGEOUS SURRONDINGS!!!!! I live in a beautiful very safe area PA/USA…but had my car stolen in a shopping center…..WILL FOREVER DEFEND MY NAPOLI!!!!!! Missing my beautiful Italia!! Ciao Maria

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