There a few things about Italy and the way of life (in the majority of the country) that you will not find out until you visit. Lucky for you I can give you the inside scoop so you don’t stand out quite as much as my peers and I did/still do. When giving advice on the matter, I’m torn between “try to blend in” and “embrace your inner tourist.”
If you want to blend in, there are a few things you need to know. 1. Don’t order a cappuccino after 11ish. For some reason it is extremely frowned upon in most places. 2. You will never get used to the fact that the streets are the size of what I would consider a sidewalk, and pedestrians DO NOT have the right of way. The second you step outside you’re in the danger zone. 3. Dinner time is usually around 8 or 9. For those of us who were used to the early bird special, its not easy to adjust. I suggest a mid-day gelato to curb the hunger. 4. Buy a pair of white converse high top sneakers. Almost every female here in Ascoli Piceno has a pair and I’m starting to think that our sandals are a dead giveaway but that’s just my opinion! 5. Lastly, learn how to walk like an Italian if you can. It seems to be an art form that is hard to master. Some of the locals in Venice told us that they can tell we are American just by how we walk. They have a much more laid back attitude from what I’ve seen. We usually walk to get to a destination. In Italy, most people enjoy the walk and then end up at a destination. Keep it cool, if you can.
On the other hand, sometimes it is good to accept the fact that you don’t live here and everyone knows it. Get used to people staring/laughing at you. If it helps, just pretend it’s a form of flattery. Don’t be afraid to try to speak Italian. You can tell when they think you know your stuff because you give them a couple words and they just throw it back full speed. It’s very overwhelming but it is a great way to start learning.
Bottom line is, you are who you are and you should embrace that wherever you go. There is no way that you will avoid complete embarrassment, but you can also impress people if you try! So don’t be afraid to pose for a picture or ask for directions, but at the same time try to respect the culture and immerse yourself as much as you can.