7 Ways to Skip the Tourist Traps When in Italy

by Christopher Atwood



Every traveler’s been there.

You’re in a foreign country. You don’t know where (let alone what) to eat. You spot a sign advertising a tempting Tourist Menu! 'Why not?' you think to yourself.

Flash forward an hour and your belly is definitely not smiling.

Your service was sloppy.

You drank watered down wine.

Your pizza tasted like burnt cardboard.

All you wanted was a satisfying meal. But, lunch left you feeling duped and disappointed.

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Whenever clients head to big destinations like Venice or Rome, it can be hard for them to know the difference between delicious “deals” and edible “steals”? What distinguishes a “tourist trap” from a tasty trattoria then?

Follow our 7 Rules for Avoiding a Tourist Trap and you’re guaranteed an authentic taste of Italy. No one should travel to Italy and eat bad food.

RULE #1: AVOID EATERIES NEXT TO THE BIG SIGHTS

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After exploring Rome with your private guide, you’re feeling high on life. And what better way to cap off your day than a delizioso Italian meal? You’re right. But, before tucking in for dinner, we suggest you walk away from the big tourist sites like the Trevi Fountain or Colosseum. The restaurants clustered near major sights make money off table turnover – not quality meals. You’re just a number for them. As a result, they’ll rush the food to your table – often serving pre-made or frozen products. If the biggest sign outside the trattoria shouts “TOURIST MENU,” keep on walking.

RULE #2: ALWAYS ASK A LOCAL FOR ADVICE

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During your adventures through Italy, it behooves you to trust the locals. They’re the real experts – living, eating and drinking each day in Italy. Whether it’s a concierge at your hotel or your English-speaking driver, go ahead and ask a local where they like to dine. Be sure you mention what sort of experience you’re hoping for – romantic, rustic, or refined. We also suggest that you ask them to recommend a few regional specialties, as what folks eat in Siena is often quite different from what you’ll find in Sorrento.

RULE #3: DO YOUR HUNGRY HOMEWORK

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Italy is comprised of 20 distinct regions – each with its own cultures, history, and cuisines. Venetians love risotto. Florentines adore beans. Romans crave carbonara. As you traverse the Italian peninsula, you quickly realize there’s no such thing as “Italian food” – or national dishes you can find everywhere. Even the pasta on your plate will change from place to place – pici in Tuscany, cappelletti in Emilia-Romagna, and troffie in Liguria. When you’ve picked your Italy destinations, do some research online to identify that region’s food specialties. Once you’re there, you’ll know how to order just like a real local!

RULE #4: PRE-RESERVE A COOKING CLASS

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Dining out can be quite the treat. But, sitting down meal after meal can feel tiresome when you travel. A hands-on cooking class is a great way to mix up the meal-time monotony – keeping you on your toes while immersing you in local flavors. In Tuscany, you might make focaccia at our chef’s family farm – drizzled with his cousin’s extra virgin olive oil. In Puglia, you can shape orecchiette with a group of local mammas. And, in Venice, you could pick ingredients at the daily fish market with a local chef. We know the best Italian cooks to wow and welcome your travelers.

RULE #5: IGNORE THE STREET-SIDE MAITRE D'

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Restaurants near big tourist sites or on main shopping streets will often have an employee stand out front. This person’s job is to hawk their menu – inviting you inside in English, Japanese, Russian and Spanish. Beware the salesperson out front. Their job is not to make you feel at home or share a true taste of their country. Their job is to fill the tables – no matter how mediocre the food. Think about it: what trustworthy restaurant uses a pitch person to convince you to dine there? If the food doesn’t speak for itself, it’s not worth your euros.

RULE #6: DISTRUST MENUS IN 7 LANGUAGES 

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Sure, it can be comforting to read a menu in your native language. Unfortunately, this convenience can come with a cost – bad food and mediocre service. It’s common to find menus printed in both Italian and in English. An English translation alone isn’t necessarily a red flag. But, if the menu you’re eyeing is 7 different languages, you can rest assured that the restaurant treats its diners as walking dollar signs. An Italian meal should make you feel welcomed, not scammed. See Italy includes dinner reservations only where we know your travelers will be treated like family – savoring epic meals alongside warm hospitality.

RULE #7: DINE IN A LOCAL'S HOME

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Restaurants. Restaurants. Restaurants. After a week of traveling, going out for lunch and dinner can start to feel like a chore. Maybe you crave the comfort of a home cooked meal but you don’t want a loud restaurant. Or, perhaps you’re looking for a more intimate experience – somewhere you can get to know locals away from the tourist crowds. We’ve got the perfect solution -- dining in! In Rome, you can make lunch or dinner with a real Roman family. Each brother is a chef! You’ll stir, sauté and savor -- all while hearing family stories. It's the opposite of a "tourist menu" -- real food, real folks, real family.

Whenever we craft an itinerary, we work tirelessly to ensure you'll experience the real Italy. All of our itineraries include 100% Italian-approved dining suggestions. We also reserve dinner at authentic eateries – anything from a rustic ristorante to Michelin-starred sophistication.

Meals can add to or steal from your travel memories. Click below to download a sampling of our delicious, custom-crafted itineraries:

                   Download Our 'Untouched Tuscany' Itinerary

 
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