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Escorted Tours & Cruise Vacations

Cultural Nuances of Italy for a Europe Tour

February 21, 2014 - 4:05pm
Seniors who discover the sites of Milan, Venice and other locales during a Europe tour can prepare by learning about the cultural etiquette.

Many Europe tours include an excursion to Italy - one of the continent's most culturally vibrant and historically rich countries. As seniors make their way through the locale, including the major cities of Milan and Venice, they'll have the chance to taste the traditional cuisine, explore the famous landmarks and mingle with the locals. While visitors are bound to come across a few unsavory characters on their trips (this is true of any destination), Italians are generally warm and welcoming, and most are only rude to those who offend them first. That's why it's helpful to learn a little about Italian customs, such as these etiquette tips, before making the excursion:

Learn a Little Italian
It's not necessary to take an exhaustive course in the language, but knowing a few of the basic Italian phrases will prove beneficial on your senior travel tour. Many Italians also speak English; however, some might consider it rude if you simply begin talking to them in your native language. When you enter a conversation with someone new, say "Parla inglese?" to inquire if they speak English. These phrases may also come in handy:

  • "Salve" means "hello."
  • "Arrivederci" means "goodbye."
  • "Buongiorno" means "good day."
  • "Buonasera" means "good evening."
  • "Per piacere" or "per favore" means "please."
  • "Grazie" means "thank you."
  • "Mi scusi" means "excuse me."
  • "Si" means "yes."
  • "No" is the same as in English - it means "no."

Know How to Greet New People
Knowing how to say "hello" and "goodbye" is beneficial, but members of senior travel groups may also want to learn the customary ways of greeting a new acquaintance. When being introduced to a group of people, it's customary to shake hands with each person, including kids and women, and to shake hands with each again when departing; however, women should be the first to extend a hand when shaking. Many Americans believe all Italians greet each other with kisses on the cheeks, but this is commonly saved for familiar friends and family members. Advancing toward a stranger to kiss him or her on the cheek may be taken as offensive. Also keep in mind that the word "ciao" (an informal greeting meaning hello or goodbye) is generally not used among strangers. Stick to the more formal "salve" and "arrivederci."

Be Respectful in Church
As they discover the attractions of this country, many seniors may come across of the destination's wide array of historic cathedrals. The Grand European Cruise & Italy Tour, for instance, includes a visit to the Duomo in Verona. While major tourist attractions often contain beautiful pieces of artwork, these buildings are also religious sites where people still come to worship. For that reason, it's important to be respectful during a visit to a church. It's impolite to enter the building while a service - such as a wedding or baptism - is in progress. Shorts and sleeveless shirts are not acceptable attire, so try to dress in pants and bring a shawl or sweater to cover your arms with if you plan on visiting a cathedral that day. Additionally, guests should not bring in food or drink from their water bottles, and be sure to turn off your phone before coming inside.

It's important for travelers to understand these cultural nuances before heading off on affordable travel tours that include a trip to Italy. But keep in mind that an experienced travel guide will be there along the escorted vacation to answer any questions seniors might have. With this information and the help of an expert, seniors can make the most of their trips and enjoy a truly life-changing experience.