In exchange for a review, I was kindly gifted a travel guide to Italy by the company ‘Culture Smart’. All views are my own and are completely honest, as requested.
When I received my guide in the post a few days before our trip, I was super excited. My initial thought was that I would be inundated with recommendations and top tips; the usual sorts of things you expect to find in a travel guide. However, my expectation didn’t quite match the reality. Instead, I found that the Culture Smart book provided me with an education on the geography and history of Italy. The chapters also covered topics such as Italian values, making friends and building business relationships. In all honesty, if I was moving to Italy or travelling there for an extensive period of time, the book may have been more useful. However, for a standard holiday, it probably isn’t the best option to choose.
Despite the book not being what I first thought, it did provide me with some interesting material to read on the plane when I was able to keep my eyes open! (What is it about moving vehicles that makes you so sleepy?!). Looking back on the book now my holiday is over, I’ve realised I did learn a few key things from it that came in handy during my time travelling around the Amalfi Coast and surrounding areas.
Tip numero uno – ITALIANS ARE FASHIONABLE
According to the guide, in Italy, ‘how you dress speaks volumes about you’ (wonder what they thought about me….fat slob? ha). I quite liked the quote ‘so much of Italy is a beautiful presentation, rather like a swan gliding across the surface of the waters while it’s legs paddle furiously beneath’. Well, this speaks to me on many levels! I was an anxious Annie packing for Italy, stressing about whether I would match the levels of the fashionistas! Yet, on the surface, when I got there, I feel like I owned it….kinda.
Tip numero due- ITALIANS LIKE A SIESTA
The guide provided me with information about shopping hours, which came in handy when I turned the colour of a tomato and needed to cake my entire body in natural yoghurt! Shops tended to be shut between about 1 til 3pm (give or take an hour).
Tip numero tre- ITALIANS EAT AT STRANGE TIMES
I can’t lie, if I haven’t eaten by 6pm at home, I get hangry! Growing up, I always associated people who ate their tea (do other people call this dinner?) at 7 or 8pm as proper posh. I’m a 5pm kinda gal for sure. I noticed while we were away that most restaurants opened about 6.30pm and me and Andy were always the first in! We were always hungry by the time we ate in the evening, as we’re early birds on holiday, so would always have our breakfast at 7.30am, which I think the Italians were surprised at.
Tip numero quattro- ITALIANS CHARGE YOU TO SIT DOWN
The guide advised me that when I’m popping into a cafe or bar for a quick drink, it’s much better to stand at the counter. As soon as you sit down, a cover charge is plonked on you, sort of like you are paying to set up your pitch. Unfortunately for us, we were always so tired from all the walking and the intense heat so sitting down was the only option
Tip numero cinque- ITALIANS ARE CRAZY DRIVERS
We drove (and by we, I of course mean my boyfriend Andy) in the last leg of our trip, in Sardinia. Luckily most of the roads were highways so there was a fair bit of room for both cars to pass each other without wing mirrors being launched off. However, the Culture Smart guide was right when it said ‘to Italians, red traffic lights are only a suggestion’. I noticed as well that Italians have no qualms in overtaking you even when there is oncoming traffic. I was watching with one eye closed whenever it happened, I swear there should have been about 10 head on collisions in the 5 days we spent in Sardinia. Fortunately, there were none, as despite Italians driving a little manic at times, according to the guide, the accident rate in Italy is by no means the highest in Europe. A final thing I noticed quite quickly when I was in Naples, was that to Italians, rush hour means nothing as they see insanely busy roads as being quiet.
So there you have it, my review of the Culture Smart guide to Italy. Definitely not one to choose if you are looking for places to visit or top tips, however if you’re a bit of a history nerd or are looking at moving to this beautiful place, it is well worth a nosy!