Navigating an Italian City

Carleigh Begin & Taylor Cox 

Navigating any new city can be difficult, especially one where no one speaks your language. Even though that may seem difficult, Italy has so much to offer and teach us. From cafés to gelato, it is impossible to not enjoy yourself. After a few days of exploring, we’ve come up with our best advice for safe and easy travels around any Italian city!

Welcome to Arezzo

Welcome to Arezzo

Navigating: Typically, you will be doing a lot of walking in most Italian cities. So, make sure you wear shoes that are comfortable or already worn in! This is the most important thing we learned so far in the city of Arezzo. This town is mostly made up of picture perfect hills and historic stone streets. Comfort comes before fashion in this case, for sure.

If you do want to wear particular shoes that may cause discomfort, make sure to pack ointment and lots of Band-Aids. You don’t want blisters to hold you back! Although most of the locals walk to and from town, your body and feet may not be used to that yet so there are still a few different ways to get there. You will see some people driving through the streets- so make sure you watch out! They move really fast and pedestrians don’t have the right of way here.

If you’re not up for the walk, you can also take a taxi. For us, it is about 7 euros to take a taxi just a couple miles down the road (which usually ends up being about 2 euros a person- pretty cheap!). It may be confusing because Italy doesn’t have the same street signs we are used to. Instead, they have the street names on a little plaques on the buildings at the beginning of the streets. It adds more history to the city and which makes it more authentic!

There are a few different map apps that you can download to help you move around Italian cities a little easier. CityMaps and Ulmon are two popular apps where you can download a map of the cities you plan on visiting. The maps come right up on your smartphone so you have access right away to all the awesome shops and dining.

Here is an example of a map we used to get around Arezzo!

Here is an example of a map we used to get around Arezzo!

There are also a few different tourist shops where you can purchase maps to help you out. The Emiciclo Giovanni Paolo II is a little plaza right before you head into the town of Arrezzo. This big tourist office helped us hydrate and grab a little souvenir before we went to explore.

Basic Terms: Even though people from around here don’t know much English, they are still really polite and helpful when you try! To get around the city and find the best places, you will need to learn a few different little phrases to help you. Carrying a small dictionary or translator can be very helpful when communicating with locals. For the locals it’s all about making an effort! Don’t worry about butchering a few words the first time! They like to see that you are trying to learn, and be more helpful right away.

We came up with a list of basic greetings that will help you the most:

  • Ciao- Hello/Goodbye (ex: chow)
  • Buongiorno- Good morning/good day (ex: bon-jor-no)
  • Buonasera- Good evening/Good night (ex: boo-ona-sera)
  • Grazie- Thank you (ex: gra-zee)
  • Per favore- Please (ex: per fa-voray)
  • Scusa– Excuse me (ex: sku-za)
  • Vorrei- I would like… (ex: voh-ray)
  • Si- yes (ex: see)
  • No- no

Here are some general terms for things you will need to get around town:

  • Negozio– store (ex: neg-oz-io)
  • Piazza – town square (ex: pi-az-za)
  • Coffee shop- caffetteria
  • Restaurant- ristorante
  • Restroom- toilette
  • Train station- stazione ferroviario (sta-zio-ne fer-ro-via-rio)
  • Bus- autobus

One of the best pizza places in town!

The best advice we were offered was that if you are looking for a particular object/place and you only know the one key word, ask it as if it were a question. For example if you are looking for a place that sells wine, you can say, “Vino?” and the locals will help you find the best wine in town.

Eating and Drinking: If you want to get a pizza, you will need to look for a pizzeria. Most restaurants will only offer full pizza, not just slices. If your looking to grab a quick slice, look for a sign that says forno, that means that they offer single slices. The best fresh slice we have gotten was at Antico Forno La Pieve.

Coffee shops are very different from American coffee shops, too. Starbucks and Dunkin have nothing on Italy’s authentic coffee. One of the best places we have been to is Coffee O’Clock.


Cafe freddo from Coffee O’Clock!

The women who work there are so welcoming and understanding. They make it easy to order and ignore all of the little mistakes you may make the first time, but also help to teach you. Plus the coffee is absolutely delisiouzo! For all the coffee addicts out there, this is the most helpful hints we have learned:

  • A lot of cafés charge you extra to actually sit inside of the shop.
  • When ordering coffee, you place your money on the counter instead of handing it to them.
  • Portions are small, but the coffee is so much better- it’s all about how good the coffee is, not about how much you get!
  • If you want iced coffee- say café freddo!
  • Also one great perk is that if you order at a coffee shop, you get a free glass of water!

Cathedral of San Donato

If you’re looking to loosen up and get something a little stronger than coffee, then don’t look for a bar- look for a pub! Bars in Italy are normally coffee shops and pubs are where you can get alcohol. I know it may seem confusing, but you get used to it eventually!

What To Wear: Fashion in Italy is much more of a statement than it is in the states. Italians dress for the season as opposed to the weather. For example, even if it is 80 degrees in May, you will still see men in full suits – it may seem weird extreme but every guy looks better in a suit, right? If you go into a church (which you should definitely do, there are a few different ones in town) your shoulders and knees must be covered or you won’t be allowed in. It’s just a sign of respect; don’t be offended!

Most Americans stick out like sore thumbs no matter what, so making sure you’re dressed appropriately is an easy step to take. If you are out wearing a tank top and shorts, most locals will give you death stares and seem offended by your outfit. So far this has been one of the best experiences of our lives. The culture is so different but so amazing and life changing. We look forward to continuing to learn about Arezzo as well as other Italian cities and all it has to offer!

Palazzo del Fraternita!

Palazzo del Fraternita!


2 thoughts on “Navigating an Italian City

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