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American Travelers : How Italians Will Know You’re American

EUROPE, Italy, Travel, Travel Advice

  1. I see a lot of these articles about how not to look like an American or a tourist in Italy, and they usually seem about half right, like this one. I live in Trastevere (Rome), and during summer Italians wearing shorts and tee-shirts is common. I see businessmen in suits walking with backpacks, although admittedly cool-looking backpacks. There is a high school near my flat, and you could take the kids I see milling around in front and drop them onto a high school campus in, say, Des Moines, and they wouldn’t look out of place. Also, a good many of the plastered kids I see in Piazza Santa Maria at night are Italian kids, and they are so drunk they can hardly walk. (The rest are mostly students from nearby John Cabot U.) Regarding traveling in packs, Italian young people always, always travel in huge groups, and speaking of loud, Italians are the loudest people of any country I’ve lived in — including Argentina, Mexico, Germany, and South Africa.

    The rest of your piece seems largely accurate.

    • Hi! Thank you so much for your reply!

      As always there are exceptions to every rule. My observations are from Florence mostly, which is significantly smaller than Rome population wise, so I get to see all of this at a much smaller concentration.

      I too have seen Italians wearing shorts and tees, my boyfriend does it all the time- but the style is significantly different than the American shorts and t-shirt combo. Italian men tend to wear their shorts tighter, ripped, and below the knee. I have a hard time imagining any Italian highschooler I’ve ever met looking at place in an American high school, regardless of how American they attempt to dress. As for the women, you would be hard pressed to find a female over 21 in Florence wearing shorts. The younger ones I see doing it in the hotter months, and it’s still with an Italian flare, even though it tends to mimic an American style.

      The backpacks, yes, you are right! I do see Italians wearing them, though it is rarer, and again, in a different style than the American student on their way to school backpack.

      And as for the loudness, traveling in packs and drinking. I have this discussion several times a day with people at work, and sadly Americans are shaping the way Italians, and especially young ones, drink. Bar crawls were banned in Florence a few years ago because Americans would bar hop in groups of 200 or more, wreaking havoc on the town with their drunkenness. Not only was it terrorizing the city, but Italy, and Florence in particular, has noticed a huge change in the drinking habits of young Italians in the past few years, and this is believed to be partly because of the American influences here in Italy. I agree, Italians are loud and I have spent many a good night in Santo Spirito watching loud drunks. Italians are loud. But from my observations, I have seen Italians gathering at one place, not so much pack travelling together.

      As I said in the beginning, there are exceptions to every rule, not that my post are rules by any means, just the observations of an expat who has some time on her hands. Thank you so much for your feed back, I hope you find my reply helpful.

      • Maria del says:

        I just came back from Italy November 2020, and in some details you maybe right but most of them maybe in the places that you were only. You talking about Florence but in every part of Italy people is different like here in United States. Florida is being said that is like different country from the rest of USA. But no don’t expect people that lives abroad try to blend with locals because everyone is different. We are fast pace and they are not. It’s polite to adapt to their way when you interact of course because is their house but we can’t change. So if an Italian come here to United States what he/she supposed to do? Blend and imitate our culture and sink her/his. And it’s not like that. I don’t know what Americans you see being like that but the ones that I saw were very respectful. And Italians are the loudest people that I ever see. And kids in Venice get drunk and stay very late. I saw them.

      • Janice DiPietro says:

        In Naples at night, all the kids come out together and it’s a sea of young teens literally. Being in an Italian American immigrant family, we are loud and talk over everyone and with great zeal and expression. And when we visit in Italy, it is the same.

        • I can remember walking to work in the morning with a savage hangover and two Italian men yelling at each other across the street from their respective shops – there was no one else around. I thought “Why doesn’t one of you walk over to the other?” People are strange, it’s one of the amazing things about living on this planet, all of our different inner workings.

          I will always say though, Americans are absolutely louder than Italians – we have no inside voice as I have been told many times by friends – and in my opinion, when I hear our accent screaming across a street I cringe. No other country’s accent cuts through the air like that (maybe a strong Essex or Aussie accent…but that’s a maybe!)

    • F Simon says:

      I very much appreciate your article even with a few giggles.
      Having grown up in an Italian immigrant family here in the U.S.A. all of what you are saying is true. When I travel all over Italy, I notice the tourist whonfit the profile. The tourist are not all American. They have also influenced the Italians into having some of their behaviors. In the year 2000, you could not find a cocktail in the bars anywhere. Now they make the best cocktails. ..

  2. wendy aronica says:

    Thanks for all the info, but your tone and presentation were off putting. Sardonic, sarcastic, uppity. Must be the American in you! I do not disagree with any of your information, I have 2 adult children who live in Europe and your observations are quite astute. Your tone bordered on rude.

  3. Kaitlyn says:

    Hi! I am going to Salerno to study abroad for about 5 weeks in May. I want to blend in and look nice when I go to class, or on an excursion. I am a college student, so all I really wear is shorts/t shirt/ leggins/ tennis shoes. Do you have any website/store suggestions for clothing? Also, comfy, yet fashionable shoes?

    • Brenda says:

      I am confused about “sharing” pizza. Do Italian women eat a whole pizza? Our first meal in Rome my husband and ordered a pizza, and told the waiter we would share. It was obvious he was poking fun at us, but I didn’t understand why. It was all we could do to finish that pizza. What should we have done?

    • Pam says:

      Try Pininterest

  4. Theresa says:

    What’s worse than a rude Italian? A rude American who tries to tell people how to not seem like an American in Italy. You are probably the same type of woman who says “I’m a free spirit and not like other girls!”. Pretentious. I go to Napoli almost every year to see family and most young people there don’t dress that differently than Americans of the same age with the exception of them not wearing flip flops.

    • Hi Theresa! It’s how to blend in, no need to take the advice if you don’t want. Though another piece of advice, sounds like you could use a glass of wine so you’re not so butthurt about me being a rude American. I have question for you…do you speak Italian? If not then seems pretty damn PRETENTIOUS to me to go to Italy and expect people to speak to you in English. Or maybe just ignorance…I don’t know which is worse to be honest. Not to say don’t travel to countries that you don’t speak the language of but, if we are on the pretentious train of thought……

      Perhaps you should write an article titled “I’m bored with my life so I try to get reactions out of people online about the things they write that have nothing to do with me” and another that says “I’m important – I go to Napoli Every Year…here’s why”

      I will be writing an article soon called “Why do people think I care what they think?” Because I really don’t. You’re comment has given me great joy! Perhaps I’m not like other girls because I find this hilarious!
      Have a lovely day!

  5. Ingrid McGowan says:

    We’ll, I enjoyed your suggestions and thought you presented a true picture of how not to behave in Europe. Having lived there and traveled back many times, I often relate horror stories of loud obnoxious Americans who seem to feel entitled, especially in countries such as Italy where the culture is so unique and special. As for the negative comments, I find them as inappropriate as those obnoxious Americans. Thanks for sharing your experiences and keep writing!

    • Hi Ingrid! Thanks so much for your reply.

      Honestly, the negative comments just fuel what I was saying in the article. I’ve now lived in Europe off and on for a total of 4 years since this article was written, going into my 5th year just now (1 in Italy, 3 in Spain, carrying on in Spain now). And truly, the article holds as true now as it did in 2016 when drafted. Granted, I think a lot has changed in travel since then, so it is probably time for an update.

      It’s all in good fun. I love most of my fellow countrymen – this post is just ousting the ones that think they are above respecting others..

    • Mary says:

      I agree with Ingrid! I loved your post and find it very helpful. It’s really about respecting other cultures. I am a Native American Indian and I love to travel to Europe and especially Italy. Before I travel, I like to brush up on my Italian and it’s fun to gather my wardrobe and feel good about blending in somewhat. I have noticed some bad american behaviors and get very embarrassed, but you can’t change the way people are going to be. My group of friends are always courteous and fun and friendly, we make up for those that aren’t so nice. It’s like that no matter where you go in this world, as it takes all kinds and we just do our part to make it a better place to be in!

  6. Liz says:

    I live in New York City and my grandparents were from Italy. I feel sorry that you live in Florida. Your Governor is insane ! Forget these suggestions and go to Italy and be yourself. Italians do not care just like New Yorkers don’t care when Europeans come here. Seriously!

    • Italians are very happy to be welcoming to Americans now that COVID has “ended” and travel has opened up, they were always welcoming – however that doesn’t negate the fact that there are some sterotypes of Americans that Italians do notice. I am always one for assimilating to the culture you are in. What’s the point of going to a country with amazing cuisine and only eating burgers? There isn’t one…same with the fashion and everything else. I’m not really sure why you are so triggered by this post. I’ve lived in Europe for three years now, both Spain and italy, and no one knows I’m American typically until I start to speak.

      Also not sure why you brought politics into this…but I’m just going to assume you’ve got “boomer” mentality ????

      • Donna says:

        You know, I was totally on your side until the “boomer” comment. Very rude. People of all ages have an equal right to their opinion, and you can disagree with that opinion without calling names. Shame on you.

  7. Romano Benini says:

    This comment in accurate . We italians dont drink to get drunk . Drink is to taste for adult and to meet people for young . Yes , you could meet some young people drunk late at night in the “ movida areas” but they have a strong social disapproval. However young people in summer wear shorts, but only girls . We notice rude people , italian or american is the same. People travel in groups are loud everywhere. Rude and ignorant people come from every nation, but We notice often how american students and tourists are really ignorant and not interested in culture art and history .

  8. Rosie says:

    All these comments are very interesting but the bottom line is I spend a lot of money to see the world and the way I dress is for my comfort only.. If I am going to walk 10 miles around a city, I will wear my sneakers and socks. Since I don’t want to carry much and keep my hands free, I will carry my backpack which says Boston. I bought it 24 years ago for five dollars and it’s enjoyed many trips. I am as respectful of all cultures and have an app to translate when needed.. We travelers can’t know everything about your culture so be patient we are visiting and will be gone.. Let me travel my way and I will let you travel yours..if you don’t like how I look, turn your head…..

    • Dress how you want 100%, the fact of the matter is most people will still get offended when someone calls them an American Tourist, or says they are “dressed like an American”. This is literally an article on how not to stand out like a sore thumb in Italy, so obviously you don’t have to take any of the advice if you don’t want.

      Having a translate app is not the same as respect for a culture, putting the two in the same sentence leads me to beleive you think that is so.

      Travel is a beautiful thing because it teaches about culture, however, you cannot expect your travels to do all the work for you, if you were to go to Saudi Arabia, would you not look up the dress code first? I would hope so.

  9. Vicki V says:

    Ciao Sydney. I’ve enjoyed your article and you make many valid points. I have been to Italy every year from New Zealand since 2014 except for the 2 Covid years and have been learning Italian for 10 years. I think that the people who have been offended by your writings have totally missed the point. I WANT to blend in especially as I’m older and don’t want to be targeted by street vendors and thieves, I absolutely love being asked for directions by those who think I am Italian: it’s the best compliment ever. Keep writings and ignore the negativity. If some Americans are happy and proud to be recognised as Americans they are not your target group and they shouldn’t have bothered reading an article headlined as it is. Un abbraccio.

    • Finally, someone who gets it! They’re definitely missing the point. It’s a way to assimilate, the less you stick out, the more you will learn. An Italian is much more likely to try and work with you, speak with you, and help you out if you are making a clear effort to honor & respect the culture.
      Am I saying you don’t have to wear your athleisure? Of course not, I’m saying if you want to blend in, be taken seriously and maybe learn about another way of life, this is the way to do it. Obviously, the satire in this article is missed by some.

  10. Linda says:

    What’s wrong with standing out as American?? Don’t people visit other countries ? Do you have to fit into the country you’re visiting in order to travel? I don’t understand why it is a necessity to “fit in” when that isn’t even your home country . Obviously outsiders will stand out , I’m not going to waste time to change myself before I visit another country. That’s why it’s called being a “tourist.”

    • I think it’s less about “standing out” and more about being insensitive. Americans often don’t care if their obnoxious behavoiur offends those around them. Also, what’s the point of going to a new country if you aren’t there to learn/accept the new culture?

    • Helga says:

      What a gloriously excellent example of an obnoxious American tourist. From Europe.

  11. Donna says:

    Almost everything you say applies to France as well. I’ve spent a lot of time there, and I can put a “check” beside each thing you mentioned. Yes, even the part about not making direct eye contact and smiling broadly at strangers in public. It is rude not to say “bonjour” to people you encounter in public, but you make only fleeting eye contact when doing so. Like you, I am often approached by the locals in France who speak to me in French and assume I am one of them. I’m not TRYING to “pass” for French or deny I’m American, but I am only trying not to stand out in an obvious manner or draw attention to myself. Also, the scam artists who target tourists will walk right by me and try their “do you speak English?” con on the doofus in the sports team logo sweatshirt, ball cap, shorts and ginormous sneakers. (However, Americans are not even the most obnoxious tourists – just wait until a bus pulls up with 75 Chinese tourists and their 75 selfie-sticks..) .

  12. Shirley says:

    Hi Sydney! I enjoyed your article and completely understand how to blend in. I respect the culture of wherever my travels take me. I never wear shorts, t-shirts, sneakers, or flip flops. I guess I’m not a typical American traveler since I want to dress with class. You can dress casually without looking like a bum. I’ll be traveling to Italy with a friend in October and I’m beyond excited. Going to Rome, Florence, and Sorrento and looking forward to exploring.

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