10 Things That Surprised Me About Traveling In Italy

10 Things That Surprised Me About Traveling In Italy

I didn't realize how much I took for granted in the U.S.


While traveling in Italy, I quickly learned that there were many things different than from the U.S. I immediately realized that there were things that I took for granted but also many things that I wished I had in the U.S. Throughout, the different cities we visited things that I was most surprised about did not change in one city from the next. I learned that the norms that were completely different than from the U.S. which I expected but didn't realize how big the differences would be. Here, I write about all the things that surprised me about traveling through Italy.

1. The food quality is better than the U.S.

They have higher food restrictions for the food they serve. Italy serves a lot of fresh produce and has a lot of markets for people to buy fresh produce.

2. You have to pay for water

We have taken this for granted in the US. You want to save money, you order water. You have been dying in the heat and desperately need a drink, you want some water. You won't be drinking unless you pay their outrageous price for it.

3. You will be paying to use the restroom

paying for bathroom

Make sure you have some pocket change with you at all times or you will not be able to do anything! This includes basic tasks like using the restroom.

4. You don't have to tip your server

In Italy, they are given good wages so they aren't relying on tips. Many tips are included in the service charge. Many people tip as courteous for good service but it is not required.

5. There are pick-pocketers everywhere

They will do anything to have you distracted to pick your pockets. In Italy, you have to be aware of all your surroundings. At any moment, your stuff or money could be stolen in a blink of an eye.

6. You won't eat pasta every meal

I think when people think of Italy they think of pasta. I thought that I would be eating pasta every meal. That was not the case though. I tried many different types of food through each city I visited in Italy.

7. There is SO MUCH traffic

You need to get to your dinner reservation at 6 but you end up showing 45 minutes late because there is no organization in the street. There are mopeds weaving in and out of cars as people are trying to walk through the streets. You will be moving an inch a minute.

8. You will eat more cheese than you ever had

You will eat so much cheese in every meal. Whether you order the cheese plate for an appetizer or you eat a Caprese salad for lunch. Cheese is sprinkled on almost every dish you'll eat in Italy. So your cheese intake will be highly increased in Italy.

9. You will fall in love with expressos

Every corner is a coffee shop. Most people in America would want to drink coffee but everyone in Italy drink expresso to boost their energy for the day. It is was normal for tourist and locals to be stopping at coffee shops every day.

10.  Touristy places are way more crowded than they seem

On Instagram, you see the clearest pictures of travel bloggers in front of the Coliseum without people in the background. Those bloggers must have stood in position for 3 hours because there are people constantly around you inches away from you.

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I Visited The "Shameless" Houses And Here's Why You Shouldn't

Glamorizing a less-than-ideal way to live.

After five hours of driving, hearing the GPS say "Turn right onto South Homan Avenue" was a blessing. My eyes peeled to the side of the road, viciously looking for what I have been driving so long for, when finally, I see it: the house from Shameless.

Shameless is a hit TV show produced by Showtime. It takes place in modern-day Southside, Chicago. The plot, while straying at times, largely revolves around the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. While a majority of the show is filmed offsite in a studio in Los Angeles, many outside scenes are filmed in Southside and the houses of the Gallagher's and side-characters are very much based on real houses.

We walked down the street, stopped in front of the two houses, took pictures and admired seeing the house in real life. It was a surreal experience and I felt out-of-place like I didn't belong there. As we prepared to leave (and see other spots from the show), a man came strolling down on his bicycle and asked how we were doing.

"Great! How are you?"

It fell silent as the man stopped in front of the Gallagher house, opened the gate, parked his bike and entered his home. We left a donation on his front porch, got back to the car and took off.

As we took the drive to downtown Chicago, something didn't sit right with me. While it was exciting to have this experience, I began to feel a sense of guilt or wrongdoing. After discussing it with my friends, I came to a sudden realization: No one should visit the "Gallagher" house.

The plot largely revolves the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. It represents what Southside is like for so many residents. While TV shows always dramatize reality, I realized coming to this house was an exploitation of their conditions. It's entertaining to see Frank's shenanigans on TV, the emotional roller coasters characters endure and the outlandish things they have to do to survive. I didn't come here to help better their conditions, immerse myself in what their reality is or even for the donation I left: I came here for my entertainment.

Southside, Chicago is notoriously dangerous. The thefts, murders and other crimes committed on the show are not a far-fetched fantasy for many of the residents, it's a brutal reality. It's a scary way to live. Besides the Milkovich home, all the houses typically seen by tourists are occupied by homeowners. It's not a corporation or a small museum -- it's their actual property. I don't know how many visitors these homes get per day, week, month or year. Still, these homeowners have to see frequent visitors at any hour of the day, interfering with their lives. In my view, coming to their homes and taking pictures of them is a silent way of glamorizing the cycle of poverty. It's a silent way of saying we find joy in their almost unlivable conditions.

The conceit of the show is not the issue. TV shows have a way of romanticizing very negative things all the time. The issue at hand is that several visitors are privileged enough to live in a higher quality of life.

I myself experienced the desire and excitement to see the houses. I came for the experience but left with a lesson. I understand that tourism will continue to the homes of these individuals and I am aware that my grievances may not be shared with everyone -- however, I think it's important to take a step back and think about if this were your life. Would you want hundreds, potentially thousands, of people coming to your house? Would you want people to find entertainment in your lifestyle, good and bad?

I understand the experience, excitement, and fun the trip can be. While I recommend skipping the houses altogether and just head downtown, it's most important to remember to be respectful to those very individuals whose lives have been affected so deeply by Shameless.

Cover Image Credit: itsfilmedthere.com

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