Wherever you go, they will assume that you are paying together—so clear it up right away if you are not.
They will not assume you are ready to pay.
A lot of times, restaurants will rush to serve you your drinks and food and then seem to disappear. This is because it is a part of the culture here to spend time with who you're eating with—not to simply eat with them and leave.
Everything is relaxed, so take your time because that is what they will be doing too.
Il Campo, Siena, Italy
At the restaurants, they'll often assume that you're going to continue ordering food until you ask for the check. Therefore, whenever you're done, let them know ASAP.
Italy uses Euros, so be sure to let your bank know that you are traveling internationally and get ready to make a lot of withdraws.
Even with the modernization of societies all over the world, not every place will let you pay with a credit or debit card. Most of the restaurants are family-owned and pretty small, leaving them with the freedom to often have smaller menus as well.
There are a ton of pick-pocketers, and it’ll happen when you least expect it.
A solid tip to keep in mind when going to ATM's is to only take out what you need each day. There is no need to take out hundreds of Euros at a time—unless you absolutely need it. Having less on you gives them less of an opportunity to take it and run. So, take the extra five minutes to go once every morning--it'll also help you to maintain a budget.
You will have to pay to use public bathrooms.
Not all of them cost money, but any near a beach or highly populated area cost money. It's usually pretty cheap and sometimes they'll even time you.
Be ready to eat carbs on carbs on carbs.
Pasta at Fattoria Poggio Alloro
Sure, they have a variety of food to choose from, but that doesn't mean each option is going to be very different. Some restaurants will serve the same pasta meal with different add-ins/sauces and that's it.
Unlike what you’ve most likely heard, not everyone speaks English.
A solid majority of the population knows at least a few words, but there's also a large amount that will just nod at you or shrug their shoulders.
Prepare for the change in dress code.
For example, in America, it's okay to look like a slob wherever you go (sorry, we all know it's true)... whereas in Italy, it is expected for you to look a little nicer, especially when eating out or attending church.
Another thing to watch out for is whether or not you'll have to pay to sit down/eat inside of the restaurant.
Some restaurants charge a higher price if you want to sit outside or in a certain area. Others have a "utensils and chair" charge for being seated at the restaurant at all. Some will charge a general "cover" charge of about 3 euros to cover their service, and some won't charge anything at all.
Drinking with every meal is not required but is encouraged. They’ll bring you the drink menu first, and then ask how you are.
Red and white wine from Fattoria Poggio Alloro, overlooking their farm.
The change in legal age (18 years old) is also a big thing here when traveling from other countries.
Pets are allowed wherever you are allowed.
Water is not cheap.
If you've never experienced this before, this is a big one to know before you go. Water is not free.
Pizza by the slice is on every corner and it’s a cheap go-to.
This will become your favorite snack or even a quick meal on the go. They have all different kinds and will cook it right in front of you. Oh, and the slices are bigger than you think.
It is normal to fold your pizza in half to eat it.
Unless you're at a sit-down restaurant, pizza is usually sold to be eaten on the go. Folding it in half makes it more like a sandwich--less messy and easier to eat quickly.
You most likely will never be in a car unless you're traveling far away, and even then, you go by bus or train.
Walking from place to place throughout the city is quite common. In fact, you'll likely see more taxis and motorcycles/mopeds than any other type of vehicle.
You have to hang dry your laundry in most cases.
And be extra careful to separate your darks/lights/reds because the washers will ruin them if you don't. Pro tip: in Italian washers, wash any type of jean material by itself as well.
The food will most likely only be seasoned if it is meat--and even then, it's not a guarantee.
At a surprisingly large amount of restaurants, they don't even provide salt and pepper.
Don't fight the time change.
On your first day here, try not to take a nap if you can. You'll most likely be jet-lagged, but if you can power through the day, you'll go right to sleep that night. An immediate start with the time change is the best way to adjust effectively.
It's completely normal to eat gelato at any time of day.
There will be shops everywhere, ranging in price and all with different flavors.
A lot of the cheeses and wine are locally made and sold.
San Gimigano, Italy