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Tourist types you’ll meet in Italy: which one are you?

Almost 80 million tourists roam Italy each year, all with different characteristics and hoping to soak up all the country has to offer as much as they can. But can you recognize yourself in any of these?

Tourist types you'll meet in Italy: which one are you?
Photo: Luca Sartoni

1. The gastronomical tourist

Photo: Kristal Nina Garcia

These tourists came to Italy with only one — or perhaps 10,000 — things in mind: their taste buds. Some may have been naive enough to think they’d find spaghetti and meatballs on every menu, while others may be able to pick apart the most tender notes of the so-called Super Tuscan wine they're drinking. If it wasn’t for all the walking they’ll encounter, they’d certainly leave Italy about two belt notches bigger then they arrived. This food focus can hardly be blamed, as from risotto to prosciutto to cannoli, Italy has one of the most impeccable reputations in the culinary world. But they must be cautious — there are plenty of unscrupulous waiters trying to drag them into their overpriced restaurant right by Rome's Trevi Fountain or St. Mark’s Square in Venice. In the olden days, they might not have stood a chance. But luckily for them, in the days of Yelp! and Tripadvisor, Italy’s best food can be found with the touch of a button.

2. The tourist looking for love

Photo: Lota Angelini

It’s hard not to come to Italy and feel romantic. A gondola ride along Venice's Grand Canal or a quiet evening on a Tuscan hill are the stuff a hopeless romantic dreams of. Every casual bump on the street, every peer from over the top of their travel journal, every reaching for the same nibbles at aperitivo leaves them a little breathless, thinking that it could lead to them looking into the eyes of the dark haired stunner who will be their 'one'. Every moment of slightly drawn-out eye contact leads them to want to turn around and beg for a name — and a request to befriend them on Facebook. And while most of them will turn out disappointed, hope springs eternal from those who do find their love in Italy.

3. The “Grand Tour in a Week” tourist

Pushing Pisa's Leaning Tower…Photo: Kent Clark

These are tourists are on a mission. They have dreamed of seeing Italy since their youngest days, but never had the time or money to visit. Finally, everything is all set — the money has been saved and the boss notified. Where to go, though? Everyone has to see Rome. But what of Venice? Milan? Florence? Pompeii? Not to mention so many other names floating about their head. So they decide to make like the nobility of old and see all of Italy — in one week. “With trains, planes and automobiles it’s doable,” they reason. “We aren’t travelling by horse.” So like a whirlwind, they strike down the peninsula and see everything Italy has to offer, with all the trinkets and pictures to match — pushing the Leaning Tower of Pisa, throwing a coin in the Trevi Fountain, a small David magnet. Any delay or missed connection will result in a furious reaction, as they worry this may be their last best chance to fulfill their dreams. But in all this rushing and worrying the Grand Tourer will miss Italy’s finest attraction — the lifestyle.

4. The roving study abroad student

Photo: Prokjirka Matasek

The roving study abroad student has traits of all of the above tourists. They most likely want to try the local delicacies, but their lack of planning means they could fall victim to tourist-trap restaurants. While not explicitly looking for love, a quick fling in a foreign city is what you are sure to remember when you look back as an adult on your semester abroad. And usually in a rush as they try to cram a city into the weekend in between their Underwater Basket Weaving exam and a Creative Writing paper, the roving study abroad student is too carefree to fret about a missed train or bus. While unpolished and likely to make mistakes, these travellers are full of enthusiasm that will turn any bad experience into a positive. Swindled out of money by a Napolitano street game? Well, we got to practice cursing in Italian. Waited in the general admission line to the Uffizi even though we had booked tickets in advance? Well, we met some cool other students to party with that night! Just hope you don’t have a room near them, as they will be back at some ungodly hour, full of booze and thoughts that for some reason they must shout.

5. The one who’s definitely going to be pickpocketed…

Photo: José Manuel Ríos Valiente

A large backpack that would require a rearview mirror to check behind you. Loose change jingling as they walk. A wallet only pushed about half way into a back pocket. These tourists are asking for trouble. You can tell it must be one of their first times out of the country, and in all their oooh-ing and ahh-ing, they forgot that their tourist status won’t shield them from petty crime. They are about to learn the hard way that people can be jerks. If they're lucky, they'll only lose a few euro coins and only discover this as they try to pay for a gelato. If they are unlucky, they could be in for a day of calling credit card companies — if they still have their phone.

6. …and the one who’s definitely NOT going to be…

Photo: John Myles White

Take the above, but have them wear their outrageously large bag in front of them. We get it, you find the thought of having your stuff stolen revolting. But this is Italy. The only thing revolting is fashion sense (or lack thereof) shown by your choice. Get a nice shoulder bag, that’ll be easier to guard. Or an even simpler solution — pack less stuff.

7. The new photographer

Photo: Giulio Gigante

Perhaps they are using the old family camera some relative dusted off and gave to them upon hearing about their trip. Perhaps they mean business and have a full camera rig ready to go, with an external flash, lens hood and a tripod hooked to their bag. Or maybe they just always have their iPad mini or iPhone 6+ (what’s even the difference?) out. But they can easily be spotted near any major landmark, snapping away happily at the Colosseum or Florence's Ponte Vecchio, taking pictures thousands of other people have before. Sure, they can hardly be blamed for wanting one to preserve the memories. But then they continue to take pictures, of every small thing at the site. It starts to seem like their memory of the Sistine Chapel won’t be seeing it, but taking pictures of it.

8. The pretentious one

Photo: Kent Clark

They know about five phrases of Italian and flaunt it everywhere they go. They read a book of Roman history before they left, but tend only to reference reading the book, not any pertinent facts from it. They’ve been to Italy once before and claim it helps them better appreciate the culture, but really they were only about 12. However, they're very willing to go off the beaten track to find a real gelateria, or spend time staring at paintings that aren’t The Birth of Venus, so they aren’t totally faking it. But do they have to act so high and mighty?

9. The one who does fall in love

Photo: Roevin

All of the above tourists are right in some ways. Fresh pasta in a basil-tomato sauce cannot be beaten in simplicity and taste. There is a tonne to see, even if you can’t push it all into a week. The mistakes you make may be embarrassing, but every mistake is a chance to learn. Criminals exist everywhere, so just look out for them. Being awestruck by the beauty of centuries-old cathedrals means you can be forgiven for having an itchy trigger finger with a camera. And it isn’t a crime to want to appreciate a culture in the local way. Put all of those together, and this tourist doesn’t fall in love with a person. They fall in love with Italy.

By Stephen Carruso
 

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MONEY

How to avoid huge ‘roaming’ phone bills while visiting Italy

If you're visiting Italy from outside the EU you risk running up a huge phone bill in roaming charges - but there are ways to keep your internet access while avoiding being hit by extra charges.

How to avoid huge ‘roaming’ phone bills while visiting Italy

Travelling without access to the internet is almost impossible these days. We use our phones for mapping applications, contacting the Airbnb, even scanning the QR code for the restaurant menu.

If you’re lucky enough to have a phone registered in an EU country then you don’t need to worry, thanks to the EU’s cap on charges for people travelling, but people visiting from non-EU countries – which of course now includes the UK – need to be careful with their phone use abroad.

First things first, if you are looking to avoid roaming charges, be sure to go into your settings and turn off “data roaming.” Do it right before your plane lands or your train arrives – you don’t want to risk the phone company in your home country starting the clock on ‘one day of roaming fees’ without knowing it.

READ ALSO: Ten ways to save money on your trip to Italy this summer

But these days travelling without internet access can be difficult and annoying, especially as a growing number of tourist attractions require booking in advance online, while restaurants often display their menus on a QR code.

So here are some techniques to keep the bills low.

Check your phone company’s roaming plan

Before leaving home, check to see what your phone plan offers for pre-paid roaming deals.

For Brits, if you have a phone plan with Three for example, you can ask about their “Go Roam” plan for add-on allowance. You can choose to pay monthly or as you go. Vodafone offers eight day and 15 day passes that are available for £1 a day.

For Americans, T-Mobile offers you to add an “international pass” which will charge you $5 per day. Verizon and AT&T’s roaming plans will charge you $10 per day. For AT&T, you are automatically opted into this as soon as your phone tries to access data abroad.

READ ALSO: Seven things to do in Italy in summer 2022

These all allow you to retain your normal phone number and plan.

Beware that these prices are only available if you sign up in advance, otherwise you will likely be facing a much bigger bill for using mobile data in Italy. 

Buy a pre-paid SIM card

However, if you are travelling for a longer period of time it might work out cheaper to turn off your phone data and buy a pre-paid SIM card in Italy.

In order to get a pre-paid SIM card, you will need your passport or proof of identity (drivers’ licences do not count).

READ ALSO: TRAVEL: Why now’s the best time to discover Italy’s secret lakes and mountains

Keep in mind that you will not be able to use your normal phone number with the new SIM card in, but will be able to access your internet enabled messaging services, like WhatsApp, Facebook and iMessage. Your phone will need to be ‘unlocked’ (ask your carrier about whether yours is) in order to put a new SIM card in.

Here are some of the plans you can choose from:

WindTre

WindTre, the result of a 2020 merger between the Italian company Wind and the UK network provider Three, currently offers a “Tourist Pass” SIM card for foreign nationals. For €24.99 (it’s sneakily marketed as €14.99, but read the small print and you’ll see you need to fork out an additional €10), you’ll have access to 20GB of data for up to 30 days.

The offer includes 100 minutes of calls within Italy plus an additional 100 minutes to 55 foreign countries listed on the WindTre website. Up to 13.7GB can be used for roaming within the EU. The card is automatically deactivated after 30 days, so there’s no need to worry about surprise charges after you return from your holiday. To get this SIM card, you can go into any WindTre store and request it.

A tourist protects herself from the sun with a paper umbrella as she walks at Piazza di Spagna near the Spanish Steps in Rome.
A tourist protects herself from the sun with a paper umbrella as she walks at Piazza di Spagna near the Spanish Steps in Rome.

Vodafone

Vodafone has had better deals in the past, but lately appears to have downgraded its plan for tourists, now called “Vodafone Holiday” (formerly “Dolce Vita”), to a paltry 2GB for €30. You get a total of 300 minutes of calls and 300 texts to Italian numbers or to your home country; EU roaming costs €3 per day.

Existing Vodafone customers can access the offer by paying €19 – the charge will be made to your Vodafone SIM within 72 hours of activating the deal. 

READ ALSO: MAP: The best Italian villages to visit this year

The Vodafone Holiday offer automatically renews every four weeks for €29 – in order to cancel you’ll need to call a toll-free number. The Vodafone website says that the €30 includes the first renewal, suggesting the payment will cover the first four weeks plus an additional four after that, but you’ll want to double check before buying. You’ll need to go to a store in person to get the card.

TIM

TIM is one of Italy’s longest-standing and most well-established network providers, having been founded in 1994 following a merger between several state-owned companies.

The “Tim Tourist” SIM card costs €20 for 15GB of data and 200 minutes of calls within Italy and to 58 foreign countries, and promises “no surprises” when it comes to charges.

You can use the full 15GB when roaming within the EU at no extra charge, and in the EU can use your minutes to call Italian numbers. The deal is non-renewable, so at the end of the 30 days you won’t be charged any additional fees.

READ ALSO: MAP: Which regions of Italy have the most Blue Flag beaches?

To access the offer, you can either buy it directly from a TIM store in Italy, or pre-order using an online form and pay with your bank card. Once you’ve done this, you’ll receive a PIN which you should be able to present at any TIM store on arrival in Italy (along with your ID) to collect your pre-paid card. The card won’t be activated until you pick it up.

Iliad

Iliad is the newest and one of the most competitive of the four major phone companies operating in Italy, and currently has an offer of 120GBP of €9.99 a month. For this reason, some travel blogs recommend Iliad as the best choice for foreigners – but unfortunately all of their plans appear to require an Italian tax ID, which rules it out as an option for tourists.

Contract

Though buying a pre-paid SIM card is a very useful option for visitors spending a decent amount of time in Italy, as mentioned above, there’s a significant different difference between buying a one-time pre-paid SIM versus a monthly plan that auto-renews.

Make sure you know which one you’re signing up for, and that if you choose a plan that will continue charging you after your vacation has ended, you remember to cancel it.

UK contracts

If you have a UK-registered mobile phone, check your plan carefully before travelling. Before Brexit, Brits benefited from the EU cap on roaming charges, but this no longer applies.

Some phone companies have announced the return of roaming charges, while others have not, or only apply roaming charges only on certain contracts.

In short, check before you set off and don’t assume that because you have never been charged extra before, you won’t be this time.

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