DINNER DON'Ts - This is how it tastes right in Italy!

A summer evening in Rimini in Emilia-Romagna...

At mangiare the fun stops in Italy. Eating is more than a basic need - it's an attitude to life! If you don't want to attract (unpleasant) attention: our 10 basic rules for dinner will help. Buon appetito...

The 10 basic rules: This is how it tastes right!

1. every meal has its time

As casual as people are in Italy - the fun stops when it comes to eating. Lunch is between 1 and 3 p.m. (especially in the countryside, including a siesta afterwards). The dinner, the cena is usually served around 8 pm.

The further south you are (and the warmer the temperatures), the further back this time moves. The cena can also start at 9 or 10 pm. If you want to bridge the time until then: Between 6 and 8 p.m. there is the apericena, an aperitivo with nibbles.

apericena in milano
Apericena in Milan looks like this...

If you want a digestion-friendly meal at 6pm, you won't usually get anything on your plate outside the tourist centres. Restaurants are usually still closed at this time, and if not, you'll probably be the only guest. Or you are travelling through the mountains in the north (in winter) - then the situation looks different again...

back to the overview

Italy's restaurant types: From Pizzeria to Trattoria...

2. no flip-flops

Not as casual as I thought, part 2. Even in the beach areas, Italians do NOT wear flip-flops to the restaurant in the evening. Traditionally, people in Italy go out dressier - nothing with a tank top and Bermudas. Even with flip flops you'll get a table, but possibly some irritated looks.

back to the overview

Out and about at night in Florence

3. wait for your seat

In Italy, you are a guest - so they take care of you. Stand at the entrance of the restaurant until the waitress greets you and seats you. Just walking in and sitting down at a table is considered very rude....

back to the overview

italy gastronomy
In Italy, here in Rimini, you'll be assigned your table: wait a moment, off you go...

Attention, rip-off: The typical tourist traps in Rome


Here are flights to the most delicious food in the world...

Travel tips for Italy

One could write treatises about the Italian menu (and there will be a few more posts), so here is just a brief summary. On Sundays and public holidays there is usually the full programme of courses, at "normal" meals sometimes only two courses.

antipasti made in italy
This is what a plate of antipasti looks like in the village in Campania - really, really tasty...

A classic Italian menu: It starts with antipasti (including bruschetta, caprese, carpaccio), then comes the primo piatto (Carbohydrates: pasta, pizza, risotto, among others), secondo piatto (protein: including meat, fish, seafood, cheese, egg), followed by dessert, the dolci (including tiramisù, pannacotta).

back to the overview

5. as always with respect

Waiter"Shouts across the bar are inappropriate. Instead, discreetly raise your finger or a friendly "signore" or "signora" and all tutto a posto.

Almost all service staff do their job with pride in the food they serve. Ask for recommendations - and you won't regret it.

back to the overview

roma street
A break in between in Rome

6. "Coperto" is NOT a tip

The coperto is NOT an "automatic" tip. In many restaurants the coperto added to the bill as a kind of service charge for setting the table. This fee goes to the restaurant owners, not the waiters.

Legendary penne all'arrabiata in Rome, probably the best ever

back to the overview

7. vino yes, drunk no

It's tempting: first an aperitivo, then a prosecco, later a delicious wine, then another grappa, and now at the latest comes the silver lining. Oops! And in Italy: double whoops.

Aperol Spritz
At night in Florence: Nobody staggers here...

In fact, in Italy you hardly see drunks staggering through the streets, you don't hear drunks bawling in pubs (if you do, it's usually tourists). In Italy it is frowned upon to get drunk in public.  

P.S. These rules do not apply to Italian tourists at the Oktoberfest in Munich. But that's also in Germany. 🙂

back to the overview


Looking for a place to take your digestive nap...?

8. coffee after dinner

After dinner we have espresso. No pot of coffee, no latte, no cappuccino. Espresso, nothing else.

P.S. Just in general: Cappuccino is only available until 11 am (for breakfast).

back to the overview

Espresso in Italy
The only acceptable coffee after dinner is the espresso

9. the bill, please

If you go out with a group, you order the bill as a group and then throw it together. Under no circumstances should you let the waitress collect from eight people individually.

evening in florence
After dinner a stroll through Florence...

back to the overview

10. "Mancia": The tip

Basic rule: The more touristy the area, the more often tipping is "expected". In less touristy regions, especially economically weak areas, tipping is often not paid (and not expected).

Apart from the extremely low restaurant wages in Italy, good service also deserves a tip (according to common opinion). For holidaymakers in Italy, 5 to 10 per cent (including coperto) is usual in a restaurant. US tourists often pay considerably more.

back to the overview

florence by night
Time to go home - don't forget to tip...



Our latest stories


By loading the video, you accept YouTube's privacy policy.
Learn more

Load video

Bella Vita with passion


This is all about pleasure....

Scooter tour, cooking course, boat trip or wine tasting: there is no such thing as boredom at Viator (part of Tripadvisor). Whether alone or in a relaxed group, there is virtually everything here. Book your programme for Italy.

man on a scooter wearing hellmet
Photo by Faisal Hijjaz on Pexels.com
Time for your road trip

"Discover Cars" works with more than 500 car rental companies - you will find very good prices with so many suppliers.

Find Your Rental Car

written by Pietro Perroni, first published 13.12.21, updated 29.09.22

Cover photo/montage: LA BELLA VITA club/Kayser

Source: life