Incredible food. It's likely one of your main motivations for traveling to Italy, so you should know how to pronounce what you're about to order. Meals are a great source of pride for Italians, and by butchering the name of your dish, you're disrespecting the work that went into it. Skim through a phrasebook and familiarize yourself with some common food pronunciations. Also memorize a few courtesy phrases like, "Could I have...?" Your Italian doesn't have to be perfect. Just putting in the effort will please the waitstaff and ensure that the cook is the only one doing the butchering...
Put Your Foot Down
Italians are notoriously pushy when they're stuck waiting in line. Market stands and cafe counters often teem with people and can be overwhelming to tourists. Stand your ground and don't be afraid to push your way to the front. Always know your order ahead of time. At the counter, speak clearly and have your money ready so you don't slow down the fast-paced service.
Trains are a great way to get around Italy — if you know what to do. Tickets are easy to purchase at electronic booths, but make sure you've chosen the proper fare and destination. Riding the wrong train or taking it further than your fare allows can get you kicked off the train or fined. After you buy your ticket, STOP! Find the yellow validation machine and stamp it. An unvalidated ticket can also warrant fines.
In the US, it's normal to pay for small purchases with large bills. In Italy, it's like the 8th deadly sin. Cashiers hate making change and can be rude if you deny their requests for exact coins. Use your larger bills for larger purchases and save your 1 & 2 euro coins for gelato money. It's always smart to be on the cashier's good side, especially if you plan to go back for more gelato (you will.)
Under My Umbrella
If you want to see that piazza when it's less crowded, wait until it rains. Italians scatter at the first sign of precipitation and those who can't escape come prepared. Sleek raincoats and long umbrellas are rainy day essentials. Check the forecast and always carry a compact umbrella so you don't end up the only person in Italy who's drenched.
There are no Starbucks in Italy because coffee is an art form. It's perfectly acceptabl to sip an early morning cappuccino or latte. This window closes after the clock strikes noon, when true Italians drink only espresso. Other coffee drinks are still served throughout the day but show that you're a newbie.
The typical Italian dinner doesn't start until 8pm and many restaurants don't even open until then. If waiting to eat late is difficult for you, have a late lunch or buy a snack to tide you over.
Good gelato is always served in metal bins, which signify it's homemade. Gelato should appear smooth and fluffy, and never grainy.
You're probably used to eating pizza by hand and by the slize. Many Italians actually use a knife and fork and most order a whole pizza for themselves. Take out is frowned upon. Hope you're hungry!