I love Italy. It’s one of the best countries to visit – having so many beautiful sites and being so rich in history – having been the capital of the Roman empire, the Renaissance, etc. I’ve been to 43+ countries, and Venice, although not exactly under-the-radar, is probably my favorite place. Other places like the Amalfi Coast, Capri, Taormina, Cinque Terre, Tuscany, the hilltop villages, etc. are amongst the most beautiful I’ve seen. The food and gelato of course is world famous.
That being said, there are many things I also dislike about Italy after having lived in Rome for 9 months. As the city critic I am, here are the things I don’t like about living in Italy. Don’t view it as negativity for negativity’s sake, but feedback.
Rome is dirty as hell
Although the historic city center of Rome is fine, go outside the center and Rome is one of the dirtiest cities I’ve ever been to. Go further south to Naples and Catania and the streets are even dirtier. Trash overflows rows of dumpsters along the sidewalks, which smells absolutely disgusting. You’ll find trash everywhere, on the unmaintained grass in parks, in the bins of bikeshares, etc. I thought NYC was filthy, but Rome takes filthiness to another level. And the dirtiness isn’t just limited outdoors, the public bathroom on the 2nd floor at the main Termini train station is one of the most disgusting main train station public bathrooms I’ve seen, the toilets don’t have toilet seats, and you need to pay 1 euro to enter (the machine didn’t even work, so the attendant had to let me in). I was thinking of asking for a refund if not for the fact that the attendant was too busy manually letting people in because the paying machines were broken.
Little A/C (seems to be a European thing)
Rome is one of the hottest cities in the summer, with temperatures reaching 38° (100° F), so hot that it’s uncomfortable being outside during the day. Yet A/C seems to be few and far in between. Even when you find A/C it’s just enough to keep things from being intolerable, but not strong enough to keep you from sweating. For example this is how the A/C is in the main train station Termini. The subways in Milan don’t even have A/C (the two times I rode it). Granted I think the U.S overdoes the hell out of A/C often making indoor places freezes so I’m not suggesting that the U.S should be the role model here, but clearly there’s a middle ground.
People don’t know how to walk on sidewalks
I don’t think I’ve ever been to a country where people have such little regard for others when walking in public. Two people will walk side by side blocking an entire sidewalk, walking at a snail’s pace, without a care in the world to anyone behind them they’re blocking. I’ve rode my scooter multiple times on a bike lane towards people who clearly see me, who just stand there like deer in headlights and barely move enough for me to not run them over. Good luck trying to walk up a crowded escalator, or picking up your suitcase at the airport when everybody waits directly in front on the conveyer belt, preventing you from actually grabbing your suitcase (ok to be fair this is an American problem too).
People also often don’t know how to wait in lines. Instead of a line, you often just get a giant crowd.
Dirty floors in hotel rooms / AirBnBs, people wear shoes inside
As a Japanese person, I find the idea of wearing outside shoes inside one’s house disgusting. But like America, this is the norm in Italy. Always when I check-in to an AirBnB/apartment/hotel and the host wants to show me around the room, they’ll walk around the apartment in their shoes, but since it’s their apartment it feels awkward telling them to take their shoes off. Even if I told them, I know they just cleaned the apartment with their shoes on, so not even sure if it’d make a difference.
Terrible bureaucracy. Even Italians will admit that their bureaucracy is awful. Thankfully personally I didn’t really have to deal much with it other than two instances 1. a gym requiring me to have a “certificate of good health” physical examination (wtf?) 2. trying to find out if I can get a COVID pass here (green pass), waiting outside a building at the time I was told to show up with a bunch of other people who’ve already been vaccinated a month ago but still hadn’t received their green pass which they need to go to work, and then all of us being told by security that sorry they’re closed, come back next week.
Tap water not clean. Naturally you always need to pay for water in restaurants (not to mention the environmental impact of plastic bottles).
Slow service. Although the food is undeniably good here, the service in restaurants is incredibly slow. Flagging down a waiter/waitress is often a chore, even when you just want to pay and get out (though if you want to pay usually you can at least go directly to the counter). Sometimes it’ll take forever even just to get the menu.
Law forces customers to take (paper) receipts. I always refuse paper receipts, but one time a merchant would not take my no for an answer and literally forced me to take my receipt. I told the story to a local and was told that there’s actually an Italian law that says that by law customers must take their receipts. In practice the police aren’t checking, and most merchants won’t make a big deal out of it if you don’t take your receipt, but this is easily one of the dumbest laws I’ve ever seen in my life. What a waste of paper/trees.
No Uber/ridsharing. Constant taxi strikes. Poor public transportation.
Parks are often fenced off and close early (eg. 7pm). I find it strange that parks are often fenced off, and close at all, especially so early.
No public gyms / outdoor pullup bars – There must be at most a couple outdoor pullup bars in all of Rome, and none that I found in the city center
COVID vaccine passes. Although thankfully the nightmare is now over, Italy was one of the few countries that went extremely strict on COVID restrictions and lockdowns, to the point where vaccine passes (called “super green passes”) were required to practically do everything – including riding public transportation and even staying in hotels – probably one of the most egregious breaches of liberty I’ve ever witnessed. My friend suggested that maybe the Italian people were missing Mussolini.
Not much food other than Italian food in Rome. I love Italian food, but I don’t want to eat pasta and pizza all the time, and Rome is really short on other kinds of cuisines
Lack of “fast casual” type food places. Other than coffee “bars” with premade sandwiches, “fast casual” type food establishments are in short supply in Rome. Especially when I’m alone, I generally just want to eat something quick and not have to waste 30-60 minutes at a sit-down restaurant.
Restaurants generally closed between 2:30pm-7:30pm or so. Unless you’re in the tourist area of the city center, you’ll struggle to find anywhere to eat between 3:30-7pm outside of grabbing a sandwich at a cafe.
Practically no work cafes in Rome. Rome despite having a thriving cafe culture, practically has no cafes good for working with a laptop (eg. with power outlets) – the type of work environment I prefer as a digital nomad. Normally you can at least rely on there being a Starbucks as a place to work (even if the coffee is bad), but Rome doesn’t have a Starbucks.
Grocery store cashiers don’t bag your groceries. Ok this is not unique to Italy, but as an American I find it strange that grocery store cashiers don’t bag your groceries. Most of the time they won’t even open the plastic bag for you, just throwing the closed bag on the table and tossing your stuff there while you fumble to open the plastic bag. Also worth noting that there are no self-checkout machines in supermarkets.
Restaurant main courses are overrated. Italian restaurant menus are separated into appetizers, pasta, and main courses – which often consist of something super simple like chicken or fish priced at 17-25+ euros, with the expectation I guess that you’re supposed to order side dishes to complement them. I generally find these main courses to be overpriced and too basic, and will usually opt instead for just a salad + pasta/pizza. Though there’s one restaurant where I enjoyed the main course of a steak that included potatoes and some other side dishes.
People can be very loud. People will often talk loudly, shout on the phone on trains, and watch videos on their phones with the speakers on.
Most unorganized gym I’ve seen. I had a membership at one gym that had the most unorganized dumbbell rack I’ve ever seen in my life (unfortunately I had no other options because it was the only gym that would accept me without a COVID vaccination, which I wouldn’t have been qualified to get in Italy even if I wanted to). The weights were placed so randomly that you’d have to spend 5+ minutes looking for the weights you needed. It was so bad I’d go out of my way to try to reorganize them in between sets, but of course the next time I’d return to the gym it’d be all unorganized again. Ok this was just one gym and doesn’t reflect the whole city or country, but again I’ve never seen this anywhere else
Sometimes terrible service. Ok the service here isn’t remotely as bad as in eastern Europe, but I’ve had my share of poor experiences. For example once I accidentally booked and paid for the wrong date of a hotel when I’d intended to book for the next day, immediately called to ask if they could change the booking date to the next day and simply pay any difference in price, and was told no problem. I then showed up the next day only to be told that I have to pay full price for this day as well. She actually said no problem and then proceeded to charge me for the full price, which I only noticed after the wireless card payment didn’t work and I looked at the price (ok maybe that was language barrier). I explained the situation to her, she called her boss, and again told me that I still had to pay the full price again. I repeatedly explained the situation to her for what must’ve been 10 minutes while she repeatedly called her boss, only to tell me that he says I need to pay again. Finally I told her that fine, I’ll cancel the booking, request a refund through my credit card, and write a terrible review for this hotel being dishonest and wasting my time. She called her boss again, this time speaking more forcefully, and finally I was told that I only needed to pay the price difference, but that it had to be in cash.
Another time at a 4 star hotel I asked a worker how much a taxi would cost to a place 10 minutes away. He called the company, said about 10 euros, and said the taxi was on the way. The taxi came with the meter already at 10 euros, and the final bill came out to 19 euros. I questioned the taxi driver and he said that the meter starts when the taxi is called. Since I was given the wrong information by the hotel, I called the hotel to let them know this. Another woman receptionist responded, and what precedes was an absurd 7 minute conversation where rather than just saying “ok sorry about that and thank you for telling us, we won’t make that mistake in the future”, I was given stupid excuses like “it’s up to the taxi company and it’s not in our control”, “we assume that people here already know that the meter starts when you call the taxi” (actually I’ve been here for 9 months and this never happened to me before), “I don’t understand why you’re calling and want me to do”. It was basically like talking to an idiot.
Window blinds. Italian apartment windows have these old school physical blinds that block out all sunlight, and require you to physically open/close them. Sure they look cool from the outside, but it’s much nicer and more convenient to have normal blinds that can still let in sunlight.
Needing reservations at restaurants in evenings
Croissants here suck. The croissants here are not crunchy at all, and are more like bread in the shape of a croissant. They seem to like it like that, but I much prefer the original French style of crunchy croissants.
Lack of technological advancement in some regards. For example the main train station in Naples has a place where you can store your suitcase, but it closes at something like 8pm. Why it’s not just an automated locker machine is beyond me. Supermarkets practically never have automated checkout machines. It’s not that I necessarily prefer checking things out myself, more that the machines generally drastically reduce waiting times vs. human cashiers, and those bastards don’t bag my groceries anyways. Number coded locks definitely haven’t been adopted here.
Stuff often just doesn’t work. For example escalators and elevators will often not be working. Ok it’s probably no worse than the U.S, but nothing like Japan/Korea where I’ve never seen an escalator out of service.
Poor UX. Ok this is definitely not unique to Italy, and maybe just something I’ve just happened to notice more recently in life in general, but “real life” UX is often poor. By that I mean for example common sense signs showing you where to go – such as when you’re underground in the subway showing you where each staircase will lead you on the street. Or when the top entrance of the Spagna subway stop on top of the Spanish Steps was closed all winter, there was no sign or notice stating where the other entrance is (if I had a piece of paper on me I would’ve just wrote a note myself and put it there). Simple things like that can make a big difference.
Despite all this, I actually love Italy. The country has some of the most beautiful places, richest history, and best food in the world. The people are generally very friendly (though in the south English proficiency is very low), social, and positive. Some of my favorite places I’ve ever visited are in Italy. But like everywhere in the world, it has its downsides, and those are the ones that stood out to me.
(first posted on my other site here: https://zsync.xyz/p/things-i-dont-like-about-rome-as-an-american)