8 Italian Travel Tips for Visiting America

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If the world was high school, America would be the big, dumb jock—at least according to many of the travel sites that advise people of other nationalities what to do when they get stateside. So it’s nice to find a people, who, according to the travel advice they give their own countrymen, don’t seem bothered by American peculiarities. That nation is Italy.

1. AMERICANS WILL EAT ANYWHERE.

In America, eating etiquette is less strict than in most other countries, according to Marco Scandali at his blog, Un Italiano negli USA. Particularly, it is acceptable to eat anywhere, even during a business meeting. Though Scandali lauds the American tendency to only use first names in the workplace, “Their meetings are often a torture,” he writes, “since eating inside the conference room is universally accepted. I, however, cannot discuss work with someone who licks dirty smelly sauces off his fingers. We are not at an actual table, dammit!”

Also, since Americans tend to eat one handed, you will find it perfectly acceptable to eat with your left hand in your lap under the table. This, according to the advice website Tropiland, “is a custom derived from the Wild West, when the hidden hand was ready to grab the revolver.”

2. MEN'S BATHROOMS HAVE NO RULES.

According to Scandali, in men’s bathrooms anything is permitted, including smelly flatulence and loud dropping into the urinal, regardless of the victim at the next urinal. Take no prisoners.

3. AMERICANS DON'T REALLY CARE HOW YOU ARE.

Scandali tries to explain to his countrymen that Americans don’t want an honest answer when they ask you how you are. Honesty equals whining to Americans:

Americans ask me how I am ("How are you today" or "How do you do"): It is actually an expression of greeting, nothing more: he does not care how you are really, and even expects that you will lie about your problems. You will understand, we Italians have the opposite nature; we are whiners and we cannot wait for someone who is willing to listen to us complain a little bit.

Tropiland reminds readers that this surreal fake intimacy extends to any non-specific invitation, too: “The invitation to the house is almost always a pro forma and therefore you should not give it great weight.”

4. BUT AMERICANS ARE EXTREMELY SINCERE WHEN TALKING ABOUT MONEY.

“Don’t be surprised if you come to hear someone ask what you earn, even though you just met,” warns the Pianeta Donna blog. Money matters to American culture. You can see it in their coffee, according to Scandali. “[Good coffee] is not cheap…but it's the price you pay for access to a kind of exclusive club,” he writes. These are the rules of the market, and in America the law of consumerism is worth even more than the official legislation. It is their pride, after all.” 

See Also: 11 French Travel Tips for Visiting America

5. KISSING AND PETTING OTHER PEOPLE IS NOT OK IN AMERICA. 

Pianeta Donna explains there are certain behaviors that will cause American grooviness to grind to a halt. Touching strangers' children, for instance: “Generally, in the United States of America men avoid petting the children of strangers on the street, or even when invited into a home.” In fact, rein in the physical affection a bit altogether. No kissing people you’re not immediately related to—just handshakes.

6. UNDERAGE DRINKING IS ALSO NOT OK.

Like many other nations, Italy is perplexed by America’s attitude toward underage drinking. According to the travel information site America4you, Americans will take every opportunity to separate a boy and his booze:

In America you can safely buy a gun and carry it around, but regarding alcohol, no chance. If you go into a club, the man at the entrance will ask you for a document proving your age; same thing in a bar when you order a beer or even just in a supermarket!

But at least this explains the mystery of the bum-bottle. “Also it’s forbidden to drink alcohol in the street in most states,” the site notes. “[H]ere it is finally explained why in American movies people drink from bottles wrapped in paper.”

See Also: 8 German Travel Tips for Visiting America

7. DON'T HAVE EXTRAMARITAL RELATIONS (IN VIRGINIA).

Scandali warns, “Finally, remember that in Virginia he who has sex outside of marriage is severely punished by a fine.” Don’t think it’s a coincidence that state is named as it is.

8. AMERICANS ARE IGNORANT, BUT NICE. 

Of course not all Italians think Americans are nice. Yahoo poster bg says that “The average American has a low level culture and education, most only know English and that inadequately. With the excuse that they are the first country in the world, their arrogance does not allow them to recognize that there are other cultures. The strength of their culture is sports, junk food and Hollywood.”

But, as poster Alessandro notes, “The ignorant are everywhere, but at least in the U.S. they are friendly.”

Special Section: The Delightful Nuances of Hillbilly Talk

The website LaHoraDigital shows that little extra touch of bella vita that makes Italians so lovable. Sure, anyone can learn to speak English. But English with a Southern accent—that’s where it’s at. They give detailed instructions on how to turn plain Italian-accented English into a fantastic and disturbing hybrid of Italian and Yosemite Sam-accented English. “When I’m talking with a hillbilly,” says the author, “I already imagine the smell of home cooking. And if you want to talk with a southern accent, may be easier than you think.”

See Also: 10 Japanese Travel Tips for Visiting America

Hillbilly Talk Tips:

- Use "y'all" whenever you can. This term refers to a single person or a group of people. Never say "go,” replace with "fixin' to."

- Take the words, and add a few syllables. The "why" should be pronounced "waa" followed by "eye."

- Take the words of two syllables and reduce them to one, how to change the "tar."

- Use “Purdy” for appeal; “reckon” for recognize; the awfullest, gol darned horrible; critter rather than creature; breetches; and Tarnation.

Eagle Creek's Durable Caldera Line of Suitcases Can Digitally Track Your Travels

Eagle Creek's Caldera line of bags comes in both black and green.
Eagle Creek's Caldera line of bags comes in both black and green.
Eagle Creek

I always have a little anxiety when I check a suitcase for a flight. What if it gets damaged, or worse—lost?

Eagle Creek is taking on both challenges with its new Caldera line of suitcases. Thanks to a polycarbonate back shell and a body made of recycled Cordura poly that is tear-, abrasion-, and water-resistant, the bags are lightweight but tough.

They’re also full of smart details: reflective, water-resistant zippers; a proprietary system that keeps the handle from being crushed; personalizable rubber side handles; side straps with aluminum hardware that can be tucked away; and a “coat keeper” that allows you to secure your coat to the top of the bag as you’re rolling through the airport.

The Eagle Creek Caldera Wheeled Duffel.
The Eagle Creek Caldera's "coat keeper" in action.
Eagle Creek

But the thing that really got me excited about the Caldera line is TripSync. Each bag in the Caldera line is equipped with an NFC chip that allows you to report your bag if it’s lost and tracks your trips for a cool digital reminder of where you've been.

Eagle Creek sent me the 100-liter wheeled duffel to test, and I brought it along with me on a trip to Israel. I wasn’t able to check out TripSync (which was still in beta at the time of my trip) but here’s how it works: First, if your phone requires it, download an app that will read the NFC chip. Then, hold your phone near the luggage tag, which will launch a video describing the features of your bag and how to care for it. (There’s also a handy diagram that will tell you which Eagle Creek packing cubes you need, and the way to orient them, to get the most space out of your bag.)

After the video, you’ll sign up for an account. Don’t forget to register your bag—it’s the only way you can report it as lost if it goes missing. You may also need to adjust your settings to allow TripSync to get your location so it can accurately track your travel.

Before you check your bag or hop on the plane, scan your bag and make sure you’re logged in, then click “start trip.” After that, you’ll need to scan your bag and click “add stop” or “end trip” to log your travels. (These steps are important—the bag isn’t actively being tracked by GPS, so trip length is based on the points you log and determined by “the most direct path between the points,” according to Eagle Creek’s website. “The total miles traveled between each point you create become your total miles traveled for that one trip.”)

If you need to report your bag lost, you do so by logging in and clicking the “report lost” button. When someone finds the bag, all they need to do is scan it with their phone to contact you; none of your information will be revealed. When your bag is back in your hands, you can mark it as found.

Eagle Creek Caldera luggage.
If your bag gets lost, whoever finds it just has to tap their smartphone on the ID tag and you'll be contacted.
Eagle Creek

Though I wasn’t able to try TripSync, I was still impressed by the physical features of the bag. The bag is durable as promised, and spacious—I had plenty of room for everything I wanted to bring, with space to spare for souvenirs. (The suitcase is also expandable via a zipper, but I didn’t have to use that feature this time.) Thanks to the sturdy handle and rugged wheels, the bag handled great both empty and when it was fully loaded, both on smooth streets and uneven terrain. And as a person who struggles with what to do with her coat when wheeling all of her luggage through the airport, I found the coat keeper to be especially helpful. I can’t wait to take the bag on another trip to try out TripSync for myself.

If you’re not in the market for a carry-on or checked suitcase, Eagle Creek also has a Caldera backpack as well as a convertible bag that can be both worn as a backpack and rolled like a traditional carry-on suitcase.

The bags come in black and green; they start at $279 for the backpack and go up to $569 for the four-wheeled 100L model. You can buy them on EagleCreek.com.

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10 Enchanting Places That Align with the Vernal Equinox

A shadowy serpent appears at Chichen Itza on the equinox.
A shadowy serpent appears at Chichen Itza on the equinox.
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

On Thursday, March 19, the vernal equinox heralded the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Ancient civilizations built calendars and observatories to track the movements of the stars and mark this monumental time. Now, people still partake in a variety of traditions and rituals to honor the day when light and dark become equal. To take your celestial celebrations to the next level, here are 10 places that align with the spring equinox.

1. On the vernal equinox, a massive snake appears on the temple at Chichen Itza.

Legend says that on the spring and fall equinoxes, the Maya city of Chichen Itza receives an otherworldly visitor: Kukulcan, the feathered serpent deity. On these days, a shadowy snake slithers down the side of the god's namesake pyramid. As the temple darkens, a single strip of light stretches from the top of the northern staircase to the snake head resting at the bottom, creating the illusion of a wriggling reptile.

2. A beam of light illuminates a petroglyph within Arizona’s Boulder House each vernal equinox.

The Boulder House in Scottsdale, Arizona, looks like a strange home wedged amid a jumble of rocks. But it’s actually a modern house built around a sacred Native American site. The Empie family, who bought the parcel of desert land in the 1980s, commissioned architect Charles Johnson to transform the cluster of 1.6-billion-year-old boulders into a functional house. Johnson crafted a unique structure, incorporating the rocks into the house’s foundation and preserving the prehistoric carvings. On the equinox, sunlight pierces between two boulders in the unusual abode, striking a spiral petroglyph on the wall to create a dazzling piece of home decor.

3. On the vernal equinox, a group of Moai on Easter Island stare directly at the sunset.

Seven Moai gaze face toward the horizon
On the equinox, these Moai stare directly at the setting sun.
abriendomundo/iStock via Getty Images

People aren’t the only ones who pause to watch the sun slip beneath the horizon on the first day of spring. On Easter Island, at a sacred site called Ahu Akivi, a line of seven Moai—the island’s giant, mysterious heads—gaze directly at the point at which the sun sets in the sky on the equinox.

4. Each vernal equinox, light drenches a petroglyph-filled cairn at Loughcrew.

The hills of Loughcrew, one of Ireland’s four main passage tomb sites, are crowned by 5000-year-old megalithic structures. At dawn on the equinox, sunlight fills Cairn T, a passage tomb carved with astoundingly well-preserved examples of Neolithic art. As the light dissolves the darkness, the cup marks that dimple its walls and the symbols adorning its back stones blaze into view. The illumination lasts for about 50 minutes, giving observers ample time to take turns squeezing into the cairn.

5. On the vernal equinox, light streams through one of the Mnajdra Prehistoric Temples.

The Mnajdra Prehistoric Temples on Malta’s southern coast are archaeological wonders. They were built between 3600 and 2500 BCE and are believed to be among the world’s oldest freestanding stone buildings. Not much is known about the people who created these megalithic masterpieces, though it’s clear they constructed one of the temples with an eye to the heavens. On the equinox, the sun streams through the South Temple’s main doorway, flooding the structure’s major axis with light.

6. On the vernal equinox, the sun sits directly atop the main temple at Angkor Wat.

Watching the sun rise over Angkor Wat would be a magical experience any day. Crowds hush as colorful hues paint the world’s largest religious structure with a gilded glow. Dawn at Angkor Wat is even more special on the equinoxes. Then, the sun rises behind the main temple before briefly seeming to balance on its tip like a fiery halo.

7. On the spring equinox, the sun rises through the entrance to Stonehenge Aotearoa.

Stonehenge has inspired replicas around the globe—including as far away as New Zealand. Stonehenge Aotearoa, which opened in 2005, was built by the Phoenix Astronomical Society. The structure is an astronomical tool for observing the local skies, and blends modern astronomy with ancient starlore. If you stand in the center of the circle on the Southern Hemisphere's vernal equinox, you can watch the sun rise directly through the Sun Gate, two carved pillars that flank the entrance to the henge.

8. The shadow of the intihuatana at Machu Picchu disappears at noon on the equinox.

A curious stone structure stands atop a temple at Machu Picchu. It’s one of the rare surviving intihuatanas that wasn’t demolished by the Spanish conquistadors. This “hitching post of the sun” is believed to have been an astronomical tool. At noon on the equinox, the granite pillar’s shadow briefly vanishes. Unfortunately, the invaluable object now looks a bit battered. In 2000, a crane toppled into the intihuatana during the filming of a beer commercial, smashing part of it.

9. At sunrise on the spring equinox, the sun bursts through the door of a temple at Dzibilchaltún.

Sunrise at Dzibilchaltún
Each equinox, the sun appears within the door of the Temple of the Seven Dolls.
renatamsousa/iStock via Getty Images

Though now reduced to a medley of ruins dotting the jungle, Dzibilchaltún was once the longest continually inhabited Maya administrative and ceremonial city. The star attraction here is the Temple of the Seven Dolls, a building named for the mysterious human-like figures discovered inside. At dawn on the equinox, the sun shines through the temple’s main door. It’s believed the sacred structure was aligned with the equinoxes to mark the beginning of the planting season and the end of the harvesting season.

10. The 'Woodhenge' at the Cahokia Mounds aligns with the sunrise on the equinox.

During the Mississippian cultural period, Cahokia's population exceeded that of London. In addition to giant pyramids, the North American city also featured circles of wooden posts, since dubbed “Woodhenge.” The wooden markers were likely used to track the sun’s movements. One of the posts aligns with the equinoxes, as well as with the front of Monks Mound. On sunrise on the equinox, it looks as though the sun is emerging from the enigmatic earthwork.

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