Remove from Favorites Add to Favorites Remove from Favorites Add to Favorites

Become a Member and get free shipping on your orders!


Photo Credit: Aubrie Pick

5 Tips for Mastering Restaurant Reservations in Italy

23 April 2024
by Giadzy
Photo Credit: Aubrie Pick
You must be signed in to print this content

Take the stress out of travel planning with these simple tips.

If you're anything like us, planning a trip to Italy is half the fun—especially daydreaming about the food. There are so many amazing places to eat and drink across the country that it could be a full-time job just finding the perfect restaurants for your trip, whether you want to try the best local dishes or are looking for a specific ambiance or price point. (That’s why we’ve curated our own travel guides to help you narrow it down!) 

Once you’ve decided on where to eat, don’t leave it up to chance. While reservations are not always required in Italy, it’s a good idea to include them as part of your travel planning, if just for your peace of mind. At many restaurants, you won't be able to snag a walk-in, especially in the busy tourism seasons. Start contacting your desired restaurants about a month ahead of your travel dates, or farther out if they are ultra-high-end, Michelin-starred restaurants (Modena’s Osteria Francescana, for example, books six months in advance).

Making a reservation in Italy isn’t quite as simple as it is here at home, but with a few basic guidelines, it doesn’t need to be daunting. Here are our tips for making restaurant reservations in Italy so you can successfully live your best food life while abroad!

1. Do your research

Unfortunately, there’s no single method for making reservations that works everywhere in Italy. Some restaurants use booking apps and online services, some use email or Facebook Messenger, some have a WhatsApp number for texting, and some only take phone calls! The best way to find out is to check their website or social media profile, looking for the words Prenota or Prenotazione. Though you’ll find that online reservations are not as common in Italy as they are in the U.S., popular local booking apps TheFork and Quandoo—as well as familiar OpenTable!—have a fairly good selection of restaurants, especially in large cities. 


2. Use European dates

Remember that European dates are the reverse of what we use in the U.S. when you’re scheduling your reservations. For example, if you're trying to make a reservation for June 20, you would write “20/6” or say “venti giugno.” Italians also use the 24-hour clock, so an 8 p.m. reservation would be at 20:00. Asking for 8 o’clock will only get you confusion as they’ll think you’re asking for a table at 8 a.m.!


3. Eat later than you think

While it’s quite common to have dinner at 6:30 or 7 p.m. in the U.S., you'd be lonely in an Italian restaurant if you showed up that early. Many restaurants in Italy don’t even open until 7 p.m. and don’t start to fill up until after 8. (Pro tip: If a restaurant opens at 6 p.m., it is usually catering to tourists and probably isn’t good enough to attract local business.) To get the full, lively, authentic experience, make your reservations anywhere between 8 and 10 p.m.


4. Use Google Translate 

If you have to call to make your reservation, don’t be intimidated if your Italian language skills are limited. Unless they are in a very remote location, most restaurants in Italy will have at least one staff member who speaks some English and can help you. Start out by asking “Buongiorno, lei parla inglese?” If the answer is no, you can either say “Grazie” and hang up or get ready to flex your Italian muscles! It can be helpful to use a translation app like Google Translate to prepare yourself with a script of the phrases you’re likely to need during a conversation so you’re not trying to translate on the fly. If you’re texting or emailing a restaurant, you’ll need one basic phrase: “Vorrei fare una prenotazione per [number of people] persone, [date] alle [time] per favore.”


5. Be persistent

For small restaurants, you may have to call several times before you’re able to get through. Many family-run businesses don’t have a dedicated host or reservations desk; there might only be one person taking orders, greeting guests, and answering the phone. During busy service hours, they’re unlikely to be able to stop and talk to you. For reservations success, try calling around 6-7 p.m. in Italy, a time when staff are likely to be in the building but not yet busy (depending on where you are, this might be 9 hours ahead of your own time). We recommend using an internet calling service like Skype or WhatsApp to avoid long-distance fees.


Please sign in or create an account to leave a comment.