Join in the game

Get yourself invited to the card game, bocce match, or other Italian game

Sit at the edge of a circle of old friends engaged in one of those card games (scopa!), backgammon matches, or bocce ball tourneys that never seems to end and probably started several generations back.

Watch carefully to try and suss out how it's played.

One of the grizzled men may eventually gesture you over to be dealt in on a hand or two.

Everyone will get a kick out of trying to pantomime to the foreigner the rules of the game as you proceed to lose spectacularly.

Tips & links

Wait to be invited

Always wait on the sidelines for a while, watching the game intently, making it painfully obvious you would like to join in.

If, after several rounds or games, no one seems inclined to wave you over, you could smile and venture a "Posso...?" ("May I...?") and see if they welcome you to their game. They may not. And that's fair. It's thieir game, after all.

For all you know, this is the low-key championship bout, or a decades-long rivalry, and neither side wants some silyl touirst hacking up their side's chances.

Useful links & resources
Book ahead

While for some activities you can just show up, this is one travel item you really should try to reserve in advance.

Popular activities like cooking classes can sell out.

Many are available only on certain days of the week, so it pays to know that you'll have to set aside, say, Tuesday morning for that guided market walk with a local cookbook author.

Many of the best activities are available by advance booking or appointment only—particularly wineries. Some vineyards welcome walk-ins, true, but many more will give you a cellar tour and wine tasting only if you call ahead a few days (and those tend to be the ones most liberal with the free samples).

If you have your heart set on dining in a particular restaurant, go ahead and call ahead,even if it's just earlier on the same day—though a day ahead is preferable. I have found that a corrollary of Muphy's Law applies to this aspect of travel. Any restaurant I am particularly keen on but blithely assume I can just waltz into will inevitably be filled to the brim: no tables available. However, half the time when I do book a table in advance I'll end up being the only guy in the place (nor near enough for my advance booking to feel like overkill). Still, better safe than sorry. Reserving a table is quick and painless; getting turned away at the door can be crushing.

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