Italy is one of the most beautiful, historical, delicious countries in the world. From ancient ruins in Rome to couture boutiques in Milan to cobblestone streets in Florence, everyone will find something in Italy to fall in love with.
But culture shock is a thing, and it definitely happens in Italy. There are lots of things that Americans will find odd about Italy. Here are 10 to keep in mind for your next journey to Italia.
1. American Italian Food ≠ Italian Food
There are lots of “Italian” foods we eat in America that are not found in Italy. Such items include spaghetti with meatballs (you can order polpette on the side), chicken parmesan and anything with Alfredo sauce.
2. Dinner Is A Marathon, Not A Sprint
Italian dinners are a full production. Three courses are served every night: a primo (usually pasta), a secondo with contorni (meat or fish main course and side dishes) and a dolce (dessert, often fruit). Dinner is a family event, is eaten slowly and involves much conversation. Afterward, everyone lingers and conversation continues.
3. An Intense Fear Of The Cold
Italians do not like cold weather. At all. If you walk outside with wet hair, you will get scolded by a concerned nonna. Italians pile on scarves, coats, hats and gloves at any sign of chilly weather, while in the U.S. the same weather is regarded with a light jacket.
4. Papà vs. Papa
Papà = dad. Papa = pope. If you call your dad the pope, people are going to be confused. It’s all in the syllable emphasis.
5. Cars And Scooters Have The Right Of Way
And they will keep going and nearly hit you and not really care. Italians are crazy drivers. Italian Vespa/motorcycle/scooter drivers are also crazy.
6. It’s Carb Central, Yet Everyone Is Thin
Italians eat all the best things (pizza, pasta, biscotti, delicious bread) and yet they are not obese. That’s magic or great genetics.
7. Wine Is Everywhere
It’s appropriate to drink a glass of vino pretty much anytime after breakfast. Wine comes in all kinds of vessels in Italy — including single-serving juice-box-like containers. You can pack it with your lunch!
8. Hazlenuts Reign Supreme
You’re not going to find peanut butter or the abundance of peanutty things we have in America. Instead, everything is filled with hazelnuts and that is not a bad thing. Case in point: Nutella.
They are wonderful… but kind of strange. The idea is similar to happy hour, but rather than just getting a discounted beverage, you pay a set fee for a drink and some food. Sometimes that food is a small appetizer, other times it’s a delicious buffet!
10. There’s No Such Thing As Coffee.
If you want a big, steaming cup of joe, you’re going to have a hard time finding it. Most Italians drink a cappuccino at breakfast and espresso (in a tiny cup… it’s a like a shot glass for caffeine) during the day. If you want something resembling American coffee you order a “Caffe Americano.” It’s espresso with water, not brewed coffee, but it’s still delicious.