Traveling to another country is always exciting! Not only do you get to taste the region's food, have fun at their festivals and meet the local people, but you also get to learn more about the culture. Cultures across Europe can differ greatly, particularly from the culture in the United States. Every country speaks its own language and fosters its own traditions that date back centuries. This is especially true of the beautiful ancient country of Italy.
One of the most impressive cultural centers of Europe, Italy was the birthplace of the Renaissance and some of the world's most loved food. Millions of people visit the country every year, exploring its wonderful cities, towns, and villages. So to prepare you, here's ten things you should know before you go:
1. Be prepared to spend time talking about and eating food
Food is in the make up of Italians. Not only do they love to cook and eat it, more than most people, they also love to talk about it. In Italy, it is certainly more about the quality of the food than it is about the quantity; they value flavor and home-cooked traditions. In Italy they make time to cook a meal and there is no excuse for not spending time enjoying it. Meals, even in the middle of the day, can last hours and include neighbors and friends for a truly special experience. Enjoy this magical foodie culture by eating with locals or in local restaurants.
2. Get ready to express your emotions
Visitors who can't speak the language often think that Italians argue all the time. They always appear to be so expressive and loud. However, their gestures and actions are often not what you think. Most Italians love to talk about their emotions, and so the conversation is most likely a way of resolving an issue – talking it out – rather than arguing about it. Very therapeutic!
3. Food is fresh and usually local
Most large grocers and almost all of the local stores you will come across in Italy will sell mostly fresh, local produce. Not only will it be organic and high-quality, but it will also be affordable. While you can find some processed food, it is not common in the Italian diet in the way that it is in the US. Expect to find fresh fruit and vegetables that are in season alongside local butchers and bakeries.
4. Expect to hear the truth
Italians prefer not to hide their feelings. In the same way that they prefer to talk about a problem they also prefer to express how they feel about people, good or bad, to their face. This is a great thing on some levels as it means they rarely talk about people behind their back, but it can also mean hearing the truth (even when you don't want to). Most often visitors will hear that they should be eating more, especially the slim visitors!
5. Don't rush
Italians rarely rush. They live a slow, relaxed lifestyle that really does make them happier. There is no rushing to get to work or rushing to serve people when they are at work. Expect to wait longer, but expect the people you meet to be extremely happy! What would you rather?
6. You can spot their impeccable dress sense
Italy has always exported some of the world's greatest fashions – with a clear edge over the rest of the world. As you explore the country's stunning cities and even smaller towns you will notice that style is a very important part of life. Most Italians will always make an impressive effort to look great. If you want a piece of the action head to the shopping capitals of Milan and Rome, where you can find all of Italy's most famous designers on offer.
7. You will often see romance blooming
Not only is Italy a romantic country for visitors, with its ancient buildings, cobbled streets and exceptional food, Italy is also inherently romantic. Most Italians value courting and spend time and effort wining and dining "the one" for months. For ancient romance visit Verona, the setting for Shakespeare's timeless play Romeo and Juliet.
8. You may feel a little claustrophobic
Italians are very affectionate and do not worry as much as Americans about personal space. Not only this, but their cities are more compact, with winding alleys and petite plazas that are the places of parties and restaurants. Expect to touch a few people a day and don't expect to hear a “sorry”; it's not worth it as it happens all the time. Don't even worry about it!
9. You can't leave without an aperitivo
No other country in Europe truly celebrates the aperitivo (the afternoon drink and snack) like Italy does. Try to get into a place at around 6pm to take full advantage of the evening buffet and be ready for a late night dinner, Italian style.
10. Forget about ice
It may be common to include ice in almost every drink in the US, but this is simply not the Italian way. Ice isn't always served in cold drinks, and if you do want some you will probably only get one or two cubes, not a whole glassful... It's just the way it is! Think of the positives, you are certainly getting more of the drink you ordered - the Italian way!
Enjoying Italian Culture and Traditions
Use our helpful list of 10 Things to Know When Traveling in Italy
to get a better understanding of what to expect during your next vacation. Blend in, and get local insider info about the best off-the-beaten path attractions, restaurants, and hidden gems, when you show respect and understanding to Italian customs and traditions.