Random Observations About the Italian Lifestyle

posted in: Italy Travel | 9


Random Observations About the Italian Lifestyle

Having been in Italy for almost five weeks, I have noticed some interesting cultural characteristics of the Italian lifestyle. I had known of some of these, but others are new awarenesses for me.

-Tables at ristorante are usually set with wine glasses, as it is the preferred drink at meals.
-When sitting at outdoor trattorias or cafès at six or seven in the evening, Italians are having wine and possibly a snack. it is sort of like happy hour, and usually restaurants do not even open for dinner until 7:30.
-Early in the morning you can find people eating gelato or pizza as well as drinking wine.
-Most Italians have caffè after dinner, and in fact a waiter will act surprised if you decline.
-No matter how warm it is, most Italians are wearing scarves, and this pertains frequently to men also. They dress in multiple layers and wear boots a lot.
-Italian women wear very high heels and manage to walk with no problems on Italy’s cobblestoned streets. As my Italian teacher Lori has commented, it is all part of the “bella figura,” or looking good.
-Italian bus drivers do not appear to be interested in helping you know which stop to get off, or even if the bus is going to the location you you want. They frequently seem to be more interested in talking on their cell phones.
-In most ristorante and trattorias, there are male waiters.

I am sure that not all of these are true in all parts of Italy or for all Italians, of course. I am quite sure that in another five weeks I will have learned even more about the lifestyle of today’ s Italians.


9 Responses

  1. I have found the answer to life

    This spring I left the USA , for my first trip to Italy….I instantly fell in love with everything. I felt at home, and never felt once like a foreigner and in fact felt more like a foreigner with the other americans on the holiday than with the Italian people. I am not Italian, but originally born in Canada, with European ancestors. I quickly learnt to fall into step with the sweetness of doing nothing…something I had grown up with and lived all my life until moving to the USA. Once here I became the frantic person who is chasing something, but never knowing what, where I am criticized for lolly lagging and just enjoying life and doing nothing in those moments…Where not every time I walk, there has to be no destination…I just enjoy the process of going nowhere and wandering aimlessly at times. Where family and love are the most important and consist of my wealth rather than chasing things and finding at the end of life , there is but empty dreams not lived and tallies full of regrets of things not done.
    When I returned to the USA, I sensed and have continued to sense a deep gnawing within my spirit…and have not been able to see what it was until today, before I read your blog…that it is that when I was there, I felt I had found myself…and know that unlike in America where you are defined by what you do, that is not so when you living in the sweetness of doing nothing…and living life.
    My friends can not understand what this is, and they assume that I am going to sit and grow old when I am yet young doing nothing, but the reality is, that I am no longer the slave to the american dream, running at the expense of myself and those I love….to gain nothing, or acquire junk and stuff that has no value and is worthless in the scheme of life.
    I am going back to the roots of what I was taught and have always to a point done so, and that is why you will not find TV in my home, because I would rather meander in the warmth of the sun and feel life and breathe in deeply than numbing my mind…It is the art of not acquiring but being content within your spirit and taking time for those that matter the most and yourself…
    No wonder I felt that I had come home and no wonder when I returned to america, the angst that stirred within me and continued through to today….
    Life is to be lived with those we love , not to be raced through to acquire, and then to die….
    The badge of busyness runs rampant in the UsA, and I have been openly criticized for not wearing a badge…thats okay…..I am going to enjoy life and I am going to enjoy those I love, and I will leave the race for things, and the bank accounts to all the others who cant’ take it with them anyway…How we have lost directions and our priorities have turned. How sad that is…and I look forward to going back to Italy for the sweetness of time and doing nothing but savoring….

  2. margieinitaly

    Kellen, thanks for the perspective on dining as a college student in Italy..it is great!

    And Lori, as usual your observations from experience as a native Italian are priceless!

  3. Kellen

    I’m glad to see someone already filled you in on “aperitivo,” the 7-8 o’clock pre-dinner drink (or, if you live in college-town like Bologna, its a 5 euro drink-and-dinner affair). It’s probably one of my favorite aspects of Italian culture.

    I typically have very good luck talking to bus drivers, though. Don’t get disheartened – there are nice ones out there.

  4. Lori Samarin

    Very charming observations! The 6pm timeline comment with most people enjoying wine and a snack is indeed the equivalent to our “happy hour” except for the fact that Italians do not drink ‘hard liquor cocktails”. It is officially called the time for “un aperitivo” or “an aperitif”, when one gathers with friends after work or before dinner to enjoy either a glass of prosecco (sparkling dry white wine or regular wine or an erb or vegetable based bitter drink(Campari ,Cynar, etc.) which is specifically formulated to prepare the stomach for the ingestion of food. Drinks are always accompanied by salty treats as few Italians drink on an empty stomach. Italians usually dine from 8pm to 10pm -anything before that is considered an early bird dinner.

    The fact that you have noticed them eating early morning (apart from a brioche or cornetto w/ espresso) is astounding to me and it disturbs the Italian in me…what is Italy coming to with all of this global, fastpaced influence! Oh Signor… Now, un “cichetto di vin” as we say in the Friulian dialect or a thimble full of natural, organic, low alcohol wine is Ok, especially with the old folks. Italians believe wine is good to build the blood and the elderly usually gather and play cards early morning.

    In as far as the high hel shoes on cobblestone streets, I rememeber my beautiful mamma when she was in her mid 30’s walking with us all over Udine with stiletto heels (this heels at that) and it was quite normal for her to do so.

      • I have found the answer to life

        Not coming from this country but not being European either, we were taught as girls and then women to “dress” and this did not include blue jeans and tennis shoes….
        So when I went on holiday to Italy this year…I dressed the way I was raised and am comfortable to dress…and much to the surprize of the other americans that I was travelling with….I fit in , and did not stand out as a typical tourist, and how apparent as I sat in the cafe` and watched the people, I could instantly spot those who were tourists…The motto of dressing, is the same as I was taught….you don’t have so many clothes, but what you have are good things and you wear them…
        I too had no troubles on the cobblestone streets, and found many of those in the tennis shoes did, as they twisted around….

  5. Holly

    I loved this posting! Very cool observations. Enjoy some wine for me. 🙂


  6. Bonnie D

    On the high heels and cobblestone front, have you ever been on the boardwalk at Atlantic City? They actually sell tips in the shops to protect your heels from damage when they slip through the slats of the walkway. Very interesting. And once, on a cruise ship we encountered very heavy weather. We were on our honeymoon (when you work in a hospital the only way to get a vacation is to leave the country) and young but I wore flats to negotiate the lurching ship. Imagine my surprise to see the matrons hanging on to the ropes that were strung about to aid their passage while they were still wearing high heels and choking down dramamine or bonnamine or whatever the drug of choice for nausea was at that time. Quite the entertaining sight, old ladies on drugs and high heels grasping at ropes to haul them about.

    Now as to the scarves on men and women and high heels on young women, I have never met a European that was not style concious in all that they did. Even young Russian women are style concious though they do not have the appearance of most Europeans and the English can out American us and the Australians too. But the French and the Italians, mama mia! Somehow I think it goes with the Liberal mindset. We Republicans tend to jeans and get it done ensembles! LOL

    Carry on and keep these posts coming!

    • I have found the answer to life

      From the travels I have done, it is only apparent and I am sad to say that, its the americans that favor blue jeans and tennis shoes…to ALL occasions….
      how incredibly sad and what a lost art in knowing how to dress…
      As an Italian designer told me in his shop one day…” the reason americans wear only jeans and exercise gear is due to laziness for it takes no greater effort to put on something lovely as it does to wear something sloppy”

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