Friday, June 21, 2013

Funny Facts About Italy...

Be sure to leave a comment on yesterday's post to be entered for a give-a-way for an Italian ceramic pitcher from Nove'! I will randomly pick a winner on Monday, so it's NOT too late!

As I've stated in previous posts, I tried to read as much about Italy as was humanly possible when we first found out we were moving to Italy.  THIS article was, without a doubt, was one of my favorites.  I was going through some computer files recently and a ran across where I had saved it.  I can remember reading it before we moved here and thinking that I needed to remember EVERY. LITTLE. THING so that we would be able to better assimilate into Italian culture.  HA!  It took me about 5 minutes to realize that was NEVER going to happen!  Once an American, always an American, I guess! But, looking back on this article now after we've been living here for 19 months,  I truly see some serious humor in many of these 100+ Things to Know if You're Going to Italy. 

Here are a few of my personal favorites:

#11. You push to enter a place, and pull to get out. Exactly the opposite as in America!

I cannot tell you how annoying this was when I first moved here....and how funny it is now to see tourists constantly making this mistake. I can remember doing this over and over again and even thinking that the place I was going in to might have even been closed because I was pulling the door instead of pushing it and I thought it was locked!  Now when I see tourists pull instead of push to enter, I always let them in on this little secret. 

#12. Airport and rail stations have public restrooms, often with attendants who expect to be tipped. If someone is guarding the door of the restroom, you’re expected to leave a few coins.

I still crack up at the thought of tipping someone to let me use the restroom, but not to serve me food in a restaurant!

#16. Credit cards are not widely accepted. You can’t pay for anything that is less than 10 Euros with a credit card, and even then you’re going to be frowned upon. Always bring cash with you!

I may have learned this one the hard way once or twice...we've become experts in using the Italian Bancomats (ATM machines) because rarely do we find anyplace that will take a credit card for a purchase.  

#25. Shops close for lunch between 12:30pm and 3 or 4pm. Everything shuts down by 7:30pm.

And we wonder why the Italian economy is in such bad shape...this is very hard to get used to and it's a total pain in the ass!

#29. Banks are only open in the morning and for one hour in the afternoon. You need to bank in the morning!
And we Americans complain about "Banker's Hours"....

#31. You have to wear plastic gloves to pick up food in the produce section of the grocery store or old ladies will yell at you.

Another one that I learned the hard way!! I even had someone smack my hand.  And don't ask to rinse anything off before you eat it!  

#32. You bag your own groceries and pay for the bag.

Or just don't have a bag...

#33. Italians don’t put ice in their drinks. If you must, ask for it, but realize they’ll look at you as if you were a Martian. When (if?) they bring you ice, they will send to the table a small saucer with 5 ice cubes for the entire table.

And they are not kidding about this one...It was nearly impossible to find ice trays.  We had to have my mother-in-law send us some from the states.

#48. Tap water is never served, and despite the fact that it’s now as safe as in the US, people keep on drinking bottled water and restaurants only serve bottled water.

And it's ALWAYS in glass bottles!

#56. If you don’t ask for the check, you’re not going to get it. Italians consider a check put on the table before you’re done with your meal, or without you asking, like an invitation to leave. It is considered a no-no in restaurants, so you must ask for your check if you’d like to pay!

Don't ask me how long we waited for the bill the first time in a restaurant!

#58. Alfredo sauce is not Italian. Don’t ask for it!

Yep, it's true.  Fettuccine Alfredo is a completely American is Chicken Parmesan and actually nothing Italian tastes like anything you've ever had at Olive Garden.

59. Frappuccino doesn’t exist, either. However, all other coffee drinks whose nameStarbucks has stolen usually mean something different than what you think you’re ordering.

I'm not sure I'll any be able to go back to American coffee--Italian coffee is just THAT GOOD--once you get used to just how strong it is! (and It's super cheap!)

64. Dinner is past 8pm, not at 5pm. If you’re hungry at 5pm, go to a pasticceria and get a hot chocolate and some pastries. If you’re hungry at 7pm go to a bar and order an aperitivo. Don’t show up for dinner before 8pm (and that’s still kind of early!).

We've frequently been at restaurants finishing up a meal (that ended VERY,  VERY late for us) around 10:30, when a family with a small child has showed up to START their meal! I can't tell you how often this happens.  Our gelataria doesn't even being to close until after midnight--even on a weeknight!

65. Don’t miss the chance to try pizza in a pizzeria, but be aware that pizza is a dinner food. The very few pizzeria open at lunch usually cater to tourists only (and the pizza is probably not likely to be great!).

Absolutely true!  And boy were we surprised when we went to a pizzeria for lunch and they looked at us like we were CRAZY!

83. Lines (at the post office, at the bank, at the bar, at the bakery) are never really lines. They are a declaration of intent that you need to assert if you want to be helped. Make sure you demand your right in line if you don’t want to be “overtaken”!

Another one that we learned the hard way..

89. Making a “pit stop” alongside the road to relieve oneself (Pulling over to the side of the road and peeing) is accepted. It’s disgusting and terrible, but you’ll see plenty of men doing it.

Yep, this is a proven fact...and one that the men in our family partake in frequently since there are no rest stops.

95. Scooters, bicycles and motorcycles share the road with cars, and they will zip by on your left and right in a one-lane road!

I'm not sure if I agree with this one...they don't share the roads with us.  They own it and just let us frequent it now and again...

96. It’s hard to pay for gas with a credit card, especially after operating hours other than on the autostrada.

It's impossible, not hard.  When Italian gas stations close, they take their credit card machines with them--if they even had them to begin with.  When stations are closed, you are expected to insert Euro into a machine, press buttons to indicate which pump you are on, and then use the machine "on a credit".

97. No right turn on red!
This took some getting used to...

98. Eating in the car is unheard of. Italians would never do such a coveted and social thing like eating in the most unsocial place of all, the car.

And it's actually illegal...

99. However, that doesn’t mean Italians don’t like their cars!! Actually, cars are coveted sign of social status. As a consequence, garbage that you produce in the car gets taken out immediately. You will see people throwing things directly outside the window. As long as the car is clean, who cares about littering?

The evidence of this is everywhere.  It was shocked at what a dirty country Italy is!

101. The perfect drink for a pizza is beer, or soda. Almost no Italian drink wine with their pizza, when they do they consider it an overindulgent pleasure and usually it will be a sparkling wine, like Prosecco.

And at €4, it's more expensive than the pizza and far more expensive than the wine!

After living here for 19+ months now, I've learned a lot about the inner workings of this country, but many things are still a mystery!  I'm not sure I'll ever actually figure it out, but I'm enjoying my time here.  The best advice we ever got was, "Don't try to fight Italy.  Italy is just Italy and you'll never change it and it'll never become 'America'.  Once you realize that and take it for what it is, you'll start to enjoy yourself".  

This couldn't actually be more true!

High classed toddler

I'd really appreciate your vote!! Have a great weekend!


  1. Amy,

    So happy to find your blog. My guy was stationed in Vicenza for about 3 years! We met in Florence and lived there for a year together. He is currently out of the service pursuing his education but we hope to return again someday. Let me know if you want any fun Florence suggestions! I look forward to following your journey!

  2. I really like this post :) My husband and I are planning a trip in September, so I will have to revisit this list. I hope you are enjoying it!!

  3. So happy I saw this! I'll be in Rome for five weeks and these are helpful tips!

    1. We are headed to Rome for a couple of days on Sunday :)

  4. What a great list! I love reading about the little things that make Italy so much different from America. I've never been but my husband has traveled to Rome several times with work and while he loves visiting there, tells me how different it is as well. Can't wait to get there someday!

    Tricia @

  5. Ha ha! A lot of things are similar to Germany. I will never get how they think. Love the blog!


    With reference of your article we have the pleasure to tell you the history of our grandfather Alfredo Di Lelio, who is the creator of “fettuccine all’Alfredo” in 1908 in restaurant run by his mother Angelina in Rome, Piazza Rosa (Piazza disappeared in 1910 following the construction of the Galleria Colonna / Sordi).
    Alfredo di Lelio opened the restaurant “Alfredo” in 1914 in Rome, after leaving the restaurant of his mother Angelina. In this local spread the fame, first to Rome and then in the world, of “fettuccine all’Alfredo”.
    In 1943, during the war, Di Lelio sold the restaurant to others outside his family.
    In 1950 Alfredo Di Lelio decided to reopen with his son Armando his restaurant in Piazza Augusto Imperatore n.30 "Il Vero Alfredo" (“Alfredo di Roma”), which is now managed by his nephews Alfredo and Ines, with the famous “gold cutlery” (fork and spoon gold) donated in 1927 by two well-known American actors Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks (in gratitude for the hospitality).
    See also the site of “Il Vero Alfredo”, which also contains information on franchising.
    We must clarify that other restaurants "Alfredo" in Rome do not belong to the family tradition of "Il Vero Alfredo" in Rome.
    We inform that the restaurant “Il Vero Alfredo” is in the registry of “Historic Shops of Excellence” of the City of Rome Capitale.
    Best regards Alfredo e Ines Di Lelio

  7. Boy oh Boy... we gotta compare notes. I took a voyage around Italy with my wife and 11 year old boy last October for 3 weeks and had a lot of the same impressions that you had. Stop by my blog and see if you agree. I'm 2nd generation Italian, both sides.... but the Italians over there are like a different species. (s) --Jerry


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