When I first started visiting Italy, I was a mega tourist. Ate at the first pizzeria I saw, immediately looked for the alfredo, got frustrated when the waiter didn’t bring my check, etc etc. After I started dating my girlfriend and embarrassed her a bit with my shoobie behavior, I changed and thankfully I did because doing Italy the right way enhances the experience so much more!

Aperitivo

…or as we Americans call it, “happy hour.”

Aperitivo is a glorious couple of hours in the early evening prior to dinner time. Cafes and bars re-open after the mid-afternoon break and serve discounted wine, beer, and liquor along with salty snacks such as olives, chips, and pretzels. The best way to “do aperitivo” is by sitting at a bar outside with a good view.

My drinks of choice are an Aperol Spritz or a Negroni.

“Slow Meals”

Slow downnnnnnnnnn. When you’re at a restaurant in Italy, don’t expect the meal to be done in 30 minutes. That only happens here in America. Sit down and get ready for the long haul.

Restaurants won’t boot you out for sitting and chatting — it’s expected.

You’ll find that if you eat slow, enjoy good conversation, and sip on some after dinner cocktails, not only will your waistline be happier, but your mental health too!

Double Cheek Kiss

Germophobes need not apply. Typically, Italian strangers won’t go in for a kiss if they don’t know you, but if they do and you choose to reciprocate — go double cheek…always. It’s totally normal and a sign of endearment, unless of course it’s from some creep on the street 😉

The Food

Food in Italy is much different than America — fresh ingredients, carb-heavy, and small portions. In the tourist areas you may find the dishes that are served in your local Olive Garden, and this is by design to appeal to the masses. But I urge you to really branch out and explore different tastes.

You should also try to eat the way Italians do — I’m a big guy and consistently lose weight each time I visit Italy, which is certainly contrary to popular belief!

For breakfast, Italians typically don’t eat eggs and bacon, but instead they usually have a pastry and a coffee (espresso for us Americans).

Lunch will be heavier on the carbs…pasta followed by some type of meat (maybe).

Dinner is usually lighter and eaten later at night — around 8PM. Better for digestion!

Nap time

I seriously live for Italian mid-afternoon naps. Typically, most shops outside of the major tourist areas close up around 1PM and don’t open again until 5-6PM. During this time, Italians rest. It’s a major reason why Italians are some of the least-stressed people on the planet. You should take advantage of this — even if it’s only for a short bit. Catnap, Siesta, whatever. I love it however it’s defined.

What are your favorite Italian customs?

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Dinner will typically be after 8. Restaurants may be open at 8 but they would only expect Americans to come that early.

Maura
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Maura

Wow. This list of “customs” is about as stereotypical Southern Italian and outdated as it gets.