Things you probably don’t know about Italy – Not the usual list

Hi everybody! This is the second part of my The world through Italian eyes project.

WARNING – A small but still remarkable percentage of readers found my previous post 10 things I don’t understand about Canada (and Usa???) offensive, and commented “You’ve been very insulting to a country that has welcomed you with open arms”. Replying that I have been talking about cinnamon and air-conditioned, and of course my post was ironic – like thousands for readers understood and wrote me about – I have to warn you. This post may contain humor that may not be suitable for an audience with unexpressed anger, lack of a sense of humor, lack of self-criticism, and serious disposition for conspiracy.

This list has been made with the only intention to let you know unusual aspects of Italian culture that you may not know. It would be too easy for me to fill the blank with beautiful things about Italy and Italian people.

Instead, things you probably don’ know about Italy.

- We don’t have cranberry in Italy, so don’t ask me for the translation.

- Salad is a side dish and not a starter.

- In high school you have only one class – your class – with about 20 people who share with you the same room 5 hours per day. The teachers come into the room for the different subjects.

- If you find toilet paper in public restrooms, consider yourself very lucky. In fact Italian women always keep a small tissue pack in their purses for this reason.

- Italy has two big islands – Sardinia and Sicily – much bigger than Capri and Ischia!

- Lunch is a meal. It’s not a sandwich or a salad to go, it’s a meal. That’s why we need to go home for lunch and close all stores and offices between 12:30pm and 3 or 4pm. Do you want to shop at lunch time? Too bad!

- Every day about 3,000 Euro are thrown into the Fontana di Trevi in Rome and collected at night to be given to a charitable organization.

- Italy is one of the most crowded nations in Europe, that’s why we have to talk loud.

- Family is very important, and if we decide to kill ourselves, usually we kill our family first.

- America is for us U.S.

- If you decide for some unknown reason to drive in Italy, be aware that motorcycles, scooters, and bicycles share the road with cars. Be ready to see them  zipping by on your left and right on a one-lane road. Be also ready to hit the throttle as soon as the light turns green: if you don’t, somebody could come to knock to your window with a rod that is usually in a car for all eventualities. No right turn on red! Also, if you see somebody moving his hands towards talking to you, DO NOT STOP your vehicle: that is not Italian gesture, it’s Italian threat! Good luck with the road signs!

- Almost four-fifths of Italy is either mountainous or hilly, perfect for scooters!

- A scooter can sometimes be good for 2 or 3 people + kids.

- Pedestrians risk their life every day! They are actually a species threatened with extinction since everybody with a driver’s license owns a car. Too bad for you if you don’t have one, nobody is going to let you cross the street, no matter if it’s raining, if the light is green, or if you are old and with a walking stick.

- Italians suffer more earthquakes than any other Europeans and no other country in Europe has as many volcanoes as Italy.

- From early age, you have to wear designer clothes to be socially accepted, which makes the whole society pretty superficial and judgemental.

- We could rip you off at any time if we really want to… and usually we do. That’s a….. skill (?)

- Bread it’s good for you, and when I say bread I mean white bread. We buy it every day, and while in North America mothers say “Finish your vegetables” in Italy mothers say “Finish your bread”. The average Italian consumes half a pound of bread a day.

- Italy is history, art and traditions, but our own Minster forgot that saying art does not feed you. Somebody answer saying art makes you grow!

Soccer it’s a very big deal: if you wear your soccer t-shirt in the wrong city you are clearly asking to get beat up. Do not go to the stadium with kids. Do not  – EVER – say that a team is going to win or score before the end of the match: that’s considered bad luck, and people will really believe it’s your fault no matter what happens. Italians are all soccer coaches: they know better than everybody else who should play for their team.

- We do not go to church every week (or every month, only for weddings) and if we have a cross on our neck it’s probably just a fashion statement. Soccer it’s our religion, and sex is our salvation.

- Women watching is a national sport, the most important after soccer, and before eating. They look at you in a persistent way no matter what, and who is with you.

- If you go out for dinner, enjoy the food. Keep in mind that tipping is not required. In fact, tipping people you personally know it could be considered offensive: the attitude toward tipping is that you can’t buy a person off. Taking home the leftovers is not an option, and leaving food on the plate is frowned upon, so MANGIA!. Portions are pretty large, but people still manage to stay fairly skinny.

- People are warm and welcoming. No matter how fat you are, they will always refill your plate saying you need to eat more, and refill your glass saying it’s good for you. Again, MANGIA!

- There are things you are expected to be able to do by your 10th birthday: swimming, riding a bike, drinking grappa and play soccer (if you are a boy) or know your dream is to marry a soccer player and dance naked on TV (if you are a girl).

- If you are ready to dance naked you will get on TV in no time. We do not care about information. We cannot talk about politics, it’s just not nice to criticize somebody else’s womens….I mean work! It’s not nice! So if you watch TV you will see naked women and sexy commercials. Not that violent garbage you bad guys have in North America!

Italy is just a lot of stuff. It’s true, I did leave my country, and from time to time it disappoints me from time to time, but It’s my country. It gave me the “Italian glasses” that raised me and made me become who I am.

Read my controversial post 10 things I don’t understand about Canada.

Don’t miss what I learned in Canada about Italian people (coming up on my blog).

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36 responses to “Things you probably don’t know about Italy – Not the usual list”

  1. Antonella says :

    Elena, 5 years is a long time to live far from Italy!
    Probably, you’ve forgotten a great lot of things!
    1. “Lunch is a meal”. Yes, but unluckily there are so many “criminals” who take their lunch at … what’s the name, Mcfast-food?
    2. “Every day about 3,000 Euro are thrown into the Fontana di Trevi” and every day there is a lot of people ready to steal them …
    3. “Italians are all soccer coaches: they know better than everybody else who should play for their team”. I can’t understand all these stupid guys: why they don’t understand Alessandro Del Piero is absolutely the best! :-)
    4.”Women watching is a national sport, the most important after soccer, and before eating.” Before eating???? (4 question marks :-) )
    It’s just beacuse we can watch and eat at the same time! It would be nice to ask italian men: You can have a week of great sex with the most beautiful woman in the world but… you’ll never eat pasta anymore… what do you prefer?
    5.”There are things you are expected to be able to do by your 10th birthday: … drinking grappa …” My God! Are you joking? 10 years of our life without grappa?

    Joking aside … great post! And I like the one about Canada/USA too. A question: Quebec is the only country where I should like to live if I had to leave from Italy. That post is true for Quebecoise too? ;-)

    Ciao, Daniele … che sta usando l’account di Antonella

    P.S. Do you really call “public restrooms” what we have in the most of our railway stations or along the highways?

    • elenasc says :

      Ah ah ah!!! Thank you so much for your comment, you girls are the best (and yes, Del Piero for ever!!!) :)
      Answering about the Quebec province, well, I have been there only in vacation few times. The winter is MUCH WORST than in Toronto, which is enough for me to keep my distance! lol
      Beside that I would assume things are pretty much the same, even if there are some cultural aspects that are different.
      p.s. I called “public restrooms” because I wanted be nice…. and I don’t know how to say “cesso” in English! ;P

  2. bagnidilucca says :

    Thank you for the Italian information. I have spent enough time there now to appreciate Italian ways. I love it, warts and all.

  3. Bryan S says :

    “People are warm and welcoming. No matter how fat you are, they will always refill your plate saying you need to eat more, and refill your glass saying it’s good for you. Again, MANGIA!”

    This is one of the things I love most about life here in Italy. I have lived in different parts of Italy and in different parts of the U.S. In both there are generalizations that can be made about the country but also differences from one area to another.

    Keep up the writing…you have a great perspective.

  4. A. says :

    All true!! One more thing about Italy…. the bidet!!!

  5. audra says :

    I left Italy for a lot of these reasons actually

    But the food? Marvelous. :)

    • elenasc says :

      Really? I’d like to know more! :)

      • kelly says :

        Hey, I enjoyed reading your posting! I would like to ask if you mind me posting some of the fun comments to our Italian restaurant website in Vancouver – Cafe Il Nido I am looking at some more interactive ways to create readership but don’t want to take something without permission.

        • elenasc says :

          Of couse, but please give me credit (my name ElenaSC’s Blog and the website address Next time I visit Vancouver I have to come by!

          • kelly says :

            Yes, absolutely. I will post it next week sometime, and will of course give you the credit for your wise words. And do stop by at the restaurant when you are in town and I would be happy to buy you a drink. If I am not there (Kelly), just speak to Franco Felice and tell him you helped with website blog! He is a great guy. Where are you from?

  6. eloradaphne says :

    Hello Elena! I just looked through your blog, and really am enjoying it a lot! I’m glad you commented on mine and came for a visit – I hope we can keep in touch as well. It is interesting to meet someone who has immigrated for work reasons to my country. And I am also happy to see that I as a foreigner am not the only one to see what is happening in Italy – because sometimes I think it is just me and my jaded point of view, but if an Italian sees that then…well it makes me feel less paranoid! PS I shared this post on twitter – it is so true!!!

    • anna says :

      I could not agree more with these comments! I was cracking up while I was reading them because they are SO TRUE!! The little differences like these are the funniest…I have been here for so long that I am forgetting to notice them.. thanks for making me laugh and appreciate Italy even moe! LOVE THE BLOG and thanks for following mine!

    • elenasc says :

      Thank you, of course we’ll keep in touch and I hope to have more comments from you!

  7. Italian Postcards says :

    I enjoyed your list! Grappa by age 10? I can’t drink it now…it burns a little bit.

  8. Mike Coyle says :

    What a funny, interesting and pretty accurate list. I think I’m going to like this blog.

  9. Enrico says :

    ha ha ha… all so true!!!! i learned now about your blog (From Elora’s blog) now is on my favourites!!
    Ciao from Italy…

  10. Carina says :

    Elena, I really love your post!!

    I wanna go to Italy as soon as possible!!


  11. Single Malt Monkey says :

    Hi Elena, stumbled across this and loved it. I love Italy and have been there at least 6 times in the last 8 years including this year when, yes, I drove again. Sucker for punishment , huh? The driving rules are simple aren’t they – If it moves, avoid it ! :) Here at home I’ve become our family and friends Italian wine expert. Just love it so much. Yeah Italy is quirky…but so much life,sunshine and beauty…

  12. Desiree E. says :

    That was reaaaally funny! I love your writing…I have always wanted to visit Italy, and now more so after reading your posts! I read the one about Italian Food Stereotypes, and so true. I’ve worked in two different Italian restaurants in the past (here in California) and have always thought to myself how wonderful it would be to actually eat authentic Italian food!

  13. mouseytong says :

    This is so true and so funny! Came here via Elora’s blog by way of Leah’s blog. I am a foreigner living in Italy too. I have my share of differences but I do love Italy. It is a beautiful place.

  14. AD says :

    hahahaha great writting i laughed the hell out of it while true! i dating an italian guy and nothing you wrote is wrong! thanks for the blog :)

  15. Martina @ Bullo! says :

    Hi ELena, I am Italian and I still live here (in Italy :-) ). All your posts about our country are fun, and some of the stereotypes are true, but sometimes you talk of a smaller part of Italy. Anyway I appreciate your irony ;-)

  16. Licia says :

    I am not Italian but work in Italy since 1998 in a big hotel in Florence. 90% of our guests are Americans and, yes, I believe that, at this point, my experience about American behaviours is quite big. Beside many points already considered in the comments above, I\’d like to point on a basic aspect that many American tourists have in common: they like to point on situations they dislike about other countries (in this case Italy) and keep forgetting the real situation of the country they are coming from. The first example coming to my mind is when a lady from Texas complained with my director that in the country she was coming from you don\’t have to pay for water at a restaurant, ever! She totally forgot, however (but not so my director), that her sweet husband had to go the the hospital in Florence after a bad fall he had walking downtown. His wrist had to be put in a plaster cast and, believe it or not, at a cost of 7 euros (ER fees) all included. Try to do the same in the US… The father of a good friend of mine (American from upstate New York, Buffalo), had to sell his house to pay for part of the hospital expenses after he was diagnosed with brain cancer (insurance, apparently, did not cover that disease!?). He died in 2009… He had to go to live with his son in the last period of his unlucky life, but, my friends, at the restaurant the water, from the faucet of course, was FREE!!!! Another thing, and this happened to me during my last trip to the US, which is apparently common among Americans flying abroad, is the sense of safety they feel just in their homeland. The thing could be considered quite normal, I know, since it is obvious to have more confidence in areas and situations we know perfectly and we are at ease with. But to get to the point, and this is what I have seen with my eyes, to kiss the tar of the airport\’s runway (we were just landed in Boston) to show the happiness of being back to \”supersafe\” USA from an American couple (quite funny, btw, since they were pretty huge people indeed and had a few problems to kneel), it makes me think that, maybe, many Americans (I am saying many because i heard the conversations of many other Americans tourists talking about this particular subject) are partially unaware of the country they are living in. Maybe, just to refresh their mind, they should go here sometimes: I\’ve never, never, never seen such a warzone neither in Italy, nor in Greece, where I am from. Maybe, if they considered more also the negative aspects of the country they come from, and not just the positive ones (like the free water at the restaurants), the Americans would get along much better with the rest of the world. No offense people. Be positive! Licia

  17. rosepernice says :

    Elena, I really enjoyed reading this. You forgot to mention that most Italians have big hearts and a great sense of humor. I hope to be visiting Italy soon despite your warnings. I definitely will be visiting your blog again. Rose

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