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Q&A: Italian Culture Customs & Traditions

Rose asks: I will be doing an Italian language course in Rome for 6 months next year and was wondering what are some Italian culture customs and traditions?
These articles provides interesting insight into Italian culture in Italy...

"What do I need to know about Italian culture in Italy in order to integrate into the society?

Do I have to take my shoes off before entering people's houses?
Is it really rude to turn down the food offered to you in Italy etc. etc.?

Italians culture customs and traditions, Bar in Trastevere Rome Italy.
italian culture customs traditions

Paolo replied to Italian culture customs and traditions:

Hi, I'm italian and I think this is a really good question. It's great that people ask information about Italian culture customs so that they can act politely when they go abroad!

Anyway, don't worry about taking off your shoes or stuff like this, just be polite.
Concerning the food, usually portions are about 70g of pasta and then after that there is a second meal, usually fish with vegetables or meat with vegetables. After that we have fruit or dessert.

Another thing you might find different is the time we have meals, we have breakfast around 7 Am and it`s different. We have a different coffee from yours, the famous espresso, and yogurt or milk with cereals or a fruit but never all of these things. Lunch is around 1 Pm with pasta etc. and dinner around 8-9 Pm without pasta.

The food in Italy is different from america (I`ve been to USA so I know what i am talking about) we do not eat as much fried food so I don`t think you`ll have many problems.

Be polite clean and have respect for elder people who you don`t know.

Enjoy Rome.


Penelope replied to Italian culture customs and traditions:

Table manners are a little different from the USA or other English speaking countries. Italians eat with forearms (not elbows) resting against the table. It's considered rude to keep your hands in your lap.
The family's twelve-year-old daughter told me Italians joke that us Americans keep our hands in our laps in order to draw our guns quickly out their holsters.

One thing that threw me for a loop was grocery store customs (I can laugh about it now) specifically in the produce aisle. When you buy produce at the grocery store in Italy you're supposed to put on little plastic gloves, then put your produce in a bag and take it over to a little scale where you punch in the item number (next to the price of the vegetables) and the machine prints out a sticker that you then put on the bag.
I didn't do all this the first time I bought produce! My Italian wasn't good enough to understand the cashier's instructions, she was trying to explain that I needed to get the number for the item, so I went back to the aisles read the number went back and told her. She rolled her eyes and said, "No, non è così!" Luckily the man behind me in line offered to help me and showed me the little sticker machine.

Everyone was really helpful and encouraging, and more so as I learned more and more Italian. Have fun!

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Del Piero replied to Italian culture customs and traditions:

(Moderator says. Grammar of Del Piero's reply to Italian culture customs has been left as is...why ruin the flavor?!)
In england when they asked me to take off the shoes I found this embarrassing really, and in italy no one would ask you for a thing like this. Also I felt a bit disgusted about the idea to walk with my bare feet on the carpets, in Italy is not considered hygienic! In italy we don't have carpets, is seen as a weird thing.

One another thing considered rude is not to have bidets, all over the world you don't find them and we find this very weird and gross, specially for women. My mum would not believe this when I told her i have to do without.

For to refuse food is not rude, this is hollywood crappy movies view, no one would never force to make you to eat, they just appreciate if you show that you like their food, but you are not a Christmas turkey....


Sagittarius replied to Italian culture customs and traditions:

That's a lot of good answers, how about adding these..

In an Italian restaurant you have the table until you leave. The custom is to not rush you and to not "turn over" tables quickly. Most waiters won't bring you the bill until you ask - it won't arrive until you ask for it, so don't get mad.

Italians don't have patience for lines or queues it's very much a first come first served culture so don't be shocked when they cut in front of you or you're unable to find the end of a line because there isn't one. Be assertive or you won't get served. This isn't really true of the Rome tourist sites because most of the tourists won't be Italian.


italian culture customs and traditions

Don't make a fist with your index finger and pinky extended (kind of like a bull with horns gesture), then point it at an Italian. This signifies "cornuto" and means that your partner is betraying you!
"Cornuto" means horns, and the origins of this saying comes from medieval times during the Byzantine Roman Empire. When Emperor Andronico I set his eyes on a married woman he would have her husband imprisoned and then have his way with the wife in her own home. To demonstrate his conquest he would then mount a set of horns on the front door of the house!!

They also don't like it if you point with your index finger, you'll see that most Italians will point with all 4 fingers extended. What other Italian culture customs and traditions...

In restaurants you're asked if you want carbonated water or non-carbonated water (not tap water, it's considered rude/stingy). This can take many forms: "con gas," "frizzante," which means fizzy or "naturale" - still.

Cappuccino is a drink on its own, after a meal Italians order Espresso and not Cappuccino. If you order a cappuccino after dinner you might get a funny look but they'll serve it you.

Coffee is "cafè" and it's served in Bars. A bar in Rome Italy is definitely not the same as a bar in the USA. A bar in Italy is more of an ice cream shop.

You'll see many Italian couples men and men, walking arm-in-arm (elbows interlocked), this is not gay, they are family or very close friends. It's considered an honor if an Italian walks with you in this way. It's very special so don't giggle, stare, or otherwise make a spectacle of it.

Have a great time!


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Mike replied to Italian culture customs and traditions:

Hi, I'm American but I am living in Rome Italy.

Just be nice and well-mannered and try to speak some Italian. Rome is a large city and a lot of people speak a little English, but a lot don't. You will be in Italy, so do try to speak their language instead of expecting them to speak yours.

Try not to be loud, obnoxious or drink like a sponge, this is a bad stereotype we as Americans have, and unfortunately many that visit don't do much to repair it.

Mafia jokes are bad taste and besides you never know who you are talking to, and this is also one stereotype Italians hate.

Don't try to speak English with a so-called Italian accent, it's irritating and Italians don't sound like that at all. Remember, in Italy every town has their own dialect, and in Rome you will be hearing the Roman dialect along with standard Italian.

Italy may be the Catholic capital but they are NOT VERY RELIGIOUS. Most young Italians couldn't care less about religion. You will often hear "sono cattolico ma non pratico" which means they were baptized Catholic but don't go to church.

Italians use their hands when speaking, and even more so when they are angry or very excited.
Yes, Italians do love to eat, or rather, they love to eat well. If they offer you something, just accept it, you won't be forced to eat all of it, but just try. Somethings may sound a little strange but trust me just try it, you might be pleasantly surprised.

Oh, and not all Italians are short or have dark hair. In the north you will see a lot of tall blond Italians.

That's all I can think of at the moment. Ci Vediamo.


Merryl replied to Italian culture customs and traditions:

Most Italians dine very late and restaurants open a little later than what we may be used to in English speaking countries. Dinner is quite a drawn out event and feel free not to order all the courses. Two or three are fine.

Bread, water and butter are additional costs when dining. You can ask to have tap water at some places, but you are going to have to push. It is often better to just pay for it. Hmmm other Italian culture customs etc....

Italians do not get the idea/concept of a line, or queue. Do not be surprised if you begin in the front and then suddenly find yourself at the very back - with all the other Americans and English. Ha Ha.

Coffee in its very many forms is ingested at all times of the day, even Cappuccino, at least it was for the month that we were there, and restaurants are more than happy to serve it to you no matter what time it is.

Wearing shorts in Rome and Florence is not a common sight. The women wear skirts, dresses and capri pants. Also the Italians love/expect well dressed men and women, do not expect top rate service if you are poorly dressed.

Remember to enquire about the service charges at the restaurants. Often it is not considered the tip, and is an additional charge. I believe that it should be shown, at the bottom of the menu I think.

Have fun and enjoy your vacation.

For more tips visit Italian culture customs and traditions.



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The Q&A section of Roman life Rome Italy: "Italian culture customs and traditions."

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