By Isabella Verga – Ohio State University | ISI Florence Spring 2023
While living in Italy, you will notice many differences from the American culture which can take some time to get used to. It can be fun to embrace different Italian customs so I am going to be discussing some of the things that have stuck out to me on a daily basis.
The first thing you will notice in Italy is the people’s great sense of fashion and style – something more formal than in America. You won’t see anyone in activewear unless you get a gym membership, and Italians usually won’t be seen sporting shorts. This was an adjustment for me to make but I have enjoyed dressing a bit more formally and might even decide to keep doing this when I return home.
Italians also like to enjoy sweets for breakfast, not the typical eggs and bacon American breakfast. Walking to class you will notice many locals enjoying breakfast at “bars” or a cafe, which usually consist of a pastry and a cappuccino or espresso. You will often see the local crowd drinking their espresso standing at the bar, something fun to try before heading to class.
Another difference is that Italians eat dinner at 8:00 pm or later. Everything happens later in Italy, including dinner. You won’t find many restaurants that are open before 7:00 or 7:30 pm so you will need to adapt to later meal times when eating out- this is something I adapted to quicker than I thought I would! Dinner for Italians is a way to enjoy the company of friends and family and usually takes several hours as opposed to quick American takeout or often being rushed out by waiters. I enjoy the slow nature of Italian dinners and spending time eating with friends.
Italians take food very seriously. When going out to eat there are three courses, so prepare to show up hungry! When coming to Italy I thought I would be having some of the traditional Italian dishes I enjoy at home such as chicken marsala and vodka pasta, but I found out these are Italian-American dishes. It is fun to venture to new parts of the city and find the best restaurants recommended by Italians and not just your American friends. One of my favorite things about traveling this semester has been trying the local cuisine in each city or country.
Gelato is enjoyed at any time of day. In America, we usually have ice cream once in a while after dinner, but I see people enjoying gelato as early as 10 am. I love this about Italy and will definitely miss my gelato stops when I leave. I learned if you want to try fresh, authentic gelato, visit the gelaterias with gelato stored in tins or that are not presented higher than surface level. Another indicator of good gelato is a small menu and flavors that change daily.
Italians are usually not in a hurry to get somewhere and enjoy a slower life. Being from New York, I am especially used to the hustle and bustle of the streets. I have had to get used to walking slowly through the streets and leaving earlier for class to make it on time. However, this way of life has taught me to enjoy the sights around me. I often find myself rushing to get back to my apartment and then remembering I’m not late for something, so why am I acting like it? Slowing down your way of life gives you time to stop and chat with a friend or take a leisurely walk and discover something new. This can be difficult to adapt to when coming from America.
There are many lifestyle lessons we can learn from Italians which is why it is important to put in the effort to learn about their way of life. As they say, Italians live ‘la dolce vita’, the sweet life, so take a chance at enjoying and savoring what Italians consider life’s many pleasures.