Top Tips for Living in Italy
Unlike so many people who decide to move to Italy, I was not a lifelong Italophile. I ended up in Rome almost by accident. My Junior year abroad was spent in rainy London and not sunny Italy. After college, I dreamed of Africa and learned French. I fell in love with a fellow American and not an Italian. After almost two decades in Africa that American I married was transferred to Rome and now Italy is my home. I often joke this is one of the most challenging places we have ever lived. Over the years I have figured a few things out that make life as a foreigner in Italy a little easier. I have been working with Inghams on a locals guide to life in Italy. Here are a few of my top tips for living in Italy.
Italy is a very new country. Newer than the United States by almost 100 years. Rome is essentially a village. Most Italians will identify first with the neighborhood or town they are from, then the region, and only then the country. The exception to this rule is rooting for the Azzurri, the Italian national soccer team.
Relationships are Key
You might find that staff at your local bar, bakery, and butcher may not seem all that friendly to eager to be of service. At first. It is often the case that you must make many return visits for it to register that you are part of the community. Once you are a regular you are treated like family.
A common misperception is that Italians are very laid back and relaxed. While this can be true (see sprezzatura) there are a great many rules regarding day to day life.
Things like late opening and early closing hours can be a shock if you are used to a 24-hour culture. Smaller shops may be closed on Monday mornings and during the middle part of the day. Frustrations occur when you are not aware or fight some of these daily rhythms.
It's All About the Food
These rules include what to eat when to eat, and how to eat.
When you Eat
Restaurants are usually only open during certain house. It can be quite difficult to get a proper meal in-between lunch (after 3pm) and before dinner starting at 8pm.)
What you Eat
No bacon, eggs, and toast here. Breakfast is a quick cappuccino and a sweet cornetto standing at the local bar.
Eating with the season is not the trendy thing to do, here in Italy, it is just the way you do it. In Rome, you eat artichokes in spring and fall and watermelon in late summer. You are unlikely to find fruits and vegetables out of season available to buy at your local market.
How to Eat
The order you eat is also important. You do not have to eat all of the courses on an Italian menu, but you do have to stick to the sequence; antipasto, primi, secondi and contori in that order.
La Bella Figura
La Bella Figura means to make a good impression. This includes not wearing beach-wear in the city and greeting the shopkeeper, barista, butcher when you enter.
This is one of my favorite Italian words. It means the illusion of effortlessness.
This is a culture that takes it’s leisure seriously. Coffee breaks are not negotiable, long lunches and August holidays are the norm. Do not mistake this for laziness. Much is accomplished in the conversation over coffee at the bar or at the table over a plate of pasta. It may seem like it does not directly relate to the business at hand. But it does.
To really enjoy a life in Italy do as the locals do. Slow down, learn the language, spend the day at the beach, have a long and lazy Sunday lunch and never say no to a cup of coffee.