You don’t have to ride a Vespa in Rome to enjoy the Italian way of living. One of the best things about traveling is discovering and adapting to the habits of daily life and local customs. While waiting for your next trip, why not live like you would on vacation? From sipping espresso standing up to introducing aperitivos to your schedule, you’ll fit right in by the time your next vacation rolls around.
- Let your hands do the talking: practice these greetings, gestures, and useful phrases
- Take it slow: Live blissfully and unhurried
- It’s all about food: Eat local and take your time
- Be entertained like an Italian: Enjoy football, film, and the finer things in life
Let your hands do the talking: practice these greetings, gestures, and useful phrases
If there’s one thing Italians are known for — well, apart from pizza — it’s their habit of talking with their hands. There’s a whole range of Italian hand gestures to learn. If something tastes delicious, for example, press your thumb and index finger together, bring them to your lips, and kiss.
Or, if you think something is simply perfetto, or perfect, bring your thumb and index finger together and draw a horizontal line in the air. Whatever you do, don’t flick the underside of your chin with your fingers… unless you want to start a fight.
In Italy, English is widely spoken in big cities. But travel off the beaten path, and you’ll soon find a little Italian goes a long way. Here are a few phrases that are good to have up your sleeve:
- Per favore (please)
- Grazie (thank you)
- Quanto (how much?)
- Delizioso (delicious)
Take it slow: Live blissfully and unhurried
If there’s one thing Italians believe in, it’s savoring the moment. Talking for hours, lingering over lunch, what’s the sense in hurrying life’s greatest pleasures?
Believe it or not, the typical Italian day starts early. Office workers head out at around 8:00 AM. But not before they’ve had their coffee — their cappuccino, to be precise. Milky cappuccinos are considered the perfect breakfast drink. Just don’t order one in the afternoon. Only tourists drink them after 11:00 AM.
Make your coffee at home in a stovetop Moka Pot. For extra Italian points, take it standing at your kitchen counter, as per the Italian tradition of standing at the café bar rather than sitting at a table to avoid the service charge.
Feeling exhausted after that early start? Time for riposo (rest). Italians put down the tools for a 2-hour lunch break any time between noon and 2:00 PM. To live like a real Italian, you should do the same.
Aperitivo is the greatest Italian innovation since pasta. Between 7:00 PM-9:00 PM, Italians traditionally enjoy a pre-dinner drink with nibbles to whet the appetite, also known as aperitivo. What are you waiting for? Aperol spritz is calling…
Round out your day with a quiet passeggiata (leisurely stroll). Take a moment to take in the scenery — it’s an undeniably civilized way to finish the day.
It’s all about food: Eat local and take your time
Believe the stereotype: Italians take their food seriously. If you want to eat like an Italian, there are a few rules you’ll need to get on board with, pronto (ready).
Know your regions
Italy isn’t famous for pizza — Naples is. In fact, every different city and region in Italy has its own culinary specialties. The locals are fiercely proud of them. Rome is famous for cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper pasta) and Florence is known for bistecca fiorentina (beefsteak Florentine style). So don’t say you’re making Italian — if you’re eating pizza, you’re eating from Campagnia. Polenta? Regional fare from the Dolomites.
Say goodbye to heaping bowls of pasta. In Italy, pasta is a primi, an appetizer. It’s eaten in small helpings before the main. Whether Orecchiette (from Puglia), agnolotti (from Piedmont), or bucatini (from Lazio), eat it first, and make it al dente.
Learn to make Italian ravioli with the chef Francesco in a virtual experience live-streamed from his family kitchen in Tuscany, outside of Florence.
Tip: Parmesan improves everything. Everything except seafood, that is. Want to make an unflappable Italian waiter gasp in horror? Sprinkle parmesan on your spaghetti marinara. It’s the cardinal culinary sin in this country.
Sip a local drop
Italian restaurants and bars love to serve regional wines. And “regional” often means “from the boutique vineyard in the closest village” or even “made on-site.” Okay, so this might be tricky at home, but you can at least think like an Italian: which wines and produce come from your region? Pick these and you’ll be well on your way to mastering the Italian slow food movement.
Oh, and Italians like to take things slow at meal times, too. In Italy, your waiter will never rush you along. Don’t rush yourself at home, either. Meals are the best part of the day; why rush them?
Be entertained like an Italian: Enjoy football, film, and the finer things in life
Sundays in Italy are devoted to religion… the religion of football. Most Italians are football fanatics. Pick a team, stream it live, and join in the fun.
Italians love their music. And there’s more to Italian music than opera. In youthful cities like Bologna and Milan, music-lovers will uncover vibrant music scenes. To get a taste at home, listen to some Patchanka, a style that gives classic Italian folk songs a punky update.
Italian greats, from screen to page
There’s one name you need to know in Italian film: Fellini. Federico Fellini’s exuberant films took the world by storm in the 1960s. For a memorable movie that portrays the glamour and magic of mid-century Rome, you simply can’t go past La Dolce Vita.
Italy has an enviable literary heritage, boasting books from Dante’s Inferno to the Decameron. But if you want to get right up-to-date on Italian literature, there’s only one author to read: Elena Ferrante, the author behind Ferrante Fever. Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels were hailed as instant classics in the 2010s. Beginning in 1950s Naples, the books chart the turbulent friendship between Lila and Lenu.