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How to Be Italian
How To Be Italian
If you’re traveling to Italy, the best way to live la dolce vita is to do it the way the Italians do. Whether you’re just spending a few days in Italy or enjoying an extended vacation, you’ll get the best of the food, history, and culture by embracing the Italian philosophy of life.
The first rule of Italy is to start your day with an espresso. If you must, you can ruin your coffee with milk and drink it Cappuccino or Americano style, but be sure not to do it after lunch. Italy is home to the best coffee in the world. Even if you can’t stomach the idea of a short black at home, you must try an espresso in Italy. You will be pleasantly surprised. You could always ask for a Macchiato: a shot of espresso stained with a dash of milk. Don’t ask for a latte, you’ll just get a tall glass of milk.
Coffee in Italy is organized. To order, join the queue at the cash register. Once you have paid, you will be given a receipt. Pass this to the barista who will prepare your coffee. Drink it standing at the bar, or at one of the round tables.
An espresso should cost somewhere around €1.00. Many tourists have been fooled into paying much more. In Rome there is actually a law preventing any shop from charging more than €1.20 for an espresso.
Italian shops and businesses close from around 15:00 to 17:00 for siesta. After a delicious bowl of pasta, you will probably need a nap too. If you have a busy day of sightseeing ahead of you, you may find this frustrating at first.
The secret is to partake in the siesta yourself. Get up early and enjoy a busy morning of sightseeing. Have a late lunch and then retire to your hotel for a few hours’ rest. Have a nap, a swim, or simply relax for a little while. You’ll be full of energy for a busy late afternoon. Eat your dinner late, around 20:00, and watch the streets come to life again at night.
Eating a Meal
Italians are not familiar with the concept of fast food. If you’re having a meal at a restaurant, expect to spend at least an hour there. First courses are known as primi and mains as secondi. Ordering a primi meal which is usually a pasta or pizza is a good idea for lunch. Secondi courses are quite generous and require you to bring along your appetite. After you finish your meal, your waiter will return to offer you dolce or café if you so desire.
Service is slow in Italy. This is the way it’s supposed to be. Eat your food slowly and appreciate the flavors. Food is also about company. Use your meal time as a chance to spend time with your traveling companions.
Many visitors to Italy are surprised by the simplicity of the food. The ingredients are fresh and of high quality. Much thought, effort, and time goes into preparation. There are few sauces, dressings or additions to Italian food. It tastes so good that you don’t really need them.
Avoid restaurants in tourist areas; instead look for places to eat off the beaten track. You’ll get better food and better service, and you’ll pay a whole lot less as well.
Make the Most of a City
Italian cities are both organized and chaotic. The siesta system is not always observed here, so you may have fewer problems with midday closures.
Plan your time well, but be prepared for problems. It’s a good idea to have a structured itinerary, as well as a back-up plan if a museum is closed. Italy does have a good public transport system that is quite reliable, but be aware of pickpockets.
If you are planning to visit churches wear modest dress, or take a jacket or shawl you can cover up with when you enter.
Make the Most of the Coast
An Italian experience would not be complete without a visit to at least one beautiful coastal town. Whether you head down to the Amalfi Coast, visit the Cinque Terra, or explore the Aeolian Islands, the Italian coast has much to offer. Things go at a much slower pace on the coast. The people are more relaxed and the atmosphere matches. The seafood is fantastic and affordable.
Don’t be put off by the black sand. Afternoon on the beach can be spectacular. Be aware that many beaches are private and charge admission. Sitting back with a few birras and admiring the view is a fantastic way to spend your afternoon.
Go With the Flow
No matter how you spend your time in Italy, the best advice you can get is to go with the flow. Accept Italy for what it is: beautiful, slow paced and sometimes disorderly. You will come away with the best that this amazing country has to offer.