9 Things Italians Do Best

by Bianca @ Italian Fix

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Kissing

In Italy, there’s a whole lotta smooching going on. On streets, on bridges, on buses … at beaches. Kissing in Italy is an anytime/anywhere scenario.

If, currently, PDA’s (public displays of affection) wig you out, then traveling Italy will likely inspire a change in perspective. Italians know best: no matter what the economy, kissing is free, is fun, and you can even start today. P.S. Practice makes perfect.

Dressing

Have you ever gone to the store in Crocs, sweatpants or pajamas? Likely you have. But spending time in Italy has taught me something epic: you CAN ride a bike in a pretty dress and very high heels. If you’re a gent you CAN ride a bike in a light blue suit with white loafers. It looks and feels … beautiful.

Talking

Obviously texting is big in Italy (Europeans adopted cellphones first), but my Italian friends make way more phone calls than we do. They actually dial a number and talk on the phone to make plans.

Reality Checking

Italians have no shame in commenting on your physical appearance, even when the verdict is negative. They will outright say, “You’re so much fatter since I last saw you.” Or, “What have you been eating: Bignè allo zabaione for dinner?”

I first mistook this frankness for lack of tact. But I now appreciate it for a say-it-like-it-is-certainty.

Complimenting

Same as above. Your physical appearance is always noticed. Sei (favolosa/ stupenda/ magnifica/ bellissima). You’ll hear, “You’re so pretty.” “Your hair is wonderful.” “Your dress is beautiful.” “What a nice figure/purse/home.” It’s polite. It’s also expected!

Drinking

Italians drink moderately (constantly but moderately). They also don’t drink on an empty stomach, which is why there’s always snacks served for aperitivo. You also won’t see uproarious public drunkenness in the evenings. Singing? Yes, you might see some of that.

Swearing

Swearing is an art. The variations are astounding. As in French, the word, “God” (and related religious subjects) are noted with staccato bursting intensity, even for seemingly innocuous happenings. This Italian news anchor will show you how it’s done (warning: hilarious).

Driving

Everyone loves to complain about Italian drivers, but Italians are incredible drivers (true — plenty of a-holes too). Driving in Italy is adrenaline spiking, which means drivers pay attention and react with cat-like reflexes (so they don’t die). Aggressive driving is … just driving. Italians also have mad skills with a) parking in a spot the size of a teacup b) smoking, talking on a flip-phone and driving. c) smoking, talking on a flip-phone, yelling at other drivers and driving.

Saving money

On electricity: Italians hang their laundry to dry (just bring it inside if it’s cold or raining). In winter, the general rule is to dress warmly indoors so you won’t have to crank the heat.

On credit: It’s not easy getting credit in Italy; so many folks have never bothered. Which means spending is kept to what’s in the bank account. My Italian husband didn’t even own an ATM card until we met. Imagine what you’d spend only withdrawing cash during teller hours, and not having a credit card?

On Housing: Never mind the “boomerang generation” (the 30 years old children who move back home). How about the never-leaving-in-the-first-place generation? Italy’s 20-30-year-olds are living at home, for free. When you think about it: having your underwear ironed, your meals prepared, and your cheek kissed daily sounds awesome. When Italian kiddies eventually move out it’s highly likely they will be a) living in an inherited apartment once owned by aunt Rosa b) living on their parent’s land. c) living in digs financed by their parents.

On childcare: According to stats, there are 7 million grandparents in Italy. Of those, 6 million are caring, in one way or another, for their grandchildren. If you’re a grandparent in Italy, it’s absolutely expected you look after the wee grasshoppers. Gather at any piazza in the early evening, and you’ll see more grandparents than parents with the kids.

madonna25

Your turn! Add a comment below. When you traveled to Italy what was the ONE difference that stood out the most?

(Yes, this is vintage Madonna, and yes, I did love her when I was a wee grasshopper.)

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Sylvia Garcia

Thank you Bianca! I was being called crazy for thinking like an Italian in the US. I laughed and joyed out loud from reading your “Things Italians do best”. You’re the best!!! I’m so jealous of your lifestyle. Again, if you ever need an employee, I’M THE ONE!!! I lived to the fullest in Italy, Florence. I can still remember how to get around, streets, restaurant,s cafes, private culinary classes. I studied at Scoula Leonardo Da Vince, Italian grammar, conversation, and Art History. I’m a Latina, my native tongue is Spanish, moved to the US when I was 5. I’m your girl! And will keep trying 🙂

Reply

Bianca Gignac

Ciao Sylvia,

I’m glad the post made you laugh out loud, and yes, thinking like an Italian in the USA can certainly raise eyebrows (What, you can’t speed through a red light cause you gotta go pick up your mamma?). 🙂 Thanks for your kind words and your enthusiasm for joining my team. I’ve already done all my hires for my upcoming season, but still appreciate you reaching out.

A presto,
Bianca

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Ed Parma

Ciao Bianca! we love Italy we try to go once a year for 3 weeks or so. This Sept we went to Rome (our base) Ravello, Positano, Amalfi, Salerno then up to Spoleto (loved it ) then Florence and back to bella Roma. Every trip is an education- however the ONE thing that impresses us is the warmth of the people. We always say as to their lifestyle- they got it right we got it all wrong here in the US!

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Bianca Gignac

Hi Ed,

It sounds like you have an amazing yearly plan. I think what you mention is very fascinating. We’ve very much grown isolated from family in North America, because we all move around so much. Spending time in places where connections are greater than money and work, is always food for thought. Thanks so much for your comment and keep in touch! (And if you want to share your favorite Rome spots, I know others would love to hear).

Thanks,
Bianca

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Karen

That string thingy on the wall in bathrooms! I don’t have a clear explanation. Is it really there to sound an alarm?
And this: the fact that Italians really do live to eat, rather than the other way around. It seems it’s how life was meant to be lived. Is that why I felt so at home there? I can hardly wait for my next trip.

Reply

Bianca Gignac

Ciao Karen,

Yes! That string is for a buzzer! When you pull it, a bell rings and you can get help. Who knew bathrooms were so dangerous?

I know what you mean about the eating. Three hour lunches anyone? And on Sunday … you go to Mamma’s house for lunch. Only 90% of people anyways.

Thanks for your comment and best of luck getting back to Italy. I think you’ll like this quote,

“Whenever I go anywhere but Italy for a vacation, I always feel as if I have made a mistake.” Erika Jong

Love,
Bianca

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Laurie

ALL of this is SO true! I was in Italy for a month in September 2014. My first time. I can’t wait to go back, but a bit differently, next time: more time spent at fewer places, Spring, NOT the hot time, more shopping… a carry on, period. I brought way too much stuff, and never used ¾ of it. Upload all my pictures to the cloud, with reliable tablet. (I got burglarized when I got home, and ALL my vacation pics were stolen, along with camera and laptop – heartbreaking) I LOVED Italy…

Reply

Bianca Gignac

Hi Laurie,

Thanks so much for your comment 🙂

You’re not the only one who over packs for Italy! It’s a huge deal and so may of my clients say the same thing. 🙂 Here’s some help in that department with the best carry on luggage I know. I’m so sorry to hear your camera and laptop and photos were stolen. That’s heartbreaking. You’re smart to get some cloud storage; check out Shutterfly (free) Google Drive (free). I have sooo many trip photos that I don’t wanna lose, so Dropbox Pro (paid) gives me peace of mind.

Wishing you all the best,
Bianca

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Laurie

Awww, Bianca ~ you’re a sweetie ! One of the things I want to do more of in Italy next time is KISS !! ♥

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Bianca Gignac

Yes! Kissing never goes out of style! xx

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Cathy Massey

We will be in CT for 2 nights. We have booked Luna Di Marzen in Volastra. We are driving a car and this place had parking. I am interested in eating at Trattoria la Grotta the second night. How is the place and food and how do we get back to Volastra after dinner? Thanks, Cathy

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