Italy is truly a country one should visit in their lifetime. The food, people, scenery, is awe-inspiring.
Unlike other countries, Italians are not terribly offended if you do not follow some of their manners and etiquette. However, here are some basic ones to be respected and observed when visiting for business or pleasure.
Food and Dining
Italians take their food & dining seriously, it’s no joke.
- Cappuccino and brioche are one of the few ‘legal’ options to eat for breakfast. Maybe a yogurt. Probably having tea is already pushing it too far. You will be frowned upon if you drink cappuccino for lunch. Drink coffee for dessert or fruit, never with your main meal. Lunch and dinner are followed by espressos or, at most, an espresso macchiato. Leave your cinnamon craving at home. Cinnamon does NOT go on cappuccinos or lattes in Italy.
- Bread is eaten alone and not together with pasta. Do not spread butter on your bread during lunch.
- Sodas are a big no-no to order unless you are a teenager or a small child. Instead, have a glass of wine or sparkling water.
- Fish-based pasta: traditionally, grated cheese is not added to fish-based meals. These rules have eroded somewhat, but you may still get a strange look if you ask for it.
- Spaghetti: Italians (above 5 years of age) never cut their spaghetti. Well, Italians have been eating spaghetti all their life. Do not use a spoon. It’s definitely out of fashion. Also, don’t order it if you are on a date because it can get messy.
- Order a three-course meal, not just one large entree. You will be looked upon as ill-bred.
- Don’t rest your elbows on the table. This is something Italians are taught very early in life, and mothers are always telling their children not to do. Place your wrists on the table.
- Don’t make loud or obnoxious noises when eating, especially soup or liquid food. In other words, don’t slurp it! If your dish is hot, wait a few minutes to avoid any unattractive or disturbing noises.
- Wait before starting to eat. Italians see sharing a meal as an essential way to interact, so good manners dictate you should wait until everyone is seated and/or served before beginning to eat.
- Don’t eat rice or pasta with a spoon.
- Use cutlery to bring food to your mouth rather than leaning close to your dish.
- Don’t clean your plate with a piece of bread (even though this is nowadays a common thing to do and appreciated by everyone: who doesn’t know about the Italian Scarpetta)
- Don’t put too much food on your plate.
- Don’t refuse wine by putting your hand over the glass or turning it over. Simply leave your glass half full.
- Don’t use toothpicks at the table.
- When invited as a guest, try to eat everything on your plate. Otherwise, you will be insulting the host. Italians generally wait for their host to sit before they do so and wait for them to indicate it is time to eat.
- White wine goes with fish, red wine goes with meat.
- Do not eat and walk the streets. Italians savor their meals at a table.
- Flowers, chocolates, or a bottle of wine are appropriate hostess gifts when invited to dinner at the home of an Italian. Make sure they are not red (means secrecy) or yellow (means jealousy).
Stay tuned for Monday’s Part II.
Sending Dolce Vida weekend vibes! 💋
Featured photo credit: Dolce Gabbana, Spring