La dolce vita

This page will cover areas on Italian culture, religion, making friends… As I get more information prior to the move and after I’m out there, I’ll update it here. Meanwhile, here’s my A-Z (admittedly not quite got all the letters yet!) of Italian Culture

Appetite

The Italians, eat more food that I imagined was ever possible. They have these antipasti dishes, which I had always thought was basically a starter but the plates are often massive. I decided that in Italy antipasti must be a meal in its own right. In one restaurant we’ve been to in Tody, the couple next to us had one of these huge antipasti dishes each and a large salad with it which did seem a bit excessive but each to their own. Half an hour later, having cleared their plates, their waitress brings out a giant pizza each too. The Italians or at least, the young ones, are all tiny and toned, WHERE DO THEY PUT IT ALL?!

Bidet

I truly discovered the bidet on one of my Italian holidays earlier in the year. Let me tell you – toilet paper in Italy is expensive – €5 for a pack of 4! No WONDER the Italian’s use bidets. It forced us to be thoroughly continental and experiment with it which I have to say, is not as disgusting and creepy as it looks. Of course, we had to google to find out how to use the thing but after that, well, it wasn’t so bad.

Change

The Italians will never, under any circumstances, hand you your change. Ever.  I think this is the sole reason for queues in Italy. You hold out your hand for the change, and then they drop it onto a flat surface right next to your still waiting hand so that you have to push your change to an edge somewhere. Perhaps there’s a niche in the market for change collecting magnets in Italy.

Driving

Italians are psychotic when it comes to driving. I know this, yet it never fails to shock me. Italians – do you realise your nation drive like maniacs?

Swerving this way and that; the lines on the road don’t give them an indication of where to stay between, but where to drive along. And even then, they still swerve erratically. All of them take racing lines around corners, regardless of whether it’s impossible to see if something’s coming in the other direction or worse, even when they can see there’s something coming. Having said that, we only had one near death experience so we weren’t doing too badly.

Fur

On Sunday, women wear fur. Fur coats, fur collars, fur hats. Fur is the thing to do on a Sunday. I think it’s a religious “Sunday best” thing. And what better way to showing your appreciation to God than by wearing the skin of his creations?

Going out

There are no “pubs”! The Italian’s don’t seem to do that – it’s more about having a glass or two in a restaurant. They don’t seem to go OUT to drink.

Hookers (not PC I know but I needed to use my P’s and S’s elsewhere!)

On the drive through the winding mountainous roads in Umbria earlier in the year, there were discreet little lay bys and in a couple of them were women dressed up to the nines. When we went past the first one, and my boyfriend at the time claimed she was a prostitute. I thought that she was on her way to a party when her car had broken down and that she was simply trying to flag down cars with a view to getting a lift back to town. Then we went past another girl who appeared to be in the same unfortunate predicament. This one appeared to have someone with her. I don’t think they were discussing where she would like to be dropped off. I conceded that my boyfriend might be right (there’s got to be a first for everything I suppose).

I’ve been worried for these girls ever since. Do they have murderers in Italy?! It doesn’t seem at all safe. And curiously what pops up in my thoughts most is “where do they shower?” It’s been so hot that you sweat even with the air conditioning on full in the car, and you’d get all icky from the men, wouldn’t you? So, in the interests of giving advice on life in Italy – men, if you’re going to go, get up at the crack of dawn and go to these girls first thing.

Language Schools

There’s lots of language schools in Italy. I think the courses held in Universities seem to have a better reputation. I’ve been looking only at language schools in Le Marche and could only find 4 – have a look here.

Old folk

In London, youths form gangs and stand outside of shops being noisy and threatening looking whilst the adults remain inside watching TV. In a lot of Italian villages, it’s reversed – it’s the old folk that form gangs and loiter on the street, looking threatening. They hang out at bus stops when I’m pretty sure the busses have stopped running for the day. They hang out in town squares, next to cathedrals, in bars (ok, that one isn’t quite so unusual). In some of the Umbrian villages, the locals take their chairs and plonk themselves down in presumably the only outside space they have – the road – which is only marginally wider than a car, so household after household line their chairs with their backs to the wall facing the road in order to let any traffic past. As you walk past, their conversation stops and their gaze would follows you until you’re safely out of sight. Either this is a demonstration of how wonderfully sociable the Italian’s are amongst themselves, a demonstration of how dire Italian TV is that in order to entertain themselves they need to sit in the roads staring at tourists, or perhaps just their dislike of foreigners!

Pets

Well, let me tell you… I had heard that Italians didn’t do pets, that my cunning money making kennels/cattery plan would fall flat because of it. There are LOTS of dogs. In Verona, they’re allowed in shops, they stay in hotel rooms (with people… it’s not THAT extravagant). I’ve never seen so many pampered pooches. They don’t do medium sized dogs either – your dog must either be the size of a large rat, or a small horse. And not your general mongrel either – it must be pedigree. And it must be adorned in only the most fashionable of garments.  So, I’m definitely still considering the kennel ideal though I’m thinking now to rebrand it as a Hooch Hotel.

Restaurants

Criteria for restaurant selection often becomes less “Chinese”, “Italian”, “Indian” etc. in Italy and more about trying to find one that simply doesn’t look threatening. The chefs often seem to sit outside, sparsely dressed and sweaty looking, glaring at people who walk past.

Shops

I do like the shops. The ones in the villages are generally tiny. In England, or anywhere else, I’d be uncomfortable going in because of the often in your face pressure to buy something. In Italy though, they simply wish you a good day and leave you to get on with it, resulting in my going in a lot more shops than I would usually. Though I’ve decided that seeming non bothered-ness about whether you buy something or not could probably be reigned in for the restaurants where such is the lack of pressure, you’re not actually sure if they’re open or not.

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