The chances are, if you are learning the language you will be planning on taking a trip to Italy at some point. A country of stunning scenery, beautiful weather and more carbs than you could ever imagine, what’s stopping you? Yet if you are going to the country for the first time, we have put together nine things to expect when you get off the plane.
Pasta for starters
In Italy it is a foreign assumption to assume your starter will be any smaller than your main meal. Remember what we said about carbs? Italians are big foodies. As you plough through course after course you will soon wonder how anyone living in the country is still thin.
Ice cream is far more than a dessert
Without making every tip food related, it is safe to say that ‘gelato’ is more than a dessert for the Italians; it is a delicacy to be enjoyed at any time of the day. Expect to find an ice cream parlour on every corner and to have your mind blown with unexpected flavours.
You cannot buy your public transport tickets on the bus
Unlike London and our advanced oyster system, the Italians are a little more old school. Most big cities (Rome, Florence, Milan, Naples) will require you to buy your tickets before jumping on board. Again, unlike London, there will be no fancy machine next to the station; instead you will need to go to a newspaper stand or tobacco shop to pay for your journey. Once you are on the bus you will need to put your ticket into a machine, this validates it and avoids you getting fined.
You need to respect the local’s meal times
If you fancy popping out for a bite to eat at three o’clock in the afternoon, expect a very limited choice when it comes to finding somewhere to dine. Most Italians will have lunch from around 12.30-2.00pm; the restaurants will then shut for the afternoon. If you are eating when the locals eat, wait till later to go for dinner. Most restaurants will not open till around 7.30pm, so to be on the safe side make reservations for after 8.00pm.
Coffee is a way of life
Us Brits tend to have a morning coffee and leave it at that. In Italy, you are drinking coffee in its birthplace, so expect to try a very different drink. Coffee is used to help digestion, so the purest, strongest coffee you have ever experienced will be offered after every meal.
Italians talk with their hands
If you watch two Italians talk you will notice three things; the first is that their language sounds beautiful, it really does, but that it is spoken very loudly. You will also realise that Italians are animated speakers, so will do a lot of talking with their hands. It might take a while to get your head around the different gestures and even when you do, you won’t be able to use them like the natives do.
They are also a religious bunch
Good luck finding a supermarket open on a Sunday for starters. Also, if you are planning on visiting The Sistine Chapel, The Pantheon or any other famous church or cathedral in Italy, you will need to abide by the strict dress code. This usually means no shorts, no trainers and no shoulders on show. Remember there is a strict ban on photography in The Sistine Chapel; so as much as you want to take a selfie, put the camera away.
The scenery will be as stunning as it looks on the postcard
Italy really is beautiful, from the streets of Venice to the beaches of Sorrento. Expect to be blown away on your first visit and make sure you take a fully charged camera and a spare memory card (or three).
Don’t touch their food, no really, don’t
When you are in the supermarkets, use the plastic gloves provided before handling the fresh fruit and veg. If you are in a smaller, local shop, the shop assistant will usually come over and help, so don’t go loading up your basket without asking.
Jane McGuire received her BA (English) from the University of Loughborough. A yoga enthusiast with a sweet tooth, in her spare time you will probably find Jane in the gym or online shopping.