*Disclaimer* Don’t take this post too seriously. Although the cultural facts I am writing about below are true, please remember that Italian people are very kind to tourists and will not judge you for any of the things written below (but try not to do it anyway!)
1. Order Fettucine Alfredo – This American-Italian dish (also popular in Canada!) doesn’t exist in Italy. It it said to have originated in New York by an Italian-American immigrant named Alfredo, who created this dish on a whim. It ended up being a huge hit among his American clients and has been adopted into American-Italian cuisine. Don’t do this in Italy (please!) An alternative? You can order either a plate of cacio pepe or spaghetti alla carbonara two authentic Roman dishes.
2. Ask for pineapple on pizza – This is sacrilegious for Italian people and they cannot comprehend why someone would put this fruit on a pizza. Italian pizza has a wide variety of combinations, but this isn’t one of them. Even if you insist, no Italian pizzaiolo would put his reputation at risk to provide good customer service.
3. Order a latte or cappuccino after dinner – Italians DO drink coffee after a meal, but its always an espresso. A latte macchiato and cappuccino are for breakfast only as they have milk as a main ingredient. Breakfast = yes to milk. After breakfast = no milk. Obviously, this rule can be broken and you can be served a latte after your meal, but when in Rome…
4. Try to eat at a restaurant outside of main meal times – Although many street food stands and cafes stay open, almost all restaurants close during the day. After lunch (around 2pm) restaurants will close until the next meal time and reopen around 7-7:30pm. Unlike Americans and Canadians, Italians follow their mealtimes strictly and don’t just eat whenever they are hungry.
5. Wear flip-flops out of season when you aren’t anywhere near the beach – As a Canadian, I was used to pulling out my flip-flops or sandals as soon as we had a stable 20 degrees outside (gotta take advantage of the good weather!) In Italy, flip-flops and shorts (for men) are considered beach clothing and you won’t see them in the center of Milan in April. If you want to try to blend in, wear sandals only if its mid-May and make sure they have a buckle.
6. Eat out of season – My favourite part about living in Italy is the level of food sustainability and the emphasis on eating local. Many restaurants plan their meals around local produce when it is in season rather than imported frozen fruits and vegetables. Oranges come in winter, strawberries and asparagus in spring. If you are heading to Italy, make sure to check out the local grocery store and food market. The fresh produce is fantastic and you can eat well at a low price.
7. Expecting things to work exactly as they do in your home country – Travel is about being open-minded so if you’re looking for the comforts of home thousands of miles away, you might as well just stay home. Try new food, meet new people and try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes before you make a personal judgement, you might just end up being pleasantly surprised 🙂