You Know You’re in Italy When…

Yesterday over at Twitter, the always lovely and informative ExpatCoach asked those of us with, ahem, Italian experience to fill in the blank:

You know you’re in Italy when…

A smattering of what ExpatCoach, Cherrye, Miss Expatria, Tina, and I came up with, within minutes:

  • …you can have a conversation with a stranger comprised entirely of facial expressions, hand gestures, and no words.
  • …you can say, “Boh?” and you’ve said a mouthful.
  • …you have to APPLY to complete an application for something.
  • …you wait in line for three hours at the Post Office…to pay a bill.
  • …your taxi driver’s hands are too busy waving & threatening other drivers to actually touch the steering wheel.
  • …you pour the wine over-handed and your guests gasp and bless themselves.
  • …your ability to digest milk (at any time of day) and drink ice cold drinks even while eating hot food astounds.
  • …perfect strangers worry about your catching a cold because you’re not dressed warmly enough. In July.
  • …you’re handed a scarf when you say your throat feels a bit scratchy.
  • …you’re the only person at IKEA without their entire extended family in tow.
  • …someone you just met invites you to dinner at their house.
  • …€5 on a bottle of wine is a splurge.
  • …posted schedules, hours of operation, etc. mean precisely nothing (except sciopero ones).
  • …someone, somewhere is in sciopero.
  • …you get honked at for letting an old lady cross the street.
  • …someone thinks your turkey wrap is a foreign food they’d never touch.
  • …your friend says “I quit drinking coffee. Now I only have three cups a day.”
  • …you find figs on your doorstep.

And now I’ll add:

  • …your morning errands take you to one shop for produce, another for bread, another for cheese, and yet another for meat–and you love every single minute of it.

I thought this woud be a fun weekend fill-in, so Italophiles, play along please:

You know you’re in Italy when…

Need some inspiration?

And be sure to visit ExpatCoach at Career By Choice and show her some love!

Buon weekend!

77 Beans of Wisdom to “You Know You’re in Italy When…”
  1. …you ask for cappuccino after lunch and they all look at you funny.

    paul of crazy like whoa’s last blog post..50,022


  2. 09.19.2008

    When the guy from the telephone company comes to fix your phone and finds out you have DSL, he does the sign of the cross.

    Diana’s last blog post..The Art of Innkeeping I

    Love it! At least you got the guy from the telephone company to come πŸ˜‰

  3. Gil

    Perfect strangers acknowledge you while you are out taking a walk!

    Like a simple “buona sera” or just a “sera” from the old timers at the beach.

    ‘Tis lovely indeed πŸ™‚

  4. 09.19.2008


    This is fantastic! I think that the list should continue to grow….I am sure we could reach 100 quickly!

    Thanks for documenting this-it was lots of fun to make!


    Megan’s last blog post..Expat Tax: Bona Fide Residency Test for FEIE – Part 2

    Sounds great Megan!

  5. 09.19.2008

    Ooh, Schintilla is really good at that. You should ask her to join in!

    Umm.. You know you’re i Italy when you are 34 years old , dragging along a stubborn child, feeling a right mess and a 24 year old waiter eyes you up and calls, “ciao bambola!”.

    See this is just one of the many reasons to love Italy πŸ™‚

  6. This was SO much fun yesterday…

    Let me think.

    It’s 90 degrees outside and people are riding in their cars with the air OFF and windows UP. Fear of catching a breeze, ya know?!?

    cherrye at My Bella Vita’s last blog post..La Buona Cucina Americana: Baked PotatOes

    Been there, nearly suffered from heat exhaustion doing that….

  7. when the vendor at your market says “buona giornata tesoro” .

    nyc/caribbean ragazza’s last blog post..Flashback Friday – 39th season of Sesame Street, Dave Chappelle

    Aaaaw πŸ™‚

  8. joanne at frutto della passione

    …when holding and hugging and kissing your child is considered spoiling them, but making their bed for them until they are 40 isn’t.

    joanne at frutto della passione’s last blog post..An announcement and a contest


  9. 09.19.2008

    – When you pay extra for the faster train ( ESor IC) and still arrive an hour late.

    – when you can not get your check after you have eaten until an hour later.

    -when you pay for ISDN double access on your phone and for a year pay extra and it doesn’t go faster and finally get it removed and the repair guy says” of course it’s not working, only one of the wires was connected”.

    – given hot milk when you are congested

    -you are living with your boyfriend and he still takes his laundry to his mom to be done, ” or she will think he doesn’t love her”.

    just some thoughts.. there are so many!
    I think it is a book!

    Diva’s last blog post..Edible Florence- Gastone

    Oh my goodness, the ISDN one is *ridiculous*! Notice I didn’t say “unbelievable” or “incredible.”

  10. 09.19.2008

    You are watching the news and see that the ex-workers for Alitalia are absolutely in shock that when they said the company would crash if you didn’t make a deal, and you didn’t make a deal, it crashed.
    Then the president of your union says, “I am certain the Berlusconi will come up with something.”

    Judith in Umbria’s last blog post..La buona cucina americana: Baked Potatoes

    See this is why I don’t watch the news. And when I do, I remove all throwable objects from reach.

  11. …you get a doctor’s appointment for the same day and you treat everyone to a round of drinks πŸ™‚

    Definite cause for celebration, Sara!

  12. Emma Bird

    Michelle, thanks for the not so subtle Twitter reminder to get myself over here.

    Here’s my contribution to you know you’re in Italy when…

    …when drivers go the wrong way around roundaouts because it’s faster

    …you wait in line for three hours at the Post Office…to pay a bill. And then queue up to do it all over again because you also need stamps.

    when you’ve struggled through antipasti, primo, secondo, side dish, bread, cheese, fruit, dessert, coffee, cake, chocolate and your hosts can’t understand why you might be struggling to move

    …when you can’t go direct to the person you need because it means a loss of face. First you have to ask someone you trust to introduce you someone who then introduces you to someone else

    …when the only remedy for a bad stomach is white rice, olive oil and parmesan cheese washed down with hot cammomile tea

    …when friends and family tell you it’s dangerous for you to swim in the sea because you’re still warm and congested from your last coffee over an hour ago

    …when police don’t bat an eyelid when you overtake them, thus breaking the speed limit

    …when police drive Fiats – not known for being the speediest cars in the world

    …when women go for evening passaggiatas on the beach wearing four-inch heels.

    Excellent Emma. And on the last one, to “on the beach” I’ll add “on cobblestone streets!”

  13. Emma Bird

    Oh, and I forgot.

    …when you see driver and female passenger with their lips clamped together in an act of passion while he’s driving at 100km per hour down the highway (spotted yesterday)


  14. 09.19.2008

    You know you are in Italy when:

    someone such as the internet company, make an appointment to visit your house and then they never show up. You still know your in Italy when you keep calling and calling and more appointments are made and still no one ever shows up.

    You know you are in Italy when:

    you see a small local fire start up August (for the purpose of this example this was in Taormina,) and thinking you are doing the right thing call you the fire brigade, only to be waiting on line with the automatica voice telling you that you are 4th in line…and when you get to being 1st in line and speak to a real person, they hang up on you!!!

    Leanne’s last blog post..D-Day is coming but not fast enough

    No good deed goes unpunished Leanne!

  15. vanessa

    just a few off the top of my head. Sure there’s many more if i actually sat to think about it!

    – you are the only one on the bus/ tram that actually stamps your ticket. Others sit there with ticket in hand (unstamped) but ready to do so should an inspector board. Meanwhile, you overhear many snippets of conversations about how bad/ slow the service is…

    – you get asked for every scrap of small change at every store you go to. If you don’t have any it often involves asking other customers or the shop assistant digging into THEIR OWN WALLET to get the right change.

    – as soon as the weather drops below 30 degrees all the kids are back in jeans and sweaters (heaven forbid they catch a cold!) but are never restrained in the car and in fact often seen ‘driving’.

    – people will pull out suddenly into heavy traffic almost causing an accident only to stop at the next store, 20m down teh road.

    – you see guys on motorbikes who have their mobiles wedged underneath their helmets (coincidence that helmet use coincided with mobile phone developments?) who will stop their bikes to use TWO frantically waving hands to emphasise their point in their PHONE conversation!!

    – your MIL will call you daily for no other reason than to ask what you are having/ had for dinner, where were you when she called before when you didn’t answer and where you are (if on a mobile phone).

    – every second phone mobile phone conversation you overhear starts with ‘Ciao Mamma’…..

    Yup, you’re in Italy! The change thing still amuses me after all these years, but I have to say, I’ve never seen someone stop their moto to gesticulate–although it doesn’t surprise me to hear it happens!

  16. vanessa

    Forgot to add (further to last point) …. and the rest of the conversation follows along the lines of the MIL example above.

    I’m so lucky with my MIL πŸ™‚

  17. 09.19.2008

    When you walk into your neighborhood bar and they are already making your drink of choice, and later when you get up to pay, one of the regulars has already paid your bill.
    When your regular butcher knows your name, what cuts you like, and teaches you some italian while also passing on good recipes.
    When you can buy fresh milk from a machine that gets reloaded every three hours or so (post to come!)
    When you hear your neighbor’s hens cluck while in the background you can also hear the distinctive sound of a Ferrari speeding down the road.
    and so many more…

    Beatriz’s last blog post..Home

    You know I’ve never even seen a Ferrari here…lots of other nice cars though (in the poor, poor south…hmm). Especially love your first one…so true!

  18. 09.19.2008

    From a visitors perspective….

    …when you can’t wait to get back to your hotel in the middle of the day and take your afternoon nap

    ….when you have studied to learn Italian, but no matter how you speak it, you are always answered back, in English

    …when you decide you are hungry around 2:30 pm, but every good cafe is closed until dinner hour

    …when you look both ways to cross the street, step into the road and a vespa comes out of nowhere and almost kills you..and then beeps their toy-like horn as you jump outta your skin.


    My MΓ©lange’s last blog post..Newport: Around the Wharf

    Ah the afternoon naps! And restaurant hours! And deadly Vespas! Indeed, Robin, indeed.

  19. Oh, and when the liquefaction of the blood of a man dead for centuries does not provoke terror, but rather relief.

    paul of crazy like whoa’s last blog post..50,022

    And here I thought you were linking to this. I feel safe for at least eight months now….

  20. Tina

    …you set out to run three errands and you’re lucky to get one done.
    …a group of older men applaud you (yes, applaud you) as you walk by them one sunny day, wearing a skirt and some lipstick.
    …every other guy you date turns out to have a girlfriend or a wife and doesn’t feel the least bit guilty about it.
    …everybody in your group of friends knows what’s going on in your life before you’ve even told anybody.
    …you wake up to a view of cypresses outside your window. Sigh…
    …the waiter at lunchtime, straight-faced and serious throughout the meal, brings you a free limoncello and a smile at the end.
    …the wine you’re drinking was made just down the street – right near where your olive oil was pressed.
    …you go for a walk to pick your (wild) salad for the day.

    Tina’s last blog post..On a Mediterranean kick…

    Great ones Tina, although I’m sorry about your luck with Italian men πŸ™

  21. great list! I was nodding the entire time…LOVE it!

    erin :: the olive notes’s last blog post..foodbuzz dinner

    Glad you enjoyed Erin! Now how do you know when *you’re* in Italy? πŸ˜‰

  22. 09.19.2008

    These are all good ones! I’ve thought of more…

    …when you offend someone by telling them you went to a certain city without telling them first, because they know someone who knows someone who could have met you at the station.

    or, …when you find it perfectly normal for someone you’ve never met to pick you up at the station and take you to their home for dinner, because they know someone who knows someone you know.

    and, …when you get a phone call that you need to run to the station to pick someone up whom you’ve never met before, and you don’t think twice about it.

    …when a significant percentage of your meal’s ingredients comes from outside your back door, or from the garden of someone you know.

    …when you have at least 2 cell phone numbers for each person in your address book.

    Also, did you not like my one about “where are you from?” I get that all the time there…I say “I’m American” or “I’m from New York” and they go, “No, no, where is your family from in Italy?”

    Miss Expatria’s last blog post..Student Life, Music Life: Montpellier

    Oh I loved them all from yesterday! I think I left a few off just b/c it was getting to be such a long list. But actually, no, I’ve never been asked where my family is from in Italy…could be because *everyone* here where I am is FROM Calabria πŸ˜‰

  23. 09.19.2008

    Love it!!
    Can’t wait to go to Italy, hoping to next fall. fingers crossed!!
    Great post and I LOVE the last pic!! Beautiful!

    Keep me posted on your travel plans Louise! How exciting πŸ™‚

  24. 09.19.2008

    You know you’re in Italy when you actually let your child back into the swimming pool before (2 1/2 hours before) the compulsory 3 HOURS after eating a half a sandwich and are called a bad mother by all the clucking hens around you… He’ll die of indigestion!

    When your mother-in-law actually spends precious time ironing socks and underwear.

    jennifer’s last blog post..go

    Oh yes. The ubiquitous iron…and I’m glad to know your children are still alive, you risk-taker!

  25. 09.19.2008

    … when you go to do a construction project and you ask the muratore (mason) how much it’s gonna cost and he tells you “stai tranquilla” – stay calm.

    … when your neighbor teaches you how to clean the chain on your chainsaw and he tells you “calma calma sangue freddo” — calm, calm, with cold blood — I guess that is to differentiate from all other moments where hot blood is preferred — or else you might cut your pinkie.

    …when your neighbor yells at you — loudly– for not picking the cherries on her tree before they all fell to the ground.

    …when the muratore forgets to cash the check you gave him 8 months ago, until one day you look at your bank statement and think what the h…. and remember you wrote a check for that amount 8 months ago.

    …when you hire someone to help you with the cleaning and she brings her mother to the job interview to size you up.

    …when people from other countries come up your driveway and tell you you are the luckiest person on earth to live here.

    Diana’s last blog post..The Art of Innkeeping I

    Love these Diana! In the defense of the muratore on the check though, it probably just took that freaking long to clear…checks are so ridiculous to cash here!

    And now I can’t get the Luca Dirisio song from a couple years ago out of my head…ci vuole calma…e sangue freddo…calma…ooohhoooh πŸ˜‰

  26. Dominique

    My family and I just moved to Naples a few months ago, and these are the things we’ve noticed! (by the way: LOVE your blog!!)

    ….when you try and tell your new landlords that in fact both parents have been married and divorced 3 times each, they cross themselves.

    …when you see more vespas than people in a city.

    …When you shoot lemoncello back like a shot of whiskey, you immediately have to explain that you’re Irish to smooth over the faux pas…(it’s true, it happened to me!!)

    …When gelato has become the only reason to go to the centro commerciale

    …when you give rude drivers the finger, they wave.

    …when you tell Italian friends that you ate other cultural cuisine (in my family’s case, sushi) you get ranted at and asked repeatedly what you have against Italian food. (hahahhahahahaa, i still laugh about that….)

    Thanks Dominique! I see a trend with all these signs of the cross…and I *love* the shot of limoncello story πŸ™‚

  27. Dominique

    oh and right when I hit send I thought of another one:

    ….when you see the local kids eating nutella on everything and anything for breakfast, with chocolate on the side.

    …when chocolate is considered a health food

    …when your hosts offer you wine with dinner, some form of alcohol drenched pastry for dessert, and then a lemoncello (or two or three) on your way out the door.

    Yes, yes, and yes Dominique…you’ve “found” Italy indeed πŸ˜‰

  28. 09.19.2008

    … when the Prime Minister owns half the tv stations in the country, a publishing house, newspapers, banks, a film production company, a soccer team, etc. and most people are ok with that.

    Milanese Masala’s last blog post..The Bratty Bambino Loves Carbonara


  29. Dominique

    OH! this is at least true in Naples…

    …when everyone around you picks the same hot, humid, stagnant day to burn their garbage, field, whatever, and your forced to keep your windows open because to run the air conditioner would cost the amount of a car payment back in the states.


  30. 09.19.2008

    This is fun, Michelle!

    …when motorcyclists drive on the sidewalk;

    …when motorcyclists wear their helmets (so as not to get a fine), but they don’t latch them;

    …when seatbelts are considered to be for sissies;

    …when you see people driving with their infant or small child sitting in their lap;

    but, on the other hand…

    …when an octegenarian bursts out in song “un’ora sola ti vorrei!” as you walk by;

    …or, when an 18-year-old you’ve never seen before in your life jumps up to kiss the window of the train you’re sitting in…

    I could go on, but…this would make a good article, if not a book!

    Glad you’re enjoying it–I’m *loving* this! The unlatched helmet thing always gets me too (along with kids everywhere in the car but in a carseat). Love that stolen window kiss too πŸ˜‰

  31. 09.19.2008

    You know you’re in Italy when:

    – two cars and one motorino are neatly fitted into one parking spot

    – the young lady who orders cabs at the Auditorium in Parco del Musica waves, greets you by name and asks how your summer was

    – you’re in hospital and the woman across the hall’s cell phone rings at midnight – its her daughter who hasn’t visited that day and the entire floor hears what a bad daughter she is and by the way your brother’s wife is a ungrateful slut! (honest this happened just last week)

    Willym’s last blog post..Nuts

    Excellent work Willym! Hope you’re feeling better and out of the hospital…have I been in Italy too long when I don’t doubt for one second your last entry? Hmm…sounds like a whole other list we could make of “You know you’ve been in Italy too long when…”

  32. 09.19.2008

    I’ve got one that I’d been warned about, but didn’t heed during my trip there some years ago…

    β€’ if you happen to smile at a man as you pass by, he suddenly does an about face and is practically glued to your hip chatting you up as you continue walking. I never thought my natural American pleasantries could be mistaken for making a pass.

    But I also learned that while traveling alone in Italy, I was never really alone. All the men wanted to protect me (the maitre de would shoo away other men strolling by and stopping to try and talk to me, the train conductors would threaten other men in my car to leave me alone, etc.). I loved it! πŸ™‚

    Christina Arbini’s last blog post..Summer Book Giveaway Contest for September!

    Two sides of the same coin indeed, Christina πŸ˜‰

  33. 09.19.2008

    Wow, you summed up my life in one post, and I’ve only been to Italy once, and I’m not even Calabraze (but I do dance likea crazy).
    Thanks for stopping by, I may have to do another Italiano post real soon.

    jMo’s last blog post..Dinner

    OK anyone who references Mambo Italiano is good people in my book πŸ˜‰ Thanks for coming by jMo!

  34. 09.19.2008

    Hi Michelle! Thanks for popping by and leaving a comment! What a cool blog you’ve got here! XO

    C’s last blog post..Why I Love Jeanna

    Happy to see you C πŸ˜‰

  35. 09.19.2008

    What a great list!

    How about…

    …when you get yelled at for coming to full stops at Stop signs and red lights

    …you’re never too old to get your cheeks pinched by relatives or random people on the street!

    Have a great weekend!

    Lisa’s last blog post..A walk through Campli

    Excellent Lisa πŸ™‚

  36. 09.19.2008

    You know you need a vacation when…

    every one of your “you know you’re in italy” answers sound like a dream come true

    Come on over Jaden! We (me me me) could use some fabulous Asian cooking down here in the south of Italy πŸ™‚

  37. 09.19.2008

    Thanks for letting me in on this πŸ˜‰

    Lets see…
    You know you’re in Italy when …

    The tooth fairy is a mouse.

    The pizza is so thin that you have to eat it with a knife and fork.

    The phrase “Were you born in a barn” translates into ” Were you born in the Colosseum” !

    Scintilla’s last blog post..Rain again.

    Figcharlie was right…you *are* good at this πŸ˜‰

  38. 09.19.2008

    Hey Michelle, great post…although I didn’t understand the one below:

    “…you pour the wine over-handed and your guests gasp and bless themselves.”

    lovely, lovely photo!

    Eryn’s last blog post..Napoletana Ugly Dog is Famous!

    Thanks Eryn! I believe what Miss Expatria was referring to is when instead of pouring wine the “normal way” with the hand on top of the bottle as it pours, she had gripped it under the bottle so that the palm of the hand is facing up and then tipped the wine into the glass. Bad luck!

  39. 09.19.2008

    I love every one! some are true of France – like the scarf around the neck – sundress and scarf in summer…
    I need to get to Italy again… Soon!

    katie’s last blog post..Carrot and Gruyere Timbales; Bad Eating Habits Spreading….

    Come on over Katie!

  40. 09.19.2008

    Hahaha. Very good. I can relate to most of those. Buon weeekend πŸ™‚

    Delina’s last blog post..It’s a miracle again!

    You too Delina πŸ™‚

  41. 09.19.2008

    You know you are in Italy when…

    there are three different prices for coffee depending on where you sit (and you don’t care because you are in Italy!)

    Thanks, Michelle; it makes me anxious for the day I return!!

    So There Then Gal’s last blog post..Time Travel

    Great one!

  42. Carole D.

    You know you’re in Italy when…. your relatives comment on you being overweight, but insist on cooking a 7 course meal for you and saying “mangia, mangia, ma perche’ non mangi…non hai fame?”

    You know you’re in Italy when…saying grazie many times or praising the cook like you usually do in America for a wonderful meal is not required because it’s “dovere” and it’s understood.

    Very good, Carole πŸ™‚

  43. 09.20.2008

    …when you can get an excellent espresso for less than a euro just about anywhere and it isn’t served in a paper cup!

    …when every person at the table orders their own pizza and the pizza is not pre-cut

    …when almost everything you eat is fresh and is not full of preservatives

    …when the shop owner is standing at the door tapping his/her toes waiting to lock up for lunch while you are obliviously wandering around the shop

    Great idea michelle!!

    Thank Megan (ExpatCoach)! I’m just providing brainstorming space πŸ™‚

  44. 09.20.2008

    You know your’e in Italy:

    …When you sneeze and your neighbour insists you visit the doctor.

    …When you have to go in person to pick up your new bank card and the lady in her little office takes a 10 minute personal phonecall just before you sign for it.

    casalba’s last blog post..OreganO

    Hee hee hee (afterwards, not so much while you’re standing there) πŸ˜‰

  45. 09.20.2008

    … someone asks for directions from the bus driver and everyone on the bus has to put in their two cents worth.

    … an overheard cel conversation on the bus is made up of only one repeated word “Mama” but the 72 inflections that word is given during the conversation conveys the entire history of a mother-daughter relationship.

    Willym’s last blog post..You Know You’re in Italy When …

    Keep ’em coming Willym! I’ve definitely been on the receiving end of those two-cent directions….

  46. 09.20.2008

    This is too funny – we did the same for Hungary between friends! I will never get over paying bills at the post office – what a waste of time – and the lines are soooo long as well.

    NewWrldYankee’s last blog post..What can StumbleUpon Do for Me?

    Waste of time indeed; sorry it’s the same in Hungary!

  47. 09.21.2008

    When you can turn any corner & get the best coffee in the world with a heart-warming smile early in the morning; where you see scooters racing at crossroads signals with wildly gesturing riders revving to go & you think this might well be India!! Be still my heart…the memories…


    Awesome Deeba; thanks for chiming in!

  48. when you take a cold ass shower in stall OUTSIDE on the patio, in the middle of winter! and come back inside to a portable heater in the room.. and then drink a hot cup of espresso; girl.. you make me want to pull out my pics from my last trip there and digitizing all my pics and doing a loong post on it…‘s last blog post..Honey Carrots With 2/3 of Cuban Cuisine Trinity & Food Editor Job!

    Oooh would *love* to see that post Bren πŸ™‚

  49. Estelle

    …when the IKEA delivery vehicle is an old Fiat 500 painted yellow!
    …when IKEA is a day trip for the family
    …when you see 300 types of pasta in the supermarket
    …when you realise that you will never be a local
    …when the newscasters shout at you the news
    …when football is more important than anything else going on in the world

    oooh too many to list!!!!

    Thanks for adding yours Estelle; the pasta choices truly are astounding here, I agree πŸ˜‰

  50. You know you’re in Italy when at your child’s parents’ evening, the children who have refused to eat the minestrone are publicly named and shamed.

    Oh my. Che vergogna (for those doing the naming)!

  51. 09.22.2008

    Oh my – some of these are so funny!
    I wish I were in Italy!

    Kristen’s last blog post..Kid Friendly

    Italy is definitely unique, Kristen…always a learning experience πŸ™‚

  52. 09.22.2008

    I loved reading this! It brought back memories of when we visited italy in 2001.

    I’ll add this from my experiences:

    Never wear shorts in Southern Italy — men will gawk and women will frown

    Ditto for sneakers

    The smell of frying eggplants wakes you up in the morning from the house below.

    Pretend you are about to pay for your bus ride at the machine in it and then “forget”… we saw so many do that!

    Forget eatuing dinner in a restaurant before 9PM or they will know you are a tourist.

    Never ask for a menu in the restaraunt — ask for the recommendations.

    Never, never, have a cappucino after breakfast

    Prepare fpr the best food you have ever eaten and gelato to die for!

    Fun fun — thanks! Pat in NY

    Pat’s last blog post..A Day On The Town With Blog Friends!

    Glad you enjoyed Pat, and thanks for your additions πŸ™‚

  53. Mary

    A little late, but here are some of mine:

    when cars pass you….. at a stop sign

    when you have to make a reservation at the post office to make a withdrawal

    when people chitchat during mass

    when you won’t go to the local pharmacy to buy certain medicines (or in my case, a pregnancy test) because you know that if someone from town is in there at the same time, everyone will know what you bought

    when you’re out working in your garden and you hear the guy on the land next door singing at the top of his lungs

    when an August event is a bocce tournament

    … and these are just a few I thought of right now

    Excellent Mary; I especially appreciate the pharmacy one πŸ˜‰

  54. Mary

    I can’t believe I typed “here” instead of “hear”. I’m horrified!

    I completely missed it or I would’ve just fixed it. Now it’s done πŸ™‚

  55. gabriella

    Some I’ve thought of:

    – when neighbors don’t pretend you CAN’T hear them from their terraces/inside your houses and provide input on your discussions/ask opinions on theirs

    – when women ride bicycles over the cobblestones in knee-length skirts and three inch heels

    – when you can’t remember what food doesn’t involve either mozzarella, oregano, pesto or something tomato based… or all of the above

    – when people know you’re a foreigner until you put on sunglasses, in which case native Italians sometimes ask you for directions!

    Love them Gabriella! Thanks for adding to the list πŸ™‚

  56. Diego

    Andate un po’ a fare in culo, stronzi! (Just fuck off, assholes!)

    Hah, your email seems rather appropriate (cazzone.gigante) πŸ˜‰

  57. 10.21.2008

    As Italian I think this is just a bunch of stereotypes. Maybe we can find a lot of them for americans too… πŸ™‚

    Napolux’s last blog post..Google Developer Day

    Of course we can! Napolux, this was all in good fun (as most of us live in and love Italy), and if you read the responses carefully you’ll find a lot of the positive reasons we stay here (and why many of us aren’t in America anymore) πŸ˜‰

  58. Stefano

    Shouldn’t we mention the Mafia, Camorra, and other honorable gentlemen at some point?

    And now you have, although since I’m in Calabria, I’m privy to a different organization.

  59. Alessia

    These are making me so homesick πŸ™

    You know you are in Italy when…

    Random people give you lots food after very short conversations.

    People in the store give you candy/aspirin/stamps/knick knacks instead of change (doesn’t happen so much anymore with the euro, happened alot before if there wasn’t an appropriate coin. I distinctly remember watching the confused face of an american tourist when given a mint as change.)

    It’s considered perfectly normal for tv commercials to feature topless/nearly naked people (especially women)
    And on a similar note.. female hosts on tv wear tiny itty bitty skirts/ plunging necklines. Even on kids’ shows.

    Life and work stops for football (soccer)

    You know and fear the word ‘Sciopero’ (strike)

    Lunch breaks go on for half the afternoon (love that one)

    Your school teacher hugs you and pinches your cheeks as a kid and then also when she sees you years later and you are now 20. (they might also inform you that you should eat more and invite you to dinner)

    A guy will find it peftectly acceptable (even if he has a significant other) to pinch a woman whom he is not involved with’s behind and cat call passing girls. But consider it awful and disrepsectful to call a woman something like a bitch or say anything rude to his mother/ elder relative.
    He would also defend women from such horrible swines and if anyone did that to his sister/daughter he would be furious. (I’ve known guys like that)

    Alessia, these are all fabulous–love getting change with mints! Hah! There has been some talk lately about how women dress on TV, and I’ve noticed that the Veline have been almost entirely covered (for them) the past two nights…hmm….

    So happy that you’re sharing your sense of humor about your country πŸ™‚

  60. Annette

    You know you’re in Italy when…

    Whenever you ask how far away something is the answer is always “10 minutes!”

    A driver in a passing car will blow their horn to get your attention, then blow you a kiss…

    The waiter leaves the bill and his name and phone number is on the back of it!

    Everything you eat tastes fantastic!

    A glass of wine is cheaper than a coke!

    A guy on a motorbike is riding along with a cigarette in one hand and txting on his mobile with the other!

    Hee hee…thanks for adding these Annette πŸ™‚

  61. 10.26.2008

    … When you drive into a petrol station to fill your car and there is an attendant to do it for you – smoking a cigarette! (I kid you not.)

    casalba’s last blog post..Tears & Laughter

    Wow. Just. Wow.

  62. Bill

    When you’re having a deep philosophical or political conversation with men friends and a girl walks by and the conversation immediately turns to a consideration of a part of her anatomy

    Every town takes a lifetime to figure out

    People take any opinion seriously and run with it.

    Non sequiturs are the order of the day.

    People stare up and down at you in the subway

    Excellent, Bill. Thanks so much for sharing πŸ™‚

  63. uks

    …when the smaller is the town, the nicer it is!

    …when every street conversation seem to be born to make you (a stranger) part of it

    ….when in a small surface rest many centuries of history

    …when every moment is good for a cigarette and the ground is a gigantic ashtray

    you know you’re in Rome when in place of the number of the bus you can read “me sento shumacher!” (i feel like shumacher!), you step in and you don’t know where you’re going!!

    …when a football match can change the mood of an entire city

    Great additions uks! Thanks for stopping by πŸ™‚

  64. 11.11.2008


    Gk’s last blog post..PubblicitΓ  (Simpatiche) dal mondo. Parte Seconda

    Ciao a te!

  65. Nate Swift

    . . . When you witness an Italian fistfight, which involves no fists at all, merely two Italian men “crab walking” around eachother shouting loudly while the crowd yells “oohhhhh!!!”

    . . . When you witness what happens when an Italian bouncer kicks someone out of a club, not with an arm around the neck, but leading the offender out by pinching the shoulder of his shirt talking with him amiably.

    . . . When you walk through a hilltown in Tuscany and get the “look” from natives, feeling like an infamous celebrity, which is comparable to the look you’d give Paris Hilton walking through your home town.

    . . . When you’re the only one of your group of friends who can say they’ve lived in a castle for three months.

    . . . When you have to stand shoulder to shoulder with a bunch of smelly Italians while on an IC train from Bologna to Firenze SMN on a friday night.

    . . . When five Italians on a train, who don’t know you speak their language, start trash talking Americans for an hour and a half.

    . . . When you realize that TrenItalia is the WORST train system in Europe.

    . . . When Italians think YOU are a genuine Itai, and ask you for directions or money. Lots of them ask for money.

    . . . When you realize Italians seem to lack common courtesy as they are entirely willing to cut off anyone in line they please.

    . . . When “Permiso” gives anyone the permission to shove people to the ground(literally!) in order to get where they’re going.

    . . . When you feel like you’re in a third world country compared to Germany, Austria, The Netherlands, Switzerland, and America.

    . . . When you get hit up for Coke, Heroin, MDMA, Mushrooms, Hash, and pot in Rome.

    . . . When gypsies steal your wallet and you have to send them to the hospital to show them who’s boss in order to get back what is rightfully yours.

    . . . When the police are more concerned with hitting on your friends rather than fighting crime.

    . . . When traffic laws mean nothing. Fear for your life!

    . . . When you realize how terrible a beer Moretti actually is.

    . . . When you realize that you have just as much right to use the powerful “permiso” for your own gain as the Itai’s do.

    . . . When you come back to your car on a sleeper train and have to immediately close the door, heading back to the food car, because of the overpowering foot-stench of the Italians sharing your car with you.

    . . . When you have to tell a forty-year-old Italian man that the two American girls he’s molesting are both your girlfriends so he will back off. Not to mention that you’ve never met these girls before and they buy you drinks to thank you for ridding them of the dude.

    . . . When you realize you’re in the only European country so far behind the times that barely anyone speaks enough english to communicate effectively with Americans, British, Germans, and anyone else from the rest of the world.

    . . . When the best time you had over your semester studying abroad was the two weeks you spent in Germany.

    . . . When you realize the people in other European countries are so much friendlier than Italians under the age of fifty.

    . . . When you walk through an Italian city wordlessly enjoying your time and a bunch of Italian teens start shouting the chorus to Green Day’s “American Idiot” (poorly) at you and your friends.

    . . . When you realize how much American culture and music influence Italians in their own little world, and they refuse to accept this fact, stating how terrible America is. Advice: They are clearly biased, and closed minded. Politely accept their opinion and move on to the next group of people.

    . . . When you realize that most social gatherings are just another excuse for Italians to get drunk, despite the rumor that ‘Italians don’t drink to excess”(B.S.) See also: Football(soccer) games.

    More to come.

    Just a few solid counterpoints to all the ‘love’ going on here.

    Well, Nate, I think it’s safe to say that a study abroad experience in a city is quite different from living every day life in Italy–I imagine foreigners would say very similar things about “America” if they hang around with young adults on public transportation, i.e., I hope you’re not insinuating there are no drugs, smelly people, or rudeness in America–I’ve lived in one of America’s largest cities, and believe me, it’s all there. And we also have some *terrible* beers, although I won’t name names πŸ˜‰

  66. michelle

    For Italians, in particular, coming across this post now, I hope you understand why I choose to leave even offensive comments here: the comments section is for readers to contribute to the discussion. If you disagree, please feel free to disagree in the comments and continue the discussion.

    But unless something is truly vulgar or obscene (as judged by me, as it’s my blog), I won’t delete it. I don’t like censorship.

  67. Amber

    …….. When you hail a cab to take you back to your hotel and the driver asked if you liked his city – when you say you are leaving in the morning and haven’t gotten to see much – He turns off the meter and gives you a tour of the city including his home where his wife runs out to the car with wine.

    Now *that’s* a great Italy story πŸ™‚

  68. Riccardo

    Hi all,
    my name is Riccardo, I’m from Milan and currently I’m living in Berkeley, CA (I’m not payed by US govt, but by Italian one, so you cannot say “hey, you had to migrate for work”).

    I just try to answer to some points in the most offensive comment I read, given by Nate Swift. My purpose is not to start an argue, but to suggest an approach to Italy beyond stereotypes.

    “. . . When you realize that TrenItalia is the WORST train system in Europe.”
    If you need to go from San Francisco to Los Angeles (382 miles) with Amtrak (US railway) it will take you about 12 hours. In Italy a similar distance is Milano – Roma (about 370 miles); furthermore between Milano and Roma there is Appennino (mountains) and so several tunnels. Well, with the fastest train it will take you 3 hours and a half. If the train is late you’ll be refunded (seriously, once it happened to me for problems on the line and I really got refunded). We all recognise that the Italian railway system is not the best in the world. French is better, German too, whilst in UK it is not so good (I’ve got English friends who complain about the fact that you never know which is your train, since Margaret Tatcher privatised the system and there are now many companies) and very expansive indeed. Recently I’ve been in Japan and there is incredible: the best in the world I’d say. Anyway Italian system exists. In the United States public transportation is inadequate and not so popular. Car or plane. Besides, check in time in US airports is very long: 2 hours before take off for domestic flights (I gave up using the train for going from SF to LA). In Europe, Italy comprised, it is always less than 1 hour for domestic flights.

    “. . . When Italians think YOU are a genuine Itai, and ask you for directions or money. Lots of them ask for money.”
    In the Bay Area there is an incredible number of homeless asking you for money and many young people. In Italy tipping is common only at the restaurant. In the US is for about everything. In Las Vegas a guy in the elevator expected the tip for pressing the button. In Japan tipping is forbidden everywhere. In this way you always know the final price. Is it $100? OK, it’s fine. Not $50, then you have to add taxes (vary county by county) and then tip and the tip for accepting the tip. I want to have dinner, not buy a carpet in a bazar.
    In Italy you don’t discuss so often about money. It is not that elegant.

    “. . . When you feel like you’re in a third world country compared to Germany, Austria, The Netherlands, Switzerland, and America.”
    This is very rude. Very.
    People from Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Switzerland do not think that Italy is a 3rd World country. They often spend their holidays in Italy and they know Italy beyond stereotypes. Especially Germans. I work a lot with them and they are not spending their time in insulting comments about Italy. Sometimes they joke with us about stereotypes in EU countries. Not on us. In the US I often hear the litany/ballad “pizza-mafia-mandolino-mamma mia-and so on”. Sometimes is very frustrating. I’m a scientist, why should I be addressed in that way? It happens not just in a while. Is not so pleasant to hear “where you come from is a shit” when you meet a person for the first time. Normally I – we in Europe – do not start a conversation in that way.

    In these days I’m attending a conference about energy consumption in buildings and cities. People from California said that they are leading the world in energy saving. Well, this is far from truth.

    US is the only big nation not having ratified the Kyoto Protocol. I could discuss about this for hours since is my job. In Italy we have the same energy regulation that is adopted in Germany, which is the most restrictive in EU.

    “. . . When the police are more concerned with hitting on your friends rather than fighting crime.”
    You might want to have a look at the rates by country about people being killed by firearms on 100 000 inhabitants. You might want to have a look about regulation and requirements for purchasing firearms in Italy. It is definitely more restrictive than in US.

    “. . . When traffic laws mean nothing. Fear for your life!”
    I bike to got to work in California. I risk my life. Here they do not use the indicator when they change direction or when they turn. Besides, the indicators on American cars are red as the stops. On European cars they are orange and easier to be distinguished. We use the indicators.

    Here turning right on red is allowed. It is really dangerous. In Italy is a severe violations and at each crossroad in Milano, for instance, there is a camera and you get a fine for that. In EU you can get a driving license when you are 18. 16 you are really too young.

    “. . . When you realize how terrible a beer Moretti actually is.”
    In the US some chemical compound is added to beer, so as to achieve a faster fermentation. As a result, you experience headache the day after for just one beer. In EU there are no chemical additives causing you headache. In general in the US food is not so safe. You might pay a lot for organic food and still have not excellent meat. In EU everything is organic and you pay somewhere in between organic and non organic in US. Nearby where I live in California salmonella was found in meat in a popular superstore. Is still in business. It has not been closed for a single day. In Italy NAS (Nucleo Anti Sofisticazioni, which is the division of Carabinieri controlling food safety and many other things) would have closed the groceries store immediately and there would have been a trial for that.

    Coming back to beer. Moretti is not a good beer, you’re right. Italy indeed is not famous for beer, but for wine. Anyway, in Italy, if you want a good beer you can easily find a Guinness or Leffe or other very good Belgian beers.

    “. . . When you realize you’re in the only European country so far behind the times that barely anyone speaks enough english to communicate effectively with Americans, British, Germans, and anyone else from the rest of the world.”
    In Italy not everybody speaks English. In France and Spain the situation is worse (source: lived there for a while), since their policy is to preserve their language and they don’t promote that much the study of foreign languages.

    In the US about 20% of population is bilingual, but this is due to the fact that most of them are sons and daughters of immigrants. People born in the US speaks just American English. Sometimes you have problems in understanding people speaking British English (source: friends from US who moved to UK and needed 6 months for tuning on English English).

    “. . . When the best time you had over your semester studying abroad was the two weeks you spent in Germany.”
    Germany is nice.

    “. . . When you realize how much American culture and music influence Italians in their own little world, and they refuse to accept this fact, stating how terrible America is. Advice: They are clearly biased, and closed minded. Politely accept their opinion and move on to the next group of people.”
    Las Vegas is a bad copy of EU (i.e. Venetian, Bellagio, Paris and other fake-EU hotels).

    The contribution provided by Italy to World Cultural Heritage is huge, in terms of all arts and in science too. One of the most significant awards in the US for physicists is the Enrico Fermi Prize. Many positions of full professors in US Ivy League Universities and UC are held by Italians (who got their PhD in Italy) and many other countries. Often the professor is not American.
    In the US everything regarding quality of life – food, music, cars, culture in general, etc. – is in some way related to Europe, to Italy and France in particular.

    “. . . When you realize that most social gatherings are just another excuse for Italians to get drunk, despite the rumor that β€˜Italians don’t drink to excess”(B.S.) See also: Football(soccer) games.”
    Fraternities, sororities… baseball games…

    In conclusion, USA is a great country, but please, cease with insulting stereotypes. Please, sworn off believing that you are the best of the best and the rest is shit. That is still George W. Bush attitude.

    You are ahead in information technology, some fields in science, but with regard to climate change, energy, health, food safety and many other areas you still need to strive a lot. We could share our knowledge. If you only stopped to be so rude.

    Sorry for the stream of consciousness James Joyce style, but I’m really fed up with being offended


    Thank you very much for your thoughtful response, Riccardo; I agree with most, if not all, of what you’ve written. I hope you’ll come back to the blog and share more of your opinions πŸ˜€

  69. Valerie

    …when you search for half an hour for one pharmacy and along the way find fifteen gelatto shops. (Never a bad thing) πŸ™‚
    …when blatantly staring is perfectly acceptable and it is considered strange when you don’t stare.
    …when you see more history in one block then you see in one American city.
    …when your waiter feeds you your dessert. πŸ˜€
    …when the trucks are smaller then your minivan back home.
    …when you leave and all you can think about is to return!

    Thanks for these. I love Italy. I hope to see it again very soon. πŸ™‚

  70. Saskia

    when a package takes 8 days to arrive in Rome from New Zealand but then 2 months to be cleared by customs and arrive in Sardinia..

    when your host family worries you will get sick because you don’t dry your hair immediately after having a shower..

    Haha excellent additions πŸ™‚

  71. 11.29.2012

    Oh, it is so beautiful . πŸ™‚

  72. 02.11.2013

    You know you’re in Italy when …
    when you feel the smell of real coffee, unique, unmistakable aroma in a small cup to drink standing at the bar and in a hurry … ahahahahahahah!
    GiΓ² πŸ˜‰

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