Italians get easily recognized when traveling.
Come on people! We are loud, we do speak with our hands, we are not ashamed of singing in public, we have a love for pizza and pasta that nobody can match. Whether we go on vacation in Cuba, venture to the culturally more similar Argentina and Uruguay, we get easily spotted.
But, once conversation starts, the magic happens: everyone loves Italy, everyone loves Italians. Except there are also many stereotypes. So, when some of you associate us with pizza, pasta and mafia, we prefer to think of ourselves poets, artists and sailors; as the country that – despite everything – continues welcoming everyone; as the place where in time of need famous designers will turn their factories around to produce face masks. Yes, there are a number of things Italians simply do better.
Here they are.
17 Things Italians Do Better – For Real
Pizza and pasta
Sorry to break the news guys. Your pizza and pasta may be good, but ours is just a whole different thing. First of all, Italians have invented pizza – just imagine: a few, very simple ingredients and it’s done, there for you to eat. So easy, yet so satisfying, and oh so often gotten wrong.
The same with pasta. Oh the number of times I have seen it made wrong! Did you know that we toss the pasta (all of the pasta we have cooked) in the sauce as soon as it is cooked, obviously al dente? The image you have of the pasta with just a bit of tomato sauce on top is plain wrong. Honestly, try to do it the way we do and you will see the difference.
Got a job promotion? Let’s have dinner to celebrate?
Christmas? Biiiig lunch.
Easter? You got it, lunch time!
Class reunion? No, no lunch this time. It’s dinner.
You got it. Italians love to celebrate everything and anything over a meal. But mind you, our festive meals are no simple things. Think more of an endless number of courses that will have you seated at the table for a minimum of 2 hours, and at times even up to 5. We stuff our faces as if we hadn’t eaten in a year, when chances are our mothers fed us like kings and queens the day before.
Come to think of it, we Italians appreciate food even as a pick me up. Your boyfriend broke up with you? Here, have some nutella. You are stressed? Nothing that a good slice of cake can’t fix.
We love food so much that we talk about food even when we are eating – I mean, we have to plan our next meal after all, right?
Italians invented art. No, really, they did! This is the country with the highest concentration of UNESCO sites (in case you wonder if this is true, check this out). This is the country of Machiavelli, Leonardo and Caravaggio. It’s the country of Pavarotti. It’s the country of design, luxury items, fashion and incredible architecture. In other words, Italians are genius.
Yeah I know I like a good brag.
Hand and body language
So I may be the exception to the rule – a rule that is changing, by the way – as I speak more languages than the average Italian (in fact, than the average human being). But Italians aren’t exactly masters at languages. They will get by with Spanish, because the languages are similar in a way. But English? Ahem… most Italians know a few words, but that’s about it.
So what happens when Italians have to talk to someone but don’t know the language? My, hand gestures and body language, of course! We are the masters of that. We have invented that. We can have entire conversations without needing to speak a word.
And in case you are wondering how you can learn Italian or any other language, check out my post “20 Useful Tips For Learning A New Language.”
Italy is an incredibly varied country in terms of culture. Sardinians are in no way similar to people from Trentino; the culture in Sicily is very different from that of Lombardia. Italians from the south will point fingers at those from the north to name the differences (most likely something to do with food, or the fact that their mama sends them the best food parcels). But take them outside the country and they all become one!
Italians forget all their problems when there’s a sport event on TV – financial crisis, unemployment and what not. Soccer used to be the one and only sport Italians cared about but that isn’t the case anymore. Sports such as rugby, swimming, basketball are getting more and more fans.
Helping those in need
Italians will always complain that they don’t have enough, that taxes are too high, etc. You will often hear that xenophobia is on the rise, and that they aren’t happy about the arrival of migrants in search of a better life. But really, the vast majority will always be happy to give a hand, to help those in need.
Laughing even through hardship
Even in time of terrible hardship (look at what has been happening in most recent times) Italians will bring out their best sense of humor and laugh at themselves and their misfortune, just to cheer themselves up. If you joke about them, Italians don’t mind either. But give them a hint of racism, and they will destroy you with their humor.
There is one final thing Italians do much better than anybody else: romance. Whether it is a summer (or winter fling) or the love of their life, Italians will give it their best. They will never pretend to be in love: they really are, even just for a day.
Fact: you can drink good coffee anywhere in the world (well, almost). Also fact: coffee in Italy is a million times better. Give Italians a simple coffee pot or an espresso machine, and they will work their magic to create the most perfect drink. It’s so good that you don’t even need to add sugar to it. I promise!
Let me first clarify that gelato is Italian for ice-cream, and not just a kind of ice-cream. The difference between Italian ice-cream and everything else is quite simply that Italians do it better! They use fresher ingredients (and usually less); less cream altogether; and the result is perfection that melts in your mouth or – if you don’t eat if fast enough – in your hands.
Italians are SO. MUCH. BETTER. at tipping. In fact, they don’t tip at all! Wait – what? Yeah, you got it. Tipping in Italy is not a custom. That’s because Italians actually get paid fair wages. So when you sit down for a meal, order a private cab, go on a guided tour you won’t have to worry about having to tip. At restaurants, you may just want to round up your cheque and leave whatever excess cash you are paying. And if service was really that exceptional, 10% is more than enough to leave.
Other countries do happy hour. Italians do aperitivo. Forms may vary, but this usually consists of a drink – anything can do, but drinks of choice are usually a good Spritz, a glass of Prosecco or even a Negroni (which may well be the most alcoholic cocktail you can think of), accompanied by some small snacks such as olives, potato chips or peanuts. In some places, snacks are taken to the next level and in fact you end up having a proper meal!
There’s an Italian saying that it is hard to translate in other languages – dolce far niente (sweet nothing). It very much indicated something that Italians do oh so much better than other people in Western countries: relaxing. The art of doing nothing in Italy is practiced in many ways: sipping coffee; going for a leisurely walk; peoples’ watching and – this takes real skills – napping in the middle of the day.
Do I really need to explain this one?
Driving a Vespa
The rest of the world has scooters; Italians have Vespas. The best – which admittedly are a bit harder to come across now – are the ones with manual transmissions. They aren’t the easiest thing to find, but Italians do it oh so well. So much so, that they are even portrayed in Hollywood movies while they do that (remember Roman Holidays?).
The average life expectancy in Italy is higher than that of most countries. Some parts of Sardinia are even blue zones – people there live an even longer life. This is thanks to a combination of good, healthy food and a balanced diet; regular exercise (nothing major! Italians just love to walk); a happy life and strong social and family bonds.
Can you think of any other things Italians do better than others?
Still unsure on whether you should be visiting Italy? Check out my post “17 Reasons To Visit Italy As Soon As Possible.”
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