La Bella Italia. How did I go about falling in love with this country? Other than gelato, pizza, pasta, wine and Nutella, there are many things I fell in love with. The bright red, ripe tomatoes overflowing in bins on the street corners. The smell of fresh bread wafting from cafès and pasticceria. The meals that require only olive oil and salt as seasoning because the ingredients are so fresh. The old couple, about ninety years old with their matching cane set holding hands while they slowly make their way around the block after lunch. The long, drawn out dinners where everyone is screaming over one another trying to make their point heard. The hustle and bustle of the big cities along with the rolling hills of the countryside. The way that no one is in a hurry to get anywhere and time is nothing but a number. The golden hour just before sunset when the sky is ten different shades of beautiful. It is the only place where you can find a city, surrounded by forests, in the mountians, overlooking the sea. The simplicity of life. In Italy life doesn't just pass you by.
Food is enjoyed for hours at a time instead of inhaled. Anything that is
meant to be enjoyed is savored in a way that is strictly Italian. Italy has maintained its naive innocence with its thousands of years of
wisdom. It lends you a different perspective. Once you experience this way of life you won’t forget it and
you’ll forever see the world in a different way.
I love Italy and along with the language, I'm trying to learn as much as I can while I'm here. History, religion, art, architecture, culture, fashion, recipes, daily life. There's only so much you can get from school. Everything I have learned, you can find here:
The country has a long history, as Rome its capital city today was founded in 753BC. After the Roman Empire broke down in 395AD, there were many separate kingdoms and city states. However, Italy became one nation in 1861 and since then includes the islands of Sicilia and Sardegna. It was a kingdom until 1946 after the second World War, where Italy sided with the German Nazis. Italy is founding member of the European Union (EU) and the NATO.
Population: 61 million Density: 200 people per square km Life Expectancy: 80 years Area: 301, 338 km² Monetary Unit: Euro (€, EUR) Government: Republic Capital: Rome
The name Italia comes from the Greek word "italos," which means calf. It was named by Greeks in the 8th century BCE in the Calabria region and eventually extended to include the whole peninsula.
Italy is the fourth most visited country in the world, wecoming 50 million tourists every year. This makes tourism the number one economic industry.
There are two independent states within Italy: the Republic of San Marino (25 square miles) and the Vatican City (just 108.7 acres).
Italian and fifteen other minority languages are recognized as official languages of Italy.
Italy has the lowest birthrate and fertility rate in the world, but the highest population density.
The oldest European university in continuous operation is the University of Bologna, founded in 1088. 13 other Italian universities are over 500 years old.
Each Italian consumes in average 60 pounds of pasta each year.
The Romans love cats so much that they are considered a "bio-cultural asset" of the city. A new law condemns any person killing a cat to a 10,000 euro fine, and up to 3 years in jail. There is an estimated 300,000 cats in Rome, and they are the only inhabitants allowed in the ruins.
There are over 100 football (soccer) clubs in Italy and it is easily the most popular sport in the country.
Pizza, gelato, cheese, espresso, the thermometer and the typewriter were invented in Italy. As well as the Renaissance, Catholocism and some of the most beautiful art and architecture in the world.
Cultural Tips & Tricks
Don't make the same embarassing mistakes that I have, learn how to blend in with Italians
Learn some Italian!!
Never drink cappuccino after 11am
You can buy beer/wine in McDonalds
Never buy the store brand pasta at the supermarket; always opt for the name brand
Never dip your bread in oil/leftover pasta sauce if you're out at a ristorante
Buy fresh bread at the paneteria or the supermarket daily
Learn how to dress well, take pride in your outfits (they're personal art)
Ditch the tennis shoes
Skinny jeans only
Shorts only come out after June and only for the younger crowd
Dark clothes and layers (especially in the winter)
Lots of accessories
Speak half as loud as you usually would
Expect a small breakfast (yogurt, fruits, bread & cheese, croissants & cafè)
Nothing is ever open on Sundays
Or between 12 and 3 in the afternoons
Lunch is around 1 and dinner is at 8 or 9 pm
Coperto is the Italian equivalent of leaving a tip. A tip is not expected but a coperto is always added
You have to ask for the check (a restaurant with fast service is a bad restaurant)
Never expect anyone to be on time (5 minutes late is considered early)
Spring, summer, fall or winter, there is no wrong time to visit Italia and relish in what it has to offer. I hope one day everyone that reads this gets to visit and learns to love Italy as much as I do :)