I have been in Italy a few months now (it has flown by) and with Christmas quickly approaching I have decided to reflect on what I have learned so far.
When you move to a new country its necessary for you have to quickly learn the way things are done. This could be anything from the way they eat, dress or drive. So here is my list. I would like to add that they are my opinions on matters in Italy
1) Eating habits: Italians have a small breakfast which normally consists of a cappuccino (its only drank in the morning) and a pastry of some sort. There is none of this eat lots of fibre and healthy breakfast here. It’s all about the dolce. A few weeks ago I did a lesson on the food pyramid and healthy eating in English. I discovered that 1) it is normal for 12 year olds to drink coffee and 2) it’s perfectly acceptable to eat chocolate for breakfast. Ahhh the wisdom of Italian tweens.
Lunch is usually the biggest meal of the day. They normally have a pasta dish and fruit. Also the Italians like the Spaniards peel their fruit. They will take the skin off any fruit whether it’s an apple, orange or peach and if you don’t do it too you will get some strange looks. What I don’t understand is what’s the point in washing the skin of the fruit if you aren’t going to eat it? Can anyone explain this to me?
Finally dinner is a smaller meal than lunch. They normally have meat, fish or vegetables. It is a much lighter meal which is probably best for digestion since they eat quite late.
Their eating habits are quite different from those in the UK but they must be doing something right. They all seem to be in good health even if they smoke all the time they don’t seem to get cancer. You hardly see any overweight Italians. I would like to know their secret to staying so thin but eating so many carbs!
2) What seems like a pedestrian zone is not and a car/motorbike or Vespa will drive along it. The amount of times I have walked along on what seems to be a pedestrian zone and all of a sudden a car will drive along. Also I have seen cars use the fountain in piazza IV novembre as a roundabout!
3) Paths will disappear when you are walking along them. This happens to me all the time. I have just gotten used to the fact that I need to walk on the road even if Italians are crazy drivers.
4) No one is on time. Ever. This applies to parties. For example we had a party at my flat that started at 11pm and it didn’t really get busy with people until 2am! (See point number 5 for further explanation on Italian house parties). I have some Erasmus friends here in Perugia. One of them was 15 minutes late for her lecture and the lecturer hadn’t even turned up yet! Ahhh but it is Italy so its acceptable.
5) Italian house parties rules are different from the UK. There are two types of house party. One starts earlier but there is dinner of some sort or one that starts later like 11ish. However the start time and food is the only difference. The host will provide a bit of alcohol usually a spirit and a mixer but guest will bring along a bottle of something (usually wine) and put it on the table. Everyone shares so you don’t have to drink what you brought. Also its normal for you to invite one person and for them to show up (without asking) with ten friends that you don’t know! Like I said before parties don’t get busy until 1/2 am. It took me sometime to get used to the concept since parties are not like that in the UK.
6) Things never go to plan. This is common here. There are many times my friends and I have a plan for something which has to change along the way. I have noticed this a lot in school too. The lessons quite often are interrupted by someone to talk to the teacher, to give information to the children or there is a phone call for the teacher. The electronic register takes time and the teachers have to note down everything on it (what they did in the lesson, the homework they have set, if someone forgot their homework etc) plus they have to write all down on the paper register. This means more often than not the lesson will not go to plan. However, the teachers do try their best to keep things on track.
7) Eating out is cheap. If you are in touristy areas then you need to look out for tourist traps because eating out in restaurants here is actually cheap! You can get a whole pizza to yourself for €4/5/6 depending on the toppings plus a service charge (usually €1.50 per person) and your drink which means that you can eat for €10 or less in a pizzeria. There is a restaurant here in Perugia called dal mi’ cocco where your entire meal (antipasti, first course, second course, dessert and coffee) is €13 plus your drink (a bottle of house wine is only €5). So yes it is extremely cheap to eat out here which means I won’t be able to eat Italian food in the UK again because £10 for a bowl of pasta is ridiculous (and they make carbonara with cream instead of eggs).
8) Trains and buses hardly ever follow the timetable. I have to take the train to work (the local Umbrian trains) and it is never on time. However, the national trains are never on time either. The last few times they have been 10 minutes late even when the train leaves from Perugia it somehow leaves late! I have come to realise that 10 minutes late = on time in Italy. On the plus side the trains here are cheap. A 2.5/3 hour train ride to Rome from Perugia only costs €11.50 (on the day price) one way. Out of curiosity I checked how much a one way ticket from Edinburgh to Aberdeen (2.5 hour journey) would cost. The answer £29! Enough said!
9) Umbrian weather. Before coming here I had no idea it rained a lot here. I have discovered that none of my shoes can keep my feet dry even my good boots that keep my feet dry in Scotland because the rain here is torrential. It is impossible to not get wet if you are out in the rain. Plus the temperature drastically changes overnight here from one season to the next. One day it was fine for me to just wear my leather jacket but the next day I had to change to my winter coat because it was freezing. You are definitely not eased into the season’s here but I won’t be complaining when it suddenly gets hot!
10) … its Italy. This has become an almost daily phrase for me. Something always doesn’t happen the way it should and when it does I always utter ‘its Italy’ (or something similar). For example, waiting for a bus to turn up and its half an hour late. Then people on said bus telling you that it’s that stop to get off for the shopping centre resulting in you having to cross a busy road when in fact if you stayed on the bus for 5 minutes longer you would have been dropped off outside! These things are going to happen whenever you like it or not but its the price to pay for good food and wine, as well as a good lifestyle.
So that is the list so far. I am sure there will be another list at some point.