If you’re planning a trip to Italy, make sure you polish up on your knowledge of the local etiquette and customs to avoid making a cultural boo boo!
Italy is not the place for a onesie!
The ubiquitous onesie is sported by celebrities worldwide but is unlikely to be welcomed in Italy. After all this is the home of some of the top fashion designers in the world – think Armani, Versace and Prada! Appearances seriously matter in Italy, and you’ll only get one chance to make that first impression. Known as ‘bella figura’, aka good image, the way that you dress is an indicator of your background, social status and education. Italians are incredibly fashion conscious and will scrutinise your shoes, accessories and clothes before even saying hello.
Don’t knock the Pope
Did you know that there are more Catholic churches in Italy than anywhere else in the world (per capita)? The main religion is Roman Catholic and the recently appointed Jorge Mario Bergoglio, aka Pope Francis, is revered across the country. Most offices display a cross and every single day in the year is represented by a patron saint. Italian children are named after saints and each trade also has a patron saint. The Roman Catholic Church respects the hierarchy both within the religion and in social situations, with respect being given to elders.
Never ever ask a woman her age
This is a little tip for the guys as most women already know this rule! It’s quite possibly (almost) the rudest thing you can ask an Italian lady – her age. In fact, that goes for all ladies across the world. And if a lady absolutely begs you to guess, aim very low, so as to flatter!
Its wine all the way
The Italians don’t go in for cocktails with fancy names and gigantic pitchers of beer. Instead their attitude to alcohol is much more elegant and a small glass of wine of beer is more acceptable, especially with a meal. Which is no great hardship as some of the best wines and beers in Europe are produced here. And it almost goes without saying that public drunkenness is really frowned upon!
Don’t expect a buffet
If you’re invited to an Italian house for dinner, it will more than likely be a formal occasion. Italians don’t really go in for the finger-buffet style of dining. Pay careful attention to using the correct knives, forks and spoons in the correct hands.
Don’t go straight in for a kiss
When meeting an Italian for the first time, a handshake and smile is the most common greeting. All that air-kissing that is so common is reserved for when you get to know someone a lot better. Make direct eye contact and don’t move to a first-name basis without being invited first.
Don’t light up
Smoking is banned across Italy in all public places, much the same as in many other countries. Look for the designated smoking areas which are now few and far between.
For more tips, advice, ideas and inspiration, read our Italy travel guide.
By Julie Bowman