9 Italian customs and traditions

IMG_2546Colosseum in Rome. 

People often ask me what it’s like living in Italy, and for the most part it is amazing. Obviously, it was an adjustment at the start in terms of lifestyle and way of living but generally Italian life is pretty simple.

There are however some Italian habits and customs that I’ve noticed over the years that have either 1. taken some getting used to or 2. just make me laugh. Some drive me totally crazy, and others are just little quirky and random customs that have been passed down through generations.

So I thought I’d share with you some Italian habits, customs and traditions I’ve noticed since living here in Padova.

Of course, not all Italians do these things and I, by no means, mean any offence at all to all my beautiful Italian friends and readers. If anything, it’s just a short piece to be taken lightly and I am just merely sharing my observations and experiences.

1. Answering the phone or doorbell by saying pronto which in English translates to ready! Honestly, this is one that baffles me even today and I’m still not quite sure of the reasoning behind it. Sometimes it’s said so enthusiastically that I feel as though we’re about to start a running race. I can’t help but giggle at times when I hear and see this.

2. Being impeccably dressed at all times! This may just be a northern Italian thing, as I’ve heard they are a little more relaxed in the south but everyone is always dressed so well here. Even if it is just to take the dog for a walk, or run into the local supermarket to grab some bread. Of course, there is nothing wrong with this at all, if anything it’s quite a lovely custom. But, being the true blue Aussie that I am, I really struggle with this at times because I live for active wear, thongs and denim shorts!

3. Dressing to the season and not to the weather. I have to admit, this one actually drives me crazy a little. For example, at the moment it’s currently Autumn here in Italy but the weather has still been fairly mild and sunny. And, by mild I mean temps are still reaching 25 or so degrees on some days. For me, this is still shorts and t-shirt weather but everyone has already traded their summer clothes for puffer jackets and jeans. So come each spring and autumn, I really struggle as to what to wear to places as I don’t want to get stared at for baring my legs or arms, as quite often this is the case.

4. Colpo d’aria is a very real thing here in Italy. It translates to something along the lines of a blast of air and such blasts of air are incredibly dangerous and can make you very sick — or so the tale goes anyway. If there’s a slight wind outside, regardless of the temperature, it’s very common to see Italians wrap a scarf around their necks to protect themselves from colpo d’aria. This also applies to leaving the house with wet hair too.

Now generally this one does not bother me at all, except when I go to the gym! There’s nothing worse than when I’m running on the treadmill or doing a HIIT class, sweaty, hot and red like a tomato and someone comes over and closes the window. I can’t count the amount of times this has happened to me and it absolutely drives me insane!

Just last week, I was just about nearing the 3km mark and a girl 3 treadmills down from me, walks over, mutters something in Italian and closes the window right next to me. Here I was sweaty and hot, running at a fairly high tempo and she was walking on level one and had been doing so for about half an hour, not even breaking a sweat or seemingly any struggle at all. You come to the gym to burn and sweat! Anyways, this really annoys me. Can you tell?

5. Hanging donnas, duvets and pillows from windows or balconies. This, I’ve noticed, is incredibly common especially of a Saturday or Sunday morning. Often just a way to air out duvets whilst cleaning the house, so don’t be alarmed if you see this on your next trip to Italy.

6. Queuing! For some reason, queuing is not the Italian’s forte. Rather than forming a singular line like most people would, queuing here can be a little bit of a nightmare. If you’re not confident or a little forceful, you’ll find people just cut in front of you. This happens at the grocery store, at cafes and particularly when boarding public transport as well.

7. Italians are very expressive and passionate especially when they are having a conversation. What looks like an argument or a fight to most foreigners and tourists, is simply a very passionate discussion going on between family and friends.

8. You can’t use more than three appliances in your house at once or else the power shorts. Ok this isn’t a custom or tradition, but more so just a bloody inconvenience. So beware, don’t use your dishwasher and washing machine at the same time, and likewise with your oven and vacuum and any other medium household appliance.

9. Tap water at restaurants doesn’t exist and most people buy bottled water to drink at home. In my three years of living here, I’ve never once managed to order some simple tap water. It doesn’t exist here. In saying that though, water is incredibly cheap and can be bought at the supermarket for as little as 30 cents per two litre bottles.

And there you have it! If you have lived or traveled in Italy and noticed any random customs or traditions, I’d love to hear about them. Likewise, with other countries other than your own as well.


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