1. No salad dressing. Ever. Your lettuce is plain, or has oil/lemon juice. That’s all you get. Forget your ranch, caesar, bleu cheese… they don’t even know what honey mustard is.
2. Coffee all the time, but it’s not portable. You can’t just walk around with your mocha frappuccino or tall coffee. You stand at a “bar” and get an espresso or a cappuccino. Coffee is easily paired with a brioche or croissant. Most meals aren’t finished without a shot of espresso, even after dinner.
3. Breakfasts are SWEET. Pastries are king. Cereal, yogurt, breakfast cookies. Eggs for breakfast are considered STRANGE.
4. Nice meals last HOURS. Don’t expect to stand for another 3 hours.
5. First course: Pasta. Second course: Meat and Veggies. This is sort of inconvenient because the pasta fills you up before you get the rest of your meal.
6. Gelato portions are tiny and perfect. The mini concrete mixer at Culvers or mini blizzard at Dairy Queen are like the extra large sized gelato. But really, it’s perfectly gratifying and you’ll rethink the way you dessert.
7. Water “Frizzante” (carbonated) or “Naturale” (still). And you have to pay for it. Italians think the tap water is unhealthy but the doctor says it’s totally safe.
8. Fettuccini Alfredo doesn’t exist. Alfredo sauce is an American invention.
9. Bologna, Italy is known for its bologna–except it’s called “Mortadella.”
10. Italians don’t typically binge-drink. Instead, they sip delicately on wines (or beer/cocktails at a pub) for hours until they reach a happy level at the end of the night.
11. Grocery store freezer sections are tiny. In the U.S., we freeze anything/everything. Italians prefer fresh, hand-made recipes to pre-packaged food.
12. Who needs condiments? The Italians don’t! You might be able to find ketchup, mustard, or weird mayonnaise, but give up on any other sauces you might be used to enjoying.
These are some of the things I learned during my semester in Italy. I experienced a little bit of culture shock regarding the food options–I had crazy cravings for Chipotle, buffalo chicken wraps and Reese’s cups. I even missed American ethnic food, like panda express or India Garden. That being said, Italians eat well, and everyone should experience Italian cuisine.
Thanks so much for reading! Comment if you know of interesting food habits from Italy or other countries!