Italy essence is not only made of fabulous pasta and uplifting wine. There is something else that gives this country a special touch, a very distinctive feature: its people.
People make a country, and Italians are not exactly a neutral folks. They are known for their exuberant personality. Their strong passion towards life -Sometimes very intense passion-.
Within Italians there are differences between the people from the North to the South. Each region has its own characteristic, food, manners and specially a very own dialect. That is why so hard to describe the Italian people as one.
However, there are some intrinsic common values that run in the Italian veins:
Cafe. Standing up at the bar taking your shot of a hot espresso is such a big part of this culture that it has to be on top of the list. A Cafe is needed as air and it’s situated on the basis of life in Italy. For breakfast, mid morning and after lunch (never after diner). There is no time to talk while stopping for a cafe. Just take your shot and keep going.
Food. Italians worship food. I dare to say that food is the Sun in the Italian Universe, everything else in life revolves around it. The flavors, colors and smells of the Italian Kitchen are unique to the world, and they take pride on it. The hours of the meals are also very important in this culture. They don’t mess around when it comes to food. The classical Italian breakfast consists of a cornetto (croissant), or biscotti with a cup of hot tea or espresso. In occasions they usually get a piece of fruit, but no more than that. Compared to the American “Most important meal of the day” this would look like a snack. Lunch is usually at 13:00, and is usually light. There is also a great gem in the Italian food life: The famous Aperitivo, not quite a dinner and not quite a snack. And then of course dinner, which is at around 21:00.
The Mamma. The importance and authority of this invaluable figure in all Italians’ lives, forever and ever. No Italian ever matures out of the mother’s nest. Even though when they marry, this usually happens well entered the 30’s or 40’s in the case of men. Then the moglie (wife) takes some of the reins but the mamma still the one and only star in every Italian until they die. Contrary to the popular belief that the Italian culture is a patriarchal one, the women of the family are the ones behind all decisions and in charge of the family. Their are the base and support of their husbands and children their whole life.
Religion. Together with the food and the mamma, religion is another important pillar of the Italian life. Religion, and everything that comes from it, is present in every aspect of life, as one should expect, after all Italy contains the city that represents the heart of Catholicism.
The rush (on the Roman streets). Everything is rushed. The unstopping horns, the mad drivers. The shoutings. The not-smiles at strangers. The “me first” attitude of drivers and walkers. The passion in everything they do. They pride of being who they are, Romans, of belonging to the Ancient Center of the world. The pride of descending directly from Augustus, the belief that all and every one of them is an Emperor himself.
Domenica. Sunday is a very important day for Italians. Church and Pasta at Mamma’s. This is the day of relaxation and enjoyment (Not that they don’t get those during the week though). In fact, Italians dignify their breaks and honor themselves with several a day. As it should be (Breaks may include an espresso and a cigarette).
The cigarettes. Some Italians may skip breakfast, but most Italians (specially Romans) don’t skip the morning cigarette. Or is it because they are so stressed out all the time, they need one?
Even though they take several breaks, this is a highly stressed society. Economic issues are the main cause of this (Also because they love to hate life).
🙂 Gotta love them.
La lingua più bella del mondo (The world’s most beautiful language). Italians are so proud of their language and culture that is very hard (almost impossible) to find films in original language, or TV programs that are not in Italian. This is the only language in the world that was created. Not unified until 1500’s, all Italian regions had their own dialect. When unification took place they decided on a common language, choosing the most beautiful expressions from every dialect, crating the Italian Language. Dante Alighieri (Firenze) became the most important referent for the creation of the new Italian language when he started writing “La Divina Comedia” in the local language of his city instead of the common Latin or Greek.
Women. Italian ladies are strong, hard working, passionate and loving. They are very aware of appearance and clothing (specially shoes). Make up is a must, even when going to the gym or beach. And they have very high standards for their men. Men, on the other hand, make themselves pretty and go from flower to flower considering which one would mamma like better. Italian men are very into themselves, and how not? They are gorgeous.
Appearance. They put a lot of effort in it. This is highly important to them and speak a lot about a person. Italians love shoes -leather and high heels for women-. Love expensive and high quality pieces of clothing. Milano, of course, it’s the representation of fashion and high standards in apparel. But most Italians appreciate dressing with style and sobriety.
Hard Work. Sacrifice. Nothing is given in Italy. You have to work hard for everything: Education, a good job, a home.
Their regions and traditions. Italians are very territorial. Younger generations are moving to bigger cities, or other countries searching for better job opportunities, but they never forget where they came from. In general Italians are not big travelers, preferring the comfort of their home towns. Their love for their cities and regions is deep, usually awakening rivalry with the next town or city. Historical confrontations as Firenze-Siena, or Roma-Milano are still latent today. The rivalry specially occurs when it comes to Calcio (Soccer), as in Rome with the Roma and Lazio fans.
The Mafia. Not a myth, not a movie. Not only in Sicily. When I arrive to Palermo, I was very new to the Italian culture. As a naive tourist I was telling a local I wanted to visit Corleone because of the “Godfather” movie. He then told me the story of how the mafia has ruined his life. I never spoke about “La Cosa Nostra” again in Sicily, which I thought of a myth until that moment.
Italy is a country of beauty and pleasure. Pleasure that sometimes mixes with a stressed life, full of sacrifice and hard work.