Here are a few hints to help you fit in and feel like an Italian!
At the Italian table: Italy is full of
hard fast rules and
loose suggestions and most of those hard, fast rules
pertain to food and wine, eating and drinking at the table.
Bread: Italians don't dip bread into plates of olive oil before and during dinner. That was invented by Macaroni Grill in the 80's and while it is popular in American restaurants, the Italians only drizzle high-calorie olive oil on bread as a snack between meals, never at the table. If you are served a plate with oil it's because they recognize you as an American and are just anticipating your request. I've only seen this in cities and restaurants that have high tourist traffic. Bread is used to push food and to clean sauce off the plate!
Pasta: So many shapes and delicious sauces in each region of Italy - but, don't cut your pasta with a knife and don't ask for a tablespoon! The Italians serve pasta in deep bowls and
use the curve of the bowl instead of a spoon, which only takes a bit of
-A special note on
Cappuccino, that delicious cup of frothy hot milk and coffee that Italians drink for
breakfast: it is never ordered after a meal! This rule makes sense if you consider that the most important thing to an Italian is their digestion and whether it's working well or not!
Hot milk on a full stomach hinders digestion. The appropriate thing to order after dinner is an espresso, a digestive or a grappa.
Eat Seasonally: Italians eat with the seasons, so this summer expect to see lots of great ripe tomatoes, zucchini, eggplants, peppers and basil - all abundant in the summer both in the markets and on the table. Fresh fruit is plentiful and local with lots of apricots, different varieties of peaches and plums, watermelon, cantaloupe and of course figs and grapes later in the summer.
Get yourself on Italian time to really enjoy your stay! Stores and many museums close from 1-4, generally speaking, so get your shopping done early and then head for lunch when the Italians do, around 1:30. Dinner isn't usually served until at least 7:30 or later, so plan accordingly and spend the evening pre-dinner making the
passeggiata (walk) with the Italians, or having an
aperitivo in the local piazza or café.