Live Like an Italian
One of the great things about having a blog is that you (virtually) encounter a diverse cross-section of people from all over the world that you would have otherwise never met. I particularly enjoy getting feedback from Italians. While they don’t always agree with everything that I write about their country and their culture (justly so), they do seem to appreciate my efforts to improve cross-cultural understanding and share my thoughts with others in this public forum.
I recently received an email from a woman named Daniela who owns a language school in the Veneto, about 20 kilometers from Venice. She had bought and read my silly little eBook, “Live Like an Italian” and found it to be “useful and funny,” in her words. She did, however, have a few comments regarding some of my observations. I’d like to share some of her thoughts here today and ask that anybody reading—whether Italian or non-Italian—to voice your opinions on these details, as well.
In Chapter 1, I mentioned that it is correct to say “buongiorno” before lunch and “buonasera” after. It was my attempt to identify a discernible criteria. Silly me. It seems that this “rule,” like so many others in Italy, is subject to interpretation. Daniela replied: I don’t say “buonasera” after lunch. It’s very difficult to understand the good moment of the day to start using “buonasera”, and the only rule is that it’s used when it’s dark. In the afternoon many people use “buongiorno” and others “buonasera”.
And at the end of the chapter, I omitted a very important point, which Daniela kindly brought to my attention: You talked about “In bocca al lupo!” It’s really very important to reply “Crepi (il lupo)!” If you don’t say it, that means bad luck!! (It seems I’m practically begging for the malocchio.)
In Chapter 2, I talked about the many different options for ordering coffee in a bar. Caffè normale (espresso), cappuccino, caffellatte, etc. But in Daniela’s opinion: Instead of “caffellatte,” in a bar we order a “latte macchiato.” In my opinion “caffellatte” is what you drink in the morning at home without “schiuma.”
In Chapter 3 I mentioned that as an American, I just can’t get used to not leaving a tip at a bar. I always feel like I’m being cheap if I don’t leave a proper gratuity. She confirmed this: Yes, you are right: only Americans tip! (At least I got this one correct.)
In Chapter 4, she took exception to my rant against the Italian Post Office: The main difference from Rome/south of Italy/big towns and the north of Italy are services: what I mean is that generally post offices work well in the north of Italy (like in my area: they are not crowed, “your number is relevant,” people are kind and helpful, and you can buy stamps!!). Wow, who knew?
In Chapter 7, I talk about “il giorno di riposo,” the traditional extra half-day where many businesses close in Italy. She outlined the normal standards for the North of Italy: Many shops close at lunch time: in the north of Italy they generally open from 8:30 to 12:30 and 15:30 (16 in summer) to 19:30. Prada, no! They are open from 10 to 19:30 every day and in Venice on Sundays, too. The “giorni di riposo” in my area are: Monday morning for clothing/shoes/accessories/bookshops, Wednesday afternoon for fruit/food shops.
In Chapter 14, I expounded on my adoration for the Italian custom of the aperitivo. In this one case, she didn’t tell me anything that I didn’t already know. She probably hasn’t read my article about Campari cocktails. I may not know everything, but I DO know about aperitivo! Still, she felt obliged to inform me that: The typical “aperitivo” in Veneto is “spritz” made from Prosecco, water and Aperol (or sometimes Campari). We eat “cicchetti” with it: a slice of bread with vegetables, prosciutto, salami, or fish.
I’d like to thank Daniela for taking the time to write to me and giving me yet another perspective on Italy and how to truly live like an Italian. Learning about this rich culture will always be an ongoing process, and I welcome all constructive input.
As I mentioned, Daniela operates a language school called JOYFULIT in the Veneto, in the province of Treviso. Her website is extremely informative, touching on topics ranging from local history, to food traditions, to the nuances of the Italian language. (I’ve been reading it myself lately to brush up on my Venetian history.) If you’re considering a language school experience in the north of Italy, have a look at her school and tell her that Rick sent you.
And again, if there’s anybody else out there who wants to contribute to this conversation, I invite all opinions, questions, and even criticisms. Please leave a comment below. Try to keep it clean and civil. Grazie!