‘Italians welcome you with open arms’

Amy Lucinda Jones moved from Worcestershire, in the UK, to Puglia to teach English. Having studied German at university, she didn't speak the language but says the local community, and their food and festivals, made her feel at home.

'Italians welcome you with open arms'
Amy Lucinda Jones teaches English in Puglia.

Having studied German at university and lived there for a year, how does Italy compare in terms of expat life?

Italy is definitely more relaxed and laid back, but I did like the punctuality and efficiency that you can find in Germany. Trains that ran on time were fantastic! In terms of communicating, living in Germany could be said to be a little easier, especially at the beginning, as in general Germans speak very good English. But both Germans and Italians seem to appreciate it if you have a go and speak to them in the local lingo.

I personally prefer Italian food, but German bread is exceptional. With both Italian and German locals, I found it a little difficult at first, as neither nationality opens up to you immediately. But once you get to know the people, they are very accommodating. In southern Italy there is also a very strong sense of family; less so in Germany.

What do you miss most about life in the UK?

Well, I can safely say that I don’t miss the weather… I have to say that, apart from my family and friends, there are few things that I really miss. Although when I’m occasionally back in the UK, I do a big shop at all the great high street shops because where I live in Italy, there aren’t that many. Secretly I also miss food such as pork pie and crumpets too!

Are you learning much about the Italian cuisine of the region? 

I am definitely learning through eating, yes! Down here in Puglia the food is fresh and simple, and it’s absolutely delicious. Specialities include orecchiette (ear shaped) pasta, ridiculously good olive oil, tasty tomatoes, potato pizza and torcinello, which is a special sausage made from all sorts of lamb innards!

Have you experienced any local traditions or festivals specific to southern Italy?

Each town here has their own patron saint festival, and in this part of the country, people celebrate by eating, listening to live music, holding processions and perhaps most importantly, setting off fireworks.

I don’t live far from San Severo, which has its festival during May. The fireworks here are nothing short of incredible…but also incredibly dangerous! Aside from the danger of being hit by a passing banger, these festivals are great because the whole town comes together and there is a real sense of community. 

What is southern Italy like in the winter?

Quite cold actually. It’s a few degrees warmer than the UK during the winter, and doesn’t get too much rain, but it’s still rather chilly. People don’t tend to go out so much, preferring to stay at home in the evening, or head out to a nice cosy restaurant. As soon as the Spring hits however, everyone comes to life again!

And what is it like coping with the hot summers?

I’m actually starting to get used to the hotter weather during the summer. If it’s between about 28 and 35 degrees C, I’m fine. When the temperature starts creeping up towards 40 however, I seek out the nearest place with air conditioning. Some nights it’s almost impossible to sleep; I think that’s the worst thing about the really hot periods.

The evenings can be wonderful though, as everyone sits outside at bars and restaurants or takes an evening stroll through the park or town centre. 

Southern Italy is traditionally seen as more family and community orientated than the north, so what are your tips for settling in and winning over the locals?

Just get involved. There is definitely a huge sense of community here, and while people may be wary of you at first, seeing as you are an ‘outsider’, if you demonstrate that you are willing to become part of the community they will welcome you with open arms.

People here only speak a little English, so it’s wise to get to know some of the language before you arrive. If you can communicate, you can get to know people, and experience real southern Italian hospitality. 

Do you think foreigners have misconceptions about life in Italy? Did any aspects surprise you when you arrived?

People say that the food is great…and this is definitely true. They also claim that Italians aren’t punctual and don’t know how to queue…also true! But for anyone who thinks that the only language that people speak is Italian, unfortunately this isn’t the case. Every town, even ones that are only 10km apart, has its own dialect. It’s often similar to Italian, but not always. I didn’t have a clue about this when I arrived, so I did get a little confused! 

Do you plan to stay in Italy long-term, or move on somewhere else? 

Currently, I think I can see myself living here for a while yet. I love the lifestyle, the weather and the food, and my Italian is gradually getting better. But I’ve always been a keen traveller and often experience a great deal of wanderlust, so who knows!

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Antipasto to amaro: What to expect from every step of an Italian dinner

Whether you're going out to dinner in Italy or have been invited to over to a friend or extended family member's home, here's what to expect from an Italian meal.

Antipasto to amaro: What to expect from every step of an Italian dinner

More humble and less fussy than French cuisine, Italy’s cucina povera (literally, ‘kitchen of the poor’) tradition employs minimal ingredients, prioritising fresh local produce over complex techniques.

But while it might not be as elaborate and formal as its Gallic counterpart, an Italian dinner is still traditionally a multi-course affair, often stretching over several leisurely hours and involving various stages.

If you’re invited into an Italian home for lunch or dinner, you’re likely to find it a fairly relaxed occasion that may include all or just some of the courses listed below – though you can expect it to be lengthy and copious.

As in many other countries, it’s polite in Italy to bring a bottle of wine or dessert to dinner in someone’s house; if in doubt, ask what your hosts would like.

Without further ado, here’s what you can expect from a full Italian dinner.


The antipasto (‘before-meal’) is the starter course.

Its remit is pretty broad, and might include anything from bruschetta to salad to a cheese or meat platter. If you’re in someone’s home, you might be served olives or savoury snacks such as taralli.

While you’ve probably heard of the tradition of the pre-dinner aperitivo drink and snack, this is separate from the dinner itself, and usually takes place in bars or cafes rather than in restaurants or homes.

READ ALSO: Reader question: What time do people eat dinner in Italy?

Primo piatto

A primo is a carb-based dish: almost always pasta, though it could also be risotto, gnocchi or polenta.

In line with the cucina povera, which describes the make-do cooking of poverty-stricken rural Italy in decades gone by, this dish serves to fill the diner up before moving on to a smaller (more expensive) protein course.

Because of this, while you might find small amounts of meat or fish in Italian primi in the form of guanciale in your carbonara or minced beef in your ragù sauce, you won’t be served large quantities of meat with your primo.

Polpette, or meatballs, are a separate second course, and you’ll never come across a chicken-based pasta dish in Italy.

READ ALSO: OPINION: Why do Italians get so angry if you mess with classic recipes?

Secondo piatto

The secondo is, as its name suggests, your second main dish – usually meat or fish, though most restaurants will offer at least one vegetarian option in the form of something like an aubergine parmigiana.

If you want to round it out, you can order one or more contorni – side plates of salad or vegetables.

Italian restaurants will provide both primo and secondo options, but these days most places won’t expect you to order both, and it’s fine for one person to order a primo and the other a secondo to arrive at the same time.


Once the secondo is over, it’s time for dessert.

The type of dolce you’re offered will likely vary depending on region, but the list commonly includes cantucci biscuits to be dipped in vin santo dessert wine, panna cotta, a crostata tart, and, of course, tiramisù.

If you’ve got a hankering for gelato, you’re probably best off heading out to one of the many gelaterie that populate the piazzas and streets Italian towns, where you’ll have access to a wide range of flavours.

READ ALSO: The must-try foods from every region of Italy


Next comes the caffè, which in Italy is an espresso – definitely not a cappuccino or caffè latte, which are strictly breakfast drinks, though you might get away with asking for a splash of milk and making yours a caffè macchiato.

It might seem unwise to consume caffeine at the end of the evening, but you can always order a caffè decaffeinato (usually shortened to deca), and its effects are at any rate tempered by what follows:


At the very end of the night, you’ll likely be offered a bitter amaro liqueur or some other spirit-based digestivo (some restaurants will bring these for free along with the bill).

This could also be a distilled liquor grappa, or if you’re further south, a sweet limoncello.

Taken straight after or along with your coffee, these after-dinner drinks are known in Italy as an ammazzacaffè – literally, a coffee-killer, for its dampening effect on the caffeine.

Congratulations, you’ve made it to the end of an Italian meal! Now you just have to roll yourself off your chair or sofa and make your way home, where you’ll spend a good portion of the following day digesting your meal.