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LIVING IN ITALY

Eating well, driving badly, and daily naps: The habits you pick up in Italy

Moving to a new country always brings changes to your lifestyle and habits. But what are the most common habits people pick up after moving to Italy? We asked readers to tell us about the good, the bad, and the somewhat shameful.

Eating well, driving badly, and daily naps: The habits you pick up in Italy
Shopping at the weekly market has probably become essential if you've lived in Italy for any length of time. Photo by Matteo Badini on Unsplash

When we asked members of The Local’s Living in Italy group on Facebook about the habits they’d picked up since moving to the country, they had plenty to say about the subject.

Small, everyday things were the first changes many people mentioned. For example, some told us they now “pay for nearly everything in cash not plastic.”

READ ALSO: Ten things Italians do that make foreigners feel awkward

“In the UK I rarely carry more than £50 cash,” said one British resident of Italy. “Here (in Italy) I panic if that is all I have”.

While some described ditching their tumble driers and now “being able to dry my washing outside”, others reported becoming snappier dressers since moving to Italy, saying they now wear “nice shoes and hats”.

“And cardigans. Never owned a sweater in Texas,” said one reader.

Other new habits were more like survival skills, with one member reporting “learning to scan ahead for potholes” and a reader in Florence saying that they now look several times before crossing a road, advising: “Be very careful, no matter if the light is green, red, or orange”.

Food and drink

Perhaps unsurprisingly in a country famed for its cuisine, an awful lot of the new habits people reported centred around food.

Whether discovering new favourites, gaining a better appreciation for fresh and seasonal produce, or just making time for a ‘proper’ lunch, many people reported that their eating, drinking, and shopping habits had changed radically since moving to Italy.

A lot of you reported now eating later, drinking (only) wine and water with meals, and “having fruit trees and actually eating fruit”.

Some people said they’re now “drinking only bottled water” which is “unthinkable and an extra expense” in their home country, while others noted that they’ve “started eating pizza with a knife and fork”.

Another confessed: “I’m now an olive oil snob”.

READ ALSO: 17 ways your eating and drinking habits change when you live in Italy

Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

One American reader noted that the weekly shop had become daily – and looks very different here in Italy.

“While living in Florence with an Italian friend I learned to buy the food we were going to eat fresh pretty much every day,” she wrote. “It was funny listening to a group of Italian friends getting ecstatic over the seasonal crop of green beans.”

“I remember in one fancy deli watching a very plump green worm crawling out of a ripe tomato. Organic, obviously.”

READ ALSO: 15 things you might never need to get used to about living in Italy

Meanwhile, several people reported enjoying “eating an entire pizza by myself and it being considered normal,” and “wine every day with lunch and dinner”.

And many have swapped frothy coffees for black espresso and are now “taking multiple coffee breaks throughout the day, which is not considered lazy but essential“.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi drinks a coffee in parliament. Photo by Andrew Medichini / POOL / AFP

Pace of life

Many people move to Italy hoping for a change of pace and a better quality of life, and many of those commenting have found just that.

“I have a more relaxing and enjoyable life,” said one reader. “I live in more detail at reduced speed”.

Obviously lifestyles vary considerably depending on whether you’re working or retired, and where you live – few people would describe daily life in central Rome or Naples as relaxing – but still, many reported a reordering of their priorities, positive changes to their daily routines, and more enjoyment of life in general.

READ ALSO: Cheese, wine and family: the Italian way to live beyond 100

Many readers told us they’d been partaking in “three-hour lunch breaks” featuring a riposo (the Italian version of a siesta).

We all know lunch is of paramount importance in Italy, and having a lie down afterwards is not just for weekends and holidays. While obviously not every Italian does this (it’s pretty unusual in Milan, for example) plenty of readers reported that it’s normal where they live – and that they’ve enthusiastically embraced the concept themselves.

“I could never go back to the nine to five now. It doesn’t seem like a natural way to live,” commented one member of the group, adding that their employer allows two hours for lunch.

And others reported that they now go for a regular passeggiata, turning the act of taking a simple stroll into an elevated art form.

Perhaps all that good food and napping has something to do with it, but “having more patience” was something a lot of people mentioned.

READ ALSO: ‘Five ways a decade of living in Italy has changed me’

Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

Others told us they’re busy “drinking limoncello and enjoying life” and described “drinking more coffee, smoking, drinking more wine, dancing, playing music, and feeling better in general with what I have”.

Importantly, many said they were now “complaining less”.

Manners

Another trend seemed to be for foreign residents’ once-polished manners to deteriorate after moving to Italy.

“I now forget to say please and thank you when I’m at home in the UK, and I have responded to people speaking English with a “boh” which did not go down well,” said one reader.

And another said they now “point at people when talking to them – my mother would go crazy”.

READ ALSO: The ten things you’ll notice after moving to Italy from the US

Queuing has become a distant memory for some, who said they now barge right in along with the Italians, or “laugh at Brits in airports with their elbows out desperately trying to maintain their place in any queue”.

Bad habits

And of course no nation is perfect. Italians have their share of bad habits too, and many readers reported picking up some of these less admirable common characteristics themselves.

While swearing or shouting more and starting smoking again after previously kicking the habit back home were popular themes, driving was perhaps unsurprisingly the one area where readers have seemingly picked up the worst Italian habits.

One member said they were guilty of “driving like a lunatic”, and another admitted to “being an absolute asshole in traffic” – though many commenters empathised that this was an inevitable effect of driving on Italian roads.

And another reader confessed to “not taking traffic lights too literally when I’m in a hurry on my scooter”, which might just be the most stereotypically Italian habit of all.

Thanks to everyone who commented – we had some great responses!

How have your own habits changed – or not – since you moved to Italy? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.

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TOURISM

What you need to know about Italy’s free museum Sundays

Want to see the Colosseum or Michelangelo’s David for free? You can on Italy’s free museum Sundays.

What you need to know about Italy’s free museum Sundays

People across Italy will be able to visit museums for free once again this Sunday, August 7th, under the nationwide Domenica al Museo or ‘free museum Sundays’ scheme allowing ticketless entry on the first Sunday of every month.

First introduced in 2014, the offer was suspended during the coronavirus pandemic amid concerns about crowding but reinstated in April 2022.

READ ALSO: What to do in Rome this August

As tickets for major historical sites and museums in Italy often cost upwards of €15 per person, there are big savings to be made and the free Sundays scheme is understandably popular among both tourists and residents.

The remaining dates for the year are: August 7th, September 4th, October 2nd, November 6th, and December 4th.

Where can I go?

The scheme applies to hundreds of state-run museums, archaeological parks and monuments, including world-famous sites like the Colosseum, Pompeii, Florence’s Galleria dell’Accademia, the Reggia di Caserta and Trieste’s Miramare Castle.

The offer does not apply to sites that are run by local authorities rather than the state, though many cities run similar initiatives of their own.

READ ALSO: Nine ways to get into trouble while visiting Venice

Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

How do I book a free ticket?

In many cases you don’t need to and can simply turn up and walk in.

However, some venues such as Rome’s Galleria Borghese require advance booking, so it’s always wise to find the attraction’s website and check the rules before you go.

Are there any Covid restrictions?

Right now the Italian government does not have any health restrictions in place for museums.

The culture ministry recommends visitors wear masks, but this is no longer obligatory.

Individual venues – as well as local authorities – can however set their own requirements, so it’s another thing you may want to check before your visit.

Will museums be overcrowded?

This really depends on where you go. Italy most famous attractions always draw huge crowds in summer – free entrance or otherwise – while lesser-known spots or those outside the major tourist areas may be less chaotic.

But frankly, it’s likely to be busy in most places. The scheme was cancelled in 2019 (and then reinstated after a change of government) due to concerns about long queues and overcrowding – long before anyone had heard of Covid-19.

Some sites capped visitor numbers when the scheme was initially reinstated in spring but it’s unclear how many still do this.

What else should I know?

You can find a full list of the sites included and links to further information for each on the Italian culture ministry’s website here.

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