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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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ROME

What are the best Rome neighbourhoods for international residents?

Whether you're moving to Rome for the first time or are looking for a new neighbourhood to live in, here are five of the best 'quartieri' for foreign nationals.

What are the best Rome neighbourhoods for international residents?

Testaccio

Testaccio is a historic working-class Roman neighbourhood that’s become increasingly popular among international residents in recent years.

It’s surrounded on two sides by the Tiber, meaning you can walk along the river into the centre of town; and has good transport links, as it’s right next to both Piramide metro and Ostiense train station.

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With its bustling food market and old-school Roman restaurants, Testaccio is a foodie haven, and you’ll often see food tours huddled around the market stalls nibbling on supplì and pecorino (though it’s mercifully otherwise relatively free of tour groups).

Testaccio's historic food market is a major draw.

Testaccio’s historic food market is a major draw. Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP.

At one point it was ancient Rome’s river port and a commercial hub, so you’ll also see interesting Roman ruins like Monte Testaccio, a little hill formed entirely of broken clay pots (a 2000-year-old trash heap) or historic archways that made up part of the old quayside.

Trastevere

Located just across the river from the city centre, Trastevere is one of Rome’s most picturesque neighbourhoods, with the characteristic cobbled streets, terracotta-coloured dwellings and draping vines that many foreigners think of as quintessentially Italian.

READ ALSO: Six things foreigners should expect if they live in Rome

That also means it’s extremely popular with tourists and foreign students, who throng its piazzas and labyrinthine alleys year-round.

There’s no shortage of restaurants and bars in which to while away lazy afternoons and evenings; in fact there’s little else, and you’ll have to do a bit of digging to find ordinary shops and services.

Trastevere is popular with tourists and students.

Trastevere is popular with tourists and students. Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP.

Its central location means Trastevere has less of a neighbourhood feel than somewhere like Testaccio, but if you’re looking for a buzzing area that’s just a short stroll from some of Rome’s most famous monuments, it could be the place for you.

Pigneto

If you’re moving to Rome but wish you were in Berlin, you might want to venture east of the centre to Pigneto, where the cool kids go.

Its grey apartment blocks and grungy aesthetic might not make it much to look at, but its cheap(ish) rents and refreshingly un-stuffy vibe are attracting increasing numbers of young people.

Pigneto makes up for in coolness what it lacks in beauty.

Pigneto makes up for in coolness what it lacks in beauty. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP.

Pigneto’s main strip of bars and restaurants, relatively quiet during the day, comes to life in the evenings and especially on weekends, when it turns into a vibrant party hub.

As well as having a fairly youthful population, the area is more of a cultural melting pot than many other parts of the city – though for a truly international experience you’ll want to go even further east to Tor Pignettara, where you’ll find some of Rome’s best non-Italian food.

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Monti

Just a few hundred feet from the Colosseum, Monti is practically in the city centre, though it’s still managed to retain its own distinctive personality.

It’s a trendy district where you’ll find a mix of stylish wine bars, chic restaurants, vintage clothing stores and high-end boutiques.

READ ALSO: ‘Why I used to hate living in Rome as a foreigner – and why I changed my mind’

Monti’s prime location means rents are high, and you’ll sometimes have to contend with crowds of tourists as you push your way to your front door.

But if you want to live in a fashionable and attractive neighbourhood that’s in Rome’s beating heart, you’d be hard pressed to find a better option.

Rome's trendy Monti district is a stone's throw from the Colosseum.

Rome’s trendy Monti district is a stone’s throw from the Colosseum. Photo by FILIPPO MONTEFORTE / AFP.

Prati

Heading to the northwest of the city centre, just east of Vatican City, sits the elegant residential and commercial district of Prati.

This neighbourhood’s broad avenues, attractive residences and upmarket shopping streets have historically made it preserve of upper-class Italians, many of whom work in surrounding offices or the several courthouses that fall within its boundaries.

Prati’s grid-like shape and heavily-trafficked roads mean it doesn’t have much of a neighbourhood feel, but it has plenty of sophisticated restaurants, cafes and bars.

It’s also just across the river from Villa Borghese, one of Rome’s largest and most attractive parks, with easy access to the world-class Galleria Borghese art gallery.

READ ALSO: Six essential apps that make life in Rome easier for foreign residents

Rome's Prati district is just across the river from leafy Villa Borghese.

Rome’s Prati district is just across the river from leafy Villa Borghese. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP.
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