The words pasta, expressive, and romantic are often used to describe Italians. But do these words truly depict them? Below, native Italian and language teacher Nadia B. breaks down the 10 most common Italian stereotypes that are actually true…
Italy, the land of contemporary fashion, historical art and…men who adore their mothers, hand-gesturing enthusiasts, and gatherings about Dante?
While most Italian stereotypes are inaccurate–for example, all Italians are not mobsters and the men don’t look like Super Mario–there are a handful of stereotypes that hold some small kernel of truth.
Below are the 10 most common Italian stereotypes that are actually true.
1. Italians Can’t Live Without Pasta
Italians live for food–in particular pasta. In fact, Italians consume the most pasta in the world, averaging 60 pounds a year for every man, woman, and child in the country.
While most Americans cook dry pasta out of a box, Italians make pasta with precision from scratch. This dedication to quality plus the fact that Italians are the top consumers of pasta, makes Italy the champion of pasta.
2. Italians Talk With Their Hands
What if you could communicate with someone only through hand gestures? Well, in Italy, you can! Italians use hand gestures to enliven conversations, strengthen their point, and communicate on a non-verbal level.
There’s a running joke in Italy that you can understand a conversation that’s out of hearing range just from watching someone’s hand gestures. This endearing habit makes Italians some of the most expressive and passionate speakers in the world.
3. Italians are All About ‘La Famiglia’
Family is so important in Italy that you’ll find that many Italians either live close to their parents or in the same house. In fact, it’s common for adults in their 20’s and 30’s to live with their parents.
The ties that bind families together are undeniably strong. Families often gather weekly for a meal or stay in close contact. And yes, mamma rules the roost.
4. Italians are Habitually Late
Everything in Italy happens on its own timeline, including work and appointments. If you comment on someone’s tardiness, most Italians will tell you that they just wanted to stop for a coffee or smoke a cigarette before arriving, and that they were in fact on time–Italian time!
This relaxed mindset can also be seen on the streets, as most people walk at a relatively leisurely pace. While habitual lateness is viewed as a negative thing in the United States, in Italy it is a reflection of taking life slowly and appreciating the moment.
5. Italians are Die-hard Football Fans
Juventus, Milan, Inter—these are just a few of the most famous names you’ll hear being thrown around when Italians are discussing football. Italians take soccer very seriously, and when there’s a game on, all attention is directed toward it.
Italians can’t get enough of football because it’s a chance for them to unite with their local team and express their regional pride. Since Italy was first composed of individual regions, Italians mostly identify with their regional culture rather than with Italy as a whole.
6. Italians Love a Good Cappuccino
Breakfast in Italy is sacred. Unlike a typical American breakfast, which includes eggs, bacon, and toast, an authentic Italian breakfast usually includes a cornetto (similar to a croissant) and a cappuccino.
The quality of cappuccino in Italy, and coffee in general, is taken very seriously as well. Italians love the mix of coffee, milk and foam, and it’s an art in itself. Italians will travel blocks to find the best cappuccino.
7. Italians are Obsessed with Fashion
Like coffee, fashion is wildly popular in Italy. Just look at all of the famous designers that hail from Italy, including Prada, Armani, Versace…the list goes on. Italians feel an obligation to “fare la bella figura,” or appear nicely in all respects, and fashion is a big component of that.
While everything doesn’t have to be designer, Italians like to wear high-quality fabrics. Individualism is also valued in Italy, and men aren’t afraid to wear bright colors. In fact, don’t be surprised if you see men wearing orange, blue, or pink pants.
8. Italians arn’t Scared of Public Affection
Italians are no strangers to affection. In fact, it’s very common to see lovers embracing and kissing one another in public. What’s more, don’t be surprised to see two male friends expressing affection by walking closely together, perhaps with one arm across the other’s back for a few moments as they talk and stroll.
The warmth and outgoing nature of Italian culture encourages the expression of emotions, whether it’s crying, screaming, or showing affection. This is one of the reasons why Italians greet one another with the classic kissing of the cheeks.
9. Italians Love the Opera
A nation riveted by Puccini, Rossini and Bellini, Italians love the opera. Hordes of people attend outdoor performances in amphitheaters, and it’s not surprising to find people discussing their favorite opera composer or the last performance they saw.
Italians are very well-versed in opera and have strong opinions about the art form. Opera is similar to soccer in terms of its widespread appreciation, attendance, and passion. It also showcases the beauty of the Italian language, which is another reason why it is beloved throughout Italy.
10. Italians Can’t Get Enough of Dante’s Divine Comedy
Ask any Italian to recite the Divine Comedy and chances are they will be able to recite at least some, if not a substantial amount. Italians are required to dedicate a significant amount of time studying each part of the Divine Comedy—Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise.
Dante is idolized in Italy for writing in the most purest form of Italian, the Tuscan dialect. The famed poet is so popular you’ll find societies devoted to studying the medieval text.
Well, there you have it. Now that you know what Italians are truly like, you probably have even more admiration for this art-obsessed, stylish, and enthusiastic nation.