My passion for Italy goes way before I moved here for my Erasmus. Fortunately, I had the chance of visiting some Italian cities before and I already knew some Italian. Nevertheless, there’s nothing like living in a country to really get to know it’s culture better. So, after 6 months of living here, I feel officially ready to share with you some knowledge!
1- There are regional differences, but they are smaller than Italians like to make it look like
There are some cultural regional differences, which is not that surprising, given the fact that this is a relatively recent country (although they were the stage for ancient societies, they have only been unified in the XIX century). But this is not just about regional division, it’s really about defending their small communities. Even inside each region, people from different cities will point out the differences and defend their community above all. This is what they call “campanilismo”- that comes from “patriottismo” (patriotism), the strong feeling of attachment and pride for your own country. “Il campanello” is the bell of the church and, usually as this is a religious country, small communities gather together in the church. So, this is basically the phenomena of each individual being proud and defending their city and it’s traditions above all. In small dosages, this can be very healthy and positive for a community, but in large ones, it leads to the fragmentation of the country.
The thing is, even though there are differences, Italians have more in common than they like to admit. They have a common language, they all gesticulate a lot when they speak and, it doesn’t matter the region, they are all very proud of their cultural background.
I really wish they would point out less the differences and be prouder of their nation.
2- Each region has it’s own language/dialect
It’s a bit controversial if we can call those languages or dialects, so I’d rather not to make a choice here.
The dialects I know better are Napolitan and Veneto. They are very different. Napolitan sounds like Arabic and Veneto has much in common with the Portuguese language. And this is not more than just the reflex of the cultural backgrounds in each of those regions.
Italian was a made-up language created to unify this beautiful nation. It’s mostly similar to Florentinian dialect, but it is has a bit of all dialect put together in order to create a common identity. Nowadays, as everyone has to attend school, Italian is a language spoken by everyone (except for some autonomous regions like, for example, Trentino-Alto Ádige, where a big part of the population still speaks German as a first language).
In most of the regions, the local languages are getting out of use and most of young people don’t even know it. Nevertheless, there are some initiatives that intend to keep those languages alive as they are part of the local culture and in some places, like Naples, they are still widely spoken.
3- They are very dogmatic in the kitchen
This is a universal trait. They love their cuisine and there’s a right and wrong way to do anything.
And it’s interesting because I come from a country very proud of its cuisine, but we are open for some twists when cooking. Because of that, there are many different ways of doing the same recipe and they are all right.
But in Italy, no! And trust me, any time I share a recipe in my Instagram (and I always get my recipes from Italian websites), if I add any twist, Italians private message me. For example, recently I shared a carbonara recipe where it was suggested that you could aromatize some olive oil with garlic and use it to fry the bacon. I got more than one message telling me you don’t add garlic in carbonara. In Portugal, this would be perfectly acceptable. In here, no!
Another example is pizza with pineapple. Don’t even mention it to Italian people, they will get incredibly mad!
4- They love pistachio
This is one of the things I will miss when I leave – they have all kind of sweet products make of pistachio. In Portugal we only eat salty pistachio, so this was a surprise for me (but a good one).
I became a big fan of “crema di pistachio” – which is basically Nutella, but instead of hazelnuts, it’s made of pistachio. I spread in on everything – pancakes, bread, cookies. Delicious!!
But they have many other products made with pistachio like yoghurt, ice cream, liquor…
The thing that really changed my life was pistachio ice cream. My favourite flavour from now on.
5- There’s so much more than pasta and pizza
My friends back in Portugal think that I am eating pasta and pizza every day. Well… not only that’s not true, but I am also in a region where neither of those is typical. I am living in the Veneto region. For example, in here they eat less pasta and more rice and polenta. For the ones who don’t know, Polenta is a mix of corn flower, water and salt. It can be served in a more liquid way, or it can be pressed in something similar to a sausage that they slice and serve fried or grilled. I am not a big fan of polenta. But if you’re coming to this region, trying it is a must. You won’t find it anywhere else.
This region is also famous for the fish, especially fried fish. And, unlike polenta, I found it delicious. I tried some fried calamari in Venice that was amazing. Simple, but full of flavour. The only dish that got me disappointed was the “Baccalà Mantecato” (codfish cooked with milk). Sorry, but I prefer the Portuguese version of this – “Bacalhau com Natas” – it’s much tastier. But, again, as Baccalà Mantecato is one of the most famous dishes in Venice and, because of that, I think it’s worth the try.
But you can find many other delicious dishes all over the country like ragù (each region has it’s own), piadina, cotoletta…. And I’m not even gonna start with the sweets… Those I leave for another post.
This was my first post telling you some things I learner during my Erasmus here in Italy.
I hope you enjoyed. Would you add anything? Just comment bellow!