Everyone loves a taste of Italian culture, particularly if you get to enjoy it from a luxury villa in Tuscany with private pool. But what if you stayed longer, and even set down new roots?
Those who do, often find life starts to change in unexpected ways. We spoke to 4 expatriates who have fully embraced their new lifestyles, to see what they thought were the telltale signs you’re living life the Italian way.
You only use local produce
One of Italy’s assets is a wealth of local food markets. An excellent way to explore the delicacies is to try making them yourself, so you will probably find yourself in a kitchen a lot more often.
That means — as Gina Tringali of GT Food and Travel found — regular trips to the farmer, fishmonger and butcher:
“I couldn’t imagine living further than a 15 minute walk from a food market. This is something I hope to never live without. Fresh produce is available and accessible to most everyone in Italy. I know the farmers personally. These relationships are priceless.”
You’re drinking too much coffee
It is impossible to escape caffeine culture in Italy. Any meeting or even a brief chat is another opportunity for un caffè. Repeat visits to a cafe may edge you towards more elaborate items on the menu.
Even if you aren’t a coffee drinker before you arrive, you’ll soon know espresso from macchiato, as well as (crucially) which drinks to order where.
Your family ties get stronger
With long-lasting businesses passed from generation to generation, it isn’t hard to see that in Italy, family is the most important thing. We all like getting back in touch with home, but moving to Italy may spark a reconnection with relatives you’re used to hearing from only in holiday season.
“A part of Italian culture I’ve fallen in love with has been reconnecting with all of my relatives far and wide. People with just a drop of blood like yours in their veins treat you like, well... family! I love the big meals, the traditions, even just having some family over on an occasional Sunday,” explains expat blogger, Francesca Maggi.
You eat more, but snack less
Italians eat on a different schedule to the British, Americans and most Northern Europeans. Sitting down for dinner at 10pm may seem daunting, especially with the regular 4-course meals. But your body adjusts to bigger portions, and you find yourself cutting out between-meal snacks.
“I eat what I want in moderation. I don’t snack in between meals because my tastebuds are still talking about breakfast being buono for the best part of the day,” says Nicola Ferlei Brown, a Rome-based British fashion writer.
You develop a sweet tooth
With grander meals, you will definitely develop a taste for the sweeter side. Pastries, desserts, cakes and sweet breads like brioche are hard to refuse.
“The grapes and strawberries here taste like candy,” says expat attorney Elizabeth Knight, who writes Rome... If You Want To. “A slice of pecorino with honey makes me want to weep with joy. Calories? Probably, but I’m convinced it’s all healthier and it’s sure more delicious than the way I used to eat.”
You’re learning the lingo at every opportunity
On a visit to Italy, you can get by with just some common phrases. But if you’re staying longer, it’s best to embrace this lovely language. Intensive study can give you a crash course, and chatting with locals (even badly!) will help.
Another way to adapt is to watch TV shows you know… but in Italian. They’re all over Italian TV. A touch of familiarity, such as common locations or catchphrases, expands your vocabulary while you relax.
You have a tailored wardrobe
Not just local traders, but local institutions: expert retailers in Italy really know their stuff, nowhere more evident than in the exceptional fashion stores. The country is usually at the cutting edge of style, and living in Italy may see you ditch the clothes you brought in favour of custom-made alternatives.
“I wear more tailored clothing and more black than I did before moving. And when in the mood to dress up, I know that in Italy, less doesn’t mean more. Bring on the jewellery!” says Nicola Ferlei Brown.
Your emotions run free
Italians have a direct and vocal culture. The longer you stay, the more outspoken you’ll likely become. Not disruptive or unpleasant; merely adopting the Italians’ embrace of emotion and letting everything out. This is how they stay true to themselves and treat others with respect, rather than passively putting up with something for politeness’ sake.
“I like the way you can burst out emotions on a mobile phone whilst on a busy bus and no one will bat an eyelid,” says Nicola Ferlei Brown. “There’s something liberating about, for a while, at least, binning British de rigueur and politeness. Italians can’t hide their emotions, which isn’t always a bad thing.
On that note, watching the world go by in this town [Rome] is theatre.”