Father explaining at the pool cartoon

21 weird things Italians do that no one warns you about

Italian culture is unique, and there are some things that might seem strange to you if you are visiting Italy for the first time. Here are a few things to know before your trip to avoid awkward moments:

1. Don’t order a cappuccino after midday

Italians usually have a cappuccino for breakfast, not later in the day. If you want coffee after lunch, try ordering an espresso instead.

2. Only drink chamomile tea when you’re sick

In Italy, people only drink chamomile tea when they don’t feel well. And if you order one, they will ask how you feel. Thus, Chamomile’s for sickness only.

3. Wait two hours after eating to go swimming

Italians believe that plunging into the pool or sea to go swimming right after eating can be bad for digestion.

Father explaining near the pool cartoon

4. Don’t eat or drink on the go

Meals are important in Italy, and people prefer to sit down and take their time eating.

5. Avoid sitting with your back to the door

Yeah, this one sounds strange! Italians believe that a draft can hit your neck or throat and make you sick, so they try to avoid sitting near doors or with their back facing the door.

6. Don’t go outside with wet hair

Wet hair and the cold air can make you sick, so make sure to dry your hair before leaving the house.

7. Don’t break spaghetti before cooking it

Wait until it softens a bit and then push it into boiling water with a spoon.

8. Don’t put ketchup or pineapple on pasta or pizza

Do you want to avoid people staring at you? No ketchup or pineapple on pasta or pizza.

9. If you want to pay your bill at a restaurant, you have to ask for it

After you finish your meal you may be waiting for the bill. But waiters won’t bring it to you automatically because it’s seen as rude. Eating is an important part of Italian culture and people like to savor their meals without being interrupted.

10. Most Italian homes have a bidet in the bathroom

It is used to wash different parts of the body after going to the toilet.

11. Don’t put money directly into someone’s hand when paying or receiving change

Put the money on a tray near the cash register instead. In Italy, people usually pay with cash, and not everyone expects a tip.

12. Italians like to show affection and closeness through physical contact

Physical affection, like hugging and kissing the cheek, is popular among Italians. This is common even among men.

13. Quick espresso

When it comes to coffee, Italians take their espresso quickly and usually don’t sit down to enjoy it.

14. Some Italians peel the skin off their fruits and vegetables before eating them

Yeah, I also agree with what you are thinking. Why do they do that? The skin has most of the nutrients.

15. Phone greetings

In Italy, when you answer the phone, you say “Pronto?” (which means “ready”) to let the person on the other end know you are ready to talk. 

16. Manners for entering a room

When you enter someone’s home or a store, you say “Permesso?” (which means “permission”) as a way of asking if you can come in. It’s a way of being polite.

17. Food talk

Food is very important in Italy and people talk about their next meal often. It will not be strange to hear Italians talking about what they’re going to eat for lunch during breakfast, for example. Food is a big part of Italian culture and a way for people to bond.

18. Late supper

Supper in Italy is usually eaten late, around 7:30 pm or 8 pm on weekdays and 8:30 pm on the weekends. In southern Italy, supper can start as late as 9:30 pm or 10 pm during the summer months. This is because people like to relax for a while before cooking or eating and because it’s too hot to eat outside before sunset.

19. Store hours

In Italy, stores are closed after lunch (12 pm or 1 pm) and reopen after 3 pm or 4 pm. This is because people used to live close to where they worked and could go home for lunch.

20. Dressing up

Italians pay attention to their appearance and dress nicely whenever they leave the house. Women and adults pay extra attention to their outfits, while teenagers and young adults might dress more casually. Fashion is a big part of Italian culture.

21. Birthday celebrations

If you’re celebrating your birthday in Italy, you will be expected to pay for your guests. Huh, it’s sure good to know this one beforehand!

These are just a few of the fun facts and cultural quirks you’ll experience in Italy. When are you planning to travel? I wish you the very best! Are you also interested in learning a bit of the Italian language to chat with locals? Click here to try out a course for free.

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10 Comments

  1. What a simple and interesting article to understand Italian Culture for foreigners – traveling to Italy or not.

    Not sitting with the back to the door has some fascinating stories behind it. I have heard that from some of my Italian friends. Also, if the visitors are male and female, the male is the one that should take the seat facing the door! I just wanted to add what I have heard about that.

    And I had an experience when the Chef was horrified when I put the ketchup on the Pizza while in Italy- he immediately came out to check whether the food was ok!

    1. Thanks for adding and confirming some of these points with your personal experience. It’s great to hear from you!

  2. Every culture has its customs and beliefs. And it’s nice to have a list of the strange things we may find Italians doing even before going to Italy. I was aware of several of them. But I did not know they only drink chamomile tea when they are sick. It’s good to know in advance before my trip!

  3. As an Italian-American, I loved this post! I learned so much more about my culture and the unique things that happen in it. I did not know about chamomile tea. Also, I did not know that they wait awhile for swimming (since they believe its not good for digestion). Also, I did not know that you ask to enter a storefront by saying “Permesso?”.

  4. Hey, I am such a fan of Italy. It’s on my bucket list, and this is perfect for me to know what to do and not do when I go. I love how they say pronto as hello. That would be a cool thing to try out. I also love how they celebrate food. And it makes sense with how delicious their food is.

  5. Thank you for this insightful article.

    It’s always a good idea to be well-versed with the culture of a country before you visit, that can save you a lot of trouble and awkward situations.

    I’m a big fan of number 9: It doesn’t feel particularly great when a waiter brings me the bill before I ask for it, it seems like the restaurant is asking me to leave. I would much rather have to ask for the bill.

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