Italy is home to more than 62 million individuals. It is the 23rd country by population in the world. But Italian culture has spread all over the world. When you think of Italian Culture facts, you think of coffee, pizza, pasta, and mafia. But Italy is more than these terms.
The culture of Italy is steeped in the arts, family, architecture, music, and food. As the home of the Ancient Roman Empire, Italy has been a major center in the world throughout history. That includes the period of Renaissance, Baroque, Classicism, and more.
More than 96% of the population in the country is Italian. But there are also ethnicities like Italo-Albanian, Albanian, German, Austrian, North African Arab, and other European groups.
The official language in the country is Italian and 93% of the population speaks it. In Italy, you can find many dialects of the language. You might not even understand people in different areas of the country. Popular Italian language dialects include Sardinian, Neapolitan, Sicilian, Ligurian, Venetian, and Calabrian.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the Italian cultural facts for tourists and visitors.
Family Life in Italy
Family is the most important value within the Italian culture. If you have ever seen any Italian mafia movie, you know it is all about family. That was the central part of the Godfather, but also other movies.
Family solidarity is focused on the extended family rather than the Western world’s understanding of the nuclear family.
Italians have frequent family gathering nights and enjoy spending time with others in the family. Children are expected to stay close to their families in adulthood. They are also expected to incorporate their future family into the larger network.
Yes, we also have to note that family life is more important in southern Italy than in northern Italy.
Taking Care Of The Elderly
Speaking about family and family values, taking care of the elderly is a must. It is on the same level as in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese cultures. Italy is statistically old-aged.
But Italians hold elderly people in a position of respect and value their history and knowledge. They often rely on them for help. Young people take pride in taking care of the elderly.
Holidays Are A Huge Part Of Italian Culture
If we want to talk about Italy facts, we have to mention the many holidays. Italians celebrate most Christian holidays. For example, the celebration of the Epiphany, celebrated on January 6th, is a celebration similar to Christmas. During this celebration, Befana, an old lady flying on her broomstick delivers presents to good children.
Another important holiday is Pasquetta, the Monday after Easter. This holiday tradition involves a family picnic to mark the beginning of springtime.
November 1st is Saints Day. It is another religious holiday during which Italians decorate the graves of deceased relatives with flowers.
In Italy, it is customary for towns and villages to celebrate the feast day of their patron. Almost every city and village has its own patron saint.
Last, but not least, Italians celebrate April 25 as Liberation Day. It marked the 1945 liberation ending of World War II in Italy.
They Love To Argue
This might be the best fun fact about Italy.
Talk to any Italian, and you are in for an argument. Italians love to argue. It is as simple as that. When they argue, they love to make the signature Italian finger gesture. In the English language, we refer to it as pinched fingers or finger purses.
In Italian, it is mano a Borsa. The gesture is meant to express disbelief at what the other person is saying and ridicule their opinion.
The hand gesture is common in the South, but arguing is common in all of Italy. Simply put, Italians love to argue for the sake of arguing. They can argue for topics like politics, soccer, and food.
Work is a very important part of life in Italy. Italians have always been hard-working people. Yes, they are known for their dolce far niente, which translates to pleasant idleness and Bella vista, good life, lifestyle.
And if you want to know how important work is, read the Italian Constitution. The first article states “Italy is a democratic republic founded on work.”
Work Is Family
Speaking more about work habits and work culture, at work, Italians tend to recreate a family-type group. Work and family are everything for Italians. During work, they often indulge in gossip, fun times, entertainment, empathy, and community.
Italians try to carry out their tasks with a smile on their face. And they do not mind mixing work with pleasure.
While in the Western world, especially in the US, visiting friends is not a common practice, in Italy, it is customary. Italians enjoy visiting friends, family, and neighbors. And you do not need a special invitation or schedule for that.
Visiting is more common on holidays and on Sundays.
When you think of Italian food, you might think of pizza. But it is not the only staple in Italian cuisine. We have to note, that Italian breakfast is very light. Yes, breakfast is important, but it is usually a light meal. Italian breakfast consists of a cup of coffee and a roll.
Lunch is the main meal in Italy, and sometimes it can go on for hours. In Italy, dining is not just about food and nourishment, it is about pleasure, indulgence, and being with loved ones.
A traditional Italian lunch is a five-course meal. It consists of an Appetizer or antipasto, first course or primo, second course or Secondo, side dish or contorno, and dessert or Dolce. When you order pizza, the five-course meal goes out of the window. You eat only pizza.
What Coffee To Drink In The Morning?
If you have ever been to Italy, you know people might look at you strangely for ordering coffee. There are some rules for ordering coffee in Italy. As we said before, the morning in Italy begins with breakfast, consisting of a pastry and milky coffee.
The morning coffee ritual includes either cappuccino, latte macchiato, or caffe latte. Cappuccino is equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and foamed milk. Caffe latte is espresso with more steamed milk and less foam. And latte macchiato is steamed milk marked with a splash of espresso.
If you want to look and act like an Italian, do not order any of these drinks after 11 am. Italians enjoy milky coffee only in the morning, never in the afternoon. And never after a meal.
Going Out For Coffee
The Italian saying is “Prendiamo un caffe”, translating to let’s go get a coffee. It is appropriate anytime. “Caffe normal” in Italy is simply an espresso, which is a small but strong shot of black coffee.
Fun fact: If you want to blend in, do not order caffe doppio. Yes, it is a double shot of espresso, but it is not a typical drink in Italy. If you need more caffeine, just visit your favorite coffee shop multiple times per day.
How To Eat Pizza Like An Italian?
Let’s talk about Italian food facts. Here is another Italian tradition. There is a right way to eat a Neapolitan-style pizza. For starters, pick up your fork and knife as soon as the hot pizza gets to your table. Waiting for the pizza to cool down is considered an insult to the pizza maker.
Slice a triangular slice of pizza if it hasn’t been pre-cut. Cut off the pointed end of that slice and eat. Work your way up toward the crust, cutting off bite-size pieces.
When the pizza has cooled down and only a small portion of your slice remains, it is acceptable to pick it up and eat it. You should not fold the slice. In Italy, folded pizza is actually known as calzone, and you should eat even that with a fork and knife.
What About Italian Pasta?
How do Italians serve and consume pasta? Here are more Italian food facts. On the Italian peninsula, an Italian dish is served on the verge of being done, which is al dente. After cooking the Italian pasta on the verge of being done, restaurants drain it and add the pasta to the hot sauce until it is ready to serve.
This is the best way to consume an Italian meal. Any Italian restaurant will serve pasta this way.