In seven days I visited Rome, Venice, Bologna, Florence, Siena, Naples, and Pompeii. While I did not get a chance to stay very long in these cities, I think I got a pretty good taste of the Italian culture.
Coffee. I forced myself to try Italian coffee (actually espresso, there is no “coffee”) because I’m not a big fan of coffee’s bitter taste, but I was amazed that there was no such taste in the cappuccino’s I tried. Very little sugar was needed. It went down smooth and there was no coffee breath where you needed “After Coffee Chewing Gum”. To make sure that my conclusion was accurate, I grabbed a cappuccino from Starbucks a day after my return. I couldn’t finish it – it had an extra bitter and burnt taste. Once you have the coffee in Italy, you can’t possibly drink it here.
Food. The food portions are much smaller in Italy; there was only one instance in which I was full and that was when I gorged on an entire pizza. Their breakfast consists of pastries (no mega-omelettes or cooked pig), and their lunch is usually small panini sandwiches with an espresso, though dinners are more filling if you get multiple courses. They just don’t have the dense fat-laden foods that we have here, so when I arrived back home the first thing I did was eat a huge greasy burger with bacon and fries. Being full is an American thing.
English. Italian people do not speak very good English. It got to the point where if I was talking to someone who did speak it well, it was a guarantee that they were from a different country. An American over there told me that Italians feel that if they learn English, they will be lowering their culture’s value.
Traffic. After renting a scooter in Siena (tame traffic by big city standards), I must conclude that Italian drivers are maniacs. They never yield unless you make that bold “if you don’t stop we’re going to crash” move. It’s like everyone plays a game of chicken, even pedestrians. To cross a road as a pedestrian in Italy, you need to step out in traffic with confidence and act like you assume they will stop. The smaller roads near city centers are shared by parked cars, pedestrians, bicycles, scooters, cars, and city buses, in a space no wider than two small lanes. People break almost every type of road law (especially the scooters), except red light running.
History. It must be hard for an Italian not to be influenced by the thousand year old monuments and ruins that surround them. Conservation is a big deal, so it is rare to see new buildings in city centers. There are few skyscrapers. I have a feeling that holding on to this past prevents them from making quick changes for the future, for their city layouts are not very conducive to capitalist efficiency. Regardless, their cities have character that ours don’t. You can tell planning went into their cities to make each building harmonious with its surroundings.
Style. Now I know where the term “Euro Trash” comes from. A popular uniform among teenagers were baggy jeans tucked into sneakers with a huge puffy jacket that had nonsensical writing or random flags on it. (I once saw “Camp Elliot California” on the shirt of some hipster doofus.) Most twenty-something Italians dressed well but not considerably better than Americans. They were very content with going to a fancy club in simple clothing, and it appears that they do not put in the effort that Americans do. I didn’t see any Coach bags or A|X shirts. Italians simply don’t have our unhealthy obsession with name brands. It’s as if they don’t care too much about impressing other people. For instance in the U.S. on cold nights you will often see girls in their tiny tops freezing their ass off so they don’t have to wear a coat to ruin their outfit. But in Italy the weather was only brisk and every girl wore a coat. There were also no fancy cars in Italy (you only see the occasional old guy in a BMW or Audi), no big rims, no iPods, and no huge car sound systems. It makes us look like we’re trying to overcompensate for something by spending money on ridiculous things.
Nightlife. I feel like the Italians are a little behind the curve on this one. It seemed that they are trying to copy the clubs that we have here, but you know what they say about duplicating success. There are some nice Italian nightspots, but nothing groundbreaking.
Women. No question, Italian women are hotter than American women. Except for their apparent lack of booty, they are simply better than American girls. Much thinner, better skin tone, eyes, lips, etc. But what’s interesting is that they are just as snobby as American girls. Plus, they don’t prize Americans, and view us as idiotic, fat tourists in general. Here’s a handy-dandy chart that breaks it down:
|American Girls||Italian Girls|
As you can see from the chart, Americans girls only excel at their sexual features, confirming that they are good for sex and not a whole lot more.
Other things I noticed:
-Italian McDonalds are ghost towns.
-Little kids sound very cute with their developing Italian accent.
-Florence is tourist hell.
-Baggy jeans, scarfs, and nerd glasses were very popular with the girls. And not emo glasses, but serious nerd glasses: thick and clear colored.
-Italy has a big graffiti problem, especially in Naples (which also has a trash and feral dog problem).
-Soda water is sold right next to normal water, and is just as popular.
-No smoking in public places, country-wide.
-Bartenders give almost no ice in mixed drinks. A popular Italian cocktail I tasted (sweet vermouth, Campari, and soda water with an orange wedge) was absolutely awful (ditto to pizza with anchovies).
-Eating pizza twice a day is normal.
-The natives like rolling their own cigarettes.
-Old people (over 60) stay out past midnight to participate for evening strolls.
-African men have cornered the market in counterfeit purses and belts in both the U.S. and Italy.
-Loitering is a natural past-time. Italians have wonderful squares to hang out in. We have squares infested with homeless people and urine stench.
-People-wise, Italy is nearly not as diverse as the U.S.
-In a land of thin people, I did not see one gym.
In conclusion, I think Italy is a wonderful country. There is a lot to do and see, but one must know the language to really be able to participate in Italian society.