8 Life Lessons We Learned from Italians

Everybody wants la dolce vita ("the good life"), but Italy has it down like no other country in the world. There’s endless everyday wisdom to be gleaned from this culture. Here, eight little lessons we’re bringing stateside.

13 Fabulous Free Things To Do In Italy


When In Public, Dress Like A Lady

In other words, leggings and a messy bun have no place in polite society. The Italian philosophy of keeping la bella figura, literally translates to “a beautiful figure,” means that life is better when you look better. Choose quality over quantity when it comes to clothing—buy only the best, take good care of it and wear it often. Shoes are also super important—they should be stylish, polished and practical. (See ya, ratty flip-flops.)


Wine Is Not For Getting Drunk

Wine is good. In fact, ample wine is good. But drinking to excess is majorly frowned upon—especially in public. So while ordering a liter of cheap, amazing wine at an Italian restaurant can be tempting, you’d be wise to refrain (for fear of judgment by your waiter and surrounding tables). Oh, and even though you can walk down the streets of Rome nursing a beer, don’t do it, OK?


Never Leave The House With Wet Hair

Or walk around barefoot...or forgo proper undergarments on a cold day. Neck pain will ensue, bringing any number of maladies along with it. Italians call this “suffering of the neck," or soffro di cervicale, and they avoid it at all costs.


Natural Heat Is Our Friend

On that note, air-conditioning is a rumored prompter of cervicale. So as much as they bemoan la guazza (extreme summer humidity), most Italians will always take a fan over AC. Or head to the seaside to cool off in the Mediterranean. Good luck finding ice cubes in Italy—drinks are fine lukewarm, say our Italian friends.


Pasta Doesn’t Make You Fat

Gorging yourself does. Unlike Americans, Italians are definitely not afraid of white carbs. From pizza to pasta to fresh bread, they don’t shy away from gluten—they just eat non-gargantuan portions and at a slower pace, and as a result, obesity is very rare. Cacio e pepe for dinner, anyone?


Drinks Belong In Real Cups

And food belongs on real plates. Aside from an errant slice of pizza, the American concept of “to-go” just doesn’t translate. Eating and drinking are occasions in Italy, and they should be treated with more respect than a flimsy paper cup. Un cappuccino to go? You may be charged extra for the cup—and silently judged.


A Salad Is Not A Dinner

Neither is a sandwich or, heaven forbid, a bowl of cereal. Going back to the “food is an occasion” concept, many Italians insist that a “hot dinner”(read: proper three-course meal) is a necessity at the end of the day. And on that note, in Italy it’s rude to wait to eat upon being served—no waiting for everyone else’s plates to arrive, guys.


"piano, Piano," People

Patience is a virtue, from eating meals to nurturing relationships to taking vacations. Ten-minute desk lunches? Swap them for a proper sit-down. And if you need a riposo, or to run errands afterward, go for it. The American phenomenon of burnout just isn’t the same in Italy. Refreshing? Sì.

Grace Beuley Hunt

Home Editor

From 2014-2019 Grace Beuley Hunt held the role of Home Editor covering interior design, styling, trends and more.
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