An insight into Italian stereotypes
Spaghetti, mafia, musical accent, gestures, romantic, loud, fashion, chaos - these are all words often used to describe Italians. How much truth is there in the stereotype? By Nicoletta Di Bartolomeo
What you need to consider when tipping in Italy
Italians aren’t big tippers, and it isn’t usual to tip all and sundry. Many people don’t tip taxi drivers, porters, hotel staff, car park attendants, cloakroom staff, shoeshine boys and cinema ushers, although you can give a small tip if you wish or, in the case of taxi drivers, round up the fare to the next euro or say ‘keep the change’ (
tenga il resto).
Traditions and habits
All countries have peculiar social customs and Italy is no exception. As a foreigner you’ll probably be excused if you accidentally insult your host, but you may not be invited again.
A Christian country
Italy is a Christian country, some 88 per cent of the population belonging to the Roman Catholic church, although only around a third of these regard themselves as ‘active’ in religious terms.
Who are the Italians?
The population of Italy was around 59.5m in early 2007, roughly the same as the UK and France, with a population density of almost 200 inhabitants per km2, which makes Italy the fifth most densely populated country in Europe, after the Benelux countries and the UK.
Carabinieri, state police and local police
There are various police (
polizia) forces in Italy, most of which are armed (some even brandish machine guns). All police come under the Ministry of the Interior, apart from the
carabinieri, which come under the Ministry of Defence in certain matters.
President, parliament, political parties and elections
Italy was a monarchy from its unification in the second half of the 19th century until 1946, when it became a parliamentary republic following a national referendum.
Burglary, theft and organized crime
The crime rate in Italy varies considerably from region to region but is generally around average for Europe. Violent crime is rare in most areas, although muggings do occur in resort areas and cities.
What you should know
The library structure in Italy is generally poor and nowhere near as good as those of the UK and US. Libraries are likely to be small, rather inefficiently run places, where locating a book can take weeks rather than minutes.
Menus, wine, rating and prices
This guide provide us a lot of information about eating in italian restaurants.
You will find tips on Italian cuisine and eating habits and moreover a small part on the specifications of each typical Italian restaurant and their prices.
Going out in Italy
The foreign custom of ‘going out for a drink’ isn’t particularly popular in Italy, where most people consume alcohol only with meals, although many Italians have a
grappa or brandy with their morning coffee.
General information and tips
Italians are gregarious by nature and their lifestyle revolves almost exclusively around socialising. All towns and cities are constructed around squares (
piazze), where people meet and congregate, particularly in the evenings.
Plenty of opportunities
Like most people Italians aren’t averse to placing the odd wager, and there are plenty of opportunities (but, alas, little chance) to win millions of euros on the weekly state lottery, which also offers many smaller prizes.
History and programming
Italy has one of the healthiest film industries in Europe and has produced many great film directors, including Bernado Bertolucci, Federico Fellini, Vittorio Gassman, Sergio Leone and Luchino Visconti, as well as actors and actresses such as Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida and Marcello Mastroianni.
An introduction to Italian music
Italians are great lovers of classical and popular music (as well as opera – see above). The country has produced many great classical composers, including Donizetti, Monteverdi (the father of modern opera), Puccini, Rossini, Scarlatti, Verdi and Vivaldi.
Cultural offers in Italy
Opera and theatre are the quintessential Italian art form – they were invented in Italy – and Italy has the world’s most demanding fans, who have even been known to boo Pavarotti when he has an off-day!
Bellini, Botticelli, Canaletto, da Vinci, Donatello, Giacometti, Giotto, Michelangelo, Palladio, Raphael, Tintoretto, Titian ... of all the European nations, Italy has made the greatest contribution to painting and sculpture, and the country’s fragmented political history has led to a rich regional diversity in the arts.
Time to party
Like all southern Europeans, Italians use any excuse to take a holiday and all cities, towns and villages stage an annual festival (
festa), often lasting several days.
The Italian National Tourist Board, Ente Nazionale Italiano di Turismo/ENIT, Via Marghera, 2–6, 00185 Rome (06-49711, www.enit.it), is responsible for planning and promoting tourism.
How Italians eat
Here's a quick guide on Italian eating habits