This blog post was updated on October 10, 2018.
Gaining cultural insight into a place usually involves living with locals. After staying with an Italian host family for several months, I picked up on some everyday customs a tourist just passing through the country might not know. There is something to be said for superstitions in toasting at dinner and adorning gloves at the grocery store. Borrowing from the Italians, travelers from all around the world may end up luckier, healthier, more stylish, cleaner, and yes, even richer by abiding by these Italians customs.
No Toasting With Water: At nightly dinners with my host dad and my host mom, if I drank water, the duo would refuse to toast me. In Italy, toasting with water and wine is considered bad luck. In essence, you never mix water with wine at the dinner table. Don’t tempt the gods and go for the stronger stuff.
Shoes In The House: Wander around an Italian household without shoes and expect to be scolded. The opposite of some Asian cultures, Italians believe it is unsanitary to go barefoot in the house. Not even in my host mom’s most relaxed, soap opera watching state did she ever take off those shoes.
Dress For The Season Not The Weather: Once the calendar turns to fall, winter, spring or summer, Italians take note when it comes to their dress. On September 1st in Florence, suddenly residents pull out the jackets and long pants. The weather may not have changed yet, but the calendar says its time to be in style for the season.
What’s Air Conditioning And Heat?: While Italians have both air conditioning and heat, they don’t generally believe in using them. Due to expensive costs for energy, Italians tend to go green when it comes to heating and air conditioning. Instead of turning up the heat, Italians put on a sweater. Throughout hot Italian summers, Italians just learn to deal without air-conditioning. As both are expensive, going a bit more Italian wherever you are just may save some extra cash.
Grocery Store Gloves: Italians may be trashy in terms of street cleanly, but when it comes to the supermarket, gloves must be worn. Picking out fruit and vegetables, shoppers must adorn plastic gloves to pick out their produce. You will receive a true Italian stare down if you reach for that Sicilian peach with a bare hand. Then again, you may go home without a cold due to those gloves.