I must admit, every time I visit Italy I secretly wish I was born Italian. They are so good at living, and life, and style- somehow, everything they touch seems to be delicious and look amazing. Somehow, la vita is so damn bella in this country. Their passion, love of life and vivaciousness is famous the world around, and for good reason.
So because I don’t condone the kind of travel where you view the Colosseum from your huge tourist-packed bus, I thought I’d give you a few pointers on how to fit in like a real Italian for your trip to the ever charming and character-filled Italia.
When conversing, get close and get touchy
Italians have a very small personal bubble, and will tend to talk closer to one another than most northern Europeans and Americans, and you’ll also find that they are more apt to touch in conversation- don’t read into this, it isn’t flirting they’re simply conversing. So although personal space is something that’s hard to consciously work on because it’s so engrained in us, try to be truly Italian by not backing away when it seems like your new Italian friend has gotten a little too close to you. Stand your ground and get comfortable with the closeness.
Turn on your hand flailing
This is a classic observation of visitors to Italy- the Italians use their hands like orchestra conductors during conversation. And really, why not, it makes sense to put your hands (and arms, and entire body at that) to good use to accentuate whatever it is that you’re saying. A lot of this can be very innate and natural and you don’t necessarily have to study an Italian Gesture Book to get it right. But in case you decide to go all out, here’s a great one.
If you rent a car, forget every driving rule you’ve ever learned
No, you really don’t have to use your blinker, red lights are sometimes optional (as are green lights). Basically, any internationally recognized driving law turns into a mere suggestion on Italian roads, and you’ll find it’s every (wo)man for themselves. The good news is, if you just breathe and go into what I call beta mode (that feeling where you’re not actually paying attention or focused on one particular thing, you’re just kind of paying attention to everything) and get in tune with the natural motion of the cars and mopeds around you’ll be just fine. It’s strange but it works.
Check the opposite sex up and down
As a female, this is one of the first things that I usually notice in Italy- somehow all the men are blatantly walking their eyes up and down me. And it’s not because I’m some supermodel, it’s because that’s just normal and what they do. So men: if you see a lady (pretty, cute, not so much but still worth looking at- it really doesn’t matter), it’s totally okay to look up and down and up again. It’s can be a form of flattery, but it doesn’t necessarily mean anything at all. Ladies, get comfortable in your own skin and be proud of what your mama gave you.
Share your emotions, all of them
More than anything, I adore how overly expressive Italians seem to be. Whether it be happiness, excitement or even anger and disappointment- they’re always sharing their emotions. So if nothing else, just do that, be completely and totally frank and honest by letting your face, your gestures and your body language share your emotions. You may find that it’s a breath of fresh air to be so genuine with the world around you after all.
Yes, this post is absolutely a gross overgeneralization of an entire people; take it with a grain of salt understand that I don’t actually think every single Italian you meet will be like this. More than anything, relax and enjoy your time in Italy!