If you're like me, patience is not a strength you possess. Rushing to get everything done as fast as possible, is simply the norm of my day to day. At home my schedule consists of waking up, crank out all my errands of the day, work, school, free time, sleep, and repeat.
One of the first things I noticed upon arriving in Florence is how slow Italians live their lives in comparison to the hustle and bustle of American culture. I never noticed how fast-paced the American lifestyle was until traveling abroad. Simply put, going to Vegas and getting married by Elvis in a drive-thru church is authentically American and would never fly in Italy. Time in Italy is sacred and meant to be enjoyed even in the littlest activities in your day. While the efficiency that results from the typical fast-paced American lifestyle is great, does it really give us fulfillment in our lives? Unlike Americans, Italians live a lifestyle rich in little moments of relaxation and enjoyment in their day-to-day lives.
Below are three Italian “norms” that I wish I knew before traveling to Italy:
1. Meal Time:
Say goodbye to the days of drive-thrus and 30 min lunches. In Italy, meals are meant to be savored. Food is delivered quickly but meals can last hours. Eat slow, take in the atmosphere, and most importantly, enjoy your company. Part of the food culture in Italy is eating meals slowly and enjoying your meal time. Service will be quick to take your order and deliver your dish, but expect at the very least an hour for the check to arrive. Most times you may even have to ask for the check when your server walks by. It is expected for you to dine in for a while and is inappropriate to be rushed by service workers like in the US. So pro-tip, if you want to grab lunch or a coffee before heading to class, make sure you give yourself extra time. Sitting down for a meal could take a few hours so prepare that time into your schedule before sitting down.
2. What do you mean to go?:
At most establishments, to-go boxes or takeaway food is unheard of. To-go boxes and leftovers do not exist in Italy so keep this in mind when ordering a dish at a restaurant. The few times you will be able to take food home with you will be if you visit a sandwich shop or street vendor, never a restaurant. Also, while a lot of cafes will have paper cups for coffee, make sure you ask ahead to take away your drink ahead of time or it will be given to you in a glass.
3. Cappuccino O’Clock:
If you have done research on Italy one of the first things you will find is that Cappuccinos are served only for breakfast and are not customary during the day. Additionally, most “lattes” of any variety consist of much more milk than a latte you might order back home. For a mid-day coffee, most Italians will order an espresso. Italian coffee is also always served hot and if you order an iced coffee you will be looked at as if you have four heads.
4. Slowing down actually ROCKS:
While most travel and think new cultures might be strange and uncomfortable, I have actually found the complete opposite. After living in Italy for almost three weeks I have begun to see how the American culture of rushed time is actually strange and silly. For instance, why would you go to a restaurant to pick up food if you really were planning to leave? It is quite a strange concept, but it is something I would do regularly back home. Also, part of the reason Italian food is so great is because you take time out of your day to actually enjoy eating and enjoy the company you bring. I love how relaxed the Italian culture is and due to this, I have also seen improvement in my own mental wellbeing. While abroad I have experienced a drastic decrease in anxiety and stress. I believe that a big part of this is due to the obligation to take life slower and enjoy my time even when doing little tasks. While walking through markets for groceries it is common to be asked how your day is and have small talk with vendors. The culture of Italy is much slower, but also very welcoming.
My goal is to implement this way of living into my life when I move back home. I really hope to take a step back and enjoy life more often instead of feeling constantly rushed. Overall, I feel much more fulfilled in my day-to-day life and this change in culture has made a tremendous change in how I view life and quality time and has been my favorite thing about living in Italy.