4 Surprising Habits I’ve Picked Up From Living in Italy

March 30, 2017
4 Surprising Habits I've Picked Up From Living in Italy

For anyone who has lived in Italy for a period of time, you might notice that little by little the culture or social traditions begin to seep into your bloodstream, and willingly so. Along with learning the local language and trying to live and socialize like the locals, taking on some characteristics of the city you live in is a way of ingratiating yourself into your environment. But I freely admit some of my habits that I’ve picked up are a little on the quirky side. Here are some of my personal Italy-specific traits that are now a part of my day-to-day life in the Eternal City of Rome.

4 Surprising Habits I’ve Picked Up From Living in Italy

1. These Boots Are Made For Walking

If you are a female living in Rome chances are your footwear will have undergone a drastic overhaul. In my early days here I befriended a poet who wrote a humorous poem about a special pair of shoes she had bought to arrive in Rome with style. After an embarrassing head over heels nosedive on a cobblestone, she ended up in a cheap pair of sneakers. I was once a lover of kitten heels and heeled boots, I didn’t even own a pair of flats when I lived in Ireland and people knew I was coming by the click of my shoe.

4 Surprising Habits I’ve Picked Up From Living in Italy,

Fast forward a few years and I now live permanently in Rome, a walking city if ever there was one. To avoid getting my heels stuck in the cracked pavements, potholes or cobblestones and the inevitable blisters from lots of walking, I now only shop for the most appealing but more importantly comfortable shoes I can find. There is a funny paradox in this however, as I’ve noticed many local women sashaying about on stilt-like stylish heels. I’ve spotted these elegant creatures in the center of Rome and in shopping malls on the city’s outskirts.

My theory is that these particular women probably pop in and out of their car (almost all Roman adults own a car) and walk for only shorter stretches all the while keeping up their perfect image. A lot of females who go clubbing in locals’ places, socializing or piazza lounging in Rome wear sneakers and flat-ish boots instead. I have ruined enough of my favorite heels to have learned my lesson and to follow suit.

2. Size Matters

I am officially suffering from Italy exposure. Whenever I visit home I do the most absurd things that don’t make any sense in my hometown. In public bathrooms I stare at the floor trying to find the pedal for the sink so I can wash my hands, and when I’m near apartment blocks I watch out for pools of water on the ground, telltale signs in Rome that people are out doing their daily watering of their balcony plants, which could mean a drenched head if you’re not careful.

Not to mention my major size problem that I have developed. At home I order the smallest possible coffee or cappuccino and subsequently moan about how huge it is (I’ve dubbed them soup bowl-style coffee measures). If you love the Italian coffee culture like me, you’ll miss the ideal milk to coffee ratio in the relatively petite but perfect cappuccino size in Italy.

Then there is my terrible pasta snobbery. In Italy they offer an array of different thicknesses for your spaghetti that come in ascending numbers. You can even get it cubed if you like. I find myself frowning over the one type of rather thin spaghetti available, and bore the ears off whoever is with me about the whole world of pasta that’s been undiscovered in my home supermarkets. I then usually undercook the spaghetti to pretend it’s really thicker than it is, which all makes me think I may be becoming an Italy snob.

4 Surprising Habits I’ve Picked Up From Living in Italy

3. Ready, Set, Order!

Eating in Rome can be a bustling business. In the good quality joints frequented by locals there is a marvelous cacophony of moving chairs, bubbling banter and shouting staff, all adding to the quintessential chaotic Roman dining atmosphere (in the popular places that is).

After numerous culinary outings, I’ve noticed a particular habit or tick that I’ve picked up when it comes to eating out. I unconsciously decide on what I’m going to order ahead of time even before I step in the door (or at least I come up with a vague idea). This especially goes for the cafes, delis and sell-by-slice pizza places. In these establishments it seems that like coffee, food is a thing on the go so you have to be ready to order quickly. In my favorite deli/cafe I’m often asked what I want the second I approach the counter.

My Roman boyfriend and his friends order almost immediately, they already have their panino heated and ready while I’m still pondering over the contents of the pastries. I’m not complaining about being served quickly, and I’m not the quickest decision maker that’s for sure. But I’ve definitely changed my habits to avoid the awkward situation of waiting staff standing over me when I try to get a look at what’s on offer, probably wondering why the silly foreigner hasn’t ordered yet.

4. Red Light Means Go

When my sister visited me in Rome she thought I had turned into a raving lunatic. While showing her around the city she witnessed me jumping into traffic like a girl with a death wish to cross the road sending cars screeching to a halt, and madly racing for free seats on the bus and metro, ducking and diving in the packed crowds.

It’s a simple fact that in Rome, if you don’t make your move someone else will. It’s kind of freeing actually. Gone are the days when I nervously waited curbside to cross a street while a decent gap never really presented itself in the racing traffic. Now I make my own gap!

I’m reminded of some advice an Italian guy once gave me about driving in Italy which seems to work for all types of travelling whether on wheels or on foot: don’t pay too much attention to what others are doing, you just get out there and let the others deal with it! It all works in a kind of delicate balance of chaos, and for better or worse I’ve taken this advice to heart.

After living in Italy, I suspect I’ll never quite be the same again.


4 Surprising Habits I’ve Picked Up From Living in Italy photos by Unsplash.

About Sharon Moran

Sharon Moran is a professional singer and freelance writer in Rome, living in a beautiful countryside villa with her Roman man while still working in the eternal city.

One thought on “4 Surprising Habits I’ve Picked Up From Living in Italy

  1. Elena
    January 19, 2016

    In northern Italy red light means: STOP.
    Why do you think all Italy is Rome and the south?
    Most of us don’t drive as northern Europeans, we respect laws, stops, we don’t double park, though…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *