5 Italian Customs Americans Should Adopt

If you’ve been to Italy, you know there are a few differences between American and Italian customs. While there are pros and cons to both cultures, we think the U.S. could take a few pages from Italy’s book when it comes to living La Dolce Vita (the sweet life).

Take a look at our top five Italian customs that we think should be adopted in American culture.


via Shutterstock

  1. Fresh produce from the Mercato – While Italian cities do have supermarkets, most locals do all of their shopping at the Mercato Centrale (Central Market) which is like a huge farmer’s market, but better. They’re open every day, and have much more than just produce; there is fresh meat, homemade pasta, bread, wine, cheese, dried fruit, Panini stands…it’s a one-stop shop! Customers are face to face with the farmers that grow their food, and preservatives aren’t used so you know the food is fresh. We could use a little more connectivity like that in the US, don’t you think?
  2. Visit the mom & pop shops – In Italy, there aren’t as many chain restaurants or stores like Starbucks and Walgreen’s. That means that wherever you are in any given city, you get to try new things and support local business owners. Often a more personal experience than walking into a national chain, shopping like an Italian also gives tourists a chance to learn more about the local culture.
  3. Live La Dolce Vita Even when you’re so full of pasta that you never want to eat again, Italians always save room for dessert. “La Dolce Vita” isn’t just a metaphor…Italians also quite literally savor all the sweet things in life. One of our favorite spots for gelato in Florence is called “Perche No,” or “Why not?” While many Americans are on a big health kick, we could all use a little gelato now and then. Why not?


    via Shutterstock

  4. Walk everywhere – Because streets are old and narrow in Italy, most people walk as much as possible. A great way to counteract all the pasta and pizza carbs, walking more frequently is also a great way to stumble upon little spots that you might not otherwise have known about. Italians also use walking as a way to “see and be seen,” which is always an added bonus!
  5. Stop and smell the roses – While Americans generally tend to be in a hurry for much of the day, Italians understand the importance of slowing down, enjoying those around you, and relaxing throughout the day. Food and coffee are enjoyed sitting down or while chatting with friends at the bar, rather than ordered at a drive-through or taken to go. Meals tend to last longer in Italy, as importance is placed on conversation with family and friends. Many Italians take a siesta in the middle of the day to eat a leisurely lunch and relax.

What else Italians do well? Share in the comments below!

19 responses

  1. what else? they take a rest after lunch; they aren’t obsessed with shopping 24/7,; they pay cash, no credit cards; they have free health care for all Italian citizens; they talk to each other over meals, no texting ….They genuinely connect with their friends frequently…

    January 21, 2015 at 11:27 am

    • Terlato Media

      Italians certainly know how to live “la dolce vita,” don’t they?! Thanks for adding to our list…Salute!

      January 21, 2015 at 12:45 pm

  2. carmela cavaliere

    Enjoy many dinners with children and grandchildren. One phone call brings them all to Grandma’s

    January 21, 2015 at 1:47 pm

    • Terlato Media

      Well said, Carmela! Italians are especially good at valuing the closeness of family. Salute!

      January 21, 2015 at 3:09 pm

  3. LuAnn Mujuca

    Sunday dinner with Grandma! My mom is 82 and my family still get together with her every Sunday for macaroni and meatballs. Wouldn’t trade it for anything!

    January 21, 2015 at 6:27 pm

    • Terlato Media

      Italians certainly do have a special appreciation for their families – what a wonderful way to maintain a strong relationship with your mom. Salute, LuAnn!

      January 22, 2015 at 11:48 am

    • Teale caliendo

      Love it…macaroni…not pasta…that’s what we called it in my home…

      February 2, 2015 at 9:31 am

      • Terlato Media

        It’s hard to keep up with all the different names for pasta, isn’t it? It sounds like you have a lot of great memories of Italian dinners growing up. Salute!

        February 2, 2015 at 10:02 am

  4. Rosemary Torrieri Roenick

    Gotta love Italians!

    January 22, 2015 at 8:33 am

  5. Pat

    I agree with the sentiment of this article, but offer one suggestion – change the phrasing of custom #3. La dolce vita refers to a rather empty, vapid lifestyle in the pursuit of self-indulgence. I don’t think Americans need any help in that arena.

    I would either rephrase that point, or rather use it to promote Italian’s love of the arts through legendary films as Là Dolce Vita.

    That being said, I agree that we can all use more gelato in our life rather than the artificial concoctions Americans indulge on at frozen yogurt chains, Dairy Queens, and grocery store aisles.

    February 1, 2015 at 12:23 pm

    • Terlato Media

      Hi Pat, thanks so much for your suggestions! Italian’s love for art is definitely something we could have included – we could use a little more of that in the United States, couldn’t we?

      And we agree – we could all use a little more gelato. Salute!

      February 2, 2015 at 9:20 am

    • La dolce vita is contextual, and it absolutely means the pursuit and appretiation for the nicer (often simpler) things in life. The author uses it correctly.

      When referencing the film, “La Dolce Vita” it speaks to the second, less common usage, which is basically contemptual or sarcastic towards a “vapid, empty lifestyle” or mentality… the film’s theme referencing the beginning of celebrity obsessions, the rise of paparazzi and Cinecittà’s hay day. i.e. screwed up priorities.

      February 4, 2015 at 6:29 pm

      • Terlato Media

        Thanks for your input and knowledge! There are lots of different interpretations of what “la dolce vita” means, so I think you’re right – it’s important to take everything in context. Salute!

        February 5, 2015 at 10:17 am

  6. Karen

    Italians are affectionate. They are quick to kiss you on the cheek for hello and good by and add a friendly embrace.

    Italians are not afraid to be creative be it singing, dancing, drawing, cooking, well in just about everything they do, they do it with passion.

    February 2, 2015 at 3:54 am

    • Terlato Media

      Hi Karen, these are great additions! We could all stand to be a bit more affectionate with the people we encounter everyday, couldn’t we? Salute!

      February 2, 2015 at 9:14 am

  7. Bruno Mazzotta

    Italians do everything with passion…even when throwing out the trash

    February 5, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    • Terlato Media

      It’s hard to argue with the passion of Italians – we could all benefit from living like an Italian!

      February 5, 2015 at 4:01 pm

  8. Pingback: 5 More Italian Customs Americans Should Adopt | Live Like an Italian

  9. Pingback: 5 More Italian Customs Americans Should Adopt | Montalcino

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