What do we think Italians do better than anyone? Find out in our list below. But first, a couple of notes.
While some of you finding this post will read through this as a blog post, please note these are podcast show notes where Paul and Steven discuss their thoughts on the 21 Things Italians Do Better. So hopefully you’ll listen to the podcast as well, so any nuances come through.
Also note, when we say Italians, we mean Italians living in Italy. Not Italian-Americans. While a lot of these apply to both, this is meant to be our observations of Italians living in Italy.
So without further ado, here are 21Things Italians Do Better.
1. Food and Cooking
Food is so personal and subjective, steeped in tradition. So while I’m sure many might argue that there are other amazing national cuisines out there, many would agree Italian food is amazing.
The secret could be a couple of things. Most notably, the fact that they eat very seasonally. Thus the flavors are all very fresh and delicious, at the height of their flavor if you will.
So with Italian cooking, dishes can actually be very simple. It’s about highlighting the fresh ingredients, not covering up something with a heavy sauce to hide a flavor.
[Note: In the interest of getting these show notes up, I will follow up on the Caterina d’ Medici information we talked about in the podcast.]
This can be divided into two parts, one part being the actual designers and one being the fashion of Italians every day.
So the designer part is easy, as there are lots of big names in the fashion industry, including Versace, Gucci, Valentino, Prada, and Dolce & Gabbana.
However, the populous as a whole always ascribes to La Bella Figura, or “The Beautiful Figure.” Meaning that one is always looks and composes oneself to make the best possible impression.
In our experience, this is very much ingrained in a lot of the Italian people, especially older generations, who will not leave the house without dressing up.
It’s nice to see so many people with such a sense of style.
Paul’s mother is a prime example of this. While most of the time she’s sitting around in old clothes in her room watching TV, if company is coming over or we are going out, she definitely gets her bling on.
3. They make family a top priority
There are many examples of this.
They will dote over any kid in the room.
They will never leave a kid with a babysitter, like a neighbor or family friend. They feel that’s just not right to leave them like that.
Every day (at least in the south), they go home at noon to have lunch with the family.
And every Sunday, you must eat with all your family.
They have multigenerational families living together, where the grandparents take care of the kids.
These are just a few examples, but anyone who’s ever been to any Italians home for Sunday lunch or any special event, sees right away how important family is to every Italian.
4. Italians are great at showing affection
Some cultures, well a lot of cultures, have a hard time showing any kind of affection, to family, much less to friends or acquaintances.
Italians are much more, shall we say, “touchy-feely.”
While they won’t run up and give you a kiss or bear hug on a first greeting, after one or two meetings they will expect the kiss-on-the-cheek greeting.
NOTE: If you’re coming to Italy always remember, go to the right first! You will touch your left cheek to their left cheek, then reverse and touch your right to cheek to their right cheek. Actual kissing or kissing sounds are optional, depending on personal preference.
Another interesting note for us is how men here have no problem showing affection. Male fFriends will easily walk arm in arm or put their arm around their male friend at the table. They have no problem showing affection and don’t think of it as “gay” as say someone might in the states.
5. Italian really know how to “take it easy”
Different but similar to La Dolce Vita, Dolce Far Niente is the “sweet do-nothing” or the art of doing nothing.
La Dolce Vita is enjoying the life around you — the food, the sunsets, riding on the back of the Vespa with your loved one, etc.
Dolce Far Niente is defined by Merriam-Webster as “pleasant relaxation in carefree idleness.” Really, it’s just enjoying doing nothing. Indulging in relaxation and blissful laziness.
The fact that Italians even have a phrase for this concept shows you just how good they are at doing it.
Eat Pray Love explains it a bit more:
6. No one speaks with passion like Italians
Maybe it’s because they are so passionate about life, but Italians are very passionate when they are communicating.
Doesn’t matter if it’s about politics or the correct driving directions, Italians are very animated when communicating.
7. Italians are amazing designers
Pick up any Italian interior design magazine and you’ll be blown away by the beauty and innovation you see on every page. It really is breathtaking sometimes.
Perhaps it comes from a population who truly loves fine art and culture. But from wherever it comes from, Italians do amazing design.
It can be argued when it comes to cars, this had dropped off a bit in recent years.
But in other areas, especially home design, I think they still do amazing stuff. We have a tray, a simple kitchen tray to carry dishes on, that is amazingly simple, beautiful and totally useful. As Paul says, “It should be form meets function, not form over function.”
8. Italians enjoy meals like no one else
Especially in the south, you’ll find a lot of Italians head home every day for lunch and enjoy a big meal with the family.
But it’s really not just about time with the family or getting out of the midday sun —which are also important.
For Italians, it really is about enjoying the meal. Unlike say in the states, where most of the time you are eating for sustenance, because you have to. Italians sit down and enjoy every single thing on the table.
You’ll even notice this even with the way a lot of Italians eat. They won’t load up a plate full of every different item. Instead, they eat put one item at a time on their plate, enjoy it, then move on to another item.
It’s all about savoring everything. Buon appetito!
9. Italians rule when it comes to coffee
Coffee is almost so ingrained into the Italian lifestyle that when most people think of Italy, they picture sitting at an Italian cafe having an espresso.
Here’s it’s a ritual. There are “rules.” (No cappuccino after noon. Drink it at the counter or table, not on the go. Etc).
Many business meetings start with a cup of espresso. Just about every meal ends with one. And anytime company comes over, day or night, you always offer them espresso.
But perhaps it is such a part of their culture because it’s so good. They might not be grown their own beans, but they certainly know how to roast it and prepare it.
10. Nobody cleans house like Italians
They hate dust. They hate dirty clothes. They hate clutter.
We have never seen any dust in any home we visit here in Italy.
If they saw a dirty piece of clothing on the ground, they would pick it up, wash it, iron it, and give it back to you.
I only wish I had an ounce of the energy they do for housecleaning.
11. They appreciate fine art like no one else
They study art. They live in it. It gives them a deeper understanding and appreciation for it that a lot of other cultures just don’t have.
This harkens back a bit to the fashion and design points as well. They just love life and making it beautiful and appreciating it all.
12. They are very respectful
When you first meet a woman, you never refer to her by her first name until she says you can. Until then, it’s “Signora.”
As another example, when we were doing reconstruction here and the architect or engineer would show up on-site, the contractors (who honestly probably knew as much about all the engineering stuff as they did) would always address them with their formal titles. Not by name.
They are always very very respectful of their elders. As they should be. But here, they are the leaders of the family. They are listened to, respected, and obeyed if necessary.
13. Italians are great politicians
It really comes down to the art of the deal. Italians are great at working the system.
When it comes to actually governing, it can easily be debated they are probably not the best. But if you need to find away to get something done, they can usually find a way around something or work through a friend to help you out.
As a good Italian friend once told Paul, “You Americans are great a marketing and sales, but when it comes to politics, you don’t know s***.”
I do believe the multi-party system in government tends to exasperate this trait. Italians have to compromise to get things done. With a two party system, things tend to be black and white. Either you are for this or against it.
Italians have to navigate the subtleties to get anywhere.
14. Italians are also very good about personal hygiene
Perhaps the biggest example of this is the bidet. While Paul states the bidet was invented by Italians in the podcast, a lot of people believe it was an invention of the French in the 17th century. However, the earliest written reference is in Italy in 1710.
Either way, Italians are obsessed with them. I’m actually surprised they can even travel to other countries where you’d be hard-pressed to find one anywhere.
15. Italians are passionate lovers
Not only are the passionate when they speak, Italians love to love. Whether being classically romantic or lustfully sexual, they are passionate about love and making love.
I’ll just leave that one at that.
16. Italians know about anatomy like no one else
When Italians aren’t feeling well, they can tell you where they are hurting and what is probably wrong internally.
They can name you all the body parts and how they function.
Not sure why. Not sure how. But Italy is a country full of anatomy loving people.
17. Italians are great drivers
Some of you are probably thinking, “What? They are CRAZY drivers!”
While they can drive a little “wild,” Italians do know how to drive very well.
You rarely see or hear of many accidents.
They obey the passing lane rule on the highway to a fault, never driving in the left-hand lane and only using it for passing.
While Paul disagrees with me, I believe they are good at parking. They might not always park in the lines so well, but they can parallel park like nobody’s business.
They are also very aware of pedestrians in towns, as people are keen on walking out into the middle of the street, so they have to stop on a dime all the time.
18. No one travels and vacations like Italians
They usually are traveling at least two or three times a year and are always planning their next trip.
Paul believes they might not be very adventurous on their trips. For example, they might go to Egypt but stay in a resort the entire time. So they really aren’t seeing Egypt per se.
But they do love to explore the world. I think this still goes back to the deep root of all their culture, where it’s all about enjoying life.
19. Italians are great about keeping it in the family
When you talk about stuff that has to with the family, it stays within the family.
Family secrets remain family secrets.
Which, on a lighter note, is really troublesome when it comes to getting recipes from some of the ladies in town.
20. Italians fish like there’s no one’s business
This goes along with our #1 point above food, but specifically, Italians really do seafood very very well, especially in the south.
It’s probably not the first thing you think of when you think of Italian food. I’m sure pizza, pasta, and gelato are first on many people’s minds. But when it comes to catching and preparing fresh seafood, Italians are amazing at it.
21. No one does drama like Italians
Just look at Italian mothers. Or any famous scene around an Italian dinner table. Or any famous Italian opera.
Paul uses the example of the Addolorata. The Pained Madonna, who is always dressed in black and has a dagger through her heart. Because of course that’s how every grieving mother feels when her child passes away before her. “Like a dagger through her heart.”
BONUS: 22. Nobody does extra virgin olive oil like Italians
While Spain might produce more volume, Italian extra virgin olive oil is known all over the world over as being amazing, delicious, and nutritious — the best.
Obviously, we are biased in this one, but we honestly do believe that. And if you want to sign up for our free 4 part email course on how to tell if your extra virgin olive oil is really extra virgin, just click here.
Or to try some of the world’s best extra virgin olive oil, you can always head to our site here.