How Much Do You Really Know About the Italian Culture?

How Much Do You Really Know About the Italian Culture?

Do you know what Italy is known for?

Did you know that it has around 62 million people?

And did you know that Italians eat spaghetti only with a fork?

There are so many interesting things about Italian culture, their customs and traditions.

As it’s home of the Roman Empire, Roman Catholic Church, and centre of the Renaissance, no wonder its culture is among the most popular ones worldwide.

In this article, we will introduce you to the Italian culture and language, including arts, customs and traditions. 

You’ll be the star of every conversation and you’ll certainly impress every native Italian with your knowledge about their homeland. 

Learn about the Italian Culture

Are you ready to get to know the Italian Culture?

 

Introduction to Italian history

In case you didn’t know, Italy has a rich history. 

It’s home to the mighty Roman Empire, Catholicism and Church, the centre of art, fashion, literature, music, etc. 

Rome, the capital city, was founded in 753 BC. The Roman Empire was named after the city, which is also called ‘The Eternal City’ but it imploded in 395 AD.

In 1861 Italy became a kingdom that lasted until 1946.

After World War II, in 1946, Italy became a Republic. Today we know it as the Republic of Italy or Repubblica Italiana. 

The Italian flag is green, white and red. Green represents hope, white is faith, and red charity.

Italy is one of the founding country members of the European Union. In 2001 euro became the official currency, and until then it was the italian lira. 

Italian language

The official language spoken by 95% of the population is Italian. 

It belongs to the Romance language family along with Catalan, French, Portuguese, Spanish, and Romanian. It means that Italian is the descendent of Vulgar Latin along with other Romance languages.

Other languages used in Italy are Albanian, Catalan, Corsican, Croatian, French, German, and Greek.

You should know that Italian has 21 letters derived from the Latin alphabet. 

There are many Italian dialects such as Calabrian, Ligurian, Milanese, Neapolitan, Sardinian, Sicilian, Toscan, and Venetian. 

Thanks to the famous writer Dante Alighieri, often known as the father of the Italian language, and linguist Petrarch, the Toscan dialect became the national language.

Besides in Italy, the language is also spoken in San Marino, Switzerland, and Vatican City. It’s spoken by over 85 million people.

Additionally, Italian is the 5th most learned language, especially among the Americans. 

Perhaps the reason behind this is the large scale of migrations from Italy to America during the 19th century, especially to New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco. Today, at least 700.000 Americans speak Italian.

Art and music

Classical Roman, Baroque, Renaissance and Neoclassical style; all of these terms were born in Italy.

Basilica - an open public court building was also invented in Italy. 

So many museums in Venice, Rome and Florence are a must-see.

In fact, almost every house and building in Italy is a piece of art. 

And let’s not forget the worldwide known Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo himself around 1510.

Sistine Chapel Ceiling

 

As you probably know, Italian music is known worldwide. You’ve all probably heard of Giuseppe Verdi and his plays ‘Aida’ and ‘La traviata.’ 

It’s the most essential part of the traditional music that dates back from the 16th century with the influence of Catholicism. 

Famous Italian tenor, Luciano Pavarotti, made opera approachable to the masses and even more remarkable.

Italian literature

This country is the cradle of many poems, plays and literary works. Let’s mention Dante Alighieri and his Divine Comedy, ‘La Divina Comedia,’ which is famous everywhere. 

Poet Francesco Petrarca and his marvellous work ‘Canzoniere’ or The Songbook and many more that mention enigmatic Laura are something that made him stand out in the world of poems and literature.

But there are also many more artists worth mentioning such as Giovani Bocaccio, an outstanding writer and poet, Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli, a little bit modern than previous ones, Umberto Eco and this most famous work, The name of the rose, or ‘Il nome della rosa.’ 

Italians are very proud of their literature, and every time they have the chance, they like to discuss their artists because they made Italy so famous and unforgettable.

See more: Italian Literature Guide

Family customs in Italy

Family is essential for Italians.

They are always there for each other, willing to help in every way, no matter if it’s emotionally, financially or socially.

Italian traditions rely on family. Italians have strong ties with other family members and organize gatherings very often. 

They also usually meet each other in pizzerias, bars or restaurants. We could say that they are very close and loyal to each other. 

Children are taught to respect the elders and to always ask for advice in case they have doubts about anything.

Holidays in Italy

Families are always together for different celebrations, whether it’s someone’s birthday or a national holiday. 

Since they live in the cradle of Catholicism, they celebrate most of the Christian holidays such as Epiphany, Christmas and Easter. 

On Monday after Easter, which is called Pasquetta, for example, Italians go on picnics with their families. 

Epiphany is celebrated on January 6th. According to the legend, La Befana, a witch on a broom, flies and gives presents to good children. It’s also a public holiday, so companies and stores are closed.

If you plan to travel to Italy, before booking anything, make sure you avoid holidays because Italians love to celebrate them. Most of the bars are also closed.

Public holidays

Public holidays in Italy are:

  • January 1st, New Year
  • January 6th, La Bafana
  • Easter along with Monday after Easter, or Pasquetta.
  • April 25th, Liberation Day
  • May 1st, Labour Day
  • June 2nd, Republic Day
  • August 15th, Assumption of Mary/ Ferragosto
  • September 19th, the feast day of the patron saint. Many towns and villages celebrate it.
  • November 1st, All Saints Day
  • December 25th, Christmas
  • December 26th, St. Stephen’s Day

Italian Kitchen

Italian cuisine is one of the best ones in the world. 

Italian food and its popularity

When it comes to their food, there are three main things: wine, cheese and pasta. 

Italian families can’t imagine their meals without these three things.

But not everyone eats the same meals, though every region eats pasta in their own way. 

Northern Italy is famous for many different types of cheese, pork, rice, potato, and fish. 

Pasta and pizza are the most common meals in the central part of the country. 

In the south, tomato dishes with many sauces that include garlic, pepper, olives and olive oil are the favourite meals. 

See more: How to eat spaghetti like a true Italian

As for the pizza, it is the most famous Italian food where nobody and you probably know how it tastes already. 

Every single person in the world has tried some kind of pizza at least once in their life. 

An authentic Italian pizza is a basic pizza that consists of dough, mozzarella, cheese, basil, and tomato sauce; it is Margherita. 

The Italians appreciate their cuisine very much and they are very proud. This is seen in the fact that they have a national ‘Eat Italian Food Day’ every year on February 13th.

However, there’s one thing in common to the whole country: wine. Italians are the world number one country in wine production.

Pizza is one of the most popular Italian meals

Customs in Italy

Even though Italians are a loud and very friendly nation, they are, on the other hand, very formal. So, foreigners have to pay attention not to offend them.

Saying ‘Good afternoon’ or ‘Buona sera’ and goodbye, or ‘Arrivederci’ or shaking hands is something you have to do when you are introduced to someone. 

There are many ways to greet Italians formally or informally, to ask them something in order to start a conversation or to ask for any kind of help, e.g., for a direction. 

Learn more: 89 Common Italian Phrases to Impress Every Italian Native

There will be cases when a local person invites you for dinner, perhaps for lunch too. 

It’s polite to take with you some small presents like chocolate, some pastry or flowers. 

If you choose flowers, be careful about which ones you are bringing. Don’t bring chrysanthemums because they are for cemeteries.

Similar to Spanish, Italians like to rest every day from 2 pm to 4 pm. Most of them take a nap, which is called in Italian ‘pisolino.’ So, if you want to telephone an Italian, don’t do that in these hours. 

Since Italy is one of the centres of world fashion, people there dress elegant and stylish. 

Some say that, on special occasions, Italians over do it because of extreme tuxedos and gowns. They judge people on how they dress. For example, flip-flops and bathing costumes for Italians are only for the beach and swimming pool and not for bars, restaurants or streets.

Fun facts about Italy

  1. There certainly aren’t many countries that have nicknames, are there? Well, Italy has. Its nickname is ‘Bel Paese’ which means ‘Beautiful country.’
  2. Italy is the country where you can find one more country within it. It is Vatican City, the smallest country in the world, the pope’s residence and the centre of the Catholic Church.
  3. They consider it bad luck if you place bread upside down.
  4. There are three active volcanoes in Europe, and all three of them are located in Italy. They are Etna, Stromboli, and Vesuvius.
  5. One fifth of the country is covered with mountains or hills. It makes Italy perfect for bike tours. And here also lies an explanation of why there are so many vineyards. 
  6. The longest river’s name in Italy is ‘Po.’
  7. One of the most famous cities worldwide is Venice, the lagoon city which is built on small islands.
  8. The Italian language is an official language for classical music. Terms as alto, soprano, tempo, etc., come from Italian.
  9. Unlike the rest of the world, in Italy, salad is usually eaten after the main course of the meal.
  10. There are more than 600 different pasta shapes that are produced worldwide. 
  11. In every Italian home, during every meal, the following three things must always be at the table: water, wine, and bread.
  12. No wonder why pasta is such a favourite dish in Italy; it was invented in the 4th century BC.
  13. Even though it is not the most healthy one, lunch is considered the main meal of the day.
  14. Famous fairytale, Pinnochio, comes from Italy. First, it was published in Italian newspapers.
  15. Besides the nickname, Italy has its own national flower. It is a lily.

Conclusion

Italy has so many exciting places to see, so many amusing customs and stories to hear, and so many pleasant people to meet.

Once you visit it, meet the locals, and see all the beauty this country has to give, then you will want to go back again and again.

Italian is not so difficult to learn, and with native speakers, you will make progress in no time. 

What are common traditions in Italy?

Carnivals, like the one in Florence where people go out on the streets to celebrate and wear masks. Another tradition in Florence is that an old woman gives gifts to children on Epiphany Eve. She's called la Befana and is en equivalent to Santa Claus.

What makes Italian culture unique?

Italian culture is known for its rich history and art. It's one of the richest cultures in the world. Some other unique aspects are their food, religion, family and history.

What are some Italian values?

Some of the most important Italian values are family, religion and food. They like to spend time with their families while they enjoy delicious food.

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