Thank you so much! That means a lot to me!
Thank you so much! That means a lot to me!
Italians have beautiful style. Truly beautiful.
Their designers include the best in the world: Prada, Ferragamo, Gucci, Armani, Dolce e Gabbana, Ferre, and Fendi, to name a few. And the shoes! Oh, the shoes.
It’s especially the individual Italian who has impeccable taste. In any airport in the world, I can spot an Italian by his or her simple, yet elegant and perfectly put-together ensemble. They’re not too flashy, but they dress in such a way to make heads turn, and with the simplest pieces. Even the cleaning lady knows how to dress. I’ve seen garbage men with nice outfits and Italian beggars wearing old Prada sweaters. I’ve seen 80-year-old women who pull off fitted jeans with rhinestone hearts on the pockets with style and finesse and high-heeled shoes.
But all of this taste goes out the window when it comes to wedding dresses. Italian wedding dresses are hideous, gaudy, puffy monstrosities. They are often lace, tulle, and/or satin infused poofballs that only a drunk princess would wear.
Argue all you want in the comment area, Italians. I won’t budge on this one. I’ve searched high and low for wedding dresses in Florence, Rome, and Bologna and the only thing I came away with was the idea that Italians must become blind with love when they are getting married.
A couple more pics just from today. And these aren’t even the worst I have seen:
In Italian, these are peperoni:
(Photo courtesy of integratedhealthreview.com)
In Italian, this is salame piccante (spicy salami, a.k.a. pepperoni):
(Photo courtesy of eliosfood.it)
This is a photo of a normal-sized sidewalk in Florence.
It is not the largest, but it certainly is not the smallest in the city. There are some that are so narrow that you cannot comfortably walk on them without scraping your arm or your purse against the wall, and you must press yourself flat against the building when a car comes through. There is no exaggeration here.
Not a big deal, you say? Take this and add it to the fact that the streets of Florence are flooded by tour groups from all countries 11 months out of the year.
This means that you are playing a game of chicken every two minutes with hoards of Chinese, American, Russian, German, Japanese, and British tourists. This doesn’t even include the local Italians who win at this game of chicken every time. All the while, cars and giant buses whiz by within inches of you on these tiny roads.
The Americans, Japanese, and British usually will kindly yield to a sole person trying to stay on the baby sidewalk, but one does not stand a chance against the Chinese, Russians, and Germans. It’s a daily battle on the streets of Firenze. And there’s no stand-your-ground laws here protecting the locals.
Because of the long-lasting Roman, Medieval, and Renaissance city structures in Italy, these Barbie Playhouse-sized sidewalks can be found in every village and town, and even the smaller byways of big cities like Rome and Milan.
And so if you live here, or spend any extended time in Italy, you start to learn the quick, bull-headed walking style of Italians, New Yorkers, and how I imagine Winston Churchill did it:
“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty [sidewalk chicken games]—never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense [walking babies and mothers walking with babies]. Never yield to [Chinese, German and Russian tourists’] force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy [tourists in general].”
(Photo of this delicious panino made at Florence’s own ‘Ino restaurant courtesy of thecuriouseater.com)
There’s no such thing as “a panini” in Italy.
For some strange reason American sandwich makers started making an Italian-inspired flat, toasted sandwich in the 1980s and called it a panini. There are two problems with this:
1.) The word panini is plural for the singular word panino. You can’t order one panini. It doesn’t make sense. If we were going to use the Italian word, I wonder why we didn’t decide to use the correct one.
2.) The flat, toasted sandwich that Americans call a panini isn’t even a panino in Italy. It’s called a “toast.”
A panino is a sandwich made from thick, crusty breads such as schiaccata, round rosette rolls, or baguettes, and has any ingredient you can imagine, from salami, mortadella, and prosciutto, to cheese, tuna, lampredotto, or just grilled vegetables.
And not all sandwiches are panini.
The sandwich your mom made you for lunch with sliced white or wheat bread is not called a panino but a tramezzino.
So unless you want to commit to eating multiple sandwiches at a time, order “un panino” in Italia.
To all of my Italians — I need to tell you something that you might have thought was a myth created by Hollywood: Every American marriage proposal is a little bit over-the-top, definitely well-thought-out situationally out by the man, and kept as a surprise until he dips on one knee and holds a ring box up to the lady in a well-planned romantic atmosphere. It’s true.
I know you don’t believe me yet, i miei Italiani, because my boyfriend’s 26-year-old, very modern cousin who lived in North America for a year and is well-versed in American romantic comedies, thought that this was not a real thing that happened in the U.S. and only a sweet Hollywood movie exaggeration.
Make no mistake, my Italians. I don’t know a married American woman, including my mother, who has not been proposed to in a grand and surprising way. We Americans - we do this. And we American women, we expect this. If you are in any doubt, the photo I have chosen for this post is of one of my best friends being proposed to in a beautiful park in Philadelphia. And this is one of the many.
So now I’m talking to you, my fellow Americans: Italians - with the grand marriage proposals - not so much.
In a way, it’s refreshing. I personally always wondered how I would react to such a question when in a committed relationship in which we are both in agreement over creating a life and a family together. Do I act surprised? Do I try to cry like the movies tell me to? Do the tears come naturally over such a grand gesture? Or do I do what I imagine I would do in saying something like, “Duh. Of course I will marry you. We talked about this, right? Stand up. We’re cool.”
Maybe it all evens out. These Latin lovers are more likely to be emotionally open and bare in a verbal way in their love and commitment to their partners daily, which turns into a mutual conversation of marriage plans, while we Anglo-Saxons appreciate a grand gesture of full-vulnerability and openness for confirmation because we all aren’t always as open and vociferous about such things on a daily basis.
Both ways are gorgeous. Both ways start a life together. Both ways are a beautiful and loving commitment to a life of partnership and love.
But the “soft power” of American media is strong here. I wouldn’t be surprised if the young Italian generation familiar with American film starts going our way. I don’t know if that is better or worse. Probably neither. Love expressed and love received is one of the most wonderful things in life.
Who cares how it happens.
(Photo Courtesy of Michele Bommezzadri)
When I first moved to Italy a friend of mine asked half joking, “Are all of the women fat and hairy?”
He had no idea how untrue this image, perhaps perpetrated by Italian-American movies with plump and happy Italian mammas shouting, “Mangia! Mangia!” is.
Italians are skinny. Both the men and the women. The majority of bodies that walk past me in every city and village I have been too are often model-thin from ages 15-40, and healthfully slender or well-built past the age of 40. Yes, there are obviously many exceptions to the rule, but as a whole this is a slender country.
It was a fascinating mystery to me when I arrived in Italia, being that its main product, aside from beautiful bodies, is the most delicious carb- and fat-based foods. I mean, they eat chunks of seasoned lard (lardo) for God’s sake.
So how do they do it?
I liked to lie to myself for a while by thinking that maybe they have these exceptional genes that simply process pasta and pork fat in a way that we non-Italians could only dream. And we Americans also like to pass it off as, “Well, they walk so much more than us.”
It’s not true.
Here’s the secret of the thin Italians: They don’t eat. Or, more truthfully, they’ve learned to watch what they eat, and they don’t over do it.
Why? Well, perhaps if everyone from your mother to your neighbor to the guy at the local butcher shop has no problem with telling you when you’re fat, you would quickly become thin too.
This is no joke.
It is perfectly normal for an Italian to tell you in polite conversation that you have gained weight, or you have become a “Ciccione” (literally a fatso or chubster).
At the dinner table, the chubby ones are told by their mothers, aunts, cousins, and siblings that they’ve had enough and they need to lose weight.
"Basta per lei!" (Enough for her!) was once said to the person serving the pasta at a dinner gathering in regards to my plate. This then led to a multi-person discussion about how I needed to lose weight. I smiled, and nodded, and took my spoonful portion with grace. Then I went home and pulled the covers over my head determined not to wake up until I was 10 pounds thinner.
It’s not just directed at women. My boyfriend saw a high school classmate he hadn’t seen in 20 years at the train station not long ago. The first thing the man said was, “How are you doing? You got fat.”
And keep in mind that their idea of “fat” is not remotely close to our idea of fat.
Calling someone fat, or telling a person they need to lose weight, is tantamount to a brutal slap in the face for an American. If this was said to a person, everyone in the room would be horrified, the speaker would be publicly shamed, and the victim would be comforted with statements like, “You’re beautiful. Don’t listen to her/him.”
As for Italians, they really think it’s their duty to tell you. They see it as only being helpful. A public service announcement, if you will.
I suppose it makes some cultural sense. Italy itself is aesthetically gorgeous, and to Italians one’s appearance is so very important. A person is described as beautiful or thin before they are described as good. When seeing someone after a period of time has gone by, one of the first things that is discussed is whether or not the person has gained or lost weight. And when you do lose weight, you are complimented more than if you landed a new job.
Obviously the technique works. Italians, compared to Americans and every group of Europeans I have seen (including the ever-lauded-by-the-American-media-for-intelligent-eating French), are by far the thinnest in my observation.
If Italians don’t take such statements as insult, and none is hurt by these words like we would be, then I suppose it’s a very successful diet method.
But if they are pretending the ever-present Weight Police doesn’t bother them, and are being bullied into denying themselves the best food on earth, well that really is a shame.
Va bene. At least that means there is more pasta and lardo for us.
Have you ever heard an Italian speaking English and you think it’s so cute when he say things like, “I go now” or “Now I drive the car.”
It sounds quaint and a bit strange to an American ear, but he is speaking in English exactly how he would speak in Italian.
In everyday conversation, Italians make present tense statements where an American would make a present participle statement.
Here’s what I mean:
If an American answered a question with “I make pizza,” it’s most likely that the question was something like, “What do you do for a living?” It would not be the answer to “What’s for dinner?”
If an American was asked, “What’s for dinner?” he would answer, “I’m making pizza.” Present participle. An Italian would answer, “I make pizza.”
While in the moment of doing something, or in planning to do something in the near future, Americans almost always use a statement starting with “I am” followed by a verb with the “-ing” ending: Present Participle. Italians are more likely to speak straight-up present tense.
American: “I am going to the store. Do you need anything?”
Italian: “I go to the store. Do you need anything?”
American: “I am driving you home tonight.”
Italian: “I drive you home tonight.”
American: “I am standing in line.”
Italian: “I stand in the line.”
Of course Americans also speak in the present tense, but it’s usually used for a general statement of time, not for that specific moment. “I eat too much” would mean that that person eats too much a lot of the time. “I am eating too much” would signify that that person is eating too much right there and then at the table.
Italians have the Gerundio tense that translates into the present participle, but it’s not used very often in regular conversation.
If you are shopping at a store and a sales assistant asks if you need help, an American would say, “I’m just looking.” While an Italian could say, “Sto guardando” he’s more likely to say, “Io guardo” — “I look.”
I write for a living. But I am writing this blog post now. Are you reading it now? Or do you read it now? Your answer tells me whether you are an Italian or an American.
The Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve is an Italian-American tradition, not an Italian one. Who knew?
Many Italians will eat fish or some other meat-free dinner on Christmas Eve because it’s in the Catholic tradition to abstain from meat the day before a Holy Day or on Fridays during Lent.
But there is no Feast of the Seven Fishes in Italy. It’s an American celebration.
(Photo courtesy of Todd Coleman, Saveur.com)
To both slobbery sneezes and clinking negroni glasses, Italians say, “Salute!” It means, “To your health!”
Side note: “Salute” may not be as omnipotent as the English, “God bless you” response to a sneeze, or as hilariously random as the Vietnamese response of “Rice and salt,” but it’s much more generous than the Amharic language’s response of, “May God forgive you!” Dang, Ethiopia. That’s a little harsh.