By Carrie Osborn, Staff Member
Having lived as an American student in Florence for two years of my life, I got pretty good at spotting the obvious “do’s & don’t’s” when it comes to blending in with the locals. We’re all familiar with the common traveler’s cliché: When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Well, the same can be said for Florence. As a student of Italian language and culture, it was always really fascinating to me to observe differences in behavior between our cultures, and then to do my utmost to respectfully “do as the Florentines do”. Trust me when I say that Italians have a lot of rules that they live by, especially when it comes to food and fashion.
In the hope of being as un-biased as possible, I enlisted the help of my beloved native Florentine friend and Italian host-sister, Marta P. in creating this list. All (very sassy and entertaining) quotes come from her…
- “’Guido-Italian’ is NOT Italian.” – Sometimes Americans assume that the representations of Italians in our media are accurate depictions. Unfortunately these depictions are sometimes offensive (Jersey Shore) and just plain incorrect. Some might try to mimic the vocal patterns of a certain overalls-clad Italian video game character thinking that this is the way Italians really speak. It isn’t. It’s best to learn from your Italian language teacher, not Snooki.
- “Be aware of the volume of your voice, the city center is not a theme park.” – This is one of the worst and most frequently-observed bad behaviors committed by Americans in Florence. The historic center of Florence is full of tiny, winding cobblestone streets lined with tall buildings (that people actually live in). This layout creates the perfect echo chamber to turn loud voices even louder. Practice some volume self-awareness.
- “Do not wear gym clothes if you are not in the gym!” – Italians are all about dressing appropriately – for the season, for the occasion, for the activity. Wearing sweat pants out and about in Florence will clearly mark you as a foreigner.
- “Don’t order a cappuccino after midday.” – Italians have a lot of rules when it comes to culture (or should I say “religion”) of drinking coffee. One of the biggest is this one. Cappuccino is considered a morning drink (all that milk!), and should therefore never be consumed any time after noon.
- “The more toppings that you order on a pizza, the more obvious it is that you are American.” – Italian cuisine is all about using the highest quality, freshest, seasonal ingredients and combining them in really delicious, really simple ways. Think simple – don’t over complicate things when ordering food.
- “No baseball caps. And don’t wear flip-flops unless you’re at the seaside.” – More fashion rules! Baseball caps scream “American”, and flip-flops are really not very practical attire for walking all over the rough cobblestone streets of Florence, even in summer. Birkenstock-style sandals, however, are very sturdy and very popular with Italian women of all ages!