I am so excited to welcome another expat and her thoughts about what she loves about living in Italy. Please give a warm welcome to Sarah Dowling from www.italyproject365.com and www.bolognawithlove.com.
What do I love about living in Italy
1. You can never drink too much coffee.
In Italy, drinking coffee – and good coffee – is a part of everyday life. Unlike other parts of the world where driving the extra mile might mean the difference between a good cup of coffee and a really bad one, in Italy you don’t have to walk very far to find a coffee bar that offers high quality espresso and cappuccinos. Not only is the coffee standard generally higher, but having 4 to 5 cups of espresso a day is pretty normal. For a coffee addict like me, I welcomed this social standard with open arms. When an Italian offers me an espresso, I simply can’t refuse and in fact, it would be quite rude to do so.
My favorite coffee in all of Italy is from a bar in Rome called Caffe Sant’Eustrachio. I would take a trip to Rome just have a sip of this espress – it’s incredible.
2. “Relax, you can do it tomorrow” attitude.
I’m not sure if Italians lack of productivity stems from sheer laziness or from something higher up in the bureaucratic ranks of Italian parliament. Either way there seems to be this overarching attitude that everything can be put off until tomorrow and in some cases, some things simply must be put off for tomorrow…or for two weeks, or in some cases, for several months. Sometimes this fact can be really frustrating and I must admit it’s not something I love about Italy all the time (try applying for something as simple as internet installment and you’ll see what I mean) – but there is something I do actually love about it. Coming from the United States where the general attitude about life is “go go go, get ‘er done!”, living in Italy has taught me to slow down, take a deep breath (or coffee break) and worry about it tomorrow. There’s a reason why the supermarket is not open on Sundays – people are at home with their families enjoying Sunday lunch.
A typical Sunday afternoon in Bologna’s Piazza Maggiore consists of people walking about the city, with no particular aim, enjoying a drink in the Piazza and simply relaxing because everything that needs to be done can be done tomorrow.
3. Eating is a national past-time.
Everyone loves Italian food, and for good reason! While I love the flavors and the quality of the food in Italy, what I love even more is the fact that dining is taken seriously. It’s perfectly normal to spend the whole afternoon eating lunch. What’s not normal is just to order one course at a restaurant. I remember the first time I went out for lunch with an Italian guy and he immediately assumed we were going to each have an antipasto (starter), a primo (first course), and a dessert. Oh yeah and ½ a liter of wine. Every meal is an opportunity to enjoy yourself – to enjoy the good food, yes, but also to enjoy the good company, to make a toast, to laugh together and to nourish yourself both physically and mentally.
I’ve adapted the tradition of eating Sunday lunch – and I take it very seriously!
4. Every city offers something new to discover.
The Italian peninsula is as diverse as a tropical rainforest when it comes to traditions. Every part of Italy has something unique –not just from region to region, but also from city to city. For example, in Bologna we eat tortellini – small tortellini pasta stuffed with a mixture of pork meat. Every family has their variation of the recipe. If you travel one town over to Modena you’ll find cappelletti pasta – a slightly bigger version of tortellini stuffed with ricotta. A few more towns over in Parma and there’s anolini pasta. I’m always amazed by the fact that a 45-minute train ride from Bologna brings me to Florence – where stuffed pasta doesn’t exist at all, Chianti replaces the bubbly Lambrusco from Emilia-Romagna, and the correct pronunciation of Coca-Cola is entirely differently. Another hour-long train ride and I’m in Venice – where black squid ink risotto is served and the Venetians speak an unrecognizable language.
Fresh tortellini pasta being made by Le Sfogline in Bologna.
5. Century old traditions that never die.
Would you believe that Bologna’s mortadella – a cold cut made from finely hashed cured pork – has been produced since Roman times? Much evidence suggests that the name mortadella comes from the use of myrtle berries, used to spice and flavor the Roman sausage farcimen mirtatum. Whether such claims are true or not, one thing is for sure – people have been eating and producing mortadella in Bologna for a very very long time. Of course, mortadella is only one case of a century old tradition. One need only to attend a local sagra festival to understand that Italians enjoy very much living in the past and keeping their traditions – no matter how strange, no matter how old – alive.
Mortadella, a cold cut meat made from finely hashed pork meat and bits of pork fat, is considered one of Bologna’s best delicacies. Although American baloney was inspired by the Italian mortadella, the two actually have very little in common. The traditional process of making Bologna mortadella has been maintained for centuries and is still carried out in the same way today.
About Italy Project 365: www.Italyproject365.com is an expat blog offering insight on living in Italy, as well as advice on moving to Italy and teaching English in Italy.