14 Surprising things that you must know about Italy

An Italian proverb reads “Tutto il mondo è paese” which literally means that the whole world is a small village and practically says that the same things happen everywhere. Nevertheless, this is is only partially true and visitors coming for the first time in Italy may be very surprised of some Italian habits …

1. Italy is a country synonymous with wines and spirits, but most Italians drink alcohol only if it is accompanied by food and they usually prefer quality to quantity.

2. Few foreigners know that Italians are beer drinkers and beer connoisseurs. Sardinian people are among the heaviest beer drinkers in the world. Quality hand-crafted breweries are coming to the light in every place, some of them have won gold medals in world wide contests, beating their German and British competitors. And take note that beer is considered the most suited beverage to accompany pizza!

3. Bars are everywhere but a “bar” is first of all the place where to have a coffee (<strong>expresso</strong> or <strong>cappuccino</strong>) at any time of the day and an aperitif (also called “happy hour”) in the evening. Many bars also sell cigarettes, all of them serve pastries in the morning, particularly <strong>cornetti</strong> that are croissants filled with jams or creams, for they are the place where many Italians have breakfast consisting properly in a coffee and a<strong> brioche</strong> (pastry). And some fast food is available at lunch time (mixed salads, panini, frozen pasta dishes).

4. When sitting down at a table, if you are at a bar or cafe, you will be charged a supplement for the service. The alternative is doing as many Italians do: having your coffee or drink standing at the counter.

5. Water is not offered complimentary at any restaurant because tap water is not allowed in public places. You need to order a bottle of either “frizzante” (sparkling) or “liscia” (natural) mineral water; will it be in a carafe, it is microfiltered tap water.

6. Meals are served in a traditional chronology. The usual sequence of a complete meal is: <strong>antipasto</strong> (starter) then <strong>primo</strong> (first course: usually pasta or risotto) then <strong>secondo</strong> (main course: usually fish or meat) with <strong>contorno</strong> (side dish: vegetables or potatoes) apart and finally <strong>dolce</strong> (dessert). They are quite reasonably priced but noone expects you to order all four courses in everyday’s life! Most restaurant clients will choose 2 plates only but they will go for a complete menu during the week-end.

7. The Italian gastronomy is very vast, variegated and plentyful. While the haute cuisine is quite a recent development of the Italian food panorama, the huge, most beloved heritage called Italian cooking mainly consists in a profusion of traditional regional dishes, usually at best served in a characteristic, family-run <strong>trattoria</strong> or <strong>osteria</strong>, whereas a <strong>ristorante</strong> usually designates a more formal place with an organised staff.

8. Geografically too, you will be suprised how varied Italy is! Most people coming from huge countries such as the USA, Russia or China expect such a small one as Italy to be a homogeneous whole. Sort of “once you’ve seen this place, you’ve seen all of Italy.” Nothing is more erroneous! Italy was united in a unique country just a little more than 150 years ago and still is a mosaic of very different local situations. Landscapes first of all, cooking as we said above, but also people’s way of life. You can travel from one region to the next and quite literally feel like you are traveling from one country to another one.

9. So are Italians themselves, a great mix of physical characteristics and mentalities. The percentage of foreigners living in Italy is quite low, for now, so you cannot say it has a multi-ethnical population. Nevertheless the Italian population is very eclectic and diversified. Each region has its own pecularities, I mean that you can easily distinguish where people hail from not only by the way they talk but by their completely different mentalities, habits, timetables, celebrations, …

10. Not to talk about dialects, that still are pretty much in use. Indeed beside the official Italian language spoken in each region with a specific accent, there are many different dialects and relevant variations on the whole Italian territory. Dialects are mostly completely different from Italian, many of them have incorporated lots of foreign terms and grammar constructions following the invasions. If you speak some Italian, don’t expect to understand people speaking their dialect. Italians themselves won’t understand the typical language of another region.

11. Actually, talking about the people, the number is astounding! Italy is a very small country for the size of its population! There are over 60 million people in Italy and so you should expect to see lots of people everywhere!

12. The number of villages and communities will surprise you too! Due to the concentrated population, there are inhabited areas every few km. This is one factor that explains that 200 km by motorcycle in Italy are completely different than 200 km by motorcycle in the USA.

13. The number of roads! Many villages require many roads to connect them one to the next one. The Italian roads network (840.000 km, highways excluded) is immense if you consider that all these km cover a small country of only 301.340 sq meters). Knowing them, which one is worth beeing ridden and which not is a huge part of our know-how so to guarantee you the maximum fun in the saddle, far away from the over-crowded and boring main roads!

14. Store hours! Especially in the smaller towns shops close for 2-3 hours at lunch time and will re-open towards 16:00 PM, for a total of 8-9 opening hours in a day. They will also remain closed on Sundays and one afternoon per week. But quite a new custom is having malls and commercial centers open 7/7 (from 9 till 9 non stop) and most touristic places are extremely lively until late at night, included restaurants that will serve you as late as midnight.

The entire country is amazing and worthy to be seen and experienced. Motorcycle tourism with Italy On Motorbike is the most enthralling way for lovers of motorcycling and of culture (+ arts, history, fine living, gourmet food, outstanding wines, etc) to get deep into the best of Italy.