I wanted to make this post about do's and don't's in Italy and things that are much more different than in the U.S. Obviously, all of these do's don't's and notes are from my personal experiences, and probably don't apply to everyone in Italy.
-Wear shoes at all times. In the US, we tend to remove our shoes before entering a house or room. Sometimes, not removing shoes can be a bit rude as it might dirty rugs, floors, and carpets. However, here in Italy, even in the home, while lounging, or someplace with carpets, shoes always remain on. I did a little research on this and the internet says that it is because Italians (generally) find it rude to have smelly feet exposed to others.
-Learn about different types of coffee. Coffee, mainly espresso, is such a huge part of Italian culture. Italians do not understand the concept of "American Coffee" and the fact that they are very large and sugary drinks. Everyone will drink a small shot of espresso (the youngest I've seen drink an espresso was 6 years old) after every meal. Espresso, if you have not tried it, is incredibly strong and bitter, and after every meal, I am so grateful that it is only a sip. However, coffee is not just a beverage for Italians, it follows precise rituals and time schedules. For example, cappuccino is common for breakfast, but after breakfast, it is unheard of, and an instant tourist tell. Here is a list of a few different coffees that I have tried:
Doppio: two espressos in the same coffee cup
Macchiato: an espresso served with a few drops of milk
Macchiato freddo or macchiato caldo: an espresso served with cold or warm milk
Corretto: an espresso with a few drops of liquor (normally elderberry wine)
Ristretto: a very concentrated espresso
Lungo: a more watery version of ristretto
Americano: usually an espresso diluted with hot water
Latte macchiato: rarely ordered by Italians; a milk-based beverage coloured with a few drops of coffee, it is considered a good alternative for children emulating adult caffé.
-Mind non-verbal communication. Although a stereotype, it is true that Italians speak strongly with hand signals. However, unlike the stereotype, they aren't just frantically waving their hands, every signal has a meaning. There are signals meaning: no, nothing, I'm scared, what do you want?, leave, alone, hungry, finished, and angry as well as hundreds more. Everyone knows each signal and they are often used to communicate.
-Be careful on the road. Although I have heard that crazy driving is more prevalent in the south of Italy, it still needs to be addressed. The driving here is insane, nothing like driving in the US. In the US, police have a high respectability and laws and rules of the road are generally taken very seriously. However here, signs, laws and police officers are taken with a grain of salt. I have yet to see anyone being ticketed or even very many police on the roads for that matter, and the driving shows it. People drive very fast and the lines on the road are optional. Sadly, though, I have gotten more used to it.
-Do finish everything you are given, and if you can manage without bursting, eat seconds. Italians pride themselves in their food, and saying "no" (unless medically justified), is not considered normal, it is considered offensive to the person who cooked the meal. This especially is the case for the older generation such as grandparents, as their blood sweat and tears go into their cooking (not really, relax).
-Do not criticise Italy, Italians, or their culture. Don't worry, I have not, but I have seen the wrath of people who have... Italians can be very critical of their country, but might not accept criticism from foreigners about the political situation, religion, mafia or topics related to negative Italian stereotypes, World War II and off coloured jokes. Art, food, wine, family, movies, music, fashion, design and travelling are all good topics of conversation. Soccer can be a great alternative – unless you express heavy criticism about the soccer team supported by your Italian acquaintance.
-Don't be surprised if businesses have the weirdest hours ever. More often than not, many businesses are open in the morning, close around noon, and re-open again around 6:00 pm. Although, businesses don't have a set-in-stone schedule here. For example, as opposed to the "rain or shine" unwritten rule in the US, when the weather is bad (rain for us here in Sicily), shops don't open.
Generally, don't pay a tip at restaurants. In substitution at restaurants too tips, Italians have a "seating charge", which is literally an additional charge added on to the final cost of the food to sit, the price rises based on the amount of time you sit for.
- Don't cross your eating utensils. This one is more of a "black cat" type superstition for Italians, however, it is taken very seriously. Forks, knives, and spoons are not to be crossed on your plate in an "X" pattern EVER. Instead, they must be parallel "I I I" like so. I have no idea why, nor does anyone that I have asked, but you get used to it very quickly.
I hope you enjoyed my do's and don't's of Italy! I'll post an update soon about this month!