Eating in Italy- Five Lessons Learned

Elba Island

You would think that eating in Italy would be easy.

As we all know, Italy is world renowned for its food. From pizza and pasta, tiramisu and gelato, the list of Italian specialties is vast and the quality of food is truly incomparable.

But as I have learned during my time in Italy, being shown around by my lovely knowledgable Italian friends, eating here is not for the faint of heart… or the “Italian etiquette uneducated”.

On our first dinner out in Bologna I ordered linguine with clams and pumpkin flowers (fancy eh?), as I put my knife to the pasta a bloodcurdling scream let out “What are you doing?” apparently cutting my pasta is what I was about to not do was the answer they were looking for.

Here are five lessons I’ve learned while dining with real Italians:

Never cut your pasta.
To cut your pasta with a knife implies that the pasta has been cooked wrong, thus insulting the cook. Therefore, avoid “knife to pasta contact” and while your at it, ignore the spoon as well. Real Italians believe “Spoons and cut-up spaghetti are for children, amateurs and those with bad manners” and you do not want to end up in that category.

Always eat everything on your plate. 
With so much food, this had been extremely hard for me to accomplish throughout my trip, but to leave food on your plate is an insult to the host and to the chef. Therefore, it is expected that you eat EVERYTHING given to you, even if it does result in your own combustion. Also, the Italians will remember if you didn’t eat everything and remind you of it. So in order to eat like an Italian, do your best to eat everything placed infront of you, or master the art of “food-to-napkin-to-purse” hideaway.

Never order a cappuccino after a meal.
Ordering a cappuccino after a meal is the tell-tale sign you do not belong in Italy. Cappuccino is reserved for the mornings, while cafe (espresso) is reserved for after mealtime (regardless of the hour). It may seem perfectly fine to order a cappuccino after a meal “in America”, but for the Italians, it is the ultimate no-no after a beautiful meal.

Get ready for courses. Many courses. 
During our meal in Venice, I think I counted five courses, and neither of our Italian friends batted a lash. For us, “Americans” as they call everyone away from this continent, it was enough food to feed a small village. But for them, it was merely dinner. I am astonished at the amount Italians can eat, yet they do not seem to have the same obesity problems we have at home. The difference (I believe), is the food they eat is local, organic, and free of GMOs and other additives. But regardless of what’s “in” the food, get ready to eat a lot of food if you are in Italy.

Olive oil is your best friend.
Olive oil is the only condiment Italians know, so don’t expect to be seeing the “American” plethora of condiments being served with your meal. Olive oil is used to enhance the flavour of the food, whereas condiments are often used overseas to mask a dishes flavour. Ketchup on potatoes, mayonaise on sandwiches, dressing on salads, not in Italy.

Have you travelled to Italy? What are some Italian eating rules you encountered?



  1. June 2, 2015 / 6:04 pm

    Ciao Sarah, L’italia e un paese meraviglioso. Molte grazie.
    tarto amore.

    • wanderbeforewhat
      June 5, 2015 / 11:33 am

      Thanks Rachel! Will look forward to checking out your blog.

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