The process of moving to a different place could be challenging, especially when it comes to assimilate a new culture and adjust to new habits.
Our adventure started six months ago in a small and peaceful city in Tuscany: Pisa. As Portuguese, the southern-European lifestyle was already part of our everyday lives. Still, we had the chance to discover interesting differences between Portugal and Italy, and particularly between different regions of Italy. Even though customs differ between the south and the north of Italy, some peculiarities are shared across the country.
- The Italian love for coffee
Coffee is essential for Italians on a daily basis and each coffee suits a specific time of the day. Coffee is a ritual that should be taken seriously between 3 to 4 times a day: to better wake up with a boost of energy, to not take a nap after lunch, to take a break in the afternoon and to socialize.
However, not all coffees are made the same. The regular coffee, espresso or caffe, is a short shot of coffee that is downed fast and standing. When stained with steamed milk, it is called macchiato. When in a hurry, try the ristretto, which is even shorter than the espresso. If you want to impress your friends or you are just having a bad day, ask directly for a caffe correto, which is an espresso “corrected” by a shot of liquor.
At this point, it seems like something is missing. Yes: cappuccino, the forbidden fruit after 11 a.m. Cappuccino, the precious combination of steamed milk and espresso, must be taken only for breakfast. After 11 a.m., to ask for a cappuccino is seen as an act of madness. The reason is simple: milk slows down digestion, which can be a problem after that long traditional Sunday lunch with family.
- Pizza: the national pride
Pizza will never taste as good as it does in Italian territory. The list of all types of pizza is too long to present in this post but you can trust us when we say you can put everything on a pizza. Well, almost everything. Here it goes a friendly advice: never ask for a pineapple pizza while in Italy or tell anyone you have done it before. You will find other fruits such as pear and tomato on top of a pizza, although the sweetness of the pear only allows it on top of white pizza (without tomato sauce).
- Gelato versus ice cream
The main difference between gelato and ice cream is the amount of fat. Good for us, gelato has a lower fat content because it is mainly made out of milk, which confers creaminess and smoothness. Another advantage of gelato over ice cream is the temperature at which is served. As gelato is not as cold as ice cream, it is easier to distinguish the flavours and to better enjoy it. Now you know this valuable information, try the heavenly gelato al pistachio in your next trip to Italy.
- Having a silent conversation
Worried about coming to Italy without speaking the language? Fear not, you can always use your hands! Italians are known to have full conversations without speaking a word. There is no record of when or why this alternative language was developed but one of the possible explanations is the urge that Italians had to communicate without being understood during the foreign occupation by the French, Spanish or Austrians.
- Happy New Year (again)!
In Tuscany, the New Year is celebrated twice: the 1st of January and the 25th of March. Before the Gregorian calendar, the New Years’ Eve was celebrated in the 25th of March, which coincides with the Annunciation day (exactly nine months before Jesus was born). On that day, exactly at midday, a ray of sunlight penetrates a window of the cathedral of Pisa, illuminating a marble egg on the pulpit made by the architect Giovanni Pisano.
Hope you have enjoyed our tips on how to fit in Italy.
See you next time!
Sara Guerra (ESR-2), pursuing her PhD at CNR in Pisa, Italy
Bárbara Patrício (ESR-6), pursuing her PhD at CNR in Pisa, Italy