Woman About World: Italy's 10 golden rules


1 The first thing anyone travelling through Italy has to remember is that each province (I use the term loosely) thinks itself better than the next.

1 The first thing anyone travelling through Italy has to remember is that each province (I use the term loosely) thinks itself better than the next. So a visitor would do well to declare the place they are in at that moment to be their absolute favourite. Then there is the north-south divide. In the UK the South is considered more affluent and stuck-up. In Italy the reverse is true. Northern Italians consider those from the South to be peasant-like; southern Italians think those from the North are unfriendly and arrogant; but they will only admit this in the privacy of their own homes, church or the local supermercado.

2 Rome is a country all of its own and Romans are naturally closest to God since God lives there in the shape of the Pope. "Outsiders" - anyone from beyond the Vatican walls - can buy a seat closer to God in the shape of plastic Virgin Marys filled with blessed water, or rosary beads. But the most points are collected if you buy an illuminated religious picture the size of a single bed. This will hang on the wall until it collapses, usually hitting someone in the temple and killing them. This will be reported as "God's choosing".

3 The further south you go, the more flesh it is permissible to show in the street, but the less flesh you can show in church. In certain parts of Italy it is considered bad behaviour to enter a church with bare shoulders. If you have been invited to Sunday lunch, a most welcome gesture would be to buy a tray of small pastries from the local patisserie. Ignore all protestations from the eldest woman of the house that she won't touch a morsel of cake: she will, and how.

4 It is entirely permissible to push, shove and cheat your way into a train seat over long journeys. Italians will. They only queue for Holy Communion.

5 The further north you go, the more liberal the girls become. In certain villages in southern Italy, girls get engaged at 13. It is not permissible to just take a girl out for a drink. You have to meet the whole family and show good intent. That scene in The Godfather where the whole family goes on a date with the daughter? Strict Italians don't realise it's a drama - they think it's a documentary.

6 Italians never use their "front room". Television-watching and general sitting around is done in the kitchen. The front room is kept for really posh visitors such as you. The furniture is likely to be still covered in plastic but it is a great honour to be invited into that room so you must act as if the plastic is not there. Bring spare towels. You will sweat in hot weather and slide about a lot.

7 Italians hold great store by bomboniere - tiny, useless and expensive trinkets that accompany sugared almonds and mark every occasion, however minor, from birth to diamond wedding anniversaries. These bomboniere are displayed everywhere (again this is one of those traditions that gets crazier the further south you go), either free forming all over the place (often atop hand-crocheted doilies) or housed in reverential glass cabinets. Do not ever make fun of the miniature clock that doubles as an ornament of a dog perched on a well (complete with rope pull). It's a ceramic monstrosity to you, but it marks the occasion of something important.

8 Italians do not understand or respect vegetarians. They will say things like, "But it's chicken", or, "We won't tell". The only way to truly ensure a flesh-free meal is to say that your religion forbids you to eat meat or fish.

9 It is permissible to reverse up the motorway if you have missed your turn-off. It's even better if you have blinds pulled down over the back window. Stopping at motorway service stations may cost you more than you think. If you are approached by someone to "mind" your car, you would be wise to hand over a euro or two. Remember that a caffe is an espresso. If you want a cappuccino ask for one by name.

10 Many shops close for lunch and may or may not reopen that day; some also close completely on a Monday or if any football is on (regions vary). It is illegal to leave a shop without a receipt, even if you've only bought a coffee. The onus is on you the customer to ask for a receipt - and so, if it comes to it, will be the fine.

Enjoy your stay!

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: International Project Coordinator / Account Coordinator

    Circa £26,500 DOE: Guru Careers: An International Project Coordinator / Accoun...

    Guru Careers: Plumber / Maintenance Operator

    £25k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Plumber / Mainten...

    Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

    £14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

    Recruitment Genius: Network Executive - Adrenalin Sports - OTE £21,000

    £19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking for an exciting...

    Day In a Page

    Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

    Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

    After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
    The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

    After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

    Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
    Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

    Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

    The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
    10 best sun creams for kids

    10 best sun creams for kids

    Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
    Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

    Tate Sensorium

    New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
    Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

    Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

    He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
    Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

    Remember Ashton Agar?

    The No 11 that nearly toppled England
    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks