51 Things I Learned in Italy

I’ve been jotting these off on Twitter lately, and thought I’d collect them all together just for fun. A bit of my hard-earned Italian and Roman wisdom on display for you. If you have things you’ve learned in Italy too, add to the list in the comments section! (Numbered for legibility, but in no particular order of importance. All Italian lessons are worthwhile.

1. Your wallet is always filled with useless receipts.

2. You can drink alcoholic beverages at a work lunch. Score!

3. You can eat potato chips with a glass of white wine. Not considered white trash, considered cheap aperitivo.

4. false;" href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51tTL9yu5q0&feature=youtu.be">Showing boobies in a commercial for bath foam is totally legit in prime time.

5. false;" href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cS8YyDp47pc&feature=youtu.be">Cars officially have the right of way over pedestrians.

6. Crossing the street feels like that old video game Frogger.

7. Milk goes bad after like 3 days.

8. Run the washing machine and the hairdryer and the dishwasher all at once and you get an instant blackout.

9. Real people actually drive the old Fiat 500, it’s not just for clowns in a circus.

10. My landlord thinks it’s ok that the Zoppa oven in my apartment is from 1974. (It still works).

11. Men drive around in cars with a loudspeaker to sharpen your knives. Or on bikes, just yelling.

12. Pizza can be served with hot dogs and french fries on top.

13. Teeny tiny electric cars exist and are basically for rich teenagers.

14. Sunbathing is good for you, makes you look healthy.

15. God forbid you sweat and then sit in front of a fan to cool off.

16. Hell no, don’t throw spaghetti on the wall to see if it’s done!

17. Add salt to the water only AFTER it boils. (Adding it prior just raises the boiling temp).

18. When getting over the stomach flu, eat white rice with parmesan and olive oil.

19. Roman taxi drivers have the best stories.

20. Copying on tests is an acceptable art form.

21. Cesso means “shitter,” not simply ‘bathroom’. Tried that one out on the MIL when I met her for the first time. Oops.

22. “Preservatives” (as in for food) does NOT translate to “preservativi.” Use “conservanti” instead.

23. Smoking two cigarettes a day doesn’t even qualify you as a smoker.

24. The song “It’s Raining Men” has a strange perennial success.

25. Wearing a t-shirt in February in Rome is considered half-naked.

26. Cookies are breakfast food.

27. Lane lines are simply road decorations.

28. Eating horse meat is acceptable. Even in baby food.

29. In Rome “what ass!” actually means “what luck!” (che culo!)

30. There are specific pasta shapes that go with specific sauces.

31. Kids talk with pacifiers in their mouths at 3 years old.

32. Men wear red pants.

33. Getting in line is a concept, not a practice.

34. If you “break my boxes” it means you’re getting on my nerves.

35. 17 is bad luck and 13 is good luck.

36. Don’t ever cross over arms with people when you’re toasting or shaking hands.

37. American pasta is overcooked.

38. Pizza comes with toppings pre-arranged, you don’t choose them individually.

39. Never put parmesan cheese on penne all’arrabbiata.

40. 99 degrees is considered a fever for which you should stay home from work.

41. There’s some kind of pain or illness called “cervicale.”

42. The liver is where all your anger is stored and it’ll hurt if you’re angry.

43. All American kids carry guns to school.

44. Don’t ever go out with wet hair.

45. Butter is the “killer of the kitchen.”

46. Salad comes at the end of the meal because it “helps you digest.”

47. Never drink a cappuccino after a meal.

48. Your earache was caused by a “wind gust.”

49. Never sit in front of a fan if you’ve sweated.

50. Air conditioning is “bad for you.”

51. Bell peppers are “hard to digest.”

Shelley Ruelle is a freelance writer, translator, former study abroad professional, and language teacher from Seattle, WA, and has lived in Rome since 2001. She writes about life in Rome at her blog Un’Americana a Roma (An American Girl in Rome). Follow Shelley on Twitter at @shelleyinrome.

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