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Integrating in Italy: 5 tips to immediately feel like an Italian

This way you will become a real Italian in no time (image:

The first days on holiday, the first weeks in a new country: you can sometimes feel overwhelmed. Especially in Italy where people have their hearts on their minds. You always pick tourists out and especially from the Low Countries it is not possible to put on a mask. One loves it, the other hates it, but sometimes you just don't want the feeling of being a tourist. You want to immerse yourself in the local culture and not get 'look, don't buy' thrown at you. And I'm going to help you with that. At least try.

Just a little disclaimer before you start reading this article and it hits you intensely. Because, as Italy lovers, Italophiles or some other Italy-adoring word we are (excuse me le moth) put together a puristic mess.

One can 'be' even better Italian than the other and phew does he make his carbonara with cream?! And he calls himself an Italy freak?! He really can't say that.


Me, me, me and what the rest think, find or have experienced is not possible. That's why here's a plea from me to you: let's agree in the comments below this article cannot blaring how it should be done, but on the contrary showing how it can be done.

There are plenty of new Italy aficionados who, with our puristic oh-we-come-at-this-place-and-always-do-it-so-crazy-that-you-do-it-so -act or oh-we-drive-always-so-why-not-you or scare-off a-true-italian-never-pity.

And that's a shame because Italy is fantastic† And a real one fake italian we all want to be. Allora, andiamo.

1. Go. Unpleasant. The. Market. 

Where better to taste the local culture and cuisine than on the market? Correct. nowhere. Where in the Netherlands the market is quickly for a quick errand and some fresh flowers, the market in Italy is a household name.

You do your shopping there, but you also get your clothes, duvets, pots and pans, oven gloves, batteries: really, almost everything you can think of is on the market. And everyone comes there, so you immediately see what kind of meat the village where you are has in the cockpit.

The Italian market is divided into two segments: food and the rest. The stalls are not mixed up but the rest is with the rest and food is with food. Often close to each other.

The food market in particular is fascinating and here you quickly feel like a local. You can taste something at almost every stall and so you can quickly become acquainted with the local cuisine. 

2. Park like a pro

You can park anywhere (photo: Martine van Groenigen)

About the Italian car etiquette we can write a full article. Italy is simply not known for its good drivers and motorcycle mice.

In the hustle and bustle of local traffic it is often good to find a place. The narrow streets, the many one-way traffic, but above all: the stripe ballet. White, blue, yellow. Which one will you choose? And which ones especially not?

And that last one is yellow. The yellow parking spaces are for the real, real locals. And yes, we still have a long way to go.

White spaces are free and blue spaces are paid parking. No spot? Non c'è problema† The unwritten rule applies: if there are several cars parked on, along or next to a road (no matter how busy or illogical), you join this. Pretty easy, huh!

3. Breakfast like the locals: second colazione for the stage

Second breakfast (photo: Martine van Groenigen)

Not only the Italy lovers, also the Italians themselves are sometimes a bit too proud and puristic about their own etiquette. No cappuccino after 11.00 am, you have breakfast light, we all know it. 

What is striking is that the first breakfast is always eaten at home. Breakfast after you roll out of bed is private.

The second, on the other hand, la seconda colazione, is often eaten on the terrace or in the bar. Everyone can see this. A coffee and a croissant filled with cream, jam or fruit, a pasticiotto, a cornetto, anything is possible.

But the cappuccino? This separates the wheat from the chaff. 

4. Greet the old men and you are immediately a resident of the village 

The Phenomenon of the Umarells (Photo: Wikimedia)

You've seen them anyway: the slowly shuffling caps on the square. The old men who are there every morning. They are the local tam-tam. It's a culture in itself and they know it.

They slowly shuffle past your table when you meet in the middle of the square second colazione sit. Or worse: they go straight, and I mean really right, right in front of you when you're in the square looking at something.

You'd better greet them, for although they look rusted, these men have a memory of I've got you there. Did you ever greet them? Then you are assured of a greeting back for the rest of your holiday.

Did you know that, in addition to the old men in the piazza, there is another old men phenomenon? The umarell. Elders of days who check the construction site in the village day in and day out and stand along the fences with their arms behind their backs.

Well, if you spend that amount of time looking at a construction project, you can have your own 'title' for it. 

4. Call once in a while dajjyyyje, oooooo ma, ufffffffa or another cry 

You may not speak fluent Italian, but next to the standard grazie, buongiorno of arrivederci, you might want to spice it up with a real Italian catchphrase. A cry that, when you call it out, immediately shows that you know your business.

Because it doesn't have to make sense, as long as you say it confidently. Then it's all right. Is the price of something you have seen on the market or in a shop not to your liking or is the product sold out? uffa.

Is someone intentionally bumping into you or stealing your parking space? Ooo mom! Is something not getting along, is someone making fun of you or do you just want to shout something? Mom bye. All this, of course, with the necessary hand gestures.

Finally, know that you are an attraction. You may have always wanted to be that, so make the most of the moment. Are you being stared at by the locals? Good morning, a smile, and on. 

Do you have any tips for quickly integrating in Italy? Then pass them on in a comment.

Written by Martin van Groenigen

In 2016 Martine van Groenigen lived as an au pair with an Italian family for six months. She learned all the tricks of the Italian kitchen and lost her heart there. Not to a man, but to the country itself. Since her return, there hasn't been a day that she doesn't wonder 'what the weather would be like in De Laars.' On This is Italy she writes enthusiastically about her own experiences in Italy and her 'Italian Dream' that is getting closer and closer.


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  1. Fun and recognizable

    Also don't forget the hand gestures to reinforce your displeasure: thumbs to your other fingers and move up and down in front of your chest. If you want even more drama, do the same movement with your hands in 'amen' position. Even further over the top: throw in a 'ma che c*zzo'

  2. what does that actually mean, make a kind of reverse shaving movement from your double chin plus look mean + add a mumble inside your mouth?
    I myself have a distant ancestor as an Italian (who came to the Netherlands as a child to sweep chimneys and married a skipper's daughter)
    also swept chimneys as a young adult (without knowing that a distant ancestor did the same) was also very good at it (if I do say so myself) because I often had to sweep the hardest to reach chimneys oeiii

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