Italian culture and customs
Learning the culture and customs of Italy is one of the best ways to gain a full understanding of the Italian way of life, and to feel truly at home.
Once you’ve spent a bit of time exploring your new home, you’ll learn that there are different customs and traditions observed in different corners of Italy. Researching and observing these traditions is incredibly rewarding, plus it will give you an affinity for your new home. We outline some of the nation’s main traditions and customs below:
Italians celebrate the majority of the major Christian holidays, including Easter and Christmas.
The importance of family
Family is incredibly important within Italian culture, and this includes extended family, as well as just the immediate family of Mum, Dad, and children as we see in the UK. Family gatherings are frequent and a lot of spare time is spent in the family unit. Unlike the UK, adults tend to remain close to their family in terms of location as they grow up, gradually incorporating more and more family as they get married and have offspring of their own. In most places, the Mother remains the matriarch; responsible for cooking, cleaning, and rearing the children, where as the Father is the primary breadwinner.
As you’re no doubt aware, given that Vatican City, home of the Pope, is located in the heart of Rome, Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion in Italy. While 90% of the population claims to be Roman Catholic, only one third of those are practising. Other religions found in Italy include Protestant, Jewish, and there is a growing Muslim immigrant community.
Italians celebrate the majority of the major Christian holidays, including Easter and Christmas. Easter is followed by Pasquetta, which takes place on the Monday after Easter, and is usually celebrated with family picnics to honour the arrival of springtime.
Liberation Day, which marks the end of World War II, is celebrated on 25th April.
Throughout the year, you’ll find that many Italian towns and villages celebrate the feast day of their Patron Saint. An example of this is the Feast of San Gennaro, on 19th September in Napoli.
The religious holiday of Saints Day falls on 1st November, and involves Italians visiting the graves of deceased family members to decorate their graves with elaborate floral arrangements.
Epiphany is celebrated on 6th January and is very similar in format to Christmas, in that an old lady, Belfana, flies in on a broomstick and delivers presents and sweet treats to children.
When you’re introduced to a new acquaintance for the first time, you should say buongiorno or buonasera, depending on whether it is morning or afternoon, and shake their hand briefly.
When you’re introduced to a new acquaintance for the first time, you should say buongiorno or buonasera, depending on whether it is morning or afternoon, and shake their hand briefly. Ciao is used amongst younger people, and friends. If you are in a formal scenario, it’s best to say molto lieto, which means ‘pleased to meet you’.
You should offer buonasera when entering a small shop, lift or a waiting room, basically any place where there are a small number of people to greet. It’s advisable to use titles when addressing anyone older than you.
You’ll notice that both sexes will kiss each other in greeting if they are friends or family. Between members of the opposite sex, it’s best to aim your kiss for the top of the cheek, and rather than plant a smacker, its best to brush cheeks and make a kissing noise. Two kisses is the norm.
You’ll soon notice that Italians take great pride in how they dress, and therefore tend to be more formal in their attire than British and American citizens. Beachwear should be kept to the beach, and jeans aren’t considered appropriate for church, or for some more upmarket restaurants.
As well as caring about how they look, Italians care about how they come across. It’s important to remember not to disrespect or ridicule an Italian. This isn’t seen as humorous as it sometimes is in the UK.
The process of buying property in Italy is significantly different from here in the UK. This is why we’ve created our completely free Italy Buying Guide, to provide those dreaming of a new life in Italy with all of the practical, legal, and financial information needed to help them realise that dream.