How to Eat in Italy Without Looking Like an Idiot

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Want to know more about how to eat in Italy? Check out this free culinary guide to Modena Italy.

I know you’re thinking….you mean it’s more complicated than putting food in mouth?

I’d love to say I have the secret to blending in while visiting Italy, but truthfully you’ll always look like a tourist. 

No need to be ashamed, embrace it! I just try to avoid looking like a mangiacake – a derogatory term Italo-Canadians Italians for WASPs.

 While in Modena I learned a few simple things to know if you’re going to eat like an Italian.

Rule 1: Take your time.

Be prepared to slow down – really slow down. Here’s the bad news if you’re hungry.

It’s normal to wait half an hour before you are served. The good news: you won’t be rushed to leave.

There is no pressure to turn the tables here.

Rule 2: You Eat What You’re Served

You may be accustomed to asking for substitutions or dressing on the side – this is not the Italian way.

Unless you have an allergy, or have a special need (gluten-free, vegetarian) you should order straight from the menu.

Rule 3: Practice the Art of Scarpetta.

Picking up the plate to lick it clean is gauche but you can show your appreciation to the chef by mopping up the extra sauce with bread.

Rule 4: No Smoking

Fancy a cigarette? You cannot smoke in the restaurant but like much of Europe that doesn’t mean you won’t find smokers outside in the street.

Rule 5: Watch How Italians Order

Ordering in Italy can be very confusing, the best thing to do is watch what locals and follow their lead.

Many bars and cafes have a counter and a few tables. Sometimes you need to pay the cashier first and show your ticket to the bartender at the counter.

Other times you can pay and order from the bartender.

At times, you can also pay at the counter and then sit down. If you pay at the counter and would like to sit ask if it is okay as there may be an incremental charge.

Every so often you can sit down and someone will serve you. Again this may be for an incremental charge.

If you want to know more about eating in Italy – the customs, traditions and food
check out my free culinary travel guide to Modena.

Join the Conversation

  1. Eating in Italy is such a procedure that just stepping into a restaurant can be stressful. Thanks for a very useful primer!

  2. Hey,

    Many Thanks, Next week I am travelling to Italy and during my exploration on web for Italy, got great stuff. I think it will help me a lot in dining netiquettes.

  3. Heading to Italy in a few months! As long as I get to eat, I’ll be happy looking like a fool. Can’t wait for that food. 😉

  4. Chanel | Cultural Xplorer says:

    Great tips 😀 I definitely went to into Giolitti in Rome to order ice cream this summer, waited on line, and then was told I had to pay first *oy vey*

  5. I love how Italians take the time to sit down and really enjoy the meal. That sounds like a nice resolution to have for 2015 I think!

  6. Great tips! I love the first one. You must slow down. The food comes when it comes, and no one rushes you. It’s not unusual for us to watch a whole soccer match after our meal. It definitely takes the pressure off . The ordering, l just let my husband take care of that since he’s Roman . 🙂

  7. I love the way Italians, and many other places in the world, eat. I think you can take most of these rules just about anywhere except for the States where you’d better eat quick. Love it!

  8. I’m heading to Italy for my honeymoon in next month. This article makes me to visit Italy soon. I like to explore new cultures.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      A honeymoon in Italy sounds divine!

  9. Being a traveling lover this post perfectly suits my taste. Before reading this blog i was not much aware of how to eat in italy thanks for educating me.

  10. William @ Encover says:

    I’m going to France and Italy soon, and have an unsettling expectation on the etiquette for meals. Still, I feel like both countries do eating like no other places in the world.

    Nice blog!

  11. EverythingMouse says:

    Thank you for this. I am visiting Rome in a few months and have to admit I am a bit intimidated about the food.

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