Dos and Don’ts in Italy: Navigating Italian culture with grace

By mina
07 Jun 2024
Reading Time: 4 minutes
dos and don'ts in Italy

Living in Italy as a student offers a unique opportunity. To make the most of your experience and respect local customs, it’s helpful to understand the dos and don’ts in Italy, especially regarding Italian culinary culture. 

This guide to Dos and Don’t in Italy is essential for students who wish to fully integrate and appreciate the richness of Italian life without committing culinary crimes—going far beyond the well-known taboo of putting pineapple on pizza.

Let’s dive deep into Dos and Don’ts in Italy!

Appearance and behavior

Dos and Don'ts in Italy appearance photo


  • Dress appropriately for different occasions: Italians take great pride in their appearance. Dress modestly when visiting churches or religious sites by covering shoulders and knees. Opt for smart casual attire in upscale restaurants and bars.
  • Remove your cap when indoors: In Italy, removing your cap in places like restaurants and churches is a mark of respect. It shows an awareness of local etiquette and honors traditional values, especially in formal or sacred settings.


  • Overlook local dress codes: Always dress suitably for the setting, showing respect for Italian culture and customs.
  • Don’t wear flip-flops in inappropriate settings: In Italy, flip-flops are best kept for the beach or pool. Wearing them in urban areas, restaurants, or churches is seen as disrespectful and can clash with local style norms. Choose more suitable footwear to respect and fit in with Italian dress codes.

Dining and cuisine

Dos and Don'ts in Italy meal photo


  • Enjoy long meals: Dining in Italy is an event. Take the time to savor your food, enjoy the company, and remember that lunch starts around 1-2 PM, and dinner not before 7:30-8:00 PM. 
  • Try local foods and seasonal dishes: Italy’s food varies a lot from place to place and changes with the seasons. When you’re eating out, ask for dishes that are special to the area and what’s currently in season. This way, you can enjoy unique tastes and ingredients that really show what the local food is all about. These dishes might be something you can only find in that part of Italy!
  • Stand at the bar for coffee: If you enter a café, you might notice many locals standing at the bar drinking their espresso. This is not only a quicker way to enjoy your coffee, but it’s also cheaper than sitting down at a table.
  • Pair the right wine with your meal: Italy is renowned for its wine, and each type complements different dishes. When enjoying seafood, go for a light white wine like Pinot Grigio or Vermentino. For red meat dishes, a robust red wine such as Chianti or Barolo enhances the flavors. For more in-depth information about Italian wines and pairing tips, check out our dedicated article about wine.


  • Don’t mix fish and meat in the same meal: Italian cuisine typically separates fish and meat dishes, even in different courses. 
  • Don’t add cheese to seafood dishes: Adding cheese to seafood is considered a culinary passo falso (faux pas), as it is believed to overpower the natural flavors of the seafood or fish.
  • Don’t eat heavy salted meals like lasagna for breakfast: Breakfast in Italy is typically light, consisting of coffee and pastries. Save richer, saltier meals for lunch or dinner. Or at least don’t expect that to be served if you are living with a host family that prepares your meals.
  • Don’t expect to find popular Italian dishes from abroad in Italy: For instance, Chicken parmigiana and fettuccine Alfredo are basically nonexistent in Italy.
  • Don’t over-consume alcohol: In Italy, alcohol, especially wine, is intended to complement meals rather than lead to intoxication. Enjoy it modestly as part of the dining experience.
  • Avoid touristy restaurants: For a genuine taste of Italian cuisine, avoid places with multi-language menus and pictures of food. Instead, choose dining spots where locals eat to ensure an authentic culinary experience.
  • Don’t expect fast service: Service in Italy is often leisurely, reflecting a more relaxed approach to dining and transportation. Embrace this slower pace to fully enjoy the Italian lifestyle.

Language and social interaction


  • Learn basic Italian phrases: Learning phrases such as Buongiorno (Good morning), Per favore (Please), and Grazie (Thank you) shows respect for the local culture. For more on learning Italian, check out Go! Go! Italia’s article.
  • Engage in local customs: Participate in the Italian tradition of a passeggiata, an evening stroll that is a social activity to connect with the community. Additionally, visiting local markets can enrich your experience, allowing you to explore regional specialties and fresh produce while interacting more deeply with locals. These activities offers a wonderful immersion into the daily Italian lifestyle.


  • Don’t hang out just with people from your home country: While it can be comforting to stick with familiar faces, it’s important to embrace the full cultural experience when living in Italy. Make an effort to mingle with the locals and enjoy your international classmates at the language school. Engaging with a diverse group of people not only enhances your cultural understanding but also improves your Italian language skills. This approach allows you to truly immerse yourself in the local lifestyle and customs.
  • Don’t underestimate the value of non-verbal communication: Italians are known for their expressive communication style, which includes gestures and body language. Avoid being too reserved or misunderstanding the importance of gestures in everyday communication. Being receptive and responsive to non-verbal cues is crucial in Italy, enhancing understanding and interpersonal relations.

Conclusion: Embracing the Dos and Don’ts in Italy for a richer experience

By embracing these dos and don’ts in Italy, you’ll enhance your stay in Italy, enjoying its wonders while showing respect for Italian customs and lifestyle. Remember, when in Italy, do as the Italians do. Let them be proud of their culture—visit an authentic Neapolitan pizzeria rather than a McDonald—and you’ll find a warm welcome wherever you go, besides enjoying really really good food. 

If you are interested in moving to Italy and want to deeply understand dos and don’s in Italy, the Italian language and culture, Go! Go! Italia is here to assist you with a smooth transition by connecting you to the best institutions for Italian language learning in Italy.

For more information, contact Go! Go! Italia.

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