Despite having vacationed countless times (and studied abroad once!) in Italy, I can’t tell you how many times I felt like a complete foreigner when I first moved here two years ago. Vacationing and living in a country are very different, a piece of advice I had heard often growing up, but I had to discover it for myself back in 2016. Now that I’m back in Italy for round two, this time as a citizen, I surprisingly feel at times more Italian than I do American.
Below are 20 things that I’ve learned and mastered about life in Italy/Milano after having lived here for a total of 14 months:
1 Dress for the season, not the weather. I don’t care how warm it may be in early April, the flip-flops are an absolute no-no.
2 Always keep extra snacks, juice and/or coffee around in case guests come over.
3 Bring a book or something to occupy yourself with if you have to run errands at the post office, questura (police station) or comune (municipal office).
4 Never buy into a sales promotion or offer on the first day.
5 Negotiate like a motherf*cker at the market.
Mercato di San Agostino, Milano.
6 Try to purchase local produce and other food made in Italy.
7 Walk everywhere when you can.
8 Or, even better, subscribe to a bike sharing system and cycle!
9 Bring empty water bottles to the fountain and fill them up for free instead of paying for water at the supermarket every. single. time.
10 Wake up early for the beach during the summer months because all the good spots will be taken after 11.
11 Invest in fabric softener.
12 Don’t let fear of failing and mispronouncing prevent you from speaking Italian alone to strangers.
13 Be more open to making friends and meeting new people.
14 Explore more throughout Milan and take advantage of all the city has to offer.
15 Avoid getting gelato from places that serve it from what look like tiny, wavy hilltops. It won’t be good.
Ultimate tourist trap gelateria in Firenze.
16 Try to give exact change at the cash register and avoid using larger bills for small payments. Cashiers do not know how to do math in Italy.
17 Don’t go shopping with intentions to return anything and get your money back. Most Italian return policies only will give store credit.
18 Know when to give an opinion and when to shut up. Italians are more discreet and sometimes honesty isn’t always the best policy here.
19 Don’t you dare put grated cheese on pasta dishes with fish.
20 Speaking of pasta, f*ck a diet and eat as much of it as you can.
Handmade ravioli, made with love by my boyfriend’s father.