Italian culture goes back to ancient world and has influenced art, fashion, and cuisine all over the world. Read more to find out Top 10 Italian Cultural Notes
1 – The Italian Language
L’italiano is the official language of Italy and one of the official languages of Switzerland. It is also spoken by many people in areas of France and Slovenia that lie near Italy. More than 60 million people speak Italian as their native language.
Like French and Spanish, it is a Romance language, one of the modern languages that developed from Latin.
Many words in other languages come from Italian.
For example, English has borrowed the words balcony, carnival, costume, malaria, opera, piano, pilot, stucco, studio, umbrella, and volcano.
Many other English words, such as bankrupt, gazette, and infantry, came from French, but their roots were Italian.
2 – Polite Address
The pronoun form Lei, you, is part of a system of polite Italian speech.
You must use polite forms to address people with whom you are not on a first-name basis, such as strangers and those who have social authority.
These forms convey respect, courtesy, and formality, and you must use them to avoid being considered rude.
3 – Greeting Someone in Italy
When greeting strangers in Italy, shaking hands is all that is really required.
However, when greeting a friend that you haven’t seen for a while, it is normal to give a kiss on both cheeks, barely making contact, while patting him or her on a shoulder.
4 – Polite vs. Familiar Speech
The pronoun form tu / you are part of a system of familiar speech. Familiar forms are used to address family members, friends, children, and anyone with whom you are on a first-name basis.
The corresponding polite form is Lei.
Differences between polite and familiar speech characterize everyday communication and must be maintained so as to avoid being considered impolite or unsociable.
5 – Hellos and Good-byes
Here is a summary of greeting protocols in Italian.
• Buongiorno is used to greet someone formally or simply to say Good morning to anyone in general. It is also used to say good day during the morning hours. –
• Buon pomeriggio is used to greet anyone in general in the early afternoon. It means Good afternoon.
• Buonasera is used to greet someone formally in the late afternoon and in the evening. It means Good evening.
• Ciao is used to greet someone informally at any time of the day.
• The same expressions are used to say goodbye at the same times of the day:
Buongiorno in the morning, Buon pomeriggio in the afternoon, Buonasera in the evening, and Ciao in any time of the day (in informal speech situations).
• Arrivederci is a formal equivalent for Good-bye; it too can be used at any time of the day.
• ArrivederLa is another more formal equivalent for Good-bye; it can be used at any time of the day.
Note that buongiorno and buonasera can also be written as two separate words: buon giorno and buona sera.
6 – Transportation in Italy
As elsewhere, cars are the main means of transportation in Italy.
Buses and subway systems in large cities such as Rome and Milan are also used commonly to get around within cities and from town to town.
Trains and aeroplanes are used to travel long distances. Train travel is still very popular.
7- Italian Time
The 24-hour clock is used more commonly in Italy than it is in North America.
Thus 5 P.M. is usually rendered nowadays as “le diciassette” rather than as “le cinque del pomeriggio”.
This is especially true in the case of media and official “time situations” (travel schedules, school timetables, etc.). You will simply have to get used to this method of telling time when you are in Italy!
8 – The People and Regions of Italy
Most of Italy’s people live in urban areas. Italy’s largest cities, in order of population, are Rome (Roma), Milan (Milano), and Naples (Napoli).
Each has more than a million people. Many of the country’s cities are surrounded by large metropolitan areas.
The most densely populated areas of the country are the industrialized regions of Lombardy (la Lombardia) and Liguria (la Liguria) in the northwest and the region of Campania (la Campania) in the south.
The areas with the lowest population density are the mountains of both the north and south.
About 98 per cent of Italy’s people are ethnic Italians.
The only sizable ethnic minorities are Germans who live in the Trentino-Alto Adige (il Trentino Alto Adige) region, which borders Austria, and Slovenes who inhabit the Trieste area, along the border of Italy and Slovenia. A number of ethnic French people live in the Valle d’Aosta (la Valle d’Aosta) region, near Italy’s border with France and Switzerland.
9 – Italian Holidays
The main Italian holidays are as follows:
il Natale Christmas (25 dicembre) ➠ Top 6 Italian Christmas Traditions
il Capodanno New Year’s (1 gennaio)
la Pasqua (Easter) (varies)
il Ferragosto (the Assumption) (15 agosto).➠ What is FERRAGOSTO in Italy and how is celebrated
In Italy, most homes and churches have a “presepio” (Nativity scene). On Christmas Eve, the family prays while the mother places a figure of the Bambino (Christ child) in the manger.
Many Italians serve eels for dinner on Christmas Eve. They also bake a Christmas bread called panettone, which contains raisins and candied fruit. Italian children receive gifts from “la Befana”, a kindly old lady, on the eve of Epiphany, January 6.
Easter is preceded by “Carnevale” throughout Italy.
Most carnivals today are small and are held in towns and small cities, setting up their attractions in streets and parking lots. The Mardi Gras in New Orleans is a famous American carnival of this type.
10 – Italian Housing
Notice that the word “casa” in Italian means both house and home. A very large home, usually in the countryside, is called a “villa“. The word “appartamento” refers to the actual apartment suite in a building. The word for an apartment building is “edificio“, although the word “palazzina” is used if it is a relatively small building.