1. Start my day without perfectly drying my hair
First of all I have curly hair, and so harshly drying my hair to within an inch of its life is a big no-no. One of the first lessons my mum shared with me. However, here in Italy, if you’re hair is wet and you are not found in the bathroom with a hairdryer in your hand, you are a pazza. It is very frowned upon to leave the house in such a state.
It’s called natural air-drying people!
2. Mixing salad with my main dish
It’s very strange to mix hot and cold food. Salad is, and will always be, a contorno. A side dish – not to be muddled with your hot spaghetti all’arrabbiata. Again, I’ve grown up in Britain doing this for one simple reason: I love the taste of the balsamic vinegar smudged in with the pasta: there’s something rich, creamy and a bit salty to it.
Let’s share the balsamic love! (Although it doesn’t go down well at all during dinner when I’ve been spotted.)
3. Not putting slippers on immediately after I’ve taken off my shoes
Slippers are a big deal. I mean a serious topic della casa. If you take so much as two steps in an Italian household in your mere socks – this is a problem.
It’s the idea you are dragging dust and sock debris around the house, potentially into the bedroom or bathroom area, in which case there might be irredeemable skin-on-dust contact. And did you know that can be fatal? I didn’t.
4. Drinking ‘long’ coffee
It’s called an Americano people! I have one reason and one only:
It makes the darn thing last longer.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely embrace caffè’s, macchiato’s and cappuccino’s. Sometimes I don’t want the milk, but equally I don’t want my coffee moment to be over in one breath. It’s all about the extra hot water, and – if you are feeling sassy – frothy latte on the side. Be bold, people, in your caffeine needs.
If it comes up in conversation, just remember to agree that ‘yes, Starbucks is the death of coffee and no, it shouldn’t be invited into Italy.
5. Dipping pesto into…well, anything
Ok, so this is embarrassing. And I’ve started to do it in secret. Have you ever bought fresh pesto from the gastronomia section of the supermarket? The luscious green one, with delectable bits of parmigiano still slightly raw and crunchy? The oil and basil balance exquisite? Get me a cracker, a hunk of bread, a blob of cheese – and its going into the green stuff.
And I won’t change.
6. Having breakfast biscuits not at breakfast
There are these biscuits called Gocciole, (sweetly meaning ‘drop.’) Now let me introduce you properly: they have bits of dark chocolate pieces in them, are basically cookies (apparently) without the dreaded saturated fats. They melt naughtily into any cup of tea or coffee. Not just at breakfast time but at any and all times.
What time is it? Probably Gocciole time!
7. Having more than one spritz at aperitivo
I must admit, Italians drink alcohol with grace and ease. There is no sense of urgency because bars will close and Friday night’s irresistible Happy Hour has arrived and one’s undivided aim is to get off one’s face (or ubriaco perso.) I have to say, it is hard to be satiated after just one spritz.
Aperitivo: a drink with abundant nibbles to enjoy with friends on your terrazza (or in a piazza if you don’t have a terrace.) It actually has a purpose too which is to stimulate the appetite.
This is not necessarily an alcoholic choice, but Spritz Campari or Aperol are the go-to choices alla moda. Delicious and fruity and brighter than the sun, one does’t tend to have more than one. The idea is you are preparing the precious stomach before the big dinner later on.
Did you know the stomach is seen as the second brain? An aperitivo is therefore elevated to much more than a social pleasure. You are gently easing the stomach into a potential greater amount food, to avoid the infamous ‘stomach ambush.’