How many things do you know about Italy? And how much do you know about the Italian culture? Maybe you know it for being the land of Parmigiano cheese and mozzarella, Chianti wine and extra virgin olive oil, pasta and gnocchi, zucchini, tomatoes and many other food. Or maybe you know Italy for being the native land of Giotto, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and other important painters and artists of the past. You could know Italy for Ferrari cars and fashion. Many people knows Italy for its landscapes and the historical heritage: mountains, hills and lakes, Roman relics, history, culture and art and ancient towns.
But what is the first thing do you think when you hear the word “Italian”?
Many people will say “mafia” or “food”, because Italy has always been described like this in the world. Let’s see these aspects in details.
All the Italians are Mafiosi
It is very frequent to hear that the Italian population is directly associated to the idea of mafia. In fact, one of the most common prejudices about the Italian culture and lifestyle is that “all the Italians are mafiosi”. The Italians (especially those who live in the United States) have always been associated to “the Godfather” characters and to Sicilian mafia represented in details in Coppola’s American film.
One of the most curious aspects to consider is that words like “mafia” and “mafioso” are often used as nicknames to call friends and partners, because they are considered funny adjectives.
At the contrary, mafia in Italy is a very serious problem for all the honest citizens who live in Italy, in particular for those who live and work in the regions of South.
Italians? They are food lovers!
Many people are really convinced that the Italians always eat and just think about food. This is another banal common-place in many countries of the world. Everybody knows that Italy has a great and long cuisine history, but it is not true that the main topic in the conversations is food. Eating is an important part of the Italian culture (and this is the reason why many dishes made abroad come from the Italian traditions) but there are many other common and important topics in the Italians’ speeches.
Tutti vicini (all together)!
Many people also think that the Italians live all together in large families in the same house. It is not infrequent to read or hear sentences like “tutti vicini” in the American books and films about the Italian culture. The Italians are often described as people who reject the idea of privacy and the aim to create their own family. This is really a very ancient picture of the Italian culture and its lifestyle! This could happen in the past (especially in Southern Italy families, when people couldn’t buy a house), but it doesn’t happen anymore.
So, what is the best solution to overcome all these banal convictions and prejudices? The first thing to do is traveling and visiting Italy (at least for a month) and the second thing is attending Italian courses in one of the major cities of Italy, like Rome, Florence, Bologna, Venice and Milan. In this way, it will possible to appreciate the local culture and learn many things about it.