If you’re basing your decision to study abroad in Florence, Italy on your immense and undying love for Olive Garden breadsticks and Fettuccine Alfredo, this one’s for you.
My perception of Italian food and culture as an American was one the first things to change when I arrived in my new home of Florence.
It became immediately obvious that ordering spaghetti and meatballs or Fettuccine Alfredo in a true Italian restaurant was the equivalent of waving a giant American flag over your head as you walked through the streets — clearly a tourist. Two weeks into my journey, I can finally say that I’ve (mostly) conquered eating like an Italian. Here are a few tips on how to channel your inner Florentine:
Coffee: Beating Your Starbucks Addiction
Cappuccinos are only for the morning: In Florence, ordering a cappuccino is only acceptable in the early hours of the day, never after a meal. Italians take their digestion very seriously and having milk (even in coffee) after a meal is said to interrupt the process- it’s a big no-no here.
- Leave the Frappuccino in America: Honestly, you don’t have a choice… they don’t exist here!
- Got milk? You will if you order a latte: In Italy, latte means “milk.” If you order a latte, they will assume you just want a glass of milk. Caffé latte may be the drink you’re looking for.
- Mornings at the bar: Don’t be alarmed if someone asks you to meet them at the bar at 8 AM — that’s what Florentines call a coffee shop!
- Everything’s in slow motion: Not being able to grab my daily vanilla latte to-go and get to class within five minutes was a real shock to the system here. People tend to take their time and drink their morning coffees in the bar. Some places won’t even offer to-go cups, which means often having to pick between fueling my caffeine addiction and an extra 15 minutes of singing in the shower.
Cuisine: Throw Our Your Olive Garden Expectations
Dinner is more of a midnight snack: Italians tend to eat much later than Americans; sometimes it’s a challenge to find a restaurant that opens before 8 PM. Dinner starts late and can last hours, as it’s meant to be enjoyed slowly.
- The rule of courses: Eating a meal out here is an ordeal. They eat everything separately and in many courses. Here’s the general layout:
Antipasto – Basically a small appetizer before the meal
Primo – The first course, usually pasta
Secondo – The main course, typically meat
Dolce – Dessert
- One meat at a time – Normally, Italians don’t eat meat from multiple animals in the same meal. Pork and beef aren’t served together, it’s one or the other. Also, dishes like spaghetti and meatballs don’t exist because meat is served in a separate course from the pasta. Serving them together is unacceptable!
- To-Go is a no-no – While you can occasionally find restaurants that offer a “take-away” option, most restaurants expect you to eat there; not the best for the cold pizza lovers out there!
- BREAKING NEWS: Pineapple does NOT belong on pizza – Authentic pizza in Italy is much simpler than in America. The verdict is in on the pineapple pizza debate and it’s a “no” from the Italians.
Gelato: It’s Better than Dairy Queen!
Flashy isn’t fresh – As mouth-watering as it looks, the gelato in Florence that is displayed as being stacked high and decorated with fruits and cookies tends to not be the most authentic or high quality. The best gelato is normally covered and not left out to draw in tourists. My best experiences have been with gelato off the beaten path. They may not be as worthy of an Instagram story, but your taste buds will thank you!
- Da Angelo… more like Da Angel(WOAH!) – My all-time favorite gelato place I’ve tried so far (and there have been a lot), is Da Angelo Gelateria. It’s on Borgo San Jacopo, right by Ponte Vecchio. They are always making new flavors and give you tons of gelato for your money. Late night runs to Da Angelo have become a nightly tradition here!
Side Note: My all-time favorite discovery since I’ve been here is Italy’s obsession with Nutella. Everything has Nutella on it and you can buy different Nutella-related snacks all over the place. If there’s one thing America can learn from Italy, it’s that there’s never a bad time for Nutella.