Last Updated on December 1, 2023 by Laura Teso
In this post I want to write about Italian stereotypes, after founding some videos and articles online. Many of the articles I found online about Italians are actually describing the stereotypes of Italian Americans. Which is a totally different thing. Italian Americans or, as we Italians call them Italoamericani, have developed a different subculture, different food and different language. In this article I am going to list the stereotypes about Italians growing up and living in Italy. Of course, all from my personal point of view.
Italian stereotypes: true or false?
1 Italians are loud
It depends. Not all Italians are loud. But some are. This really depends on the education you receive. My parents were born and raised in the country, both in extremely poor families. Yet, my mum’s relatives are all very calm and polite, while the relatives of my father are quite loud and eccentric. My mother is one of the quietest person I know. Also when mad, she never yelled. And this was even more unnerving for me. My father on the other hand was very loud, and my mother managed to “educate” him throughout the years. 😀
I personally hate when people are too loud, cause I really hate noise. When I seat close to a loud person I’m in pain the whole time. So I always pay attention to avoid loud relatives at family dinners or something.
2 Italians are always late
No. Seriously. Ok, some Italians are often late. But not all of them. My parents are super punctual. When we set for a family meeting or an errand together, everybody arrives 10 minutes early. So they taught me. And so I do. And also the thing that people from the South are late is false. My best friend, who is originally from Puglia, is super punctual.
3 Italians are very religious
Yes and no. My father is very religious, and so many of my relatives, and in general people of a certain age. I am not. Even if I like to attend to some events because I think they are rooted in our tradition and history, I’m not a believer. I asekd my nephew, also non believer, and he told me that young people are less and less religious.
4 They are Soccer fanatics
Yes. Of course, not every Italian man loves soccer but the majority do. And many women, too. I only watch the national soccer team games.
5 Italians eat pasta and pizza every day
I wish! As for pasta, that can be true. Honestly, when I was young, in my family, my mother used to prepare spaghetti every day at lunch. Every single day. But spaghetti with tomato sauce are cheap, nourishing and also healthy if you do not exaggerate the dose. Since I’m on my own (now married) I do not cook pasta that often. But, you know what? I was healthier and in a better shape when I did, so I could consider to restore the habit.
As for pizza, no, sadly. Pizza is something we usually eat once per week, as a special occasion, ordering it from a take away. The most popular pizza nights are Saturday and Sunday. For me and Matteo it is Sunday.
6 Italians always say Mamma mia
Yes. We do. A lot. Mamma mia literally means “my mother” and it is a expression we use as American use “my God” or “oh man”. When an Italian exclaims Mamma mia, he doesn’t think about his mother at all. It is just a way to express surprise, joy, pain or disappointment.
If you want, you can read the post about mamma mia.
7 They use the bidet to wash their feet
No. Ok, we also use it for that. But the primary use is another. For those who ignore the purpose of the bidet, here it is: it is used to wash private parts. So we don’t need to take a shower if we’re completely clean, except… there. And we don’t need to undress just to wash us there if we need to. For us it is a matter of hygiene. If you already took a shower and then you have to poop, then you wash yourself with the bidet. So much more comfortable.
We use it every day and we can’t understand how the rest of the world can’t do without it (except for Spain, Portugal, Greece and South America, where people use it… rightly).
When a friend of ours move to a foreign land, the most asked question is: How do you manage without bidet? The friend usually sighs and says: You get used to it, it’s not much of a problem, but you can see that hint of sadness in their eyes. The sincere ones confess right away: it’s a nightmare.
8 Italians talk with hands
Absolutely true and undeniable. We do speak with our hands. There are lots of gestures and each one of them means something different. Sometimes, a gesture, if done at a different speed or different angle, means something different. It seems that this habit derives from the time when Italy was divided into various small states, dominated by different nations (Spain, Austria, France). So, in order to communicate, the gestures were created.
Therefore, we do not gesticulate randomly. And we hate when we see people mimic Italians, making meaningless gestures. Or, worse, gestures out of turn. Like saying: “Molto buono” (yummy) and making the gesture to say “What do you mean?”. For us it’s something we do since we’re kids, it’s natural to us. I learned only in my 20s that we were the only ones using that gestures. I thought that everyone in the world did. So to me it was odd that everybody else didn’t do it. 😀
9 Italians are Casanovas
Meh. It depends. Maybe the past generations were more full of womanizers. Nowadays, I’m not that sure.
10 They all have a vespa
Vespa is a famous Italian scooter and it is lovely, but not every Italian has one. Scooters in general are very popular here, because they allow people to get around in not so big cities in less time. Moreover, you must think that our public transportation is not the best of the world, so, being able to drive a scooter can be fundamental. As for me, I can’t drive it. My mom always forbid it… to me. Yes, cause my 2 brothers had both a scooter. But not for the girl. But I always had male friends or boyfriends who could drive it. The brand could be Piaggio or other brands. Not exclusively Vespa.
11 They’re greasy
This refers to the abundant use of hair gel. But it was a 80s trend. I don’t see this anymore. Luckily.
12 Italians are alle connected to Mafia
When I was little I used to think that mafia existed only in Sicily but now I know mafia and corruption have sadly permeated the system, and not only in Italy. But this doesn’t mean that every Italian is mafioso. On the contrary. According to a study, there are 20,000 mafiosi in Italy. But they can rely on 250.000 “supporters”, i.e. people who work for them or people who helps them. Since Italy has 60 millions inhabitants, I dare say, despite my lack of talent in maths, that mafiosi are just a small percentage.
13 They don’t pay taxes
I come from a family of persons who were obsessed with respecting laws and deadlines. I felt disgraced when I received my first and only ticket (the time limit was passed of 10 minutes, btw). So I wish I could say no. But it’s true. Sadly, many Italians do not pay taxes. Of course, I never met someone who admits this. In Italy we say: only poor people pay taxes, rich people do not pay and nothing happens to them.
14 Italians can’t form a line
Yes. They don’t. I obviously exclude myself, because I’m perfectly capable of keeping the line. And so does my husband, and my best friend, and my father and everyone I know. But, yes, every time I go at a public office or something, there are unorganized lines and people trying to cut them and surpass you. And that’s something I really hate of Italy. Why? I have no idea.
15 Hot headed, vengeful and jealous
There are hot headed, vengeful and jealous people like in every part of the world.
16 Italians drive like crazy
This is completely true. And I don’t know why it happens. I personally also saw people driving like crazy in Italy and, past the border with Austria, drive perfectly, respecting the rules, never honking, etc. Once in Italy again, they get back to the old habit. I also saw many Austrians drivers do this too, eh. They trespass the Brennero and zac! They drive like crazy like us. Maybe because there are not enough control systems?
17 They wear sunglasses all day long
We Italians wear sunglasses a lot, me included. I also wrote a post about it: sunglasses in Italy. The reason is simple: the sun shines a lot here. 😀 Plus, I feel prettier with my sunglasses. Anyway, you must know that my friends mocks me for using sunglasses until sunset.
18 They wear “heavy clothes” starting from September 1, no matter the weather
Mmmmmm… I don’t think this is totally true. Probably, being used to a rather warm summer, Autumn for us is already cold enough to dismiss summer dresses. But it depends. I’m not sure about this stereotype. 😀
19 Italians dress up for city walking
Yes, many Italians do. As for me, it depends on my mood. Sometimes I dress up, and sometimes I go out in my joggers. But I’m never elegant, actually. Always casual. Some readers asked me if ladies wear jeans in Italy. Yes! I wear jeans all the time and so many other girls and ladies.
20 Italian men all wear a golden necklace
Ha ha ha. This is almost true. My father does. And many people of his age. This derives from the habit to give this kind of necklaces as presents to the boys who got baptised. The necklace usually has a cross pendant. Girls received a necklace with the Madonna instead. But girls usually do not wear it. Young people, even if they still sometimes receive the necklace, do not wear it anymore. It is not fashionable.
21 They are obsessed with Italian coffee
I must confirm this. Yes, Italians love coffee and drink it several times during the day. My best friend for example travels with his Moka pot.
When Matteo and I are abroad we suffer because, even if we ask for an espresso, 99% of the times what we receive is a “brodaglia”, a schlop that has nothing to do with an Italian caffé. Sorry.
22 They can’t speak English
Things are changing and new generations are better at Engish. But, at least for my generation, school system was very lacking at English teaching: no mother tongue teachers, unprepared teachers, too few hours of lesson, etc. Once I finished school, I couldn’t even form a sentence in English. Imagine people older than me!
23 They always sing
I do. And I know a few people who do that as well. But we are absolutely not the majority.
24 Italians play the mandolino
The first time I saw a mandolino was at a museum. It was a popular instrument in Naples in 1800 to accompany popular songs. So, no, it is not a popular instrument.
25 They are friendly
I like to know that Italians are perceived as friendly but I don’t know if everybody really is. You should see how friendly my hideous neighbours are! I think there are friendly people everywhere.
26 Italian say Ciao bella!
Omg, I hate Ciao bella. This was the greeting that womanizers (usually slimy old men) once used (when I was 20) to hit on girls. I hated that kind of behaviour. I was walking along the street to go downtown and “Ciao bella”. But… Who the hell are you? Do I know you? What a lame, lame approach. Plus I hate to be disturbed when I’m simply walking along the street on my own. It’s something that nowadays Italians don’t do anymore. But immigrant do. It’s so annoying. Probably no one informed them that it was irritating also 20 years ago.
Among friends (not close friends, more like colleagues or something) I must point out that there are people who use it, along with “ciao cara” “ciao stella” (hello dear, hello star). But I don’t like it, at least not when it’s not sincere. The ones who say to me hello darling or something are my father, my husband and my old aunts.
I once had a colleague that started saying stuff like Ciao stella, ciao cara, etc after 2 days she arrived. I liked her, but I couldn’t stand this habit. She used it with everyone, btw. For me it wouln’t be possible. I call amore (love) only my husband and my nephew.
In short, when occasionally a friend say “Ciao bella” to me, I have an unpleasant chill, remembering the old Ciao bella times.
27 They’re affectionate and touchy-feely so much so that even men kiss each other
No. Men usually shake hands or pat on the shoulder. Only a friend of mine, who is metrosexual does this (ie straight but with some feminine habits. For example… he uses way more facial products than I do). Rumor has it that Italians of the South are more effusive. Probably, but I can’t confirm.
We have the habit of kissing on both cheeks among friends (usually lady/lady or lady/man, not man/man) when we meet and when we part. But… also here I must confess I’m not that enthusiast of this habit. Ok if I only see the friend once in a while. But I hate this habit among friends who see each other every day/week. Is it necessary?
Ok, I’m officially a monster. 😀
28 They have big families
That was true… once. My father had 11 siblings, my mother 5. I have 2 brothers. But, take my generation. I have no kids. Only 1 nephew. Among my friends, there are some who have no kids, others have just 1. Only two couples I now have 2 kids. Welfare here sucks, so birth rate is decreasing more and more.
29 Italians love Opera
No. Only elderly people do, and some adults. I do because my father passed down this passion to me. But I know no one my age who loves opera. And when I was at school everybody thought I was weird for liking it.
30 They understand Spanish
Maybe we do. Spanish is quite similar to Italian. But we hate when people, finding out that we’re Italian, start speaking in Spanish to us. Why? Moreover, not every Italian can understand other languages.
In conclusion, I warmly suggest you to watch this hilarious video: differences between Italy and the rest of Europe. Drawings are by Bruno Bozzetto, famous Italian cartoonist: