When in Rome: No Public Drunkenness


I’d like to think that I’m just as understanding as anyone, and yet I tend to think that when you’re traveling it’s just plain polite to try to fit into the country you’re visiting. It’s like the “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” saying – and in this case, we’re even talking about Italy. Shelley of At Home in Rome recently wrote about an incident in her neighborhood, which has me thinking that cultural “training” for tourists – from any country, and about any country – might not be such a bad idea.

When-in-Rome-No-Public-Drunkenness

Italians are vibrant and lively people, so no one in the right mind can accuse them of being prudish, but public displays of drunkenness are just not cool. Italians do not drink to get drunk, they drink something to accompany their food. With a legal drinking age of 16, and a practical drinking age of “whenever the child can hold the cup,” you might think everyone would be an alcoholic. Instead, Italians have a very low rate of alcoholism. They enjoy their wine in moderation, which is why they don’t understand why some people (namely traveling college-aged folks from the US, Australia and elsewhere) think getting completely wasted and having loud soirees in public piazzas is fun.

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Of course, Italians like a good celebration, so why would they be a wet blanket on what the loud drunkards think is a party? Because public drunkenness is considered embarrassing – it’s simply not done in Italian culture. And whatever you think of that, you are a guest in their country and their culture, so it seems only polite to me to abide by their rules for a little while. As long as their rules aren’t hurting you, what’s the harm? A vacation is the perfect change to step outside your comfort zone in a million ways, and this seems yet another way to do just that.

Do read Shelley’s post, as it’s a good look at how the attitude around being drunk in public is changing, largely due to the influence of the tourists.

Photo by: Dave 77459