Getting Used to Food Differences in Italy

Vacationers in Italy exist in something of a bubble, where they think they’re experiencing something of authentic Italian life without getting close. They may eat differently, spend their time differently, focus on different things – but ultimately, they’re on holiday and they’re not engaging in any of the routine daily tasks that they would if they lived there.


I think this is why it’s so easy to drift into that romantic state of, “Oh, wouldn’t it be glorious if we could move to Italy?” People forget that even in Italy there is still grocery shopping to be done and laundry to hang (because almost no one has a clothes dryer). And even though the husband and I have thought about living in Italy more than just making sigh-filled passing comments during a piazza stroll, we’ve been guilty of over-romanticizing it, too. Really, it’s quite difficult not to.




So in an effort to bring a dose of reality back to anyone who’s contemplating a move to Italy, here are a couple of articles about Italian food to get you thinking.

  • First, we have an example of some amazing Italian food that we’d be hard-pressed to make in the United States (and plenty of other places, I’d wager). The subsitute ingredients for things like octopus and fava beans just aren’t like the real thing. So while learning to cook with new ingredients like that would be a challenge initially, it would then become difficult to return to the US and try to recreate something of Italy for your family and friends back home. Yes, there is such a thing as reverse culture shock. I pray someday I get to find out what it feels like…
  • Second, we have the flip side of the coin. You might expect the food in the markets to be different – you’d be a fool not to – but wouldn’t you expect something basic like milk to be the same? Well, you’d be wrong if you did expect it. Italian milk is sold in tiny quantities (so small the industrial size containers of milk I see at CostCo look downright laughable in comparison) and goes bad pretty quickly, so it’s one of those things people are constantly buying. I know when we last visited our friends in the Veneto we bought milk for them during our stay and were surprised at the small container. There is also milk that doesn’t even need to be in the fridge, though, because it’s been processed differently and has a crazy long shelf life. Most people keep some in the cupboard for “emergencies” when they run out of the real thing, but I don’t think it’s generally the first choice.

 Photo by: Navin75

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