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5 Things Eating in Italy Has Taught Me

When you move to another country that has a similar culture to your own, you assume there won't be that many differences. In fact, I've been surprised at how many there are, particularly when it comes to eating in Italy.

Here's what I've learned about eating in Italy.

1. Eating Late Won't Kill You

In the U.S., I ate at 6 p.m. If not earlier. Here in Italy, dinner is anywhere from 8 to 9...or later.

At first, when a friend would invite me to dinner at 9, I'd get grumpy and decline. But I've learned to have a snack to tide me over, and over time, I've become accustomed to eating later, at least when I'm at a restaurant or someone's house. At home, I usually eat around 7.

2. Meals Can Have Several Courses

Americans tend to eat everything all at once, or maybe have a salad before the main course. In a restaurant, we might have appetizers first.

In Italy, the aperitivo (appetizers) are optional. Though at Francesco's house, his dad is happy when I come because it means they'll serve them!

Normally you'll eat a primo and a secondo. The primo is usually pasta or rice, followed by a secondo of meat and veggies, and then salad.

When Francesco and I cook at home, however, we usually just have a single course (and 9 times out of 10, it's pasta for him!).

3. Salad Comes Last

Americans eat salad before the main course, but in Italy (at least in Calabria), you eat salad at the end of the meal. It's used to cleanse the palate, and I'm surprised at how, even when I feel overstuffed, I can manage to eat salad and make a little room for dessert.

4. Fruit's Good Too

I guess I expected an Italian household to serve lots of sweets after a meal, but that usually only happens at Fra's house for holidays or if someone is visiting and brings pastries.

But what I absolutely love is that after we finish our meal, his mom brings out a giant bowl of fruit and we chow down. Just like with the salad, I'm surprised that I somehow have room! I think salad and fruit go into a different stomach!

5. Don't Forget to Digest

Wherever you go in Italy, you'll be offered a caffe, amaro, or limoncello after a meal. The last two (sometimes even grappa will be on offer) are meant to help you digest your food. I don't like the bitterness of amaro, but occasionally I'll have a limoncello. And coffee is always nice!

I'm happy to do more research for you on eating in Italy! Stay tuned for my findings!

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