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Existential tips for a trip to Italy: food, coffee and driving

a lot of pasta on the plate and tomatoes too
Do you know what Italians eat?

There are many guides and reviews online that can tell you a lot about Italy, giving you important information and technical details.

But this article will cover the most basic things that reach us most quickly when we arrive in a new country - food, coffee and driving.

So, what's different about these segments in Italy?

Food: watch for the time!

It's definitely different food. This can be quite a shock, especially for all the other regions outside Mediterranean. Most of the food is based on tomatoes, wine, spices, pasta, cheese, and meat.

But that's only part of what's different. Generally (unless you go for pizza or a snack), lunch in Italian restaurants consists of two (or three) courses (primo and secondo piatto). There are starters, the first course almost always consists of pasta and the second of meat or fish. If you don't know the type of pasta written next to the dish you want to eat, don't worry. Trust that the Italians have chosen the right one. If anyone knows, they do.

Breakfast, unlike in German countries (of course, there are exceptions everywhere), is based on sweet dishes and pastries, with coffee, juice and fruit is a must.

The biggest shock for a foreigner in Italy is when they want to have lunch at 15:30. This is practically impossible, as the traditional meal timetable is still in place in Italy (except in the extreme tourist places). This means, in principle, that you get lunch between 12.30 and 14.30 in every restaurant (plus half an hour in some restaurants). The same is repeated for dinner, which is only available from 18.30 onwards. What about in between? If you happen to arrive in a place just in between the two meal times? You always have the option of choosing a snack (sandwich, tramezzino, slice of pizza, etc.) or buying food from a shop. That's why you should always plan your lunch at lunchtime, otherwise you may be overwhelmed by closed kitchens.

Pasta to be thrown in the pan

Coffee: read the list of Italian coffees

Hm, even with coffee, there are often misunderstandings. Because Italians love coffee and it has an important place in their culture, so it's hard for them to go out of their comfort zone. As a matter of principle, Italians do not know coffee with cream. So write it off from your preferences right away.

But it is not only coffee with cream that is a problem, but also coffee with milk. It will not do you any good to translate the Slovene term into English or Italian, 'coffee with milk' or 'caffe con latte', because for Italians, all coffee is coffee with milk. We therefore recommend that you read up on the types of Italian coffee before entering a bar, restaurant or rest stop on the motorway, to avoid confusion and misunderstanding between you and the shop assistant/waiter.

A good list to help you further with the process of ordering coffee like a real local is available here.

Coffee on the table


In principle, driving in the north of Italy and somewhere as far as Rome is no problem. There may be annoying honking and jostling, but it's only when you really get close to Napoli or Bari that you really fear for your vehicle.

Driving in the middle between two lanes on the motorway, moving left and right without a blinker, jostling, forcing the right of way... The first few hours of driving in the south of Italy are quite adrenaline-pumping. But one soon realises (it may take two days) that it is actually "orderly chaos". There are unwritten rules. One of them is in Italian: "Non mollare mai." Which in this context could be translated as: Don't give up.

Italians, especially those in the south, have a sense of when someone is going to ease off on the accelerator for fear of a car crash or an accident. If they sense you hesitating, we guarantee you that they will indeed force your advantage.

a lot of vespas on the street in Italian city
Streets of Italian city

But again, no fear. We guarantee that after two days you'll start to enjoy driving.

No vignettes, tolls are paid on the spot

In Slovenia, we have become quite used to motorway vignettes. In Italy, they are not known, so you have to pay the toll every time you leave the motorway. So you pay as much as you drive. Above all, make sure you don't lose your ticket :)

The good news is that unlike here, all expressways are free. So it's worth looking where you're going before you visit Italy and, if possible, getting there without using the motorway, or at least taking the various bypasses and expressways for part of it.

Another of the interesting things that may happen to you on Italian motorways is the time when the motorway is closed due to an accident. Especially in the south of Italy, drivers are well prepared for this, and they carry with them grills which they light right in the middle of the closed motorway. If you're lucky, one of your waiting mates might offer you some good roast meat :)

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