All You Need to Know About Dining Culture in Italy

Italian food
Metropolitan City of Rome, Italy. Photo by Josh Hild on Unsplash

If there’s one place in the world that’s universally recognized as a hub of great food, it’s Italy. With a rich culinary history and a strong focus on local ingredients, food culture in Italy remains one of the top drivers of tourism in the country. But this culture extends far beyond just the food itself—Italian tradition also dictates plenty around when and how certain foods should be consumed. Read on to learn more about some unspoken food rules to be aware of on your next trip to Italy.

Respect the Meal Structure

Italians take a structured approach to all of their meals, with lunch, rather than dinner, typically enjoyed as the main meal of the day. Dinner tends to consist of lighter fare and is not eaten until 8:00 or 9:00, while breakfast is usually also quite simple, such as coffee and a pastry. Pro tip: Don’t order your coffee with milk after 11 a.m.

Use Cutlery Properly

Manners matter when dining in Italy, so take some time before you arrive to brush up on local customs. For example, It’s fine to eat pizza with your hands when dining at takeaway shops, but at some restaurants, it may be seen as rude, so stick with forks and knives at more formal establishments. Don’t cut spaghetti; instead, twirl it around your fork, and never ask for parmesan cheese to sprinkle on seafood dishes. Both are considered culinary faux pas.

Embrace Slow Dining

In Italy, meals are viewed as much more than just a time to eat food; they’re social events that should be savored. When you sit down at the table, try to relax, enjoy the food, and engage in conversation with your dining companions. Not only will this lead to a more pleasant overall experience, you’ll feel more satisfied when you take the time to eat mindfully.