Italians know how to enjoy life, whether through exquisite art, music, food and architecture; the company of friends and family; the beautiful game of soccer; or an after-dinner passeggiata (slow walk). Despite the abundance of history—Roman ruins Renaissance art, medieval towns—Italy is also modern, taking part in the European Union, keeping up with technology and leading in style and fashion.
Italians are often described as warm and friendly people. Strong traditional ties bind families together, although Italian family dynamics vary from zone to zone. Normally, northern Italians are a little more reserved than southern Italians. Most parents want to know where their child is going when he/she leaves the house.
Italians are not very punctual. Italians are happy and easygoing, always ready to have fun or to laugh at a good joke. They place great importance on friendship and loyalty and are usually very willing to help others, even if this means going out of their way. Selfishness and strong individualism are frowned upon. It is common to offer to share whatever you are eating. It is considered rude if you eat something in front of others without offering.
Italians are passionate in the way they talk–loud and with lots of gesturing and emphatic facial expressions–but they are not arguing.
Because schools do not organize many extracurricular activities, students usually organize their own free time. Young people can generally stay out until late on Saturday night and, if the family is more liberal, perhaps one or two other nights during the week.
Young people tend to live at home until they get married. Teens do not usually have part-time jobs.
Italians are very proud of their cooking. Italians generally have a light breakfast of coffee with milk or tea along with cookies, crackers or bread with jam or honey, fruit, cheese or bread.
Lunch, the biggest meal of day, is often a big plate of pasta followed by meat, fish, cheese, vegetables or salads. Lunch is generally eaten around 1:30 p.m. Afterwards there may be fruit and dessert. Dinner is later, around 9:00 p.m. and a little smaller than lunch, but with bigger portions of meat, fish or vegetables together with cheese, ham and bread.
During meals, Italians drink water and wine but seldom soft drinks. Meals are an important family gathering time. It is a great time for socializing and catching up. The Italians eat very fast, holding the knife in the right hand and the fork in the left. They keep both hands on the table while eating and between courses.
Italian is the official language, although there are different dialects from city to city. There are significant French- and German-speaking minorities as well as Slovene speakers close to the Yugoslavian border. The majority of Italians are Roman Catholic, although religious devotion is often neglected.