International Studies Abroad ®est. 1987


Culture Corner

Italian Culture

The Italian Pace
In Italy, patience is truly a virtue. Take a restaurant, for instance. Italian servers may seem to be ignoring you, but in reality, they just like to give customers time and space to talk and socialize. The slower pace and long waits also apply to many public offices and events. Lines in offices are often long and service is not very efficient compared to U.S. standards. Offices do not always open on time and events do not start promptly. Italians do not like to stress over things, but rather tend to relax and enjoy life to the fullest with a slower pace. And since you are a foreigner in Italy, try to make an effort to adapt to this culture.

One of the most fundamental rules of Italian culture is moderation. At first glance, Italians might seem to drink a lot, but upon a closer look, quite the opposite is true. They do drink - spumante to celebrate, limoncello to digest, aperitivo to taste and vino to mix with food - but with moderation, not in order to get drunk. In fact, the quickest way to lose the respect of your Italian friends and neighbors is to get drunk in public. Drinking on the streets is also considered very disrespectful.

Family has a very important role in Italy and life revolves around the family. The majority of young adults move out of the family homes very late (in their 30's), partly because of unbearably high living expenses, and partly due to strong sentimental attachments to the family.Dating rituals are complex and very different from the U.S. For example, it will often take months, even years, before a dating couple actually goes out alone. The beginning of a relationship is always filled with group outings and only after quite some time does a couple separate itself from the group. Since the majority of Italian young adults live with their parents, the occasions to invite boyfriends or girlfriends to their house are also rare. Living together before marriage is slowly gaining popularity, but many people still condemn "illegal couples."

Cultural Activity Suggestions

Florence has endless activities for international visitors to enjoy. Listed below are some different cultural activities to do while in Florence. You can do many of these activities on your own, with friends, or they may be sponsored by ISA. Upon arrival to Florence, different sponsored cultural activities will be announced throughout your program abroad.

Pitti Palace
Dating back to the dates from 1458, the Pitti Palace gives students a glimpse into the past and life during the Renaissance. Later owned by the Medici family, today the palace houses relics from the past such as paintings, plates, jewelry and clothing.

Picnic in the Boboli Gardens
Pack a lunch and bring a blanket and head to the beautiful Boboli Gardens of the Pitti Palace! A great way to take advantage of great weather. Gather with friends, practice your Italian and enjoy the greenery of Florence.

Soccer Matches
During soccer season, attend a local game and experience the thrill of Italy's favorite sport. Don't forget your purple attire, the official color of the Florence soccer team, Fiorentina.

Open-Air Markets
There are many famous open-air markets throughout the city. One of the most famous is located near Piazza San Lorenzo. Walk through the markets for leather and paper goods or head into the Central Market for fresh produce, meat, poultry, fish, and cheese. There is a large, outdoor market at the park called "Le Cascine." Prices there are quite inexpensive, especially for clothing.

Piazzale Michelangelo
Take a walk with friends up to Piazzale Michelangelo on the south side of the river, which has one of the best views of the city.

Cultural Immersion

Language Exchanges
Students will be given the opportunity to meet local students wishing to share their knowledge of Italian and learn English in exchange. This activity, based on student interest, is a great way to get to know other students of Florence, and share your culture and language with others while learning more about your surroundings and Italian culture!

ISA Student Blog
Stay connected while you're abroad and share your experience with your peers back home! Each summer and semester the ISA Student Blog features ISA students as bloggers, photo bloggers and video bloggers who document their time abroad to share with their friends, family, prospective students and more. If sharing your study abroad experience through blog posts, photos, videos and other media while receiving professional guidance and feedback appeals to you, consider applying to be an ISA Featured Blogger, Photo Blogger or Video Blogger. The Site Specialist for your program will email all accepted students to notify you when ISA is accepting applications for the ISA Featured Blogger programs.

Cultural Blogs
We also suggest you check out the plethora of other cultural blogs available on the web to learn more about others' experiences in Florence, cultural happenings, and expat lives.

Language Resources

Helpful Phrases

Parla Inglese? Do you speak English?
Non parlo Italiano. I don't speak Italian
Non capisco. I don't understand
Permesso. Excuse me. (Used when you want to cut through a crowd.)
Prego. The response to 'permesso'
Vada via! Go away! (Used when people are bothering you)
Aiuto! Help! (If Vada via! Is not effective.)
Come sta? How are you?
Buon giorno. Good morning/afternoon
Buona sera. Good evening. (In Florence, 'buona sera' is used after 1 p.m.)
Arrivederci. Goodbye

On-line Dictionary Resource

Beware of translation websites...much can be LOST in translation!