10 Signs That Confirm You've Gone "Full Italian"

By: Greg

Robert Downey Jr. will be the first to tell you that you never go full Italian.  But if you’re planning on living in Italy for more than a few months… the chances of going “full Italian” are pretty strong.  Truly being an Italian is rooted deeper than the country in which you live or the ancestors to which you are tied.   Being Italian is a state of mind.  It will affect the way you think, the way you eat and the way you love.  Did I mention that it will affect the way you eat?

If you’re unsure whether or not you’ve gone “full Italian” – here is a list of telltale signs.  The longer you live in Italy, the more susceptible you are to each and every point.  If you’re happy with the changes (perhaps the improved fashion sense and appreciation of wine) – stroll in to your favorite enoteca and plan to stay a little longer.  However, if the changes scare you (perhaps the increased volume at which you speak or your daily critique of the food you’re eating) – well then, hop on the first olive oil freighter and high-tail it home (there’s one leaving now… there’s another one… and another one…).


This is probably the first visible transformation as you begin to morph into a full Italian.  When you consistently discover your thumb meeting your other four fingers as if you’re tenderly cupping a tiny quail egg… and then shake it vigorously up and down like you intend to scramble it inside the shell – you’re starting to look a lot like a local.  Italians are very expressive and use their hands to illustrate their points.  Apart from hand gestures working in harmony with your words, speaking with just your hands is a language unto itself.  The same gesture can mean, “he’s always late”, “that’s expensive”, “that’s inexpensive”, “stop busting my chops”… and much, much more.


OK, it’s seventy and sunny – but is it November?  Oh, well in that case – you’d better have your scarf on.  And a hat and a heavy coat and two layers beneath it and don’t forget the gloves, just in case.  You did say it was November, right?  Italians dress for the season – not the weather.  This means that no matter what the weather brings – you can always tell who is Italian and who is just visiting.  I turned every head in my grocery store when we first moved here by shopping for toilet paper wearing shorts and flip flops… in February.


The time lunch starts deviates slightly throughout the country – people eat earlier in the north than they do in the south, but one thing never changes.  You eat at the exact same time as everyone else in your region, every… single…day.  This means planning an entire day around lunch.  Shops are closed for lunch, parks are emptied for lunch – basically the country shuts down until lunch is over.  You can’t schedule a visit to another city unless the timing of that visit works with your lunch plans.  Once accustomed to the dietary habits of your region, don't deviate from the script or your stomach will start kicking harder than, Dominic the Christmas Donkey.


I don’t mean the Starbucks 20 oz coffee that gets you through the morning drive.  I mean an espresso – quickly and skillfully delivered by a barista that will make a thousand more in the same day.  You can drink your coffee at the bar or at the table, with a little milk or without – but you’re virtually required to have more than one.  You’ll need your coffee with biscotti (breakfast cookies) in the morning, a mid-morning coffee, another immediately after lunch, an afternoon cafe and possibly one after dinner.  And that’s if you’re conservative – we have friends and family that drink as many as a dozen espressos' in a day.  The Italians didn’t invent coffee – but they elevated drinking it into a form of art.


This was a great mystery to me.  There is always bread served with every meal, but no one ever seemed to eat it (you don’t eat it with your pasta and by the time your secondo has arrived, it’s too late).  Magically, the bread always disappears and yet everyone in the country remains skinny.  I thought there must be an overweight fatina dei pane (bread ferry) flying across tabletops with an insatiable appetite for baked goods.  What I learned is that Italians eat the bread in moderation and at specific points in the meal (as a conduit for sugo, for example).  When you can skillfully (and secretly) devour the appropriate portion of bread – you have mastered one of the finest and least-known Italian skills.


You know that you’ve gone full Italian the moment you voluntarily enter into the arena of Italy’s most popular sport – discussing politics.  Once you start cutting and slicing across your political talking points like a young Barry Sanders dancing across the Silverdome, you’ve reached the Champion’s League of your Italian-ness.  A less challenging, but still very “Italian” way of thinking is to engage in a conversation at argument-level volume by simply disagreeing.  Or better yet – agreeing, but doing it so loudly that non-Italian passerby’s surely think you are involved in a spate with a mortal enemy… not a good friend. 

Bonus points if you can use an Italian soccer play in your analogy as opposed to American Football player.


Living in Italy is good for your soul – especially when it alters how you treat other people.  It is impossible not to let the infectious Italian generosity and hospitality seep into your persona.  Embrace the change and soon you’ll find yourself at the airport at 1:30am - picking up a cousin’s friend that his girlfriend met in college six years ago.  But you’ll be glad that you can be the one to help and you’ll surely get rewarded for your efforts somewhere down the line.  When you’re willing to give someone in need the shirt of your back – even if it’s Armani; you are on your way to full Italian.


Everything you’ve seen, heard or read about Italian drivers is true.  Little old ladies whisk past at 140 km per hour.  Motorcycles weave dangerously into oncoming traffic.  When you can safely and comfortably join the challenging dance that is played out on the winding Italian roads each day – you’ve become a native.  Bonus points for any guy that can drive a Fiat 500 and still look like a typical Italian ladies man.


When you first moved to Italy, it’s highly likely that you bought some nice clothes so that you didn’t stick out too badly.  You probably bought an expensive pair of jeans and even purchased a cut that is skinnier that you’re used to.  Once you’ve lived in Italy long enough, you’ll think that “skinny” cut is so baggy you are not sure how you ever dared don those parachute pants in public (and that accounts for the extra 10 pasta pounds you’re sure to have gained).  Italians wear their clothes very fitted, very tailored and very well.  You’ll also discover that your fashion tastes in general have changed – a puffy winter coat?  How could you have ever lived without one?!


Italians drive fast and they drive aggressively.  Parking is no different – forget circling around the block, looking for a spot.  You can comfortably double or triple park your car and then casually stroll into your favorite coffee bar for an espresso.  Airport run?  Throw your parking brake on and walk in to wait for your arrival.  It’s always amazing that everyone is so comfortable leaving his or her car parked illegally.  If they do actually get a ticket – the issuing officer better not be nearby, lest they get an earful about having the audacity to ticket such a law-abiding citizen.  When you can leave your car in the middle of a busy intersection with less stress than boiling an egg - you've definitely gone... full Italian.

So there you have it – ten telltale signs that you’ve “gone full Italian”.  Have you developed some or all of these habits (whether intentional or not)?  If the answer is “yes” – then pull out the grappa and make sure your meal is properly digested… you are an Italian.  If not, stay a little longer – it’s only a matter of time.

About the author

Expat Blog ListingGreg is an American expat living in Italy. Blog description: We've moved from DC to Italy where we're learning to take it easy and enjoy sipping our espresso. We're here for a short time to experience it all!
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Contest Comments » There are 62 comments

Matt Papuchis wrote 10 years ago:

Excellent and well-thought out post there, Greg. I was impressed with the Barry Sanders reference too. Though going "full Italian" would've been using a "futbol" reference not a football one :) Great blog as per usual! You've done good sir.

Susan wrote 10 years ago:

My husband and I really envy the opportunity you guys have come across in living in Italy. He being Italian he would love to be able to introduce that part of him to our kids they way you are able to! I love reading about your adventures and think that I gain 10 pounds every time you write about food! Love it! Enjoy!

Justin Nusbaum wrote 10 years ago:

Yay for Greg! That shirt off your back statement sounds familiar...

Greg wrote 10 years ago:

Not sure if the author's comments count, but I'll kick this party off. First, thanks to Expats Blog for organizing the competition. Second, WHAT A GREAT ARTICLE! I'd bet this Greg guy really knows what he's talking about. Plus, he's probably tall, dark and handsome!

Jenn wrote 10 years ago:

Great post! Love Greg's and Jen's blog too as it lets me live in Italy vicariously!

Anna O'Dwyer wrote 10 years ago:

Great job Greg! I have really enjoyed reading all of your blogs from Italy. You truly have a talent for writing - one that makes the reader feel they are right there experiencing it along with you and Jenn!

Jennifer Goncz wrote 10 years ago:

Another great read from you Greg! Love to share in your adventures in Italy

Bethany Bjur wrote 10 years ago:

Love this! It's been a blast keeping up with your adventures in Italy. While I was over there in the spring for school it was nice to hear about a different part of the country. Now that I'm back in the states, reading the blog lets me relive some of the best months of my life. Keep up the good work!

Elaine Floyd wrote 10 years ago:

You make me want to vacation in Italy so much! One of these days Ricky and I are going to do it. I hope you guys will still be there to show us around! Please write more… we'll live vicariously through you until we are able to go ourselves!

Gayle wrote 10 years ago:

Oh to be back in Italy. I envy you. Wish I had a shop to sell my baskets,

Suzie wrote 10 years ago:

Ciao Bello, (you said you are tall, dark and handsome), your list made me smile (because I am married to an Italian family), and there are some points I couldn't agree more! But so far no one had really put my thoughts into words. Take the fixed lunch times. It drives me crazy sometimes, but on the other side it has some meditative effect, it's a rhythm that makes you slow down and enjoy life (especially when on holidays and la mama cooks for you). Saluti from a fellow "expat" in Calabria (can you find my entry?) Suzie

Bob Anderson wrote 10 years ago:

Next best thing to being there! Laura and I are finally planning our trip to Europe. We've been inspired! Thanks Greg

Andy wrote 10 years ago:

Greg, I guess the folks at Shady Grove Elementary did a good job teaching you well english. Your blog is always fun to read, and grammatically good. Also too, I wonder can you write so good in Italian.

S Brookes wrote 10 years ago:

I have enjoyed vicariously living like an Italian through your blog. I now go to the Italian section of the wine shop before I hit the California section. Before your blog, that would have been unthinkable.

Sonny wrote 10 years ago:

Italy a great life for early retirement but too young to retire.

Lyle wrote 10 years ago:

Great blog! I look forward to reading your new blog posts! It's very cool seeing how your family adapts in a foreign country! Keep up the great work.

Ben wrote 10 years ago:

You have come along way since copying my homework at Pamplin and "borrowing" some extra flex dollars for lunch/dinner. Looks like you have assimilated well enough, but you aren't yet getting bonus points for using Italian football player analogies vs. American ones in "finding the counterpoint".

Jeremy wrote 10 years ago:

Great post! Makes me want to move to Italy. I especially loved the part about giving to others.

Barbara And Mickey wrote 10 years ago:

And we thought moving to New York City was the ultimate experience!! Fantastic blog.

Whit wrote 10 years ago:

Great read Greg! I hope those flip flops you wore into the grocery store weren't the same adidas ones that used to smell up our entire apartment... No really, your blog is fascinating to read about your experiences overseas. You've obviously captivated a large audience with the life you've made in Italy. Keep up the good work my friend. Miss you guys.

Jen wrote 10 years ago:

After reading this I am ready for my coffee! I agree that driving in Italy will change a person. It will also lead to your life flashing before your eyes!

Sarah wrote 10 years ago:

This is all so true!!! I’ve lived and taught English in Italy for a little over a year now and can personally vouch for the fact that Italians DO always try to argue/banter, even over something as small as how many eggs you should put in Pasta Carbonara. Fantastic list!

Mikey wrote 10 years ago:

Awesome! After reading this, I think I want to move to Italy! I will look forward to your next posting.

Louanne Zayas wrote 10 years ago:

This is such a great blog!! It fills me with hours of entertainment as I dream of my next trip to Italy. It makes me feel like I am there, living every moment!!! Thank you for such a well put together read and for adding some fun to our lives!!!!

Aubrey wrote 10 years ago:

Scarves, tight pants and puffy coats...where does the new beard and long, luscious hair come in? ;) I've very much enjoyed reading your blog over the past year. I'd much rather have you closer, but reading your stories has definitely made me so excited that you get to live this incredible journey every day.

Jon wrote 10 years ago:

Great post Greg! We have enjoyed reading about your travels throughout Europe this past year and know that you have gone full Italian!

Jennifer Avventura wrote 10 years ago:

Fabulous article and right on the money! However, I never fell into the 'skinny jeans' I still love my bell bottoms!

MRC Brad wrote 10 years ago:

Great piece. Just don't vigorously shake the same hand you're using to sip your espresso.

Katy wrote 10 years ago:

Another great post, Greg! We love following along with your family's Italian adventures!

N Terry wrote 10 years ago:

An incredible experience but get home! Your Mom misses the baby! Maybe you too a little bit.

Stefani wrote 10 years ago:

I am always learning something new from your blog. But best of all it is done with interest and humor. Keep posting!!!

Lucy Hayden wrote 10 years ago:

Full Italian must mean you have gotten a lot of good food, good company and enjoy yourselves a lot. Have fun.

Linda R wrote 10 years ago:

If you can find a way to export that bread fairy to the USA, you'll be able to keep giving the shirt off your back forever! Enjoyed your posting!

Deborah Brookes wrote 10 years ago:

Reading your blog makes me feel as if I am in Italy with you, your wife, and the sweet Julia.

Joe wrote 10 years ago:

Boy, your blog brings back fond memories of our trips to Italy. Many of the details are how we too found the people and customs. Mary Ann and I really enjoyed your blog.

Danielle Dart wrote 10 years ago:

Greg-you have a remarkable talent for writing and sharing your stories and adventures! We have all thoroughly enjoyed your blogs and hope you win!

Diane Monnier wrote 10 years ago:

How I envy Greg and his family. Having visited more than 55 countries, after my 3rd to to Italy (mostly 15 days in Sicily) this past October, I can finally answer the question "What is your favorite country?" With a resounding yell "Italy".. Thanks, Greg, for giving a great picture of what it would be like to actually "be" Italian.

Matt Donahue wrote 10 years ago:

The edginess of Anthony Bourdain, the sassiness of Samantha Brown and the corniness of Rick Steves! As always- very entertaining and informative. I will definitely use your posts as references for my future travels!

Miles Weigold wrote 10 years ago:

Jen & Greg, What fun! It's clear that you've got lots of free time on your hands. Good news is that we all benefit by reading your blog! Life in Arizona is great....-4 in the Massachusetts grandkids yesterday, 82 here....life is good. Your Italy adventure reminds me of my 4 years in Panama with IBM from 1969-1972. Happy Holidays!

Dennis wrote 10 years ago:

Greg and Jen, I am so pleased that you are both enjoying your Italian experience. You've come a long way from Falling Leaf . Godere!

June Blair wrote 10 years ago:

Great blog! It brings back wonderful memories of our trips to Italy.

Amy wrote 10 years ago:

Great blog, Greg! Is the baby going full Italian too?

Christine wrote 10 years ago:

Sign me up...I'm ready to move to Italy! What a fantastic experience you all are having, thank you so much for sharing. Amazing blog guys! Happy Holidays!

Joan wrote 10 years ago:

Loved the post particularly the bread and skinny jeans. You accurately described the driving,

RonaldO WohlO wrote 10 years ago:

Since my ancestors hail from the northern Italian city of Padua (1533-1596), that makes me an olde Italian. I still have trouble typing with my left hand as it is still curled into the demi-tasse position and moves not with my mouth, but with my thoughts. Your thoughts are well-written and funny. Strange, I never knew you as a business, realtor, jock were such a good writer. I am very proud of you. By the way, look for the Chanti Blanco. It is not only scarce, but delicioso. Ron Wohl

Ingrid wrote 10 years ago:

Love it. It is so well written and descriptive. It just transports me to the complete experience of the Italian life style. I can even taste the espresso, the Olive oil, and the warm just baked bread. Congrats Greg and Jen.

Andrew wrote 10 years ago:

Have a great time in Italy! Stay safe and have fun!

Anne Vandegrift wrote 10 years ago:

Sounds like you are having a fabulous time and a great experience!

Jessica Colangelo wrote 10 years ago:

Greg, my brother-in-law and friend. First off, I will say, you have indeed gone "full Italian". That said, I have enjoyed so very much reading your blog over this past year. You have had me howling with laughs, tearing up, and even sending you edit requests when I was lucky enough to have visited and make it to a few of your entries! (Your candidness did not always portray me in the best light, but made for a good, laughable read for sure!! LOL) You are gifted with prose and humor and these abilities have really been highlighted in your writing. This past year you have worked diligently and timely to appease your biggest fans who unabashedly await for your next post with great fervor! Without your blog and your daily emails our tight knit family probably would not have survived this! Your blog was the perfect way to not only stay connected, but get to share in your travels across Europe and this wonderful Italian adventure you all have had! Might I add, I myself am a fairly experienced traveler. However, I think my niece has been to more countries in her first 2 years of life, than I had in my first 20! We are truly blessed with La Dolce Vita! As they say in Italy, in bocca al lupo (good luck)!

David Sobers wrote 10 years ago:

Greg - Best to you in your great opportunity to live (and dine) in one of the greatest countries in the world. Cinda and I hope to visit Italy again, and maybe we can share a glass of wine... David

Maria wrote 10 years ago:

Very funny post, and too true! I'll never forget my first sweltering October in Florence when the puffy coats came out.

Rod wrote 10 years ago:

Way to go. get involved in Italian life. Go Greg

Chris wrote 10 years ago:

Great post as always...this has been a great and inspiring blog, makes me want to pick up and live the expat life for a while! Thanks for sharing!

Sara wrote 10 years ago:

Hmmm, I don't drink coffee, does this mean I can't move to Italy? I hope that answer is no because I could fully embrace most of the other characteristics :)

Bob Savitt wrote 10 years ago:

You had me at lunch, bread, and coffee! Sounds like you guys are having a wonderful experience.

Ed Garcia wrote 10 years ago:

Excellent reading! One of my favorite things to do is to read and share the experiences of being abroad.

Dominic Colangelo wrote 10 years ago:

Greg, I have been in Italy many times, but your writing and pictures really make me want to go back on the next plane. I love that you have a lot of variety and depth to your story lines. yes, I think you have earned yourself the Italian Card. I am counting the days to my next visit. Dominic Colangelo

WAYNE MATTHEWS wrote 10 years ago:

Greg, this was a very interesting informative post. Sounds like you guys are having a great time. Take care.

Diane Colangelo wrote 10 years ago:

Greg and Jen, Thank you for keeping in touch with us via your writing. It made this year away from all of you much more bearable! We really did enjoy living vicariously through your adventures. I can't wait until you are back home and are writing about your escapades back here in the good old USA!

Michel wrote 10 years ago:

Greg, one of your best posts yet. Are you going to be able to revert back to your former self when you return to the USA or will you stay "Full Italian" for the rest of your life.

Jennifer wrote 10 years ago:

Thanks for a another great post. This top ten list nailed the evolution on an Italian expat.

Julia wrote 10 years ago:

The best thing about Italians giving the shirt off their back is that there is a chance it\'s Gucci!

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