Tipping in Italy. Or not.

May 25, 2021

I come from New York. A place where if you forget to tip a waiter or a taxi driver you might well fear for your life – or in any event be subject to an unpleasant berating.  So, what a pleasure to live in a country where tipping is still more or less up to you, the customer.

Don’t get me wrong. Tipping is of course appreciated; it is rare to find someone in Italy who will actually refuse a tip, especially after a year of Covid. But if you don’t feel like giving one, or don’t have the right amount of money, no problem. And this makes life easier. Less stress.


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At the “bar”: Il caffé -The many forms (and tastes) of coffee in Italy

May 11, 2021

Prendiamo un caffè? Shall we have a coffee?

Coffee in Italy serves many purposes. Some folks, like people everywhere, need it to wake up. For others it is simply a habit. For some it is almost a drug and people who are hooked on caffeine, myself included, seem to need several a day to keep going. But in Italy coffee also preforms an important social function, that of an icebreaker, of a thank you token when someone who has helped you out won’t accept anything more, or simply as a way of touching base with friends and neighbors.


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Il barista italiano: a national resource

May 11, 2021

This was the title of a story I wrote a few years back for the Rome daily, Il Messaggero, and from the feedback I had I am inclined to believe that every barista in Rome thought I was writing about him (yes, there are women bariste but they are still a minority).

This is the kind of place you want to avoid

If you are – like me – someone used to having her first coffee of the day outside the house, the barista’s attitude can have a significant impact on the rest of your day and therefore anyone sulking or in a bad mood is definitely to be avoided.


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To Ciao or not to Ciao

April 28, 2021

When I first wrote about the “ciao” several years ago, my idea was to let visitors to Italy know that using this form of greeting – good for both a hello and a goodbye – also implied more about social status and social relations than probably was ever imagined in the US or other English-speaking countries where a lot of people use it to bid adieu.

My goal at the time was to make sure foreigners to Italy knew when its use was appropriate and when it was not. In recent years, things have changed somewhat, especially in Rome where “keshual” (as most Italians tend to pronounce the word “casual”) is the name of the day. And the same goes for areas of the city such as Trastevere (where I live), Testaccio, Garbatella and Pigneto, or neighborhoods in other cities where a lot of young people live or congregate.


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