Italians tend to be neat freaks. Traveling through Italy sometimes it doesn't appear that way. But they are in fact fairly orderly people in their own homes and lives. Sure, the walls of their own homes, public buildings and even historic monuments might be covered with graffiti, and the streets outside might be polluted with piles of trash because of the recent union troubles, and no one picks up dog poop, and some drive the rustiest, banged up cars imaginable... but inside their homes the story is different. Italians at home are rule bound. There are customs, rituals and many, many rules:
- Open windows daily to change the air (cambiare l’aria)
- Close windows right away before you catch a cold.
- Live with Mama as a grown man until you get married (even if you're 48).
- When a man finally gets married, he should carry a piece of iron in his pocket on his wedding day for good luck.
- If it rains on your bride, she will have luck. (sposa bagnata, sposa fortunata -- wet bride, lucky bride)
- Never cook with butter.
- Drizzle olive oil on TOP of bread, never dip bread into olive oil.
- Never have dinner before 8pm.
- Never eat polpetti (meatballs) with spaghetti.
- The fork is always held in the left hand, the knife in the right.
- Never keep hands in your lap at the dinner table--and elbows off the table.
- Don't tell your sister her baby is cute (bad luck).
- Always open a gift as soon as it's received.
- Punctuality is considered an insult--be fashionably late always.
- Never ask for salt at the dinner table.
- It's best never to give a knife as a gift. (If you do, ask for a small payment).
- If you give a wallet as a gift, put a coin in it.
- Do not give chrysanthemums--they are only used in funerals.
- If your husband dies, wear black. If your wife dies, get a new one.
- Never telephone anyone between 2 and 4 pm (they might be having a nap, or something even more intimate... their pisolino)
- Take a minimum of one shower a day. Two is better.
- Never put rugs on the floor (wall to wall carpet is a disgusting American thing)
- No shoes on the table (bad luck) and...
Shoes... filthy things.
It's curious then to me why Italians named that little piece of bread used for sopping up sauce on their plates "scarpetta" (little shoe). You'd think it would gross them out.
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