Gelato. It's not just for tourists who are looking to fill up before Praying and Loving. It's served just about everywhere. What was most surprising to me was the fact that if someone offered gelato, they always offered at least eight flavors. One flavor that kept popping up was Zuppa Inglese (which my mom chose, in the center, above). It was basically gelato with pieces of 'zuppa inglese' in it (sponge cake which has sopped up liquor and been drizzled with cherry and chocolate). Looks: 5. Taste: 8.
Aperol Spritz. Italians like Aperol Spritzes so much that bartenders call it simply "a spritz." It's made with Aperol and either prosecco or white wine and always served with a slice of blood orange. Sometimes a splash of tonic water is added and/or a green olive - which tastes better than you would think. Aperol is like a sweeter, less alcoholic Campari. It sites rhubarb, bitter orange and gentian among its ingredients. For the record, this was the only spritz we ever saw in branded glassware.
Covering Pizza with Prosciutto. Any time we sat in a restaurant that also functioned as a pizzeria, we would see pie after pie come out of the oven and then proceed to have one long, thin sheet of prosciutto after another laid upon it. Vegetable pizza, mushroom pizza, cheese-less pizza, it didn't matter. I worried for the poor waiter who then had to distinguish which pie was which at the table.
The Piaggio Ape. The vehicle was created after WWII by the man who came up with the other most-liked-by-Italians-vehicle, the Vespa. We saw them in every part of Italy except for, thankfully, the autostrada. This isn't an excellent picture, but imagine it loaded up with hay or crates of tomatoes or a few pigs - then, imagine a large, burly man with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth filling the entire cab. Another ape variety we saw quite often had a covered back, like a vespa van as opposed to this vespa pick-up.
Driving Erratically. It's hard to get an adequate illustration of the Italian love of driving erratically, but if this is your average parking job, you can just imagine...
Autogrill. The final car/driving related thing, I promise. Autogrills line the autostrada in Italy and there's even one in the center of Rome, which has constant lines of motorcycles and vespas parked outside. We dined there once and in true Italian fashion, were given a slice of warmed bread and a packet of extra virgin olive oil with our better-than-average packaged salads. When I looked up Autogrill, I discovered that its not only the largest retail-catering company in the world's travel sector, but its majority shareholders are the Bennetons. What's funny about that is the fact that United Colors of Benneton stores have been everywhere. Literally every town has at least one if not three (men, women, maternity/children). What Gap is to the US, Benneton is to Italy. So, basically, Autogrill is like a Gap-owned Cracker Barrel (without the country store).
Good food, good wine and sunglasses should go without saying.
La Pausa. This is the two to four hour break in the middle of the day, which seemed really lovely in theory, but was actually quite frustrating in practice. Nothing makes you feel more American than discovering your need to get errands done trump your admiration for the concept of the siesta.
Wishing Each Other A Good Day. No matter how busy an Italian is, they will always take the time to wish someone a good day as they arrive and as they depart. Two people will interrupt their conversation to simultaneously greet a new arrival. A person standing next to you at a counter, with whom you have made no contact whatsoever, will wish you a good day as you pay up. During our time in Tuscany and Umbria, every "bon giorno" came with a smile.
Emergency Pulls in the Shower. We're pretty sure that it is actually required by law in Italy to have an emergency button in a hotel shower. So, maybe this isn't so much something Italians like as it is something they do. Even still, if you're ever in a shower in Italy and see a string hanging from somewhere high up. Do. Not. Pull. It.