You probably have some preconceived notions about what Italian people are like - anyone remember Cake Boss? - but, like most stereotypes, probably don’t hold much water. First things first: we only visited three cities in northern Italy. That’s hardly enough to generalize an entire country’s people, so obviously take everything I have to say with a grain of salt.
Disclaimers aside, what I witnessed of the Italian people was overall a positive experience. Here’s what I observed:
Italians are proud. Italians are very proud to be Italian, and love to share the history of their country if you ask. Italians are proud of their appearance. Everyone dresses nicely. You will be hard pressed to see anyone wearing a t-shirt or leggings. Italians are proud of their jobs. Whether they are a sales clerk at a clothing store, a waitress, or a doctor, Italians are proud of the work they do, and it shows. A pharmacy on the corner in Italy has better customer service than many places in America - its crazy.
Italians are touchy. While in Italy I noticed how close Italians were willing to get to one another. Most people are probably aware of the infamous “cheek kiss” greeting, but that’s not the only thing I’m talking about here. As an American, I admit I like my space, and would never think of sitting right next to a stranger unless that was the only seat available. But I saw that exact scenario play out several times here. Italians do not seem bothered in the slightest to sit right next to a perfect stranger.
Italians are respectful. I sort of touched on this in the first point with Italians being proud of their profession, but this respectfulness extends beyond typical customer service instances. One stereotype of Italians I have always heard was that they are loud. I kept thinking about this when we would go to restaurants or bars, and could tell that WE were the ones being the loudest. When we went to apertivo one night I couldn’t help but notice that even when there was a larger group at the bar, no one was being rowdy, even though the place was packed. Even when there were groups, everyone was only quietly conversing. They do actually talk with their hands though!
Again, there is no way this could be a complete list of every facet of the Italian person, but if you want to learn more, you’ll just have to go and see for yourself!