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How to live like an Italian: The do’s & don’ts of Milanese etiquette.

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How to live like an Italian: The do’s & don’ts of Milanese etiquette.


Are you traveling to Italy for Milan Fashion Week, the Expo Milano 2015 or to celebrate the Europe Design Center?  If so here are some Tips & Tricks to being Italian.

On Cappuccinos: Don’t order one after 11am. It’s a total no-no. Most Milanese drink them standing up at the bar, not at a table or else they (and you) pay double. Also, a Milanese only drinks 1 per day. The rest are shots of espresso or macchiattos only.

On Ordering: There’s only one correct way to order in a café: Check out the pastries or sandwiches in the display, order and pay at the cashier, then bring your receipt to the barman, who will serve you at the bar.

On Lunch: Don’t try to have lunch during the off-hours of 2:30 to 7:30 p.m. No one wants to serve you then. The good news is that most of the city’s classic cafés such as Cova, Bastianello, St. Ambroeus and Cucchi all serve a mean lunch in addition to coffee.

On Tipping: A proper Milanese will leave a 10 euro bill at the end of a meal (a proper one, not a quick bite at a café when the service has been good or they know the owner). If you’re euro-less, don’t sweat it—an Italian is happy to be flashed a big smile and engaged in some witty conversation on your way out the door.

On the Aperitivo: The Milanese invented the mini-meal before dinner. Order any drink from 6pm onwards and it comes with a complimentary plate piled high with small portions of risotto, prosciutto, mozzarella, crudité and olives.

On the Farmacia: It’s almost impossible to buy milk or bread past 6pm but you can buy anti-cellulite cream at 10pm on a Tuesday. Be sure to ask the farmacista to whip you up some of their house specialties, which range from night creams and anti-wrinkle cures to homemade perfumes and bath salts.

On Naming: It’s perfectly acceptable to refer to people by their last names. If it’s a female, add a “la” for extra local oomph. For example: “The show won’t start until La Sozzani is settled with her blonde locks in the front row.”

 On Driving: Don’t freak out on your driver. Don’t be alarmed if he parks on the sidewalk or guns it down the wrong way of a one-way street. Italians are creative but excellent drivers.

On Gym Clothes: The reason the Milanese are all staring at you is because you’re wearing gym clothes in broad daylight. Do as the natives do and change into and out of your workout gear at the gym.

On Smoking: Everyone here does it. Everywhere.

On Pasta: Put Parmiggiano on any pasta you like except those with seafood. Italians never mix seafood and cheese.

On Wine: Proper Milanese women always let the men pour and serve the vino. Remember to make eye contact with everyone you clink your glasses with. Duh.

On Wi-Fi: Don’t ask the 90-year-old café owner if he’s got Wi-Fi. He doesn’t. Do what the Italians do and spend 10 minutes without your computer and chitchat with the barman instead.

On Take-away: The Milanese do not appreciate doggie bags or coffee to-go. You can ask for either, but be prepared to raise more than a few eyebrows. It’s much better to go home satisfied with the food you managed to finish at the table or be late (in which case you can always blame it on the slow barman who made your espresso).

Guide published in collaboration with Camera della Moda.

About The Author

Nichelle Cole is the founder & creative director of The Fashion Plate magazine. A respected writer, stylist and influencer, she has been published in fashion magazines around the world.

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