What do you think when you think of Italians?
As it always happens with other cultures, if you look at us from afar, you probably see us as one general group. You may think that we all are very friendly, we like to talk a lot (usually with quite a loud voice and using hand gestures), we have a strong bond with our family, we don’t know how to queue and we all like to take things slow.
Well, this might be true on a very general level, but obviously doesn’t apply to each one of us. We are quite different from one another and our characters vary a lot, depending on where we have been born and raised as well. And we don’t like each other that much as well, so we want to make very clear that we are not all the same.
So don’t tell someone from Liguria that he or she is like someone from Milan or, even worse, avoid mistaking someone who is from Pisa for someone who is from Livorno: even if they live in the same region, they don’t like each other at all – to put it in very gentle terms.
Italy has been unified quite recently, in 1861, and campanilismo (local rivalry, it comes from the word campanile, which is the church tower) is still something very strong everywhere in the nation. No matter where we come from, even the tiniest village, we think that our place is the best in the country, hands down.
Given this approach, we have a lot of stereotypes about Italians coming from other regions – and maybe provinces, towns, neighborhoods). If you ask an Italian what he or she thinks of people from Milan, or Rome, or Naples, or from Sicily, Veneto, or Piedmont, you will surely get an opinion based on a general, usually shared, idea.
So, what do the Italians think of other Italians? Let’s see in detail!
Well, first of all, there’s one big divide: north and south. People from the north generally think that those coming from the south are lazy, loud, very attached to their families, while those from the south see northerners as people who always think about work and money and do not know how to have fun in their lives. Southerners call northerners polentoni, from polenta, the dish that is common up north, while those from the south are terroni, a term whose origins are not so clear but must have something to do with la terra, the soil.
But each region has it own peculiar stereotypes. People from Liguria (my region), for example, are considered to be stingy (very stingy). Moreover, Ligurian people are seen as very reserved people, who do not like to meet foreigners, and it is quite common to talk of “accoglienza ligure” (Liguria hospitality) to underline the fact that we are not so kind with tourists.
Our neighbors, i piemontesi (the people living in Piedmont) are not that much open as well. However, while we are reserved and hostile (but with a big heart, I have to tell you), they are reserved but very well-mannered. There’s a saying that goes: “piemontese falso e cortese” (Piedmontese false and gracious), that everybody in Italy uses when referring to them.
And now we come to the economic beating heart of the country, the true capital of Italy, as they say: Milan. People from Milan – and Lombardy in general – are considered to be always thinking about work and money and to be very self-confident. They think they are superior to the rest of the country and never miss an opportunity to let other people know about that.
By the way, I really had to laugh a few days ago when a comedian who always makes fun of the fact that people from Liguria hate those from Milan (they come to invade us during summer, you know), while commenting the victory of France in the World Cup, said: “i francesi sono i milanesi del mondo” (the French are the Milanese of the world).
Up in the mountains, there are the inhabitants of Trentino-Alto Adige, whom we all quickly label as “tedeschi, non italiani” (Germans, not Italians), while if we move a bit towards east, we find the people from Veneto. Guys living there are deemed to be racists (it’s the area where the Lega Nord is most popular), very attached to money and big boozers (it’s the place where Spritz was invented, after all).
Their neighbors of Emilia-Romagna, on the other hand, are considered to be people who love eating, dancing, and having fun. They are seen as big hedonists, who enjoy all the pleasures of life. Actually, there is a difference between people from Emilia (the center of the region) and those from Romagna (those living by the sea), which I have never exactly understood. But they don’t like each other so much, what a surprise, uh?
And now we move to Tuscany, the region that everybody loves for its amazing beauty, the breathtaking scenery, and the pleasant way of life. But there you’ll find the Tuscans as well, who are generally considered to be arrogant, rude, always fighting with one another, and obviously people who love cursing – but with a lovely accent.
But it’s time to get to the capital, the most important city in the country: Rome! Rome is the center of all political power, all institutions and ministries have their headquarters there, so Romans are always considered to be parasites who do not like working but take advantage of all the institutions there. Romans are also thought as buzzurri or tamarri (boor), people with no style and a bit vulgar as well.
There are lots of stereotypes about people from the south of Italy as well. People living in Naples are considered to be lazy and not big fans of hard work, super loud and messy – but with a superb talent for making pizza, while people from Calabria are considered very suspicious and distrustful. And people from Sicily? Well, they are passionate, incredibly jealous and all mafiosi, obviously.
Well, these are just some of the most common stereotypes about Italian people, but there are many more. Basically, we have stereotypes for each and every single town or village, in this country. Needless to say, it’s just a very superficial way of seeing people and we all are different and a specific character, you obviously can’t generalize.
By the way, what do you think of Italians? Do you have a general vision or standard image of us? I’d love to know!
If you are interested in learning more about Italian culture and lifestyle, I’d suggest you jump on my digital Vespa and join Be Italian For A Month, your 30-day virtual journey to Italy.
You will also learn some Italian words, you’ll receive some typical Italian recipes – ready to be cooked and enjoyed, you’ll get to tour around Italy, and learn about Italian traditions, proverbs, stereotypes, you name it. Plus, some cute surprises along the way!