Dining Etiquette


Eating is a national pastime in Italy, and many hours are spent at the dinner table. The Italians have a special way of combining the formal with the informal to create a sophisticated yet relaxed environment. It’s all about having a good time, enjoying other people’s company, and experiencing the delights of good food and wine.

There is no question about it: Your Italian host will consider it an honour to pay for your restaurant meal. You should only dispute this gesture mildly. Of course, the converse is also true: If the invitation came from you, then as the host, you will be expected to pick up the bill.

It’s important to remember that meals are not usually occasions for discussing business. Eat heartily and don’t shy away from discussions about yourself. In fact, if you’re too discreet, Italians will wonder what you’re hiding. Of course, they won’t want to hear all the intimate details of your life. Just share general information about your family, favourite pastimes, food, culture, sports, and politics.

Don’t drink to excess. You may find this a challenge, as Italian wines are considered among the best in the world. You will probably get to sample your region’s speciality, and its sublime taste will not be easily forgotten. But Italians tend to limit drinking to two or three glasses of wine with a meal. They feel that food needs to be savoured, and the wine is there to complement the flavours. Too much wine and the delicate balance is broken.