Italians, Italiani

How Italians See Themselves and How Italians are Seen Abroad

Stereotyping a nationality is pretty common but reality likes to tell us different stories: it is almost impossible to paint everybody with the same brush. For example, when an American woman asks a question like, "Should I marry and Italian guy?" it's really impossible to answer. Obviously, every Italian man is different, although there are certain trends that hold true with many of us.

While people from abroad may have certain stereotypes, Italians also view themselves in a particular way. The purpose of this article is to examine some of the common ways Italians see themselves and how others see Italians, so we can learn where these views are similar and where they differ.


The Italian Perspective


Italians generally think the world regards them as very friendly, kind, extroverted and always smiling. Many fear being associated with two popular Italian clichés: food and mafia.

We usually feel safe in believing Italy's beautiful landscape, fascinating history and outstanding art are always associated to its name, all over the world. There are also a series of topics Italians feel pretty strongly about and that are often subject of stereotypical views:  football, food, women, men, the language and the country itself

Football (Soccer) - Most Italians tend to think that football (calcio or soccer) is the most important sport in the world and that it is followed largely by men.

Food - When talking about "traditional" food, Italians think about pasta and pizza, and have some problems when they go abroad because they do not like Italian food the way it is cooked outside of Italy. Very often, they are not as open minded as other nationalities about tasting food that is not Italian.

Women - Most Italian women think maintaining a slim figure, following fashion and the latest trends is very important.

Men - For Italian men, flirting with women is considered almost a duty. There isn't a standardized image of the handsome Italian man, however, Raoul Bova is considered one of the most representative Italian sex symbols.

Fashion & Style- Fashion is source of great pride for Italians, because they think Italian fashion is really successful. When people think about fashion ,they associate it with Italy (Valentino, Versace, Dolce and Gabbana, etc.) Plus, Italians are not just known for their fashion, but also their personal style. Many Italians spend a great percentage of their income just to keep on trend and in style.

Italy - Italians think that their country offers a lot of natural beauty due, above all, to the different landscapes in each region. In Italy you can find everything from mountains to beaches, and some of the most beautiful in the world at that.

Italian Language - The Italian language is seen as musical and pleasant to hear.



The Foreign Perspective

On the whole, foreign people see Italians as kind, friendly and hospitable. Some people sense a strong contrast between Southern and Northern people, with the former being the more helpful, outgoing and kind. Some negatives include arrogance, presumption (because Italians think that Italy is the most beautiful country even if they always criticize it) and self-confidence.

Football ( Soccer) - Foreign people think  Italians are football fanatics, but they also believe Italian soccer is a high quality soccer and agree that it is famous worldwide. In the soccer world, Italians are known for their defensive-minded play.

Food - When talking about Italian food, foreign people mainly think about pasta and pizza.

Women - a lot of foreign people think that Italian women are very attractive and sensual.

Men - Men are usually seen as playboys, Don Giovanni-esque philanderers and sweet talkers. Some think that Italian men are  far too interested in their looks and appearances. Moreover, a lot of women think that Italian men are quite jealous. Also, Italian men are often defined as "mammoni" due to the fact they live with mamma until a very advanced age, and are often spoiled. The reality, however, is that many adult children live with their parents in Italy for economic reasons and because it is nearly impossible to find an apartment to rent in a major city for an average starting salary.

Fashion - Italian fashion is considered refined, sophisticated and expensive. Many Italians are seen as having an impressive personal style that always looks put together.

Italy - As far as the country is concerned, foreign people think that Italy is very beautiful and the most mentioned cities are Rome, Florence, Venice and Naples. Like Italians, they think that Italy offers a rich variety of landscapes, but Tuscany is largely considered one of the most beautiful regions of the country.

Italian Language - The Italian language is seen as musical and romantic, but many people say that it is difficult to learn.

This is an overview of what people think of Italians, in Italy and abroad. However, all we mentioned here was taken from general surveys and it is not in any way the definitive answer on the subject. Everyone has his or her own beliefs and experiences, which may either support or reject what you've read here. And it's important to remember that people are individuals, and while a culture may have certain beliefs and traditions it's always important to get to know people for whom they truly are.


Edited by Francesca Bezzone, 02/23/2014



Friday, October 28TH, 2011 by Guest

This article was trite and silly.  There is much more to Italy and to Italians than was presented in this simple-minded piece.

Friday, November 25TH, 2011 by Guest

I am going to guess whocares is Italian ;)

Friday, December 02TH, 2011 by Guest

Without commenting on the previous two comments may I point out that there is a misspelling in the second sentence and that, after 10 years in Italy, I have learned that one characteristic of virtually all Italians is that they furiously beat up up the air with any free hand when talking on the telephone.

Friday, December 02TH, 2011 by Guest

May I note that there is an error, writing the same word twice, in Speedy's last comment.

Saturday, February 23TH, 2013 by Guest

both sides are cliche thinking. If you ask someone you have to ask first were he or she is from. Everyone sees a foreign culture relative to his or her own culture.

Tuesday, March 19TH, 2013 by Guest

You are italian? Did you forget to mention that most bread winners in the family are the wives whilst the husband stays at home stuck to the mamas apron? Sure,there is an economic crisis in italy, but if they really wanted all those men can try to move country or look for jobs. Or at least use your free time to repair your country-the biuldings and houses are so old, its rotting!How about a fresh coat of paint?? Instead of waiting for lunch time pasta, there is more you can do with your lives!
Italians only care if their house is clean inside-there is no bother if there is a pile of rubbish or a dump outside their neighbourhood. There is dirt everywhere and the smell of rotten fish in every street corner. Added to that is the sad situation of the stray dogs and cats treated in the most ignorant manner. Its even sickening how they are strict catholics but the woman walk around half naked in summer in the beach without any sense of modesty. Italians enjoy watching nude woman in family programmes, doesnt this effect children to be exposed to this at such a young age?? Its even sad that most italians believe that a cult like the catholic church represent Mary and Jesus-They refuse to believe the thousands of sex abuse and money scandals involved around the catholic church. This so called house of God, which takes away an high percentage of their money, which only adds to the poverty and ignorance.

Wednesday, July 10TH, 2013 by Guest

Bravo! Un articolo ben scritto che descrive con precisione come gli italiani percepiscono de stessi. Per quanto riguarda le percezioni dell'italiano medio da parte degli stranieri concordo, anche se l'autore si è dimostrato molto benevolo...