We LOVE Italy, but WHY...

Nov 2nd, 2014, 01:19 AM
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We LOVE Italy, but WHY...

About the middle of each trip to Italy (on number 14 right now) my wife and I look at each other and Wonder out loud as much as we love Italy, WHY do they do x, y, or z. Sure that most of it is simply different culture, lifestyle, etc, but here are 3 WHYS that maybe Italians, expats in Italy or others can explain for us--

1--Driving. Autostrada safer than US. Other roads okay re drivers except for tailgating. WHY do this? I know you want to pass.and it's fine with me. But you are so close you actually have to slow down in order to clear my bumper and pull out to pass. We speed up to pass. How does being a few inches from my rear bumper actually "help" you pass?

2--Dogs. Had them for over 40 years. Love them. WHY do you need to bring them everywhere you go? I don't need them in my restaurant humping a table leg, wandering under my legs at an outside bar, peeing and shi$$ing in front of me as I walk thru beautiful piazza and streets. Had all that happen just in one afternoon in Bologna. Multiply parts of that conduct for 27 days and it gets real old, real fast. I'd rather you take your children out and leave your dog at home. They are more interesting and more housebroken

3--Toilet "stands" and toilet "no seats". It becomes a guessing game in Italy as to what you will find when you in a door marked "toilette". WHY the "stands"? Women can't like it. Even in nice places, they have it. Too expensive to change from the old days? Makes one feel you have just gone from one of the most alluring and sophisticated countries in Europe to the third world. And while on the subject, WHY no seats on actual toilets? Can you actually buy them that way, or do you buy one with the seat and just remove it

I realize there are pretty petty things in an otherwise wonderful country, but just wondering?
SkipHudgins is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2014, 02:00 AM
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1) Different culture
2) Different culture
3) Different culture

Most Italians are not Northern European and there are clear differences between the north and south. You also have to think what are the differences you don't see.

1) The paperwork, often of no value, that pervade the country
2) The idea of statute of limitations, why should a crime be allowed to "fade away"
3) Corruption that is so endemic it is built into the country as a significant part of the GDP.
bilboburgler is online now  
Nov 2nd, 2014, 02:20 AM
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I was tailgated last night. In the wet and he was so close I couldn't see the car lights; I was worried that as I moved over I might clip the bonnet. Once I had moved over he sped past and raced away but much good did it do him - I was just one car behind at the traffic lights.

And yes it was him - I could clearly see when I pulled up behind.

So not just in Italy, Skip.

Of course Italy is different to where you live - isn't that the point of going there?
annhig is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2014, 03:22 AM
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Here I am in the US and yesterday, within the space of 30 minutes, we were nearly sideswiped, backed into and rear ended, all by people on cell phones. Only DH's close attention prevented accidents? The people on the cell phones never noticed. Why?

I read that in Italy, it is just not the custom to take tired little ones out to shop and eat. Makes lots of sense to me, especially when at 8:00 or 9:00 in the evening in the US, there are wee ones crying in stores and parents are buying tons of junk toys because we have so much advertising on TV directed at children. Why?

Many Americans own dogs with track records of being vicious. Why?

We put to death hundreds of thousands of animals every year because not enough people spay and neuter their pets. Why?

Shootings of children have become nearly common place. Why?

There are Why?s for every country. When we have the answers for my own country, I will worry about others.

OTOH, kids were so polite trick or treating Halloween night, made me proud of the up coming generation.
Sassafrass is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2014, 04:03 AM
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Sorry - but I have been to Italy multiple times - numerous different cities and towns - and the toilets have all been of the usual variety. Granted there are many different flushing mechanisms (the pull chain from the ceiling tank, the rubber nipple in the floor (sometimes hard to see between the tiles if the lighting is poor, etc) of the button on to of the tank you have to pull UP - but they have all been modern and have all had seats. Not sure where you are using the toilets - perhaps in the deep countryside in very modest cafes? (Oh - and there was one mention to use toilets in the Vatican INSIDE - not the ones in a separate building in St Peter's square - perhaps that was one.)

I can;t say the same for Russia which seems to have a national shortage of toilet seats - plus lack of doors on the stalls - even in major museums. the only place we DID have toilet seats was in our hotels and a couple of upscale restaurants.
nytraveler is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2014, 05:13 AM
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After 8 trips to Italy, I have yet to see the sort of behavior from dogs that you mention. I would love it if I could take my well behaved dog to restaurants.

And why go to Italy 14 times if not for the differences. And, by the way, tailgating is not unique to Italy. It's not so much cultural as behavioral.
mamcalice is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2014, 06:05 AM
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I've visited Italy 4 times and have found toilets without seats everywhere. Sometimes you get a seat, sometimes you don't.

Yes, the memorable hole-in-the-floor-squat St. Peter's Square toilets. They were sparkling clean though and had an attendant taking pay.

I've seen dogs in a few restaurants but they were laying quietly at their people's feet.

Tailgating doesn't bother me very much. I learned to drive on the southern CA freeways.
Dayle is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2014, 07:02 AM
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People experience places differently, and their own past experiences influence their expectations.

Driving. There are tail-gaters everywhere in the world, although we've never experienced them in Japan or Canada.

Dogs. On our trips to Italy many years ago, we'd see impeccably behaved dogs in restaurants and streets. We still see dogs. IMO, they're not all as well-trained now, but I've never seen what you describe. In Bologna last month we saw beggars and homeless people with dogs. The dogs were behaved, the beggars were aggressive. I'd rather more attention was paid to eliminating the beggars and graffiti. The dogs can stay.

Toilets. First of all, I've never seen cleaner toilets than in Italy, and I'll take a clean Italian squattie over some of the gas station and McDonald's toilets I've had to use in the U.S. The squatties have mostly disappeared in Italian cities (esp. those on the tourist route), but I was surprised to encounter one in the Etruscan museum in Volterra a couple of years ago. A few weeks ago, we stopped at a refugio near the Marmolada glacier in Alto Aldige. The men's toilet was a squattie but, thankfully, the woman's toilet was not. At a stop for gas somewhere we encountered a porcelain toilet without a seat but with a dispenser of sanitizer.
Jean is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2014, 07:24 AM
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jean - about 15 years ago we took our kids for their first trip to France and on the first day, we stopped for our picnic at a site with a squat loo which did not impress our two at all. Fast forward 10 years or so, and DH and I came across the very same picnic site which I recognised by the toilet block, which had a very unusual outside hand washing trough.

yep - same squat toilets.
annhig is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2014, 08:26 AM
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Enjoying the responses. Thanks
Bilbo, I think you are right, just hoping an Italian, rather than all us tourists, can weigh in.
SkipHudgins is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2014, 08:45 AM
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>>> but they have all been modern and have all had seats. Not sure where you are using the toilets -<<<

Quite common to encounter toilets without seats. Do you go to any of the tourist sites, restaurants, bars or do you only use the bathroom in your hotel?

>>>The squatties have mostly disappeared in Italian cities (esp. those on the tourist route), but I was surprised to encounter one in the Etruscan museum in Volterra a couple of years ago.<<<

After going through the high-tech airlocks, etc. to see the Last Supper, we came out in the gift shop area to low-tech squat toilets.
kybourbon is online now  
Nov 2nd, 2014, 08:52 AM
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When I lived in Italy a long time ago, I finally asked a neighbor who had become a friend the "why squat toilets" question. Her response was that they were much more sanitary and that she couldn't imagine why anyone would want to actually sit on a public toilet. So another point of view on the subject. Today, though, I think there are fewer and fewer of the squat types compared to thirty years ago.
MaineGG is online now  
Nov 2nd, 2014, 09:12 AM
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Many people are taught to be on the "defensive" when driving as part of their driver's education, but Italian drivers (and some other drivers in the world) are taught to drive by taking the offensive. It is very much a different style of driving, where one constantly moves into the available space as it opens. If you drive in Italy a lot, you will see that in medieval towns, it keeps traffic moving. On the autostrade, you are expected to stick to the right lane if you are a slow driver.

Many European cultures allow dogs in restaurants. I find it charming, whether it is Paris or Italy or Spain.

Many town centers that are hundreds, even thousands, of years old, have extremely tight restrictions on renovation, and owners of small bars and restaurants can face some daunting obstacles and costs to getting permits to do works and modernize. That accounts for the presence of "turkish" toilets and other stand-up/squat type tolilets. MaineGG already covered the rationale for modern ceramic bowl toilets that have no seats, so are essentially squat toilets although raised from the ground. A great many women, even in America, do not sit on public toilet seats and never have (and I expect a great many more will learn to squat if scientists keep saying that microscopic amounts of bodily fluids transmit the Ebola virus.
sandralist is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2014, 09:23 AM
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I also want to note another culture difference in Italy:

Beggars are not viewed the same way as Amerians treat the poor, and you will not find Italians complying with an rich tourist's snotty desire to get rid them in favor of dogs.

Also, Bologna is a student town. Graffitti is an Italian word. Italy is a more publicly political country than many other places. A great deal has been done in Bologna to remove a lot of graffiti, but this is another cultural difference.

There are really so many places in Europe that have been reconfigured to suit foreigners' sensibilities that a well-heeled tourist is really spoilt for choice these days if they want to have things "their" way rather than travel and deal with differences. Everybody makes travel "mistakes" and sometimes chooses the wrong destination for one's sense of fun. The tourist destinations in Italy are very well known: Lago di Como, the Amalfi Coast, Tuscany, Florence, etc. If you go to the cities that are not setting themselves up mainly for tourists, try to go as a guest, not the rule-reciting hall monitor.
sandralist is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2014, 09:23 AM
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We generally use toilets in restaurants as well as the hotel and have not seen what you describe anytime in the last 10 or 12 years. Also occasionally in a museum or sight - and again have not seen them in Italy - although have in some other places.

And in France - granted an old cafe in a smaller town - have seen the shared M/F toilets with stalls that go from the knees only about to your head - and not if you're a tall guy. Made sure there were no men inside when went to use it. But there was a regular toilet with seat.
nytraveler is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2014, 10:30 AM
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This thread is full of inaccuracies and

< I read that in Italy, it is just not the custom to take tired little ones out to shop and eat. >

This is absolutely not true, except perhaps in certain rarified social circles. Most Italians take their kids everywhere they go, even to late-night parties. In fact, the idea of "bedtime" doesn't seem to exist here. Kids go to bed when their parents do.

I haven't anywhere nearly as many dogs in restaurants and other public places here in Italy as I've seen in the UK, the Netherlands, Germany and France. The US is the place where dogs are excluded from most public places.

Also, I think most countries have statutes of limitation. It's just that in Italy, you can be set free even if you were arrested before the limit, but your trial was delayed until after. And Italian lawyers are very skillful in delaying trials. Our former Dear Leader, Silvio Berlusconi, was instrumental in making these limitations apply to more crimes and for shorter periods, to his own advantage. He also decriminalized cooking the books.

Finally, the EU has mandated that countries include illegal commerce as part of the GDP:


As you can see from the article, it was intended to put all countries on an equal standing. For example drug sales were already in the GDP in the Netherlands, and prostitution in Greece.
bvlenci is online now  
Nov 2nd, 2014, 10:33 AM
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"There are tail-gaters everywhere in the world" > Well, yes, but in Italy you better drive FAST or they stick to your a$$ and won't let go... Just lately we experience it once in Northern Spain, 2 young women driving behind us along on narrow road, so close to us I could see their faces and noticed they were busy talking to each other... At one point I just carefully slowed down and stopped. They were startled, they didn't understand why I would stop in the middle of the road. So it's not like those drivers are angry and try to intimidate you, it's how they drive, yes, part of their culture...

...BUT I must admit, those Italian and Spanish drivers are BETTER DRIVERS THAN AMERICAN! When driving on a multi-lane Autostradas they use the left lane ONLY FOR PASSING, never lingering on the left as so many do here in the US. Oh, and they do use their turn signals, left and right, very appropriately.
mamamia2 is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2014, 10:35 AM
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I forgot the toilets: Turkish toilets are becoming rather rare. I encounter one about once a year. The toilets with only ceramic rims instead of seats don't bother me. They are definitely more sanitary than the plastic most toilet seats are made of, which becomes stained and impregnated with bacteria and mold. There's nothing, other than a little chill on the buns, to prevent you from sitting on the ceramic.
bvlenci is online now  
Nov 2nd, 2014, 11:27 AM
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I love ya baby.
Trying to ask a few questions for Italians to answer becomes "rule-reciting hall monitor"
Review your posts for last 6 months to see who " asks" politely and who "tells" dogmatically.
Have a great Italian day.
SkipHudgins is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2014, 11:32 AM
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Thought this thread might cause some interesting responses. Most off point as to WHY in Italy, but I love them all.
Maine thanks for an Italian answer once removed. I suspected that was the case, since I am guessing that every owner of a restaurant or bar and every waiter in a restaurant or bar has a "seat" in their own home or apartment. Grazie
SkipHudgins is offline  

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