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Italian Culture

Food & Wine
Each region of Italy has a distinct cuisine that incorporates local ingredients. Northern Italian fare is characterized by the use of butter, rice, corn, cheese and cream sauces. Polenta and risotto are popular dishes, and game, sausage or wild fowl such as rabbit or quail are typical main courses.

Much of what the rest of the world considers Italian food hails from the central regions of Italy. World-famous cheeses, savory cured meats and rich tomato sauces are found here. Wild boar is popular is Tuscany and Umbria; seafood is popular along the coast.

The south is home to citrus fruits, olive groves and vineyards. Here you will find robust and spicy tomato sauces and a greater use of olive oil and garlic in cooking. Southern Italian cooking relies heavily on seafood due to its proximity to the fishing waters of the Mediterranean Sea -- everything from tuna to sea urchins is used.

Like the food, Italian wine varies depending on the region. In general, Italian wines tend to hint at subdued, earthy aromas and are medium-bodied with high acidity.

Dining reservations are only necessary at the finest and generally most expensive restaurants. By Italian law, the gratuity is included in the bill, and extra tipping isn't necessary.

From a leisurely gondola ride in Venice to late-night dancing in a Tuscan piazza, virtually every moment in Italy is tinged with romance and passion. Breathtaking architecture, age-old palaces and cathedrals, and miles of stunning countryside and coastal beauty make even a simple stroll with your loved one seem like something out of a movie. Live music in parks and gardens are common during the summers and are perfect for an enchanting night out, while couples might also try one of Italy's famed tearjerker operas after enjoying a wine-laced dinner. The Amalfi Coast and Lake Country are ideal for couples looking for an intimate escape, but the eternal city of Rome and the cosmopolitan backdrop of Milan also offer plenty of places for lovers to get lost in. Now that's amore!

More so than any other country, Italy is recognized for the astounding art it has produced over the centuries. A UNESCO study placed 40% of the world's art in Italy. Italy's past and present can be traced by the archaeological sites, preserved architecture, museums and public art that are found throughout the country. From the works of prehistoric civilizations and the Roman Empire to late medieval and neoclassical art, Italians have cemented their place in the art world. The arts particularly flourished during the Italian Renaissance with artists like Michelangelo, Leonardo and Raphael leading the movement. Other significant styles include Gothic, Mannerism, Baroque, Rococo, Macchiaioli and Futurism.

The Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence is the most popular art museum, which features the country's extensive Renaissance collection including works such as Botticelli's "Birth of Venus" and Titian's "Venus of Urbino." Other museums include Florence's Galleria dell'Accademia, dedicated to the works of Michelangelo and home to the artist's famous statue David, and the Vatican Museums which span nearly 9 miles and feature the art of Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael, as well as Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling.

As their country is home to famous fashion houses such as Valentino, Versace, Cavalli, Missoni and Dolce & Gabbana, it's only fitting that the people of Italy savor fashion and look good doing it. Italians dress with care and confidence, but there is an artful sense of effortlessness -- nothing is too "put together." Italian clothing is tailored and detailed and celebrates the subtle sensuality of the wearer.

Milan is one of the world's most important fashion capitals and hosts a spring and fall Fashion Week every year where designers, models, celebrities and industry legends gather to worship the catwalk. Fashionable stores with quality pieces can be found all over Italy, but Milan yields the most options.

Friendly People
For the most part, Italians are warm and friendly and treat tourists with a good amount of courtesy. Most speak some English and are always willing to recommend the best places to grab a meal or drink. If you don't speak Italian, you might use a few Italian words such as "buongiorno" and "grazie" to show that you're making an effort to communicate in the local language, which is often appreciated.