C is for... coffee
If you ask for a latte in Italy, you'll get milk. If you ask for a cappuccino after lunch, you'll be thought a freak. If you request an "espresso", you'll look like a mug.
There are many ways to drink coffee, but if you're not necking a scalding caffé normale standing up at the counter having previously bought a ticket, you probably won't look like one of us. For a country that prides itself on being laidback, Italy is actually chock full of rules – and nowhere is this more apparent than in the coffee bar.
The coffee experience can be navigated in two ways depending on where you are. In a bar aimed at tourists (which you can tell because you'll get service sitting down without having to ask for it and the coffee costs €5), take a seat, take in the sights and take it easy until the waiter arrives.
In a regular coffee bar designed for Italians, hang back on arrival and observe the locals at work. You can forget about any of your caramelised frappucino, venti nonsense here. If you know what's good for you, do as the natives do, precisely and without deviation. On the plus side, the coffee will almost certainly be excellent and your drink will cost about €1.
Not for nothing does the saying "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" exist.
D is for... driving
My Italian friend was driving us to Colonne di San Lorenzo . After a couple of minutes of sitting in a two-lane traffic jam, he got bored and tried to edge past the bus in front. Except there wasn't enough space. He got past half of it and then had to sit there.
"You're making three lanes where before there were two" said my English friend, from the back seat.
"Yes, of course. I am Italian," he said.
And he said it with a knowing smile, tongue in cheek, but he'd still done it. And this true story is a true allegory for life in Italy.
About the A–Z of Italy: These short articles are part of a new series. To see all articles in the series that have been published so far, click the blue 'A–Z' label below.
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photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/34427470616@N01/13948934950">Latte art</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/">(license)</a>