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Why do Italians eat dinner so late?

Texas
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Why do Italians eat dinner so late?

Wondering where I might find some information about Italian daily customs that also includes more of the history of the development of these rituals and events.

If Romans eat dinner so late in the evening, then what time do most go to bed? What influences and differences are there?

For example, of course no scientific survey and just my personal world...

Most all I know eat dinner around 6:00-6:30, go to bed sometime around the evening news 10:00-10:30 (in central time zone), and get up around 6:00-6:30 to be at work from 8:00 to 5:00. Then on weekends we stay up a bit later and some sleep until around 8:00 am.

Naturally it depends on the age and lifestyle of the individual, just an average of those I know...

When I lived on the east coast, we stayed up later, as the eastern time zone television stations broadcast later and the evening news comes on at 11:00pm ( I was tired all the time!-) we mostly reported to work at the same time.

I need my eight hours beauty sleep...Just wondering...

Canada
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1. Re: Why do Italians eat dinner so late?

I can't answer the history part but perhaps shed a bit of light. As far back as I can remember the typical italian day went like this (this is in the Veneto region as this is where my family if from). Up at around 6 quick breakfast "pane e latte" (day old bread with jam and heated milk with espresso), off to work or school. Home at noon for the big meal of the day (pasta or risotto and then a primo with contorno, salad, cheese and fruit). Typically lunch is a long meal as most went home for lunch. Back to work at 3 ish until 6 or 7. Then home, cook dinner and eat. Dinner is a much lighter meal, maybe soup and cold cuts. Then off to bed at 10 or 11.

This is how I remember it and how my relatives still live on a daily basis. I believe the farther south you go the later the evening meal.

Hope this helps

Texas
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2. Re: Why do Italians eat dinner so late?

Yes, very nice description, I could see it in my mind. :)

Who cooked the long lunch? Did they not have a job outside the home?

Canada
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3. Re: Why do Italians eat dinner so late?

Even if they had a job outside the home they are able to make it home and cook. My aunts don't but my cousins do (work outside the home), they live very close to where they work thus are able to go home. I remember when I was a young teenager going to school and getting home by noon, my dad would get home from work, we all sat down together had our meal, my dad would relax for a (long) while, then go back to work. I really don't know if they do this in the larger cities (Rome, Milan etc) but this was/is how it is done in the smaller cities and towns.

They are all about the "dolce vita". It is such a lovely way to live life, far more laid back and relaxed.

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4. Re: Why do Italians eat dinner so late?

There are huge differences between the north abd the South. In Turin and Milan dinner time goes from 19.30 (the classic dinner time for elderly people in the north) to 21 at latest, while in Palermo it happens have dinner al even 22 sometimes.

Talking about the North, nowadays Dolce vita is mainly a myth. Vast majority of italians have 1 hour lunch break so no coming back home for meal.

Turin
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5. Re: Why do Italians eat dinner so late?

First It's a matter of temperature. The more you go south, the more was impossible for farmers to work between 12 and 3 PM, so they ate later to be able to stay longer in the fields.

Moreover in southern Italy they did not own the land, 99% they were day laborers or sharecroppers. My grandparents before and shortly after WWII could eat meat only 2 or 3 times per year: It wasn't a problem of long lunches or dolce vita. It was a problem of looking for food or making more money before it was time to go back in the fields.

The so-called siesta time for them was the "second job" time.

This kind of behaviour tend to last a long time, economy changed but it is still unbearably hot and humid around noon.

Last but not least: only the German barbarians and English madmen have dinner before 7... Even in nothern Italy they got it!

La Spezia, Italy
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6. Re: Why do Italians eat dinner so late?

By Madrid standards I think 22.00 would still be classesd as an early dinner

Brussels, Belgium
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7. Re: Why do Italians eat dinner so late?

I would turn this around: "Most all (you) know" are presumably Americans. Why do Americans eat dinner SO EARLY at around 6:00-6:30 (that is, 18:00 hrs)?!

Cultures develop differently, and in my opinion there is usually little point in asking "why?". In terms of heat, etc., while there might be a general tendency to eat later where it is hotter, in many European countries which don't have the same climate as Italy or history of siesta (including Belgium and the UK), a normal starting time for dinner is still 20:00/20:30 hrs - which someone who eats at 18:00 presumably considers as "late".

And btw if you do, you will have a shock if you visit Spain, where it is common to eat lunch at 14:00 or even 15:00 hrs and dinner at 22:00 hrs! Which is not the case in either Portugal or the nearby countries of N. Africa.

8. Re: Why do Italians eat dinner so late?

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Edited: 24 May 2014, 14:14
Passo Corese, Italy
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9. Re: Why do Italians eat dinner so late?

"[...] If Romans eat dinner so late in the evening, then what time do most go to bed? [...]"

We usually eat dinner at 8:30/9:00 PM during weekdays; and usually (speaking about myself here) we go to bed at 10:00/11:00 PM, only to get up the next day at 7:00 AM. There's plenty of time for getting dressed and go to work...

"[...] They are all about the "dolce vita".

I wish that was true. But our lives hardly are that pleasant, or glamourous, or leasurely paced as Hollywood wants you to believe... this is just a film-fuelled , romantic misconception (like "all Italians sing opera" or "all Italians gesticulate wildly"). Got it?

Edited: 24 May 2014, 14:15
Passo Corese, Italy
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10. Re: Why do Italians eat dinner so late?

"[...] I really don't know if they do this in the larger cities (Rome, Milan etc) [...]"

Of course not. And you can consider yourself lucky if your lunch break lasts a WHOLE hour, let alone three... no, the (stereo)typical Italian lunch that goes on for hours on end is just that - a stereotype.

Edited: 24 May 2014, 14:23