When and what you eat doesn’t tend to be something you think a lot about on a daily basis. At least breakfast and lunch are meals that sort themselves out. You might put a bit more effort into dinner planning if it is a family affair or a night out. It is amazing how adapted we become to our mealtimes, and what we tend to eat. It singles us out more than we think!
Many tourists, Americans more than most, find themselves eating dinner in empty restaurants here in Florence. There are no early bird specials here! The curious thing, for me especially, was how Italians lasted so long between meals. Little did I know! Almost every two hours there is a somewhat regulated snack break, and these breaks aren’t just for children. They have names and designated times! What do nutritionists always say? Light snacking throughout the day, combined with 3 meals enhances the metabolism. Italians have this down to an art…naturally!
So whether you are newly expatriated or a tourist wanting to get the full experience, below are mealtimes and the foods that tends to be eaten.
Italian Breakfast (colazione): get ready for a hearty whopping…pastry and gulp size coffee! Breakfast is fast paced. You shoot it and go! Breakfast also has to be something sweet. A nice salty plate of eggs and bacon can only be found at restaurants that cater to foreign tastes. Next?…
Spuntino: This is the snack between breakfast and lunch. Considering that breakfast is around 8am and lunch isn’t till 1pm, Italians need an “in betweener” to carry them over. This happens around 10 or 11, and is something light. A piece of fruit, yogurt, or you might see the random person eating a piece of pizza bianca (pizza bread with salt, oil, and rosemary).
Lunch (Pausa di Pranzo): The times for the lunch break vary depending on your type of work, but normally it lasts for at least 2 hours. 1pm to 3pm is common. Many people tend to go home, make a plate of pasta, and take nap/relax before going back to work. You will also see many a business person taking lunch at a small trattoria. This meal can be rather substantial.
Merenda: This is the snack between lunch and aperitivo, and takes place between 3-5. An Italian work day normally starts at 8 or 9am, and lasts till 6 or 7pm. So dinner is definitely much later than our standard 5-7. Merenda is normally something sweet. A gelato, some cookies, or maybe another pastry if you’re not dieting.
Aperitivo: The after work social hour! Fresh out of work and ready to unwind with some prosecco or wine! Fortunately most bars offer a buffet assortment of cold pastas, breads, quiches, and other types of snacks. Aperitivo can vary depending on the location. I personally prefer my aperitivo at Kitsch 2 , Obika, or Rifrullo. Their price for a glass of wine/prosecco runs around 8.50 or 9 euro, but this covers the food, which is all you can eat. The food also tends to be classier: stuffed tomatoes, seafood salads, and cheese platters.
Still Not Full? Good Because We’re Still Not Done Eating!
Dinner (Cena): Cena *che-na* starts around 9. Oddly cena is the one meal that varies more then the others. If you don’t take aperativo then your cena can be very substantial, consisting of a antipasto, primo *pasta dish*, secondo *meat dish*, fruit and cheese plate, dessert, coffee, and a digestivo *shot of limoncello or something bitter*. If you have taken aperitivo, you might not eat such a large dinner, or you might! Dinner can change with your plans. I love eating at Trattoria Anita, great tuscan food, at decent prices near piazza Signoria.
If this type of lifestyle doesn’t satiate your snack time cravings then I don’t know what will!