Before I crossed the Atlantic, I had no idea I could eat an entire pizza, drink three cappuccinos a day or even consume a ridiculous amount of gelato in only a week. However, after nine short months studying abroad in Florence, Italy, I returned to the motherland with a more realistic mindset about Italian food, and a lot of them will blow your mind. 

So if you’re about to set sail on an Italian culinary endeavor or just love all things food (like we do), check out the six differences between Californian and Florentine cuisine that will help you pass as a local.

1. Pizza is not for sharing.

spinach, pizza, mozzarella
Mary Mattingly

Long gone are the days when you order a pie with your friends and eat a slice or two. In Florence, a pizza is consumed by one person, but don’t worry, you’ll be glad you get it all to yourself. 

2. Water may as well be turned into wine.

wine, alcohol, liquor, grape, champagne, beer, red wine
Mary Mattingly

Transitioning from a dry campus to the mecca of wine is definitely the biggest cultural shift. What better way to enhance your Italian cuisine? Do as the Italians do, of course. With every type of meal, there is a delicious wine counterpart. Ordering fish? Stick with a white. Wanting to try a yummy Florentine steak? The redder the wine the better the dine.

3. There is always room for gelato. Always.

ice, cream
Mary Mattingly

After a long meal, full of rich food and drink, you may think that you just cannot take another bite. But trust me, passing a gelateria is much harder than it looks. When it comes to gelato, there is no such thing as too much. Don't worry, there won't be any health freaks to point out your bad eating habits.

4. Salad is not an entree.

basil, tomato, mozzarella
Mary Mattingly

Organic, farm fresh, vegan entrees are no longer an option. If you are looking to boost your veggie intake, you may want to hold off until your traveling days are over. Sure, it may be on the menu if you’re lucky, but there is no better way to signify you’re a tourist than ordering something leafy and green. 

#SpoonTip: Florence is actually one of the most diverse cities when it comes to healthy eating, so keep your eyes peeled for vegan panini, organic gelato and locally-grown produce. 

5. Don’t expect your water with ice and a lemon wedge.

wine, water, coffee, beer, alcohol
Mary Mattingly

When asking your waiter ‘posso avere acqua?’ you may be a bit let down when he returns with a bottle of room temperature (or chilled, if you’re lucky) frizzante, or seltzer, water. Ice is not a norm in Italy because they believe that cold water is not healthy for digestion. Bye bye, ice cold Californian spa water.

6. Coffee starts and ends each day.

coffee, cappuccino, espresso, milk, mocha, cream, chocolate
Mary Mattingly

Unlike California, where a morning cup o’ joe is about the limit to an average person’s caffeine intake (unless you have a final the next day and coffee at 2 am is socially acceptable), Italians begin their day with a foam topped cappuccino and end dinner with an espresso and tiramisu. Good luck sleeping for the first few weeks. 

#SpoonTip: Florence is a hub for the best cafes ever, like Don Nino where this yummy cappuccino was enjoyed.