This past semester, I had the opportunity to study in Florence, Italy. Let me tell you, if you have the opportunity to study abroad, do it. It is (in my opinion) the best experience of my college years thus far. The best thing about studying abroad is experiencing a whole new culture, different from your own, and eating different foods. One of the reasons I chose to study in Florence is I love Italian cuisine, and I wanted to explore more of the culture. 

One of the classes I took while I was in Florence was called "Food and Culture." While there was no actual cooking, which I was pretty sad about, I quite enjoyed the class because I learned so much about the Italian cuisine rather than just cooking food. My professor taught us how food is related to many parts of society like social class, gender, personal identity, global politics, and our responsibility for food and the future of it

One of my favorite topics though was about the Italian cuisine. My Italian professor taught us so many things about this Mediterranean cuisine, but here are the main things you should know about it. 

1. Italian Cuisine Originates From Other Places 

herb, condiment, pepper, cumin, cinnamon, relish, curry, chili
Hannah Linn

The ingredients that make up Italy's famous dishes come from different places surrounding the country, like Greece, China, and the Arabic countries. Arabic flavors and dishes actually played a big role in developing Italy's dishes because it ruled over Sicily and the southern part for quite awhile, my Italian professor taught the class. For example, coffee came from the Middle East, and lots of big spices came from there as well. Greeks introduced drinking wine with sea water, and later on, Barbarians didn't follow this rule and influenced Italians to drink it without sea water.  

2. There Is No One Italian Cuisine

Ocean, Beach, Pier, boat, yacht, beaches, boardwalk, piers, tourist, Travel, Italy, Europe, tourists
Denise Uy

A lot of people think that Italian cuisine describes every part of Italy, but that is false. It's true that you could find pizza, pasta, gelato, and the staples of the cuisine everywhere, but within the country, there are different regions that do things differently. For example, there's a huge difference between Northern and Southern Italian cuisine. In the North, their cuisine is mainly made up of butter, pork fat, creams, black pepper, and fresh egg pasta. While the South cooks with olive oil, tomato sauce, chili pepper, dried pasta, and fresh cheese. Even more granular is a difference between regions, like how Bucatini with Amatriciana Sauce is served in Rome, Saffron Risotto in Milan, Chocolate Cake in Capri, Cannoli in Sicily, the list goes on. 

3. There's No Such Thing as Chicken With Pasta 

garlic, chicken, linguine, sauce, fettuccine, lemon, pasta
Stefanie Dyga

If you ever make your way to Italy, don't waste your time trying to find pasta with chicken, or chicken parmesan for that matter (but they do have eggplant parmesan). 

4. You Won't Find Fettuccine Alfredo 

pasta, macaroni, cream, spaghetti, tortellini, cheese
Elizabeth Dieterich

And another thing you won't find in Italy. It's true it was made by an Italian, but it's more popular overseas in the States because it's an Italian-American dish. Though you can't find this in Italy, you can definitely make it at home

5. There's No Oil In Pasta Water 

pasta, spaghetti, water
Jocelyn Hsu

A lot of people put olive oil in the water they cook the pasta because it might prevent the pasta from sticking to each other, but really, the right way to do this is to skip the oil entirely and just season the water with salt. The only time oil is added to pasta is after it cooks and you toss it together before devouring.

6. You Won't Find Caesar Salad in Italy 

salad, vegetable, lettuce, caesar salad, spinach, cheese, chicken
Tess Tarantino

Sorry to burst another one of your bubbles, but you won't find this salad in Italy. Though it was made by an Italian by the name of Caesar Cardini, an Italian-American, it was surprisingly created in Mexico.  

7. It's Not Spaghetti Bolognese

spaghetti, sauce, pasta, tomato
Jen Huggins

I thought my whole life that this is what the dish is called, but it's not really correct. Instead of using spaghetti for this dish, Italians use tagliatelle, which is a wider pasta shape. 

8. Coffee is Usually Just For Breakfast 

Hannah Sarraf

A lot of Italians just have their espresso, cappuccino, or macchiato in the morning for breakfast (usually with a pastry), but rarely do they have it in the afternoon like Americans do. By around 5-6 pm is actually the time for an aperitivo, aka cocktail hour, and the usual cocktail of choice is Aperol Spritz, which I highly recommend trying if you want to fit in with the culture. 

There's so much to Italian cuisine than the basic stereotypes. Not mentioned in this article is the classic red and white striped tablecloth that's only used by restaurants to attract tourists and be a "typical" Italian restaurant that lives up to their expectations. I probably even missed a few things that you should know about Italian cuisine. For good measure, when you want to say in cheers in Italian, it's "Salute" (sa-loo-teh). Now you can raise a glass of Chianti (red wine from Florence), and cheers to your new knowledge of Italian cuisine.