Who would've ever thought that exactly one year later and we would still be stuck inside because of a global pandemic. I know we are all ready to get out and about again. I miss exploring my home state, the entirety of the US, and the WORLD. However, since my study abroad time was cut short, I feel as if I deserve a reunion with the best country and best food in the world. Milan, Italy I miss you. 

My study abroad experience got cut 3 months short. Thank you COVID-19 *insert eye roll and unfriendly hand gesture.* However, the six and a half weeks that I became an Italian resident were truly life changing. Sure I was in Italy to get an education through Indiana University's study abroad program, but we all know that the best part about studying abroad is the culture and CUISINE. Pizza + pasta + gelato = pure heaven. But the Italian cuisine you might be used to in the US is much different than the authentic experience on Italian ground. There are quite a few differences between how the United States and Italy eat.

Natalie Jacobi


I am convinced wine flows through Italians' veins. It blew my mind that it was cheaper to order wine than a bottle of water. Now that is a concept I can get behind! 

It should be against the law to visit Milan and not sip on an Aperol Spritz. You might not know it by name, but I am referring to the sweet, carbonated, orange, alcoholic beverage that it so good. (Extra flavor points are added when served in a chalice).

Natalie Jacobi

Along with the wine and fun cocktails, starting the day with a quaint cup of coffee is a must. This isn't like the vanilla oat milk iced latte with cinnamon sprinkle and caramel drizzle that you carry around the mall. We are talking a tiny cup that you drink while standing at the coffee bar. No to-go cup for you! Better get sipping (well for me, more of get chugging because I am convinced I am the world's slowest coffee drinker). With all of the wine and cappuccino, I was never fully able to figure out how Italians stay hydrated. As my previous point stands, wine AND coffee must be the majority of their blood content.

Meal Structure

What might be considered the start to some Americans' bedtime, Italians are just enjoying their dinner! Dinner is usually eaten between 8 and 10 PM, but it is not unheard of to eat even later. Italians take their meal time seriously and so slow. Quick meals are hard to come by. First you sit at a table in a cozy restaurant. After a bottle of wine, all the carbs you can imagine, something sweet to top it off, and the next thing you know three hours have passed! Yes, this is normal. It seems impossible to come by a bad pizza or pasta. But when in Italy I learned that Italians are able to take the simplest ingredients to make the best tasting dishes that burst with freshness. Americans should really take notes.

One of the best parts about the Italian culture is something they like to call Apertivo. This is basically a happy hour for drinks AND food! Around 6 PM restaurants/bars serve a buffet style of food that you get free access to with the simple purchase of  just one drink. Yes, that is right. Unlimited food for a drink that might cost between €6 and €10. While it is intended that Apertivo serve as a light snack, there are no rules that limit your food consumption. So naturally, I hit the plates hard every time. This could be considered a pregame to a long night out ahead, or an appetizer for a later dinner to follow.

A typical Italian dinner consists of five courses. The Antipasti is the starter that usually consists of various meats and cheeses. This is followed by Primi which is the first main dish that typically doesn't include meat, so various pasta, risotto, gnocchi, or soup. Secondi is served with popular meat and seafood dishes. Contorni are typically side dishes of vegetables or salad served alongside with Secondi. Finally, Italians prefer to end their meal on a sweet note with Dolce of numerous fruits, cakes, gelato, cheese, or after dinner drinks.

Natalie Jacobi


In order to fully immerse myself into the Italian culture, I quickly realized that I would have to adjust how I started my day. Eggs, avocado toast, oatmeal, pancakes, a temporary farewell. Step foot into Italy and pastries are the only thing you eat in the morning, or as an afternoon pick me up. Plain, chocolate, pistachio, berry filled, and so much more. If you don't pair a sweet pastry with a warm cup of coffee, you are doing it wrong. This might even be considered a crime! Pastries and coffee are a match made in heaven. 

Natalie Jacobi

Lunch & Dinner

Who doesn't love a beautifully crafted panini? The Italians (and I) definitely do! Fresh meats and cheese with a sprinkle of an earthy green here and there. Mmmm delizioso!

Natalie Jacobi

A favorite worldwide, pizza. While the debate in the US is Chicago vs. New York style pizza, the Italians are showing everyone up. Their pizza HITS. A crust so perfectly crisp and layered with the best ingredients. I could die a happy girl eating their pizza everyday for the rest of my life. Sorry Chi-town and NY, you lose this fight.

Natalie Jacobi

Another classic, pasta. This is an Italian go-to meal for lunch and dinner. Yes, Italians see nothing wrong with carb loading 3/3 meals a day (don't forget pastries for breakfast). But what can you blame them, they have the best diet! The simplicity of their pasta truly amazes me. Forget the overload of additional ingredients and sauce that drowns the noodles. It's either fresh pasta or no pasta. 

Americans love XL dinner portions, but Italians try to serve you just the amount you need. If you happen to have a couple noodles of pasta that you would love for an afternoon snack the next day, you might as well shove them in your purse because you aren't getting a to-go container. That's not how the Italians roll.

Natalie Jacobi


I made a mission to try all of the surrounding gelato shops near my apartment in order to find the best cup or cone. I can confidently say that I was able to get a good assessment of the best spots in town before I was so rudely removed from the country (thanks COVID). Don't get me wrong, I love diving into a pint of Ben and Jerry's or Talenti while escaping from my homework in Bloomington, IN. But the creaminess of REAL gelato is unmatchable. I truly miss those perfectly crafted cones.

Natalie Jacobi

Italy, I miss you and all of your delicious food. The second the world is back to normal, I will be cozied up in a restaurant stuffing my face with pizza, pasta, panini, cannoli, gelato, tiramisu, pastries, wine, limoncello... the list goes on. Go away Coronavirus. I really need a glass of wine with a big bowl of pasta and bread right now.