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5 Things The Italians Do Better Than We Do

For Condé Nast Traveler, by Brad Rickman.

It seems like every week brings a new story about how great life is in Italy — hello, generous parental-leave policies and three-and-a-half hour meals. In celebration, we thought we’d offer up our own little tribute to the country’s genius, half love letter and half #travelenvy log. Here are things our Italian friends do like no one else.

1. Coffee

There are other outstanding coffee cultures around the world, but no one does it quite like the Italians. It isn’t just pastime or profession for them, it’s art. The perfect grind; that silky crema; the precise amount of heat applied to the milk; and of course a beautiful pour of foam. Espresso. Cappuccino. Macchiato. Attention to detail is the thing we admire most, and that particularly Italian refusal to accept no thing but the right thing.

2. Aperitivo

A work of cultural genius, this: sit down in the light of a waning afternoon; have a drink and a (complimentary) snack; watch the world stroll by. It’s the height of civilization — far more graceful than American happy hour — and no one on earth does it with the devotion of the Italians. It hardly matters whether you opt for a negroni, an aperol spritz, a glass of wine, or a Lemonsoda; the olives will be briny, the patatine will be crisp, and the sights will be beautiful. Why can’t this be an export?

Photo: Trastevere, Rome Italy

3. Shoes

From precision-executed standards to design-forward flourishes, the finest craftsmanship and the most convention-shattering ideas in footwear are Italian. You can't beat them, but you can wear them.

4. Suits

Sure, Saville Row is legendary; but there’s nothing like a visit to Milan’s Quadrilatero della Moda to make a non-native feel inadequate when it comes to suits — and how to wear them. Italian men have a gift for flourish without flash and swagger, inhabiting their clothes in a way that seems at once both classic and plucked from the future.

5. Sunglasses

Forget the fact that Luxottica, an Italian company, manages some 80 percent of the world’s eyewear brands. Sunglasses are more than an accessory for Italian women (and men). They’re as indispensable as shoes, and just as expressive — summer or winter, one never leaves home without them. Trendsetting designs are enviable enough. What we find most difficult to imitate, though, is the flair with which they’re worn.

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