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How to Be a Good Host to Italians
You will want to check out these tips to make sure your Italian houseguests enjoy their stay at your place.
by Francesca Di Meglio
My husband never seems to travel alone. He brings friends and family to our American home all the time. In fact, we just returned from bringing yet another Italian friend to the airport after a weeklong stay at our place. My family jokingly calls our house the bed and breakfast. But many Italians, especially southern Italians, can be set in their ways. When they travel to other countries, things can get tricky. Now that I've become an expert in hosting Italian guests, I'm going to share my tips and tricks –
Be ready with some tomato sauce.
Some Italian houseguests are not open to trying new foods. As much as you'd like them to try Chinese egg rolls, Mexican tacos, or all-American hot dogs, you might get shut down. And they won't eat anything. Ask them ahead of time if they are interested in trying certain foods, and always have some tomatoes and bread or a pot of tomato sauce on hand. You can always boil pasta, chop up some garlic, and throw some olive oil on it. Ask, however, if your guests eat garlic and onions. Many of the young people in Italy refrain from anything with garlic and onions because of their worries about their breath. Americans are usually shocked when I tell them this because Italian American food is so closely associated with garlic and onions.
Have the house ready.
A neat house is a warm welcome for anyone. Italians are particularly appreciative because most of them are pretty disciplined about cleaning. They are big on ironing, so offer them an iron and ironing board. Make sure the sheets look nice because some of the Italians even iron sheets. (All my Italians houseguests do.) Open a window or two for a half hour in the morning especially after you've cleaned the bathroom or floors. This is something Italians do, and this will prevent them from leaving your windows open even in the winter when the heat is on. Few, if any of them, keep heat on all day during the winter like us Americans. In fact, they might gripe about the heat. Leave a fan in their room and explain that you can't keep the windows open all the time.
Provide the necessities.
I usually give my guests a basket of goodies when they arrive. I pack it with a couple of face cloths, water bottles, soaps, a snack or two, and maybe a souvenir, such as a T-shirt or key chain from New York. If you don't include other items in the basket, then you should fully stock the bathroom with soap, body wash, shampoo, and conditioner. Disposable razors and some moisturizer are also safe bets. You can share something from your local area, too. Someone from Atlantic City could offer salt water taffy. Someone from Wisconsin might include cheese. Include maps and information about transportation, so that your guests don't have to rely on you to go everywhere, and you can get some moments of peace and privacy.
Play tour guide when you can.
You should only offer to take your guests out if you have time and can do it. You shouldn't feel guilty if you can't. I've taken my Italian friends to Broadway shows (musicals are best if there is a language barrier), horse and carriage rides in Central Park, and the top of the Empire State Building. The best part? I have as much fun as my guests – and I get to see New York in a whole new light through their eyes.
Di Meglio is the Guide to Newlyweds for About.com and you can read more about her life and career at Two Worlds.
Article Published 1/24/10
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