Drinking culture in Italy

The other day I was on the telephone talking to my grandmother and mentioned that I was going to go and have a glass of wine. She asked me who I was going with and I told her that I was taking my dog and a good book.

But what will people think?  She asked me.

My first reaction was of confusion. What did she mean? Then understanding dawned. I had been out of the UK for so long that I had forgotten that sitting and having a drink alone in the UK is seen (by some) as something done solely by alcoholics. Not so here. Nobody bats an eyelid if someone stops at a bar to have an aperitivo by themselves. Why? Very simple: it is only ever ONE drink.

Drinking alone is frowned upon in the UK because, I think, of the binge drinking culture. The tendency (not of all, or even most people, but of enough of them to catch the attention of the media) to get absolutely “smashed”. The idea that alcoholic drinks are indeed something to go and “get drunk” on, rather than something to just enjoy the taste of. There are so few people who go out and get  drunk here that it never crosses one’s mind to think of someone as having a problem if they have a glass of wine at a bar by themselves, especially because said wine is usually served with food of some kind. Of course, it is more fun to have a drink with friends, but there is nothing wrong with taking a good book and a four legged friend, or as another acquaintance of mine sometimes does, a sketchbook, for a relaxed sip. 

A glass of wine in Italy can take as long to drink as a bottle might in the UK. People savour the flavours of the wine, they don’t throw it down their necks as quick as possible in order to get as drunk as possible as soon as possible. That is not to say that Italians never overdo it, of course they do. Just generally not on purpose, and generally  not every weekend.

This may be changing, as I have noticed that far more young people than before are drinking to excess (God that makes me sound old – I’m only 27!); but I have still never seen anything like the drunken scenes that I have witnessed across the UK in my time (Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Lincoln, London, Perth, Newcastle, Hull, York and others). This I think, is why it seems to be “OK” to stop for  a single glass of wine in a bar here and not so much in Britain. 

A little in moderation. Definitely my motto, and definitely the way things seem to be done here.

Disclaimer: I am in no way saying that all or most Brits abuse alcohol in any way. I am saying that I think we have more of a binge drinking culture than the rest of Europe and that we see alcohol differently to the rest of Europe. So please do not be offended!

One Comment Add yours

  1. chef mimi says:

    Fascinating. I hope you don’t get any nasty comments – it was smart of you to have a disclaimer. Seems like some people feel the right to deem your opinions wrong, even though they are based on personal experiences. I’ve only seen two extremely drunk people in all of Europe, and they were both older men in mid-day light in Belfast. I don’t know what that means! I love Italy and France as well for sitting with four legged friends and enjoying an aperitif or whatever.


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