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The Culture of Doing Business in Italy


Travelling to Italy for work or business?

Want to make a good impression?

Then this is for you!

We're going to give you a quick-fire overview of some key cultural insights that might come in handy.

We will look at:

  1. The Language
  2. Etiquette
  3. Business culture
  4. Management culture

At the end of each section, you will find links for further reading.

Facts & Stats

  • The Capital: Rome
  • Notable Cities: Milan, Naples, Turin, Palermo, Genoa
  • Population: 60+ million
  • Major Religion: Italy is a Christian country (some 88% of the population are Catholics)
  • Dialling Code: +82
  • Domain: .it
  • Currency: Euro

The Lingo

  • Italian is the official language of Italy.
  • It is also an official language in Switzerland, San, Marino, the Vatican City and Istria.
  • Globally Italian is spoken by over 85 million people.
  • It is a Romance language and its vocabulary is closely related to Latin.
  • There are a number of  Italian dialects spoken in the different regions.

Etiquette in Italy

  • Clothes are important to Italians.
  • They are extremely fashion conscious and judge people on their appearance.
  • You will be judged on your clothes, shoes, accessories and the way you carry yourself.
  • Bella figura is more than dressing well. It extends to the aura you project too - i.e. confidence, style, demeanour, etc.
  • When meeting and leaving, Italians (whether friends or strangers) with each other “good day” or “good evening”.
  • Where there is an existing relationship, Italians greet each other with a kiss on both cheeks (kiss the left cheek first).
  • Table manners are an important part of Italian culture.
  • Wait for your hostess to seat herself before you do and ensure that you don’t begin eating until your hostess has begun.
  • Wine is commonly served with meals and it’s likely to be regularly topped up.
  • It’s considered rude if you refuse a top-up, so if you don’t require more wine, try to keep your glass relatively full!


Read more about Etiquette in Italy.

Italian Business Culture

  • Punctuality is expected in Italy, so always try to be on time.
  • Shake hands with people when meeting someone for the first time.
  • Building close relationships is key to doing business in Italy.
  • Networking can be an almost full-time occupation in Italy.
  • Take the time to ask questions about your business colleagues' family and personal interests.
  • Italians tend to be wordy, eloquent, emotional, and demonstrative, often using facial and hand gestures to prove their point.
  • Status and hierarchy are well respected in business, as well as all aspects of Italian society, and there is also a huge amount of respect given to older people and people in positions of power.
  • Avoid organising meetings in August and during Catholic festivities.
  • The exchange of business cards is common in Italy and it’s a good idea to have it translated into Italian on the reverse.
  • Business might be conducted over a long lunch which could last up to 2-3 hours.


Read more about Business in Italy.

Management Culture in Italy

  • Cross-cultural management in Italy is more likely to succeed if you understand the level of bureaucracy when attempting to conduct business in Italy.
  • When managing in Italy, it is important to keep in mind that each person has a very distinct role within the organization, and maintaining that role helps to keep order.
  • Italy’s intercultural adaptability and readiness for change is developing all the time. Italy is seen to have a medium tolerance for change and risk. It is important for innovations to have a track record or history noting the benefits if they are to be accepted and implemented.
  • Italy is a moderate time culture and typically and there may be some flexibility to strict adherence to schedules and deadlines.
  • For effective cross-cultural management, it is important to remember that hierarchy in business is strictly observed.


Read more about Italian Management Culture.

Photo by Serena Repice Lentini on Unsplash

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