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The first thing to come to my mind when I think of Italy is Rome, The Pope, good food, gelato and of course good wine. In my mind Italians are the classy Europeans when it comes to well everything especially drinking. It seems to me that Italians never drink to get drunk and always accompany their drinks with a good amount of pasta. Italians seem to enjoy the the taste of wine and drink  with an air of sensibility.

In the article titled, “A Sip Too Far: Italy Cracks down on Underage Drinking“, Jeff Israely says this about Italian drinking culture.  “Italy has always prided itself on a balanced — even divine — rapport with the strong stuff. Call it a sipping culture rather than a drinking culture: Italians traditionally serve wine at the family dinner table, with boys and girls often getting their first taste of alcohol around age 12..” This part of the article confirms my preconceived notions of Italians and their drinking culture, and I did see this openness but also a  sense of control to drinking when I traveled to Italy.

However Israely goes onto say “The national minimum drinking age of 16 is often ignored and rarely enforced.” He also quotes a Roman pub manager who argues “Lots of young people don’t even know what they’re drinking … They just [want] to get drunk.” The author of this article is trying to say that usually Italians are very refined in their drinking but since the drinking age isn’t enforced young people are starting to drink more recklessly. This makes sense to me because every young person wants to experiment everything life has to offer whether it’s alcohol or skydiving. This is true of all young people regardless of culture, whether you’re Italian or American.

In order to combat this underage drinking the city of Milan is trying to enforce the legal drinking age of 16 years. So now those only 16 years of age and older can buy alcohol and anyone caught supplying alcohol to someone underage or if someone is caught drinking in public who is under 16 will be fined 700 hundred dollars. After the Milan city council passed this legislation, the Italian Prime Minister encouraged other cities to follow Milan’s lead. Which has started in some other other cities now. The hard part about doing this is that it is illegal to ask someone for identification in Italy before being served alcohol. So it’s up to the bar or store decide how old the person looks.

What is this?! I applaud Milan for reacting to a growing problem among its youth but can a Prime Minister really do no more that just recomend that other cities start doing the same? Doesn’t he have the power to make the whole follow this legislation? In addition, coming from an American background where we card people until they are 30, how can there be an actual law not allowing for identification before buying or consuming alcohol? What is the sense of having a drinking age then? If Italy is going to care about it’s youths’ problem with drinking I feel it needs to start taking the problem seriously. Some people are but the problem not everyone feels the same way.

Courtesy of Italian Alcohol Comsumption on the Rise.

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2 Comments

  1. I always heard that the drinking culture in Europe typically produced one that was not centered around getting drunk. It is interesting to hear that this is not really the case. I also think its crazy that they are not able to ask for identification at bars, it seems that this is a law that should be reconsidered if the Europeans are truly interested in enforcing a drinking age limit.

  2. After reading your blog on Italy I was surprised there was a drinking age in general. Both grandparents from my mother’s side of the family are Italian; when we use to visit them we were always served wine and sambuca liquor (if we decided to drink coffee). Although making a drinking age might seem like a good idea for Italy, I feel that drinking is embedded in the culture itself; In this sense I feel the city of Milan will have no success with their new law.


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