top of page

Old School vs Modern Italian Homes

It's 2019, and we're still trying to figure out who "company is".

Italian homes have evolved a great deal since our grandparents moved to Canada, and many of us Italian kids know that there are certain things you'll only find at Nonna's house. Some of those beliefs and traditions have also been incorporated into our homes, and have been modernized by our parents. There are some things however, that will just never change.

Old School Italian Home aka. Nonna's House

There is absolutely no place like Nonna's house. Nonna's house has character, and is the meeting point in every family. You'll find that majority of household items date back to 30 years before you were even born. Here are the basic features of an old school Italian home:

  1. Madonna (Mother Mary). In the bedroom, in the living room, in the kitchen. Nonna is the Pope's #1 fan, and Catholicism needs to be displayed in her house.

  2. Display only dining room. Nonna picked out the furniture for that dining room when she got married about 60 years ago. It's a show piece, and it doesn't matter how many people are over, that room will always stay empty.

  3. China cabinet with crystal glassware and flatware from the 60's. Nonna will pull it out for "company", but we're at least 20 years old and still have yet to figure out who "company" is.

  4. Deep freezer. This thing holds sausages from our cousin's butcher shop, tubs of grated parmigano cheese, and frozen Nino D'Aversa bread.

  5. Cantina. Home to Nonno's wine, capocollo, homemade tomato sauce, and "gingerella".

  6. Pasta Machine. Most likely a wedding gift, or family heirloom.

  7. Collection of massive stainless steel bowls. Nonnas have to be prepared to cook for an army, and they got the tools to prove it. Italian grandchildren have guaranteed found our Nonnas mixing some kind of dough in a bowl that we could've bathed in during our toddler years.

  8. Moka. Espresso machines ranging in at least four different sizes. There's a "colazione" (breakfast) moka, and there's a "the entire family and cousins visiting from XYZ are coming over" moka.

  9. Slippers. Nonnas are so convinced that we'll "catch-a cold" from the temperature of their floors, and even socks can't save us from it. She keeps a basket of homemade slippers, and the family has their favourites picked out.

  10. Minimum of two kitchens. The basement kitchen is Nonna's sanctuary, and also her workshop. We'll find her making lasagna, frying, or just preparing dinner for the family. You know Nonna is going hardcore when she's cooking in the basement. She'll let us hang around if we sit, watch, and don't touch anything. It also doesn't matter how old Nonnas get, they always refuse to cook anywhere else. The upstairs/main floor kitchen is used for breakfast, or a quick pasta for lunch, that's about it.

  11. Sewing machine from the 50's. If we've ever walked into Nonna's house with ripped jeans, this is the first place she takes us. She has a custom built table just for the sewing machine, and she's had threads stocked since before we were born.

  12. Photos, everywhere. There's photos of grandchildren everywhere, and there's stacks of photo albums hidden all over the house. You'll see pictures of Nonno and Nonna's trips to Italy every year after their wedding, and don't bother asking who the "little boy" next to your Zia is, because no one has a clue.

  13. Holy water. Blessed by Pope John Paul II from their visit to Italy 40 years ago.

  14. Plastic wrapped furniture. Think paisley couches and chairs from the 60's covered in plastic. The second someone sits down, you'll be able to hear it from a different floor of the house.

Modern Italian Homes

Our mom's have taken notes from Nonna over the years, and have made our homes a place Nonna could be proud of. You'll notice a pattern in some of the appliances, and other items around the house, but with a modern twist. Here are the basic features of a modern Italian home:

  1. Crucifix. Our parents need to have a crucifix in our home to keep it safe, and they know very well if Nonna comes over, that she'll be looking for it.

  2. Display only living room. The showroom has taken a different form in modern times, and our parents are finally learning that a bigger table can be useful for entertaining. The living room (which I refer to as "the room where no one lives") is perfectly decorated, and is meant for "company".

  3. China cabinet. Our parents have to display their wedding china somewhere, and they're taking notes from Nonna by carefully defining people as "company" in order to break it out.

  4. Deep freezer. It's not as full as Nonna's, but our mom's bulk of ground beef and chicken breast is kept there.

  5. Cantina. Home to homemade tomato sauce, and "gingerella".

  6. Pasta machine. Our mom's wedding shower gift, and our guaranteed arm workout.

  7. Collection of stainless steel bowls. They're not as big as our Nonna's, and our mom hears about it every time we try to mix something and our counter turns into a disaster.

  8. Espresso machine. Our mom stills owns at least three moka's, but she's learnt the convenience of a Gaggia or Nespresso.

  9. Slippers. Our moms aren't concerned about us "catching a cold", the slippers are there to keep the floors clean, and make guests feel welcome. Nonna's convinced her that socks don't cut it either.

  10. Minimum of two kitchens. Our mom's are learning that a second kitchen isn't that necessary, but they've been raised with two kitchens, and they know that the prep kitchen for family functions is always in the basement.

  11. Sewing kit. Our parents go to Nonna or tailors for major clothing adjustments, but they still have a sewing kit handy in case you have any loose buttons or holes in your sweater.

  12. Photos. Our parents have us, and our Nonni on display. You'll see at least one communion picture of each child, and a few black and white pictures of Nonno and Nonna in the hometown. Mom's also got the photo albums stocked, but this time she knows who everyone is in the pictures.

  13. Pasquale's recipe book. Our parent's love old school recipes, and we've all probably woken up to Pasquale singing on tv while making chicken cacciatore as a kid.

  14. Sambuca. Dad has a bottle ready to go "for company".

Whether you're Italian and you related to this post, or you're not and you think Italians are absolutely nuts, I hope it made you laugh. Let me know if you enjoyed it!

Fa la brava,


109 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page