I'm working on this theory. It goes like this: you can learn all you really need to know about how a country eats by visiting one of its highway rest stops.
In the US, at an interstate rest stop, you find Starbucks and shitty burgers and pizza. In Belgium, you can chow down on mussels, fries, and beer when you stop along the road. And what did I find at a rest stop along the Italian autostrada last week?
An espresso bar.
Sandwiches (fairly decent ones, I might add), served hot. Buttery pastries filled with creams.
A buffet with four courses (antipasti (hot and cold), primi, secondi, dolci), plus wine to drink and an oil and vinegar station for dressing your food to your taste.
Bags of pasta and bottles of wine to take on the road.
I don't think I could design a more perfect microcosm of Italian food culture if I tried. The only thing that's missing is the gelato case.