I like Italy. It’s a beautiful country with amazing food, great wine, and an amazing history that I am only just beginning to appreciate. Moving away has really made me grow as a person too. I’ve learned patience thanks to Italian bureaucracy, longsuffering also thanks to Italian bureaucracy, assertiveness thanks to an egocentric society that takes more pride in the bella figura than doing the right thing, resiliency thanks to an uncertain economic climate, and an unfaltering optimism that no matter what, alla fine, si sta bene.
I’ve made friends whom I never would have had the chance to meet if I had never moved here and learned the language. It amazes me that I can hold a phone conversation, order a pizza, tell off a police offer for trying to take my Canadian license when I was driving with my Italian learner’s permit (ok, so maybe not the best example, but look at the benefit of a second language! I implore you!), take my daughter to the Doctor, read a book, watch a movie, enjoy Fabri Fibra (I don’t care what you think Damiano! I like him!), or partake in a business meeting in a language that I threw myself on the bed crying hysterically all 12 year old pre-teen style when I hadn’t mastered it 3 months after moving here.
For all of these beautiful moments, I have the Italian populace to thank.
For every meeting that someone stormed out of waving their hands in the air, only to return a few moments later to further argue their point – I have the Italian populace to thank.
For every concerned look I’ve gotten for going around with no scarf around my neck (direct cause of a sore throat, and perhaps even diarrhea) – I have the Italian populace to thank.
For every piece of advice I’ve been given (unsolicited) regarding my dining choices and time of day (by the way, ragu with steamed broccoli is a no-no for an afternoon snack at your desk) – I have the Italian populace to thank.
For every gentleman who has rushed to open the door when they saw me coming in with my daughter in a stroller and then insisted on carrying it – I have the Italian populace to thank.
For every signora who has told me that she thinks my daughter’s name should have been different – I have the Italian populace to thank.
For every restaurant owner who has graciously given me their “secret” recipe for my preferred dish at their establishment and then offered to bottle it for me to take to Canada for family and friends – I have the Italian populace to thank.
For every person who has ever had to listen to my cobbled together phrasing using only the imperfetto to describe ALL past tenses, along with my “American” accent and my mispronunciation of the double consonant but has nevertheless corrected me or put the effort in to understand what I was saying – I have the Italian populace to thank.
Living here has made me a better person.
And maybe you’ll think I’m a horrible one, but I get such great pleasure out of just watching.
Ladies dressed TO THE NINES walking along the passeggiata holding animated discussions and gossiping about their friends and family.
A child running around in the main square gets too close to the side of the road, and a stranger (!!) rushes to stop them.
Teenagers rush by on their bikes, without helmets (!!), one standing on the rat-trap catching a quick lift, laughing and joking about their school day.
A car parks on the sidewalk and puts on his 4-way flashers as if to say “I’ll just be a sec!” and no one bats an eye, they just walk around.
A couple, in the midst of a heated argument, storm by, her yelling at him and calling names – heads turn to listen for a minute, then go back to their business, but not before a quick recounting of the time they had had a heated argument just like that one.
With all of these moments I can only hope to give you a glimpse into what everyday life is like in Italy. A beautiful and proud country not yet ready, nor willing, to give up the days of yore. A country clinging to its values and traditions and digging in its collective heels no matter the consequences for the present or future.
But, I think Beppe Severgnini can say it even better:
“First of all, let’s get one thing straight. Your Italy and our Italia are not the same thing. Italy is a soft drug peddled in predictable packages, such as hills in the sunset, olive groves, lemon trees, white wine, and raven-haired girls. Italia, on the other hand, is a maze. It’s alluring, but complicated. It’s the kind of place that can have you fuming and then purring in the space of a hundred meters, or in the course of ten minutes. Italy is the only workshop in the world that can turn out both Botticellis and Berlusconis.”