Italy! There is just something about that place; the people, the culture, the lifestyle, or the past strike a chord with us. Once you have experienced it, the sweet life, there is longing to return. Traveling to Italy is like stepping back in time, in a good way, where Italians seem to value people over things and where eating a family meal together is central to the make-up of the day. Wasn’t it like that in America way back when?? When the family table was where everyone connected over food and laughter and enjoyed each other's company with no other agenda? I never realized how little I knew about this concept until I experienced the holidays, milestone celebrations, and everyday meals with our Italian neighbors. My husband and I spent the first three and half years of our marriage on the outskirts of a small city in Northeast Italy. For almost the first year we were there, I thought our house overlooked a small wine vineyard, but when summer came around, the fruit on the vines was most certainly not red or green, but instead, brown. Who ever heard of brown grapes? Well, it turned out to be a kiwi vineyard!! Not as romantic, but still beautiful.
There are so many culture shocks that come with living in a foreign country, but one of the most striking differences was the pace of life. Our life moves so quickly, but there is something to be said about a slower pace of life, where coffee and wine are actually enjoyed. It is a welcomed change from the frantic hustle of America, and people not working as much was fabulous for many reasons. But at the same time, it took a VERY LONG time to get anything accomplished, and you can forget about getting anything done after lunch, as riposo (the afternoon rest) was in affect-read BUSINESS CLOSED (Sundays and Saturday afternoons too)!! A little inconvenient, but with all that said, I miss the pace of life, the people, the leisurely walks, and the blue skies.
A few things I missing about Italy:
1. The old anziana (ladies) in skirts, panty hose, and heels, riding their bicycles with flowers overflowing from baskets, as they returned from market day in the Spring to place them in their window boxes, cascading down from their high perches.
2. In the summer, the clink clink of plates after the evening meal, drifting into the night air from the open windows, as families wound down their day by gathering around the table for a shared meal.
3. The aroma and taste of excellent wine (often times, the house wine) at the local ristorante paired with the regional cuisine. My favorite part was lingering at the dinner table for hours because the table was ours for the night, as conversation grew and memories were made with friends. It was just lovely that the entertainment of the night was the company we were with.
4. The chiming of the local bell tower that was never quite on the hour because Italians' sense of time is just like that.
5. All the local towns' annual summer sagra that continues all night, as the wine seemed to flow endlessly and the melodious voices of children rang out sweetly, delighting in the fact that sleep is still a distant thought. These sagra’s have been occurring for hundreds of years, as this year is 740th Annual Sagra dei Osei for the town in which we lived. YES, 740 years and still going strong!
6. Sweetly savoring the fresh stracciatella scoop of gelato on a hot and humid summer eve’s walk around the town square, eyeing all the window displays of the local stores.
7. The sound of the sing-songy language of a people and culture that truly know how to make a beautiful life. Even if you don’t feel beautiful, they will call you beautiful in their greetings with a Ciao Bella.
8. Having a conversation with your hands without uttering one syllable, however pleasant or disagreeable the exchange might be. Once, while driving down a rural road, I noticed a Mom and her elementary aged boy having a heated discussion as the Mom was towering over her son, pointing her finger in his face, sternly talking to him. I couldn’t hear anything, but it was obvious that she was very agitated with him, and in return, he had his hand out with his finger tips touching his thumb, flicking his wrist at his mom (in essence saying: I don’t care). The mother took the son’s wrist and firmly placed it on his side, even more upset, and of course, the young son brought the hand back and continued to flick his wrist at his Mom. I never heard a word, but I understood that whole conversation!
9. The fields of poppies that dot the landscape with vibrant hues of red, painting a picturesque scene of a way of life where time moves more slowly and food is savored and enjoyed instead of consumed in the busyness of pursuing today’s TO DO list. Contrary to us, Italians slow down and realize that people are truly more significant than tasks.
10. The fact that the only thing Italians seem to do fast is DRIVE. All other things can wait for domani (tomorrow), because after all, tomorrow is another day.
Italy will always hold a bit of nostalgia for me; it is where our married life began, our oldest was born, and we became a family. Italy is la dolce vita (the sweet life) in the truest sense, or at least, for us, it will always be remembered that way.
Tell us campers have you travelled to Italy? What was your favorite part about the trip? Is there something you miss about being there??