I often write from a cynical point of view in a tone that is best described as sardonic when I write about Italy. At some point, and this happens to everyone, the acid haze of expatriate living eventually turns into an expatriate hangover. You remember the greatness of your life before but suddenly you see it through a veil of nausea and mental fog. However, I do love Italy. Obviously because I married it and trust me if you marry an Italian you are marrying Italy. Much like an STD, you can move them physically out of Italy but they’ll still carry it around inside of them. And why would you want to remove Italy from them? Aside from the two-hundred obvious reasons (crap economy, confusing sheep fascist mentality, over-bearing family, cheating) there isn’t anything. Italy in many ways is exactly what I needed when I needed it. Everyone at least once in their life needs it.
Let’s get past the art and architecture which is obviously breathtaking, the oldness of it all seems insane for those of us from countries who were the most recent on the “we are getting fucking the ass without lube,” receiving end of European imperialism. The cobblestone once drowned in the piss in the likes of Da Vinci (and oh my God I am peeing there now!). This place has homed greatness for centuries and I am stumbling drunk all over it. If you stop and stare at the city for even a moment it is unbelievable how absurdly cool is Florence. All of it. But that’s obvious.
The food is something else we could talk about. The bright red tomatoes bulging out of crates onto the street, the smell of fresh bread wafting from cafès and pasticceria, meals that only require olive oil and salt as seasoning because the ingredients are so fresh it doesn’t seem like it came from twenty-thirteen rather we’re back in the nineteen-twenties before our food was plastic and genetically fucked. But everyone knows about the food.
It’s the relationship with life and the strange people that make Florence and Italy so unique and incredible but it’s not necessarily the personal interactions but rather just watching them exist. In some ways it’s like taking acid and watching a 3-D movie, but in a good way. The old couple of about ninety years old with their matching cane set holding hands while they slowly make their way around the block after lunch, the group of elderly widows in matching black walking together and talking about their children or their late husbands, the young boys playing soccer in the street while their mother screams out of the window to come eat (she is wearing an apron and leaning over red poppy flowers in the window planter), Italian husbands in the street holding their wives purses with their infant strapped to their chest while the mother walks slowly behind in stilettos, deeply inhaling a cigarette, teenagers fighting in a square and nobody calls the police because, well, kids fight, an old woman drinking tea in the window of a restaurant with her little terrier on her legs, comfortably asleep on her Prada pant-suit. A pretty woman walks by and all of the heads of the street turn to follow her. The men stare. The women stare. If you make eye contact you’ll be locked there because there is no reason to look away. Personal space doesn’t exist.
In Italy life isn’t passed by because people are too busy living it. Food is enjoyed for hours at a time instead of inhaled. Anything that is meant to be enjoyed is savored in a way that is strictly Italian and while I can’t say much for any other relationship I can say that my husband doesn’t look at me but he stares at me for hours every day. He softly touches me in between moments of clinging, pulling, grasping and tugging. He doesn’t kiss me but rather he tastes my mouth (and the rest of me) like he’s tasting wine. And sex, as far as I can tell from talking with friends, varies from person to person but something you’ll hear often is that with Italian men it’s less about sex and more about enveloping someone in a raw, animalistic way. It’s like being with someone’s ID only to wake up in the morning with coffee next to the bed and someone playing with your hair and whispering nice things in your ear. It can often be misleading by how sweet and fully devoted they can seem even for a one-night-stand.
There is an (often obnoxious) long-lost will to argue and nag and fight that disappeared long ago in the US and England for a more “civilized” approach to life: witty jokes, perfection in well-played but limited animation. Italy has maintained its naive innocents with its thousands of years of wisdom. It lends those of us from another world a different perspective, a break. It gives us a look into the past and teaches a full appreciation for the present. Once you learn it you won’t forget it and you’ll forever see the world through Italian-tainted lenses.
- A Slice of Italy (mumuinthefog.wordpress.com)
- Italians break underwater kiss ‘world record’ (thelocal.it)
- Customs and Etiquette in Italy (rickzullo.com)
- Host of PBS’ Eat!Drink!Italy!, Vic Rallo Jr., Partners with Atalanta Corporation to Promote the Best of Italy (prweb.com)