Reflections on Italy

A month in Italy doesn’t make me an expert, but like any traveller, I departed with certain impressions. Here are my top 10 impressions of my husband’s ancestral homeland.

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10. Trains r Us
The Italian train system is almost as good as the French system and better than the British. Take the train.

9. Bring on the Deet
Italian mosquitoes love me. I got more bites in Florence in a month than in the last 12-plus years living by a small lake in the Deep South.

8. Motorcycle Maniacs
The only thing worse than mosquitoes in Firenze are bikers throughout Italia. If there are actually rules of the road (and that it is debatable), bikers ignore them all. Sounding like giant mosquitoes, they zit wherever and whenever they please. I hate them and their insect cousins.

7. For Art’s Sake
If you don’t like art enough to spend at least an hour a day looking at it, don’t visit the cradle of the Renaissance. If you do, there’s no better place to wallow in it.
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6. Spaghetti-O
What’s not to like about carbs and cheese? We never had a bad meal. Truffles now join macaroons on my Things I Love to Eat list. My favorite dining experience was with the Selva family. They redefined hospitality.

5. Creative Group Think
Beyond the wonderful light and colors of central Italy, why did so many creative geniuses inhabit such a small area at the same time? Why hasn’t humanity duplicated that type of creative energy for a second or third or fourth Renaissance? The French, of course, would argue that they did. Note to self: discuss with Megan to get the current art history perspective.

4. Fashion Conscious
You know people are fashion conscious when they dress for the season as opposed to the actual temperature. Do you really need a scarf wrapped around your neck, a sweater and a jacket on your upper half with skinny pants and boots on your lower half on a sunny day with a high of 72? Head’s up: if it’s warm enough for mosquitoes to thrive, you don’t need to layer. On behalf of scarf-less people everywhere, how often do these scarf-wearers wash their scarves? I’m convinced that the next great influenza epidemic will be birthed in scarves. (In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess to purchasing six scarves on this trip as gifts.)

3. Bring on the Chianti
Not being a lover of strong drink, I developed a taste for Chardonnay mainly to have something in my hand at functions serving alcohol. Wish I’d discovered Chianti sooner. Although I did feel a bit like Hannibal Lechter when drinking Chianti in Verona with my husband. John ordered two dishes — one with horse meat and the other with donkey. I tried the donkey and discovered that anything is edible when washed down with Chianti.

2. Purple Mountain Majesty
The Alps, particularly the Dolomites, are one of the Creator’s masterpieces. Spectacular. Breathtaking. Awe inspiring. Need  I say more? Nah.

wpid-IMG_20131106_165411_048.jpg1. That’s Italy
Italy has been struggling economically for many years. In addition to the Great Recession, the culture of patronage, which often leads to corruption, contributes to national woes. Another contributing factor is complacency. Whether discussing a problem that could easily be solved (e.g., a web site update to provide current information) or a more difficult one that other countries have cracked successfully (e.g., encouraging entrepreneurship) an Italian will shrug off their country’s problems and say “That’s Italy!” Consequently, the country seems to be in a slow state of deterioration.

Despite this national complacency, Italians are passionately warm and generous people. The selfless generosity the Selva family bestowed on Jimmy Longino in 1944 and the gracious hospitality they offered to John and me in 2013 bears testimony to all that is good about Italy.

Bella familia. That’s Italy!

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