Why I love Italy so.
My love affair with Italy is like all stories of the heart; a journey of discovery and life lessons, at times punctuated with frustration and rage, a feeling of being home. It’s when a place evokes a feeling that goes beyond enjoyment to something deeper, even life changing. If you listen to our podcast Adventuring in Albania it’s clear from the way in which Luke talks that his relationship with Albania is just that.
When you love the things that others find aggravating, you know you’ve found that special somewhere. My summer trip to Italy with Luke and his partner Steve reminded me of some of these very aspects of Italian life.
The Italian sense of timing. Agreed that in many contexts being on time is important. Also agreed that waiting around for someone who is late is annoying. In Italy, it’s not uncommon for ten minutes to pass before the waiter acknowledges your presence, for the bus to run to its own obscure timetable or for your date to turn up more than fashionably late. In the UK these things would really wind me up, but in Italy fluidity of timings is part of its character. When I lived in Rome and was late to a student’s lesson because my bus took days to arrive, I’d be greeted with sympathy and a coffee. I learned that without pressure, waiting time isn’t wasted time, it’s whatever you want it to be. Time to daydream, read, soak up some sun, have a chat, or just sit and be.
Guess which bus I was waiting for?
But that doesn’t make any sense! Oh the times this has been said about all manner of things in Italy; when you queue up to pay for your gelato before queuing again to choose it, when a glass of wine is half the price of a juice, when the shop is closed because the shopkeeper wants an exceptionally long lunch. Yeah, it’s irritating and it’s nonsensical, but there’s a bizarre charm there too. When I left my job and had to spend an entire morning and €20 at a municipal office to prove that I had chosen to leave and wasn’t pushed out unfairly, I had to see the funny side. Life is full of oddities and Italy taught me to laugh at these things rather than moan or cry.
The time we missed a train because platform 18 is hidden at the far end of platform 17, but why?!
That Italian obsession with Italian food. Trust me, I get it, the food is great. Like frequent food coma inducingly great. But Italians bang on about it like it’s still ground-breaking news that needs to be shared at every possible moment. Good luck trying to discuss other cuisines or suggesting a new take on an Italian classic. Cream in Carbonara anyone? Theirs is a passion that borders obsession. I found it best just to save my soy sauce and stir fries for evenings at home with non-Italian friends. But there’s something quite heart-warming about how proud Italians are of their cuisine, how much joy is sparked by a meal for them and how much love is put into food preparation. Why don’t we all express more positivity and praise like this in everyday life?
As much as Italy has taught me, I also do just have a soft spot for this country where even its ugly sides are endearing. I wonder what it is that makes us feel like this with certain places? I guess it’s the same inexplicable chemistry that happens between people too.
There are zero rules for parking in Italy, even the central zone at a junction counts!
When the random is just adorable - a celebration day in Orvieto near Rome.
Pretty much sums it up - "I'll be right back, more or less"
Take a listen to our podcast Living Abroad: Beyond the Expat to hear more of our reflections on this topic.