Italy Part II — Italian Culture
I heard that California is supposed to have the same climate as Italy, but that didn’t seem to be the case when I was there. Italy in October is more like California in February–everything is lush and green. There was also this gorgeous light covering everything, a swath of gold that filters down from the clouds. It was hard to photograph, but I understand why artists like Italy now.
Girl on the bus from Siena to Rome.
The plants were all familiar–oleanders, palm trees, pampas grass–but everything was slightly bigger and healthier. The oleander blossoms were as big as azaleas and even the dandelions were taller and somehow more elegant. Gardening is a big part of life there. The smallest apartment balcony has an herb garden on it. Restaurants use piles of fruit for decoration. And who can blame them? Look at the size of these grapes:
The most interesting part of Italy, for me, was the food. I have never eaten so much in my life. On a typical day, we had espresso for breakfast, a two-course lunch, and a two-course dinner. The courses were usually pasta and some sort of meat dish afterwards. We also had wine with most of our meals. In between, there was gelato.
We had everything from cheap sandwiches to gourmet meals. One meal would be in a small nook in a romantic alley while the rain beat down outside, the next would be in a touristy pizza joint. The best thing I had was a meat lasagna that was, without a doubt, the best lasagna I have ever had in my life. I also had wild boar, rabbit, shrimp scampi, and veal, among other things. And the best tiramisu.
Somehow, despite all this, I lost weight. I guess from all the walking.
Kyle eating gelato.
I loved shopping in Italy. The clothes are cheaper and better made than you can get in California. Kyle bought a leather wallet and a pair of dress shoes, both made in Italy. I bought a navy coat, two scarves, Venetian glass earrings and necklace, a purple sweater, a green sweater, and a terracotta canister for my coffee. I had to force myself to stop. I wanted to buy everything I saw.
We also like the Italian people. They seem fun, outgoing, and more laid back than people from other European countries. They are also polite. We didn’t run into a single jerk or rude person our entire 10 days there, and some people were extraordinarily kind to us.
Italian couple kissing while Kyle looks on.
Communicating was easy after awhile. Maybe because of my background in Spanish, I found Italian easy to understand and by the end of the trip, I was beginning to get snippets of conversation.
An odd caveat to all this is the beggars. In Italy, bands of people work the street, some selling you things, some begging for money, some playing music for money.
Street musicians near the Pantheon.
Actually, the beggars were fascinating. Many of the younger gypsy women would sit holding an infant while rolling their eyes to indicate despair and helplessness. I saw other beggars holding puppies or sitting on church steps fingering rosaries. Then there were the ones who used their infirmities (real or fake) for gain–people with bent spines or stunted limbs, etc. One person appeared to have fallen on the sidewalk. He was lying face-down with his cap splayed out beside him for coins. On his head, peeking through his hair, were large brown boils. I was so surprised, I dropped my suitcase.
And then there was the beggar I saw while standing in line for the Vatican Museum. An old lady came along holding out a green bowl and saying in an elaborately shaky voice, “Signora, Signore?” She took off her hat, and half of her scalp looks worn away, a raw pink wound like she had taken a cheese grater to her scalp. It was weird and certainly didn’t make me want to give her money.
A different beggar woman on the Spanish Steps
Americans love Italy, apparently. We are everywhere. Because of this, some of the Italians were a little wary about Kyle and I. Whenever we ordered a caffe, they would almost always explain that it was Italian coffee (espresso), not American coffee. I can only imagine the reaction they received when some Americans ordered a coffee and got an espresso instead. I saw a similar situation in a leather store. An American woman was having a fit because a wallet she wanted to buy had a small scratch on it. She treated the shop owner like he was a thief who was trying to cheat her. It was embarrassing.
Me, sitting at the top of the Spanish Steps
5 thoughts on “Italy Part II — Italian Culture”
So far it sounds like a wonderful trip.
I am cheering for you in the NaBloPoMo. I am enjoying your blog and will be reading each day after I make my own post. Keep it up.
Now I want to go to Italy! That picture of the fruit looks like part of what I imagine when I think of Italy.
Also: For a split second that man in the kissing couple looked like Kyle to me. I was confused. I am glad that he is just looking on.
OddMix: Thanks! I appreciate it. It’s nice to have a new reader.
Marcia: Yikes. Me too.
Joy Lanzendorfer » Blog Archive » Italy Part III — Art and God
[…] Next (and last): Florence and Siena Part II: Italian Culture Part I: Ancient Rome Explore posts in the same categories: Travel […]