Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Gli Italiani - 15 things I've learned

Being back in Italy for summer reminded me of some of my favourite quirks of Italian culture. They make up many of the reasons why my love for Italy and all it's foibles will never fade, and to my surprise I've even begun living by some of these rules myself...

1. Wet hair equals mortal danger

Or at the very least a seriously bad cold, which may turn life-threatening. Just don't leave the house with wet hair. Don't even walk around inside the house with wet hair. Don't even wash your hair if you can help it. Just don't do it.

2. Pizza, Pasta and Nutella

The three staples of the Italian diet. Nothing else is needed to live a long and healthy life.

3. Why drive if you can take a scooter?

It may be pouring with rain, with winds of 100 mph, but you'll still get there quicker on a motorbike. Just pop on your waterproofs and helmet, and you're good to go.

4. Coffee

Coffee to the Italians is like tea to the English. In other words, absolutely essential.

5. Everything is beautiful

You’ll never need any other adjective because 'bella/bello' will suffice. (If something is extremely beautiful, maybe you can stretch to 'bellissima/o'). I have heard all of the following described as 'beautiful' in my time here: lunch, dinner, back flips, TV programmes, music (including Jason Derulo's 'Talk Dirty To Me'. Yes, really), and anything else you can imagine which the English may, at a stretch, refer to as 'quite nice.'

6. Heavy Rain equals No School
Haven't revised for that test? Don't worry, because if there's heavy rain around, there's a chance your school may not be opening anyway (as actually happened in 2015).

7. Rain (also) equals England

If you're English, expect Italians to assume that it rains every single day in England. (In fairness, there are 1078 more hours of sunlight per year in Rome, compared to London, so maybe they have a point).

8. Road Safety

Most taxis won't have working seatbelts in the back. Don't be alarmed, this is totally normal. I'm the kind of person who panics if I don't have a seatbelt on for two seconds in England. In Italy, I quickly got used to going without.

Incidentally, it is possible to squeeze six people into a tiny fiat punto to drive six hours from Rome to Venice. I know this because I was one of those people.

9. Black is the new Black

Especially in winter. Don't bother with any other colours, you'll immediately be marked out as a straniero/a (foreigner)

10. Saying Goodbye

Italians are kind, generous, and drive everywhere. Therefore, they will often insist on driving you home - just don't expect to get home any time soon. The car will be parked at least a twenty-minute walk away. They'll probably have at least three errands to run on the way. And you'll have at least ten hands to shake, and twenty cheeks to kiss, before you can even think about leaving.

Don't even think about exiting with a casual wave and a loud 'Ciao!'. To do so would be the height of rudeness, and you'll never be invited anywhere else ever again. My advice is - if you can get home within a twenty-minute walk, start walking.

11. Swimming & Stripping

Italians love to swim. They see nothing tedious in staying by the sea all summer. We once took a boat over to Isola d'Elba, and stopped in three different spots just to go for three different dips - in the same sea. Don't get me wrong - it was beautiful. But once I've been in once, I'm kind of done for the day.

And they have no qualms about stripping off. I love Italy, but I was born and raised a prudish Brit. Consequently, I save taking my clothes off in public until the last possible moment. If there’s a towel/tree/seat I can hide behind, even better. Plus, I fail spectacularly to become ‘abbronzata.’ My pale skin brightly reflects the sun’s rays, and even after the entire summer people can still spot me a mile off; a white fantasma among a sea of bronzed arms and legs.

12. Fat

Calling someone fat in Italy is not, as I have gathered, a taboo. Italians say ‘ah you’ve put on a bit of weight,’ or ‘you’re a bit fatter since I last saw you,’ in the same way that we might say ‘ah, you’ve had a haircut,’ or ‘new shoes?’. However, as far as actual fat is concerned, Italians are far from it. They eat pizza, pasta and ice cream all day (seriously) and still manage to be one of the slimmest nations in Europe.

13. Bread

Bread, bread, bread. They can’t get enough of the stuff. A sliced loaf of bread will usually accompany any lunch or dinner. And there was one other thing my English friend living in Rome reminded me recently. ‘Rosie,’ she whispered over Skype, ‘they eat mouldy bread.’ I had completely forgotten about it, but it’s kind of true. Although they will draw the line at blue mould. Stale bread is still good bread. Stale bread with the white beginnings of mould is still good bread. So eat up.

14. Snacking

They’re not so big on snacking. Unfortunately, I am. I’m like Hannah Horvath from Girls. I need to eat roughly every two hours or I crash. Not so in Italia. For example, you might have lunch at 1pm, followed by dinner at 9pm. That’s a whole eight hours without eating. Sure, you might have a piece of fruit to get you through the afternoon. But what’s an apple here and there ever done for a growling stomach? Not a lot. (I think this could be one reason why all the stale bread gets eaten at dinner time.)

15. You'll never have more fun

Italians are one of the warmest, friendliest, (not to mention good-looking), groups of people on the planet. They may have a reputation for driving like maniacs, or speaking more with their hands than their tongues, but you won't find a country of people more hospitable, or with a greater appetite for life. (And for food, obviously). If reading this blog has made you consider hopping on a plane to Italy, what are you waiting for? Vai!

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