Travel is a helpful way for me to learn, compare, contrast and clarify. Italy was a particularly delightful breath of fresh air during this contentious and often uncivil time in the U.S. Assisi, Siena, Venice and Florence were teeming with tourists from around the world. In spite of huge crowds, the Italians I met were warm, friendly, and only too happy to share the grandeur of their rich history and, of course, the gastronomical delights of each region.
A month is too short a time to get to know people and a place, however, I came away with the following impressions:
- The people of Italy enjoy enjoying life — and engage in the practice often.
- Pride is taken in their work, whether they are uniformed gasoline station attendants, shop owners or executives, AND their employment is just one aspect of their identities. They are much more likely to talk about their family, food, music, hobbies, or art first.
- A monumental vision outlives the individuals who brought it forward. Consider Firenza’s Duomo and Uffici, Vicenza’s Teatro Olympico, and shrines to St. Frances of Assisi and St. Catherine of Siena.
- Most stores and restaurants are locally-owned. I saw few chain restaurants or stores and even fewer U.S. brands.
- The pace of life — if not the driving speeds — seem so much more relaxed that it took me a month to readjust to the pace in the states.
- Billboards and roadside advertisements were a blessed rarity.
- Technology was seldom used at the table, except by waiters taking orders, and checked far less often throughout the day.
- As for national and global politics, the Italians I met appeared to take it in stride having seen all measure of leaders come and go during the country’s long history.
- People seem bent on making the world a better place by focusing on art, culture, gardening, family and friends, local traditions, and food — don’t forget the food.
I find myself longing for more of what Italy offered wherever I happen to be on any given day. Bella Italia, Bella, Bella, Bella.