Saturday, July 31, 2010

In Italia

After almost a month away, we are back in Italy. As we drove through the ancient city gates into our city that hasn't changed much in 500 years, my husband said, "it is so good to be home". At the time, I wasn't so sure. I was exhausted after an overseas flight with two young children, then stranded at the airport because the airline lost our carseats and we literally couldn't drive home. So when he said that, I was thinking about how everything is so easy and convenient in America and I was hoping it wouldn't be a hard transition back to Italian life.

It wasn't. Early the next morning I was back to appreciating Italy for its culture, its beauty and its people. After a good sleep, I opened the windows to all the locals bicycling to work in their suits with briefcases in the basket. Then my maid arrived with these gorgeous heirloom tomatoes from her garden. (That's a regular apple in the bowl behind. These tomatoes were absolutely huge.)
They were as good as look. I served them that night for dinner with a balsamic honey reduction. Divine.

Our house was clean so our maid helped me with the ironing. I just gave her the things from the suitcase that REALLY needed pressing and she finished quickly. Then I asked her to help me hang the rest of the packed clothes. (Four people packed for 3 weeks is a LOT of clothes). I thought the wrinkles from being packed might fall out so I told her we didn't need to iron them, just hang.

She was horrified.
She held up the first item, GASPED, and said "no stirare?!?" (no ironing?). So I quickly said okay, whatever you think. She picked everything up, marched away and ironed it all.
My t-shirts look fabulous.
I always heard the Italians were raised learning the importance of ironing and it must be true. Guess that is why they look so crisp and polished.


By 4:30 my husband and I were drinking wine in our garden, sitting under 300 year old statues, watching the boys play, and chatting in broken Italian with our neighbors. One speaks dialect and all I can understand is "mama mia!" and the other gave us more of her homemade wine and told us all about these fabulous thermal spas just 45 kilometers away. I think we now have our next trip planned.

Really, the only problem I've had adjusting is remembering where I am at night because we have slept in five different beds in three weeks. You know when you wake in the middle of the night and it takes a minute to decide where you are? Try doing that staring at a 30ft fresco on the ceiling. That is really confusing.

So it really is good to be back. Back to our 500 year old house with wonderful neighbors, gorgeous frescoes and an ugly kitchen. Back to a medieval city where there are more bikes than cars. Back to being in walking distance from fabulous shops, bakeries and caf├ęs . Looks like we are back "home" for now.

In America

We just returned from our first trip back to America in over a year. We spent over three wonderful weeks with family and friends. I thought I would have this huge culture shock going back to the States. I thought I would be amazed at the huge cars, huge highways and sweeping suburban neighborhoods, but I really wasn't. It just seemed familiar. I did, however, have a difficult time ordering in restaurants and shopping. I kept trying to speak in Italian and was surprised every time they spoke in English to me. You see, before EVERY transaction I make in Italy, I practice it in my head. Before I say, "do you have another of this in black?" I practice saying "avete un altro di questo in nero?" in my head and then I say it. It may sound strange but this was a hard habit to break and resulted in me staring blankly at most sales clerks and servers in America. My mom even noticed and said it was a good thing we started our trip in small town Mississippi and ended in Dallas so I would have a chance to adjust.

The huge difference I did notice throughout our trip was the amazing convenience of food. This is sooo different than Europe. In America, everywhere you look there are restaurants and drive-through fast food with fries that fit in your cupholders. In our Italian city of over 140,000, there is one drive-through. I also noticed everyone walking around with drinks. That seemed so strange to me, even though I used to do it, and quickly got back in the habit. In Italy there are no "to-go" coffees, drinks, etc. Everything is enjoyed at the bar. In fact, when we first moved here, I asked my regular bar for a "to go" coffee. I knew this was not common but my husband was stuck at home waiting for the movers and desperate for caffeine. They smiled and happily gave me my drink in a glass coffee cup, put a saucer over it and told me to bring it back the next day. I carefully walked four blocks home with and when my husband opened the door and saw the glass mug, he said "Did you steal it?!?"

See, no one here walks around with cokes, coffees, or even bottles of water. They don't even drink out of a bottled water, they always pour it in a glass. So if you are visiting Europe and prefer to blend in, have your drinks at a table and leave them there.

Thanks to all our family and friends for a wonderful three weeks. We miss you already!