I asked an Italian girlfriend if she would be going back to her family's home in South Africa for the holidays. She said, no, because it was always so stressful. As I commiserated about family and what not, she interrupted to tell me it wasn't the family that was the problem, it was the Italians.
She said, "You know how they are. Turns out I have to accompany them everywhere and I never get much of a holiday as a result. They need to go here and there, and from our place, you need a car, and they don't want to drive, she continued, and it's me who gets saddled."
Now this, I couldn't believe. I know that Beppe Severgnini (one of my favorite authors on things Italian) has a book called Italiani con Valigie-Italians Suitcases in Hand, in which he most likely describes these sorts of things, but I've yet to read it. Instead, my mind wandered to all those Italians I've ever met or taken around New York, London, Nepal...In short, they are inveterate travelers. But it's true, you sometimes get the feeling that mamma needs to be nearby in order to keep things ticking at a good clip. I remember how many Italians refused to eat anything other than pasta and would then usually complain about the way it was cooked anyhow. The more adventurous ones would occasionally go to a NYC steak house to eat real meat, and not a 'fiorentina'. But nothing more.
Italians are indefatigable travelers, especially the younger generations who have been spoiled with trips for a long weekend to the Red Sea or Maldives, with mom, dad & boyfriend. Separate rooms, of course: mamma & papà in one, kids in the other. So, perhaps this rule no longer applies. But, I do recall that on a trekking expedition in Tibet we needed dozens of porters and even more ponies to take all our belongings. Why?
To accomodate the picnic tables, pots and pasta we had for eating meals, not to mention the utensils. What I thought was totally civilized, (well, Italians did invent the fork), the Italians probably thought was roughing it. After all, we had no tablecloths. Mamma would have been aghast.