Sunday, August 14

Barbarians at the Gate - Rules for student travel in Europe

As the beautiful expression goes, The world is a book, and those who have not traveled haven't turned a page...


And so it is, that I get the privilege of turning quite a few pages with my American nieces & nephews and hear their thoughts and views on 'Life in Italy'.  If you are within earshot of their observations, you can gain a totally different perspective than that what the teachers will read about in their 'My Summer Vacation' essays upon their return.  As they've grown older, there are the obvious observations like "What is that bowl used for in the bathroom?" (what they charmingly call the "butt cleaner" but use mostly for dirty feet), or their marveling at "old people's alley", a stunning panoramic terrace over the Maremma lined with park benches where the old men & women sit all day long (except lunchtime, when they're indoors for the meal & subsequent siesta).  
And after years of coming to Italy, they look forward to imbibing in fruits galore which actually taste like they should, perfect summer weather, and a nightly dose of excellent gelato.


Sadly, they've had little opportunity to mix with the locals, other than from afar, but, every once in awhile they do, leading to our personalized list of WHAT NOT TO DO WHEN TRAVELING TO ITALY (and probably any foreign country for that matter).  According to my niece, "Every day in Italy I discover something new I do that offends someone." 


So, for anyone traveling with kids, here's our primer of rules & regulations so as not to be a total Houseguest Fail:

  • Whenever you walk into a store or even a pizza joint (for the daily fix of pizza-by-the-slice) always say hello -- not saying "Ciao" but rather a more formal, Buon giorno (if it's before say 3pm) and Buona sera in the evenings. 
  • I confess, when not in mixed company, we all go totally footloose & fancy free, barefootin' it is not something that one does in Europe (and Asia as well).  Despite the hospital-level sterilization of Italian homes (especially their floors), going barefoot in the house is seen as a marked characteristic of primitive peoples living in 32000 BC.  Ditto for outdoors.
  • Lying sprawled out on a couch (even with shoes off) will also be sure to provoke nervous grins across the faces of your host, and jealousy in the hearts of their children.
  • Grabbing food (except bread) with your hands, even the pizza if eaten in a ristorante, will generally confirm to your hosts that you are in fact the missing link between the neanderthals & homo sapiens.
  • Drinking huge glasses of milk (or even a demitasse cup of it) after breakfast is seen as something so fowl that you might as well have puked directly on the Signora's plate.  The same goes for that post-dinner cappuccino order.
  • And finally, there's the mini-roster of incredible audacious behavior running the gamut of: laughing or talking loudly, going bare-chested off the beach, or leaving the house with wet hair which will always instill scorn in the hearts of Italian men & women alike.

5 comments:

Dave514 said...

Francesca:
I should write a counter piece about re-training Italian women who decide to live here. There is a strong "Bambi" Syndrome that needs to be cut off at the stumps. She wont eat pheasant, or quail and can't see that they're all chickens. There is persistent attachment to old wives tails about what to eat and how to medicate. She's still worried about, "faire la bella figura, IN HIGH POINT NC.

Now, Francesca, it's time you put something serious in your blog not about behaviour but about CGIL and their threat of a General Strike over Silvio's austerity programs. If these don't pass Italy and you might just all go down the drain never to be heard of again.

The Euro is gone! Bring back the Lire!

Your move!

Davide

Renata said...

Per favore vieni a Torino e ti portero' a trovare il "breadcrumbs" per i tuoi nipoti!
Non e' necessario portare niente dall'America perche' noi italiani dobbiamo portare le meraviglie italiane in America!
Questa primavera due signore di Chicago sono state mie ospiti per una settimana e mi hanno detto che un prete americano che vive in Vaticano non trovava i "Johnson's cotton fiocs"a Roma e loro ne avevano portato diversi pacchi....andai nel mio bagno (ed e' vero in Italia abbiamo anche il bagno e la doccia)ed ho preso un contenitore con i "cotton fiocs" dimostrando loro che da sempre anche in un Paese come l'Italia avevamo i cotton fiocs!
Smettiamola cari americani di ritenere tutto il resto del mondo come "il terzo Mondo"!!!!!!!

Francesca Maggi said...

Ciao Renata - Well, after weeks in Italy rejoicing in the daily dose of gelato, marveling over the Abruzzese bread (the best in the world), barely containing themselves to have the best ricotta fritters fried up to their delight, and heating up sheets of scamorza over the stovetop flame...
They hardly think Italy is 'third world'.

As for Johnson's Q-tips (they are to personal hygiene what scamorza is to gastronomic treats), mark my words: you don't want the Italian brand.

For more products some of us just can't live without, try this:

http://burntbythetuscansun.blogspot.com/2009/03/expat-grocery-list.html

Francesca Maggi said...

Above comment made from this:

Why is it that you can't find Italian breadcrumbs in Italy?

My nephew commenting on the fact that they must bring their own seasoned breadcrumbs from the USA when vacationing in Italy...

Francesca Maggi said...

@Davide -
After experiencing 'Life with the Americans' in Italy, we all unanimously decided that the USA could use a good strong dose of Italian traditions, bella figura, and all around general etichette...