Recently, I had the privilege of meeting a terrifically fun group of people who spend part of their time in Italy. This is the letter that one of them sent to his Italian teacher back in Seattle. In the true spirit of all things Burnt by the Tuscan Sun, enjoy!
I’m sure it will please you no end to learn that I've found some folks who speak Italian worse than me. The odd thing is, they're Italian. This has been wünderbar for my ego.The last few days we've been in the Dolomites, up above Tires, or as it's called here Tiers. These people will not say a word of Italian. Well, not quite. They will say an occasional Italian word, but only if they can make it sound German.
Martin and Margareth Damian, who own and run our swell hiking inn - Hotel Ciprianerhof - were born and raised right here on the Italian side of the border. But, they sound like they learned Italian at Berlitz from Herr Berlitz himself. When forced to say something in Italienische, Martin fires the words off in short staccato bursts. I didn't realize until now that American rap artists may be the linguistic heirs to German.
On the snowshoe trails we run into other hikers and chit chat. All of them, or at least all the ones we've talked to, are from Germany. When I try to speak to them in Italian, they inform me that they don't know a single word of Italian. Like all Germans, they know English. It’s as if every once in a while, someone goes out at night when nobody is looking and kicks the boundary markers a little further south. The rule seems to be that you’re not supposed to notice.
Up here, all rules are obeyed - including the ban on clothing in the saunas. Quite a few people do more than the rule requires: they extend the nackt zone to the hallway and the open showers and the lounge with recliner cots and hot pomegranate drinks. But, and there is a but. This will surprise you; I know it surprised me. Staring is against the rules. First they make everyone take all their clothes off - this rule is in writing - then they have an unwritten rule that you can’t look.
They shouldn’t expect an ordinary American who hasn’t eyed random samples of the naked female form in the flesh every afternoon to catch on to this one right away. Especially if that ordinary American has been living the last couple of years in the other Italy - the one down the road where people break rules all the time. In the other Italy, looking is a sign of respect. It’s like saying something complimentary, but with your eyes. In other words, it’s part of the Italian language. If I were completely honest, I’d have to admit that my eyeballs sometimes wander in respectful disregard.
In the morning at the breakfast buffet when you’re standing in line waiting for your turn to use the juice machine and the person in front is kind of slow, your reaction is completely different when you realize that you’ve seen her nackt.
I wonder if the Italians who live down there in the other Italy know what is going on up here.