30 May What the world could learn from Italy (and what Italy could learn from the world)
5 things the world should learn from Italy:
I make it no secret that aperitivo is just about my favourite thing about Italy. A very un-English concept, you essentially order an alcoholic drink (or non alcoholic, if you must!) costing somewhere in the region of €8, and you can help yourself to an all-you-can-eat buffet of delicious cheesy, meaty, bready, pasta-ey goodness. The best part about aperitivo is that it’s always justifiable. Just come from work? It’s on your way home. Didn’t want to spend any money? You’d have to buy food for dinner anyway. Have to wake up early and don’t want a night out? Spend time with your friends at a reasonable hour with delicious food and delicious drinks. What could be better? Of course, it would never catch on in England because people would either a) feel guilty about eating too much, or b) completely take the piss and be discovered shoving napkins stuffed full of pizza into their pockets and handbags, but it’s nice to dream.
There’s always time for a long lunch.
Whilst this national habit is slightly irritating when you realize that you need to do/buy something between the hours of 1:30 and 3pm, when the shop you need is inexplicably closed, the idea that lunch is not to be eaten at a desk is a nice one.
I’ve talked about Grom before, but shall mention it again. Although chains are generally not amongst my favourite things about a country, I will make an exception for this gelateria. Not only is their ice cream delicious and made from ethically-sourced seasonal ingredients, but they change their flavour of the month, you guessed it, once a month, and it’s always great.
What could be done today can definitely be done tomorrow instead.
Although not exclusively an Italian mentality (Spain, anyone?), and despite being unbearably annoying if you should ever need to, oh, I don’t know, get something done as a matter of urgency, the laid-back attitude here in Southern Europe is quite refreshing for a Brit used to everything seeming like the most important thing in the world. I am regularly told by The Greek (a southern European through and through) that I’m unnecessarily stressed, and it’s absolutely true that we ‘northerners’ could learn a thing or two about how to chill out and put things off until we feel more like doing them.
Bank holiday on a Thursday? Obviously it is sensible for everybody to take the Friday off too and enjoy a 4-day weekend. Good for the economy: no. Good for general happiness: absolutely.
And 5 things Italy should learn from the world:
A hole in the ground and a toilet are not the same thing.
Especially not in a bar or restaurant. There is no feeling worse than being desperate for a wee, running in to the nearest coffee shop, hastily purchasing the cheapest thing you can think of, and dashing to the loo only to find a smelly, dirty, disgusting latrine. It is not 17th Century Paris, it is 21st Century Turin, and frankly there is absolutely no reason not to have a toilet. Gag.
Paperwork and organization are not synonymous.
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt about getting bureaucratic tasks completed in Italy, it’s that the more pieces of paper you present to the people at the various offices, the more likely they are to grant you whichever request you went in there for. Does said paperwork have to be in any way relevant or important? Of course it doesn’t. It’s quantity, not quality that they’re interested in, and some headed paper from another office immediately gains you points, regardless of whether or not there’s anything else written on the page. Why there’s no way of doing any of these things online or by post is an absolute mystery to me.
Tall people are not to be gawked at.
Being taller than 5 foot 3 is not a crime, as far as I’m aware. Why then am I stared at by at least a couple of people every single day, particularly on the metro, just because I am a head taller than all of the other women and many of the men? It’s discriminatory, it’s rude, it’s annoying, and I don’t like it, especially because at 5’7 my height is not even remotely freakish. On the plus side, I find it quite easy to spot people in a crowd.
One-stop-shops (Boots? Tesco?) are an excellent idea.
Why oh why can I not buy paracetamol in the supermarket? Why do I have to go to a specialist tights shop to buy one pair for €9? Why do I have to go to Sephora for make-up, the supermarket for shampoo, and the pharmacist for vitamins? Why has the Meal Deal not caught on here? Why can’t I get a packet of pre-cut pineapple, a smoothie and a nice BLT? Why is there nowhere in existence where all of these things are in the same place? So many questions, so few answers.
If it’s hot, it is acceptable to wear warm-weather clothes, whether it’s December or July.
After not even a year here, I am already sick to the back teeth of being stared at on a hot day for wearing a vest top, or a skirt without tights, or, heaven forbid, a dress. It is only OK to wear the aforementioned items in Italy when it is August, or if you are within the boundaries of the Valentino park, where nudity is seemingly not only acceptable, but encouraged. However, if you’re wearing shorts in May in the centre of town, you may as well have put on your fishnets and stripper heels and stood on Corso Massimo D’Azeglio for the way you will be glared at by all.