A post Shelley wrote not long ago about what Italians have taught her about pasta got me thinking. (It’s well worth a read, especially if you’re either visiting Italy anytime soon or hosting Italians outside Italy.) I don’t live in Italy (yet!), but I think I’ve visited enough times and done enough reading about the country to start a new topic: What has Italy taught me? This is a random list, in no particular order, and by no means exhaustive.
Italy has taught me that food is one of the best travel souvenirs.
I wasn’t even close to what I’d consider a “foodie” before I started traveling, and my trips to Italy have convinced me that a good meal is better than most souvenirs any day of the week. I can taste my memories of some of the fabulous food I’ve been lucky enough to eat in Italy, and I don’t need a little plaster David to remind me I visited Florence. The memory of the savory bistecca Fiorentina I had there is reminder enough. I’ll happily spend inordinate amounts of money on great meals, and then hesitate over a fake pashmina or knock-off leather purse at the outdoor markets in Florence. Some things just aren’t worth compromising on.
Italy has taught me to slow down.
On vacation, I’m used to rushing here and there, making sure I squeeze the most out of every precious minute I’m away from work and in a new place. I don’t tend to take naps, I don’t rest, I run myself ragged and often end up getting sick almost the second my plane touches down back home. I still have a tendency to try to do too much when I’m on holiday, but my trips to Italy have taught me that leisure time is not about running at a breakneck pace. If you move too quickly, you might check off lots of to-do’s on your vacation checklist, but you’ll miss the nuances of real life in the places you’re buzzing through. Now, I try to remember that an hour sitting at a cafe table and just watching people in a piazza is an hour well-spent. That cathedral I didn’t get to see? It’ll be there next time I visit, too.
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Italy has taught me that confidence is sexy.
I suppose it wouldn’t necessarily have taken the Italians to show me that how sexy confidence is, but it’s just that Italian women seem to have a corner on the confidence market. I’m confident about one thing – I’ll never measure up to the Italian women. And that’s okay, because I’m not Italian. But I’m kind of hoping that if I spend enough time around them, that whole “I don’t really care what anyone else thinks, because I know I’m fabulous” air will rub off on me.
Italy has taught me that life’s too short for bad food.
The first time I visited Venice, I had some of the usual sub-standard meals that everyone in Venice complains about. I quickly learned, however, that a restaurant full of Italians (and not tourists) was a good indication of quality. I’ve since come to believe that even if I’m beyond the usual hunger pangs, spending a little extra time hunting for a hole-in-the-wall restaurant serving authentic local cuisine will pay off handsomely. Why waste money and calories on bad food when there’s so much good food out there?
Italy has taught me that no place is perfect.
Some people have taken to pointing out all of Italy’s faults every time I talk about wanting to live there. Yes, I know – the political system is corrupt and incomprehensible (and that’s just the start of it), people cheat on their taxes, Italians can be quite racist, and they may have invented both red tape and procrastination. And you know what? I don’t care. I know all of that, and I’m not bothered by it. Well, it’s not that I’m not bothered by it, but that I’m not focused on it. You see, every place has its drawbacks, and no place is perfect. I love that I am a citizen of the United States, even if I might seriously disagree with the government. I wouldn’t dream of trying to escape my country’s ills by heading to another country and expecting it to be a sort of Utopia. The truth is, no such place exists. If you can learn to roll with the punches, pick your battles and focus on the things that are most important to you, that’s a very good start, indeed.
So – that’s my start. Now – what has Italy taught you?
Photo by: Sergio