Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Signs You're In Italy

I went to Italy, as I’ve said, to rediscover the ways Il Bel Paese has thoroughly enchanted me and millions of others. Enchant, perhaps, may not be the right word. Maybe I’ll use the word that I wrote in my first post – beguile. Because Italy can be just as maddening as it is beautiful.

So, here are some signs you might just be in Italy:

*When I get into the taxi that will take me from the airport in Rome to my hotel, the temperature is above 80 degrees but the taxi driver has the windows cracked open only slightly, and the AC is decidedly not accesa (not on). To his credit, he offers to turn it on. But I want Rome to be Rome – and that means putting up with the heat in the old way.

*I’m raising or lowering something called a saracinesca. It’s a slatted, wooden window screen that works like a pulley. Oh what a racket it makes! The sound of it going up or down – and the wooden slats banging against each other – is part of the soundtrack of Italy.

*The tripe food cart vendor is doing a killing

*In a taxi ride back from a friend's house in Rome, the driver is blaring the Juventus game on the radio. When a key goal is scored, I notice him pumping his fist, and when I look up in the rear view window, I see he's trying to catch my eye. That goal? It's something he wants to celebrate WITH me. OK. Forza Juventus!

*I walk into a coffee bar off of Campo dei Fiori in Rome only to find the largest ciambellina I’ve ever seen, which I devour to the sounds of Gianna Nannini’s “I Maschi” (I love that song!) and the comments of the bartender who’s talking over the previous night’s Juventus game with a regular.

*The door key to any place I’m staying is tricky enough that it might overwhelm the CIA

*At the airport in Rome, there's an initial security check, after which you receive plastic bags for your phone cords, which is followed by check-in, and then the actual security screening. And just when you think you're ready to relax at your gate, you realize you have to take a shuttle bus to the terminal.

*You think we need one more? You think we need one more. OK: one more (to steal one of my favorite movie lines). And so let it be an omnibus: I know I’m in Italy because I’m walking everywhere, observing everything, game for anything; church bells are ringing; if it's Sunday, men are walking with their families while pressing portable radios to their ears to catch the partita; young couples are lavishing affection on each other while perched precariously on motorini and everywhere I look, there's something stimulating my brain in unexpected ways.

Also, every few seconds, I hear a man yell out, "O!" (The Italian way of saying, "Hey there.")

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