13.05.2011 24 °C
It's a phenomenon, the way Italians show their passion for life and their love of life by talking in a cacophony of si,si,si,si,si's and ciao ciao ciao! One is not enough. More is better. It's addictive, this hedonism here. I am drinking 2 or 3 caffes a day now. At home, I barely ever drink coffee, I drink green tea. I tread more softly. Here, saying No is hard to do. You are urged to the Yes. Yes, more wine. Yes, another cappuccino. Yes, one more day. Yes, yes. Si, si, si, si, si.
The cultural norm is very pervasive here. Sunday mornings they go to church. Sunday afternoons, they eat with family. In the mornings, breakfast is a caffe and croissant. Work a little. Close the store. Go to lunch, take a nap, visit with friends, talk and lounge. Most of all, talk. And lounge. A caffe, and work starts again for a few more hours, but the atmosphere is festive. Everyone is out from 5-8pm: kids, parents, grandparents, lovers, friends. Everyone is shopping, drinking, walking around town, eating gelato. Then close up again, and everyone goes home or out to eat. It's dark out, and time for dessert, caffe, socializing some more, and then to bed. The daily schedule is a cultural phenomenon. To fight it is futile, so best for you to conform. We alter the baby's schedule so he goes to sleep later, at 9pm, so we can eat dinner. For Italians, still a ridiculously early bedtime. The children here stay up past my usual bedtime...
Italians seem to move in flocks, like migrating birds. They don't seem to mind the crowds, lines, waiting. In fact, they seem to enjoy and even to prefer it, like to be alone or first in line is unchallenging or boring. They like the bustle and energy of a crowd, even if it means fighting to get your caffe behind a line...when you could wait 15 minutes and skip the line altogether, but you would also skip the experience of 'coffeetime' in Italy.
We are at an inclusive spa 'terme' in Puglia right now (a spa with medical, thermal baths), where meals are included, buffet-style. We are eating at the buffet having a real Italian experience. The tolerance for noise here baffles me. So does the amount of food consumed. At dinner it gets so loud I would have to yell to be heard, but we really don't know enough Italian for a regular conversation, so there isn't much to say. But if we spoke Italian, we would still have to struggle to be understood above the storm of noise. They seem to talk all at once - there is a constant chatter of voices and exclamations. And even at the beach here, there is commotion. We have our own "spot": numbered chairs and an umbrella, spaced one meter apart from the next and the next. Sandwiched in among rows of similar chairs and umbrellas, all filled with vibrant conversations and tanning people. There is no such thing as peaceful quiet vacation space. Their beaches are for parties, friends, socializing, liveliness. Their ideal must be something along the lines of a party on the beach for vacation, while Americans dream of 2 lounge chairs, empty ocean, and nothing else. In our perception vacation = seclusion. They seem to prefer conversations overheard with neighbors, discussions, being in a lively atmosphere. For this reason, I wish we could speak better Italian because there are plenty of opportunities to interact and make friends. In fact, we did make friends with another family we shared our table with during the few days at the spa. Even though we didn't talk much, we managed to know each other well. I think we have plans to meet up again somehow in Caserta.
I feel shy here, like a mussel in its shell. Sometimes I want to close up and be still, alone. But Italians are not shy people, not lonely either. We are amidst mostly older people at the spa, and they are all enjoying vibrant conversations and meals with other couples and friends...they all seem really alive: enjoying life, drinking wine, soaking up sun, and talking animatedly. It seems to be a nice place to grow old.