living in italy: its simple lessons (1)

People ask me all the time about living in Italy. The questions range from how do I get a visa to how can I support myself to how hard is it to be an English teacher to are the vegetables really cheap? My answer is usually to look down at my hands and purse my lips like the Church Lady. I know it's not very helpful.  It's just that Italy is a different place for each person.

My answers will not be the same ones you will hear from Michele Fabio or Eleonora Baldwin or Sara Rosso or Megan McCaffrey Guererra or Arlene Gibbs or Rebecca Winke or the other excellent expat bloggers who have made a life here. We've all come here through different circumstances and for different reasons.  And that's as it should be, I think.

If you ask me why I moved to Italy, my knee-jerk response would be to say to learn to make a killer vitello tonnato and to remember how to dream. And that would be true. Because all good philosophy in Italy is intrinsically connected to food.   But on a deeper level, I came to Italy to face myself, large pores and all.  Italy, it turns out, is the perfect country to do just that.  

It's why I love Italy.  And it's why I hate it.  Italy has forced a lot of reality on me.  And it's done it in the most backhanded of ways. Kind of like when your sweet grandmother gives you a piece of candy and then drops you off at the dentist for a root canal.  Yeah, Italy can be kind of like that.

Because that's how you learn.  Through tough love:

Don't waste.

Waste is a sin.  And it's crazy.  It costs too much.  So don't throw so much away, and don't buy so much in the first place, for God's sake. What do you need all that junk for anyway?  Buy what you need and leave the rest.  We don't need more trash, that's for sure. We can't even deal with the trash we have in this country.  So stop buying so much.

Eat well.  At home.  Restaurants are for special times, not for every day.

Eating too often in restaurants takes away everything special about it.  And you will never really internalize the importance of food if you don't prepare it just about every day.  Eating well at home is a privilege that many can't afford.  So enjoy it. Dio. Is that so complicated?

Organize yourself.

Because if you don't, both the grocery store and the post office will be closed for a three hour break by the time you get there. And you will get so frustrated that you  will start yanking out each of your hairs individually by the root while almost driving into the person in front of you who is on HIS way home to have pasta at mama's for lunch.  Don't make him late.

Wear a sweater.

Because heat costs a lot of money and it's unnecessary to use too much of it.  Cut the fingers off your gloves if you need to.  Really.

God didn't give you sunshine to get just a tan, but also to get your laundry dry.

In case you were wondering - there are no local gated community laws banning hanging laundry in Italy.  Laundry flapping in the wind is considered a fine art form. As it should be EVERYWHERE.

Turn off the TV and go for a walk.

What do you need TV for, to catch the next exciting episode of Grande Fratello (Grande=big, Fratello=brother) or to hear the Prime Minster tell you how his helping a young prostitute was the humane thing to do?  Shut the idiot box.  Go for a walk.

More simple lessons from Italy on another day.  Now get back to work.  Or napping.  Or eating.  Or whatever it was you were doing.