December 29th will mark my 5 year anniversary of moving to Italy. As I was thinking about this milestone, I noticed the Italy Blogging Roundtable subject this month was “gifts.” So what is my gift this year? It’s a gift to myself: finally starting to become Italian. Wait, don’t you always make fun of Italians, you ask? Well, yes, but I wouldn’t still be here if I didn’t secretly want to be like them (some of them). It starts with the little things like not drinking that beverage that begins with a C after 11:00am or not going out ever with wet hair… and before you know it, you are ironing your t-shirt before going to the gym and singing along to eccentric ‘80s Italian pop stars like Matia Bazar. But the little idiosyncracies are not the gifts. The real gifts are what living the Italian life give back to me.
Time: Yes, Italy is a sloooow country. I spend a lot of my time waiting. Waiting in lines, waiting for stores to open, waiting for clothes to dry… Patience, something I lack, is not only a virtue, it’s a necessity of living here. Instead of being the OCD American who is always 5-10 minutes early for every appointment, I now know that it is perfectly acceptable for me to stop and get a coffee on a whim as I have a golden 15 minute window of lateness. When I first moved to Italy, I thought that the pausa, the hours that the stores and businesses are closed every afternoon was some kind of cruel joke. But I have learned to appreciate this time. Quiet time. Think about it – almost being forced to take it easy for 3 hours a day (naturally I am ironing t-shirts in this period, but I’m not running aournd trying to cram more into my day).
Food: Obvious. I know. But I am talking about simplifying life through food. It takes a few years for the Chinese food cravings to go away, but when they do, you can settle into your new uncomplicated, unpretentious food world. Let’s be honest, creativity in food is not big here in Umbria. Obviously it was once upon a time or else we would not have all the wonderful food that we do… but now people tend to stick to traditional recipes and flavors. Just walk around any town on a Sunday afternoon and the scent of roasted chicken and potatoes will come wafting out of everyone’s windows….because that is what you eat on Sunday, every Sunday! In fact our local bakery still keeps up the old tradition of opening their big ovens to the town so that on Sunday morning before Mass families can bring their chicken and potatoes (the bakery happenes to be next to the church), and an hour later, lunch is ready! This may seem boring on the outside, but that is the point - when you get on the inside of Italian life, you start to understand – maybe 3 ingredients and tradition is really all you need.
Chiacchiere: means a few different things: chitchat, gossip, a yummy fried dough treat.
In our twitterfied lives, the art of real conversation has gotten a little bit lost. I consider myself very fortunate that I live where I do. Many foreigners who come here choose to live out in the middle of nowhere far, far away from others. Sure, I want the dream house with the big yard eventually, but I would never give up the experience that I have had living in a little village in Italy. It’s hilarious. I love getting wrapped up in all the small town drama. Most recently – the holiday lights were put up December 10 (and not lit until the 12th) instead of the scheduled, traditional December 8 – scandalous! Now, without traffic, it takes approximately 4 minutes to walk across my town. But when a situation erupts like it did with the lights, those same 4 minutes can easily turn into an hour, as the scandal needs to be discussed, not resolved, mind you, just discussed. By everyone. And everyone seems to like to get my take on things because then the conversation can easily be turned in another direction by asking me if such things like Christmas lights exist in America….and that is a real question that was asked, by the way. Living in big cities, you know your friends and maybe a few neighbors. If a stranger starts talking to you, you probably ignore them. Here I know all of my neighbors, at least by sight, and if someone I don’t know stops to talk to me on the street, it’s surely because they know someone who knows someone who knows me. If I need something, I just walk out the door and ask the first person I see – if they can’t help me, they know someone who can. Because we talk.
So my gifts, delivered straight to me from the heart of Italy: learning how to slow down life a little, taking the pretension out of food (that’s a big one for me, I’m a cook), and basically just opening myself up to the simple life.
Read more about "gifts" this year on these Italy Blogging Roundtable Blogs: