So this post is dedicated to all the weird little things that are very different between Italy and the U.S.:
- – Italians love to sweep, mop, and iron. If we were out and about amongst shops in the morning, everyone would be outside sweeping their front step. If we were passing by residential communities, ladies would be sweeping, or mopping, or ironing. Rosa insisted on ironing all of our clothes (even Austin’s T-shirts and jeans!) because they were a little wrinkly.
- Italians like old things, and doing things the same way they have been done forever. Instead of ripping down old buildings to build new ones like in America, Italians keep the pre-existing buildings and fit them for whatever use they need. For example, in the old part of the city in Bergamo, there were several shop spaces that were “under construction”. Austin says that they can stay under construction for a very long time. I can see why after seeing a guy drill for awhile, then pick up pieces of brick rubble with his hands and put them in a very small bucket, then walk with the bucket out to his tiny little truck, and throw the pieces in the truck. There are pieces of equipment now to help you with that dude!
- Italians love tunnels. They will build one whenever possible. It may be due to the rocky coastline/terrain, but there were car tunnels, LOTS of train tunnels, and pedestrian tunnels.
- Italians like to be dirty. The showers are so tiny that you have a hard time getting clean. They don’t take showers with as much frequency as Americans. The toilet paper does not work properly; or I guess we just need to use the bidet, but that is even more gross. Even in the cleanest cities, it still is dirtier than in the U.S. (the streets in general with trash and gunk.)
- Italians are not so great at customer service. If they don’t know you, they may or may not be helpful. The ladies at the train station were fairly apathetic about selling tickets, and even those who Austin asked for help in the streets were very a matter of fact about things. Often they would say something like “go around the corner, and down the street, and ask someone else”.
- Italians don’t really believe in breakfast. We knew when an area was very touristy because they would have signs for an “English breakfast” which generally included eggs and ham and stuff like that. Their idea of breakfast is maybe a little croissant or pastry and an espresso or cappuccino. Fortunately, they believe in hot chocolate, and we have had some REALLY good hot chocolate while we were in Italy. In some of the hostels, though, they restricted our breakfast to one glass of juice, 1 cup of hot chocolate, and a little croissant. While this was yummy, it wasn’t the best breakfast. The B&Bs were generally better; they gave us more choices like already toasted toast in little packages, with jam and butter, and other pastries, as well as yogurt. Our lovely Siena mother even had granola to put in the yogurt. Yum.
- Italians don’t believe in spaying/neutering their animals. I don’t know if this was the direct cause of all the stray dogs in Sicilia, but there were tons of huge, mangy stray dogs in Sicilia and the south in general. There was this really old lazy dog at the train station in Sorrento that would wander around and then plop in a spot and stay there a long time and look really dead. When we got there, he was at the top of the stairs, in the middle of the walkway, and I was scared to step around him for fear of waking him up and causing him to bite me and give me terrible diseases or something.
- Italians are very afraid of bad weather. If there was any kind of wind, or if it was not hot, they had scarves around their necks to prevent them from dying, or at least a high collar. Austin said that generally, they think that they will live if they have the small of their back and the back of their neck covered up when it is windy. In the touristy cities, there were lots of Africans selling umbrellas. All the Italians looked at us like we were crazy when we walked around in the rain without an umbrella. I think the Italians buy more umbrellas from the Africans than tourists do, just because they are so afraid of dying of a chill.
- Italians don’t believe in salad dressing. Even the most touristy places in Venice, where the food we got was terrible and not Italian, they only had vinegar and olive oil for dressing. This makes salads a lot healthier, but I prefer balsamic vinegar to the red wine vinegar that they served us sometimes.
- If Italians love your spouse, they automatically love you. In San Remo, I can’t tell you how many times I got kissed on the cheeks by the people that really liked Austin while he was on his mission. They will do it as a greeting, and then again as a goodbye, and sometimes if the goodbye takes too long, several times during the goodbye. Even some of the B&B people kissed us because they liked that Austin spoke Italian so well.