Sunday, July 17, 2005

Hurricane Update and More Italian Babbling

We got back to the Gulf Coast safe and sound. We surveyed our property and found that it fared very well. I am glad to report that we only found a few broken tree limbs and a blown away downspout. And Hurricane Emily decided to visit Mexico instead. We're a bit sore from cleaning hurricane debris and from lot of happy dancing.  Hallelujah!

I wrote the essay below after I got back from Italy:

I took my time to think of what I am going to write about my trip to Italy. There are so many interesting subjects such as the arts, antiquity, language, scenery, food, and culture.  But I did not like to write about safe subjects because the entry will most likely sound like a college course in Humanity. I did not want to be bored to tears writing about something a lot of people already know about Italy. I wanted to immerse myself in the culture. I longed to know the language and the colloquialism, to live like the locals, to eat what they eat, to have an in depth knowledge of their political, social, and environmental concepts. 

I remembered walking the streets of Italy and wondering what the natives think about. I wanted to make friends with the locals and experience what it is like to live their daily lives. I wanted to be let in their homes and learn their behavioral norms and societal values firsthand. I laughed at the notion because I knew these people do not know me well enough to allow me such privilege. 


I was bothered about the possibility of my writing about Italy as I saw it because I am aware that I have a healthy dose of ethnocentricity in me.  I know two weeks in Italy does not make me an expert about anything Italian. I also know that some of the aggravating incidents I encountered while I was there were products of my being lost in translation. I had Latinand Spanish classes long time ago and though my stored knowledge of these languages were helpfulwhen translating written words, I got muddled when I tried to speak the language or interpret what the natives were talking about.


I wish I could have stayed for a while longer. Long enough for me to write something concrete and of substance about Italy and the Italians. I am not a tourist at heart. I always have this yearning to know more than one can in a specified time period. My mother used to say, “When you want so much, you end up with nothing.”  I am happy with the glimpse of Italy I was provided but I feel like I asked a question and my question led to more questions. Now I have to find the answers to these questions. I did not end up with nothing. To the contrary, it feels like I got more than I bargained for.


What I love about Italy:


  1. The architecture. The palazzos, rotundas, basilicas, and cas.  I can go all day long looking at these works of art and they are everywhere in Italy.
  2. The museums. The feelings I experienced when I came face to face with the modern and old masters’ sculptures, paintings, frescoes and mixed media arts can only be described as pure ecstasy.
  3. The wines and the vineyards. The Veneto area is like Cali’s Napa Valley, there are wineries galore. Do I need to say more?
  4. The dolcis. I got a sweet tooth and there are baked goods and candy stores to indulge in everywhere we went!
  5. The gelato. This Italian sherbet is amazing! Most of it is homemade so its taste and texture is different from one gelateria to another. The more reason to stop by at every gelateria to see how their gelato taste like. Gelato comes in all flavors imaginable but my favorites are the ones made from exotic fruits.
  6. The food. I do not think I need to elaborate on this. The pasta,  pizza,  paninis,  cheese, seafood and prosciutto…. It’s all marvelous. Just feel free to say no to horsemeat and exotic games/bugs if you are squeamish. Friendly advice: Skip the Campari soda, unless you like drinking something that taste like the juice of an unripe grapefruit. Bleh! 
  7. The language and the accent. No wonder Italian men are labeled as romantics. It is all in the tongue. I love how they roll their r’s. Mama mia!
  8. The country homes. The concrete/stucco walls and red tile roofs make these homes look very solid. They are usually two stories high and have wrap around verandas. I love the way they all look so homey with their flower boxes, garden patches, vineyards, orchards and flower gardens.
  9. The autostrade. That is what they call their interstate highway. You can relive your dreams of being Maria/Mario Andretti in these highways. I remember us driving 150 mph and everyone was passing the slowpoke Americans!  Instead of rest stops, they have Autogrills.  These are diners over the interstate so you have a view of the speeding cars down below. I thought that was a novel idea that will probably go very well in the United States.
  10. The bambinos. Yes, the Italian babies. They are brunette and have silky olive skin.  They have lovely, lovely little faces and pretty eyes. I wanted to kidnap one to take home with me!


Things I did not like about Italy:


  1. Having to pay to go to the bathroom. Yes, public restrooms are almost inexistent in Italy. Italians are very nice people but somehow they are stingy with their restrooms. The only place where you can access a restroom for free is at a McDonald’s. It costs fifty cents Euro for a trip to the toilet. That is about seventy-five cents in US dollars. I thought it was ridiculous since I have to spend about $5.00 in bathroom fees for an all day outing.
  2. Parents taking their kids to nice restaurants and letting them run around the place. Also parents who are liberal in giving their children wine to drink during dinner. These were toddlers I saw guzzling red wine like it was milk!
  3. People who seem to be preoccupied with how they look but did not smell themselves or took a bath before hitting the door. There were a lot of instances where I was a victim of an olfactory assault in various cities of Italy. I would say there were a number of  people I encountered who are hygienically challenged. Could these be the tourists living in suitcases and reusing their already worn clothes?
  4. The way they pack people in buses and other public transportations. They just keep on stopping and filling them till you can’t breathe anymore. This sardines style traveling is confounded by  #3.
  5. Having to pay cover charge in restaurants and caf├ęs. I guess they do this because people in Italy are notorious for buying a drink and sitting at tables for hours watching people or chatting with companions. It gets on my nerves because I usually just want to eat and get out. The cover charge is not to be mistaken for the tip. You are to leave a tip even though they slapped you with a ridiculously high cover charge already.



jeanno43 said...

Glad that your house did not suffer much damage.  Interesting to see what you wrote about Italy. Oh as to wine for children.  It is the same in Spain.  They start very young with wine, but guess what, they do not have problems with teenage drinking on the whole.  They learn early that you drink for social reasons like over a meal and not just to get plastered and cause trouble.

jcole16757 said...

What a nice return to find minimal damage!  While in Italy, did you notice the children pick pockets?  We were warned in advance and sure enough, one tried to snatch my husbands wallet from his back pocket.  

hope5555 said...

Very happy to hear that you and your home are safe and sound.  Your essay was wonderful and makes me want to go to Italy! :)

jtuwliens said...

What a delightful read!  Loved the “like/dislike” lists.  #3 of the dislike should really be moved to #1 because of the prevalence.  Ewwww!  Yuck, yuck, yuck!  I never understood how they…ummm…hmmm…well, anyway…  Thanks for sharing this wonderful bit of writing.  I loved my time in Italy and reading each of your entries always brings a smile to my face (even #3 that really should be #1).  I hope this is NOT the end of the serious.
Glad your home wasn't damaged.  Always a plus.

derasta said...

I loved this entry so much...the detail you gave is great.

mom23nca said...

Very, very interesting!  About the pay toilets, are they at least clean?  I would have gladly paid to use public bathrooms in China if they had been kept clean.  

sdoscher458 said...

Hi..glad your house came through okay....I'm glad that the other hurricane is not coming here to Florida...I have had enough rain, storms, tornado's...with the humidity so high I feel like I'm living in a fish tank....Italy sounds son has been there several times and loves it...Sandi

boiseladie said...

Love your description of your what your love and did not like about Italy.  I would love to travel a couple of months in Europe.  What fun.

ksquester said...

Thanks for your comment in my journal. Love the pictures and your list. I am going to shave my pits tonight, wear deodorant tomorrow and eat a pannin with a red wine chaser!  (That's a good life!)

deabvt said...


tendernoggle said...

Glad your property survived!
I love the essay about is a place I dream of going!

belfastcowboy75 said...

Glad there was no damage. Lots of practical and useful information about Italy. Thanks.

chatzeekay said...

eww thats amazing what all you post wow on it all thanks for sharing

southernmush said...

Good evening......I was watching the Travel Channel tonight and there was this woman who was in Italy on a trip. She was going to different places in Italy and I have to say I wish I would have been with her. Italy is beautiful as you also describe it like this other woman did. I wish I could see it for myself. Thanks for sharing your trip to Italy. Take care.......

my78novata said...

wow very educational for sure. Butthat paying for a bathroom is for thebirds!!!!!!!!!!!! I th ink I would have knocked on some doors LOL

oceanmrc said...

I have enjoyed this entry several times.  I feel the same way about travel and especially about Italy.  I would like to go back someday and just stay in a Cingue Terre village for 3 weeks and immerse myself in daily life there.  Same for Florence and its art.

heyleesilentd said...

I love your list of things you like and don't like. I learned a lot about just in general culture and stuff. Thanks for writing that. Haha the olfactory assault made me laugh.
Bambinos...ooh la la!!!

heyleesilentd said...

I love your list of things you like and don't like. I learned a lot about just in general culture and stuff. Thanks for writing that. Haha the olfactory assault made me laugh.
Bambinos...ooh la la!!!