Were I asked to describe Italy in a single word, or at least my experiences of it thus far, my chosen adjective would invariably be “hypocritical”.
Thankfully, no one has asked me to describe this strange and awe-some country in a single word, and I have this article to provide you with exactly [insert word count here] of them. And so without further ado, allow me to provide you with the first “hypocritical” impressions that I have solidified in the last month by way of careful observation, (and under the influence of at least two Spritz-Camparis* at a time).
1) Fact one: there are 24 hours in a day. Fact two: an Italian will tell you there are only 16 hours in a day, but will live as if there are anywhere from 28-32.
The logic here is
virtually literally non-existent. This sixteen hour idea seems to come from the frequent and extremely vocal complaint that they have eight hours to sleep, and the other eight to work. The irony here is that this grievance is shared and shouted over a café macchiato and brioche in the morning, a café ristretto in the afternoon siesta period, again in the aperitivo hours after work while sipping those famed Spritz cocktails, and finally once more while passing the grappa bottle around after a hearty, ten-o’clock dinner. (Side-note: whomever told North Americans that it was bad to eat past 8pm was not only cruel, but a verified testa di merda who will never deserve the luxury of partaking in Mediterranean cuisine.)
If you ever hire an Italian, expect that they will consistently be late. But this is no fault of theirs, of course. It is all due to their unspoken mantra: no matter what, there is always time for an espresso. If you point out this illogical course of action, most Italians will shrug at you while stirring the foam of their macchiato. Even if late for a meeting with the Pope himself, any self-respecting Italian would stop for at least another ten minutes at the nearest bar for a coffee and newspaper. (I mean, can’t walk in to that encounter uninformed of the latest political events now, can we? Because let’s face it, Church and State have never been a separate thing in this country.)
I should mention that I have now learned to always take time for an espresso. Beware, future employers.
I suppose this phenomenon is best exemplified by an experience I had with my ridiculously interesting grandfather a couple of weeks ago. We were leaving on a four-hour drive to Firenze to meet an esteemed 93 year-old art historian, and colleague of my grandfather. I was told to be ready to leave by 6am, so naturally, we left at 7am. Upon pulling away from the house, we turned a corner, promptly parked at the quaint café that sat there, and ordered espressos and pastries filled with various delicious cremes and fruits. I checked my watch – it was 7:35, and our meeting was scheduled for eleven. That was when my grandfather noticed the barbershop next to the café, and was of the mind that it might be prudent to get his hair and moustache trimmed properly, as he hadn’t had the time all week. Flash-forward another ten minutes, and my North American brain was screaming at the tardiness of our departure, while the rest of our party merely commented on the humidity at this hour. Lo and behold, after driving at break-neck speeds averaging 160km/h through the pouring rain on the autostrada, we arrived in the city of Firenze four hours later, now forty-five minutes late for our appointment.
Fear not, however — we made sure to stop there for a coffee before going to meet her.
*A Spritz is a delightful beverage made of one part of the finest Prosecco, one part carbonated water, and anywhere from 1-2 ounces of either Aperol or Campari, with Campari being the obvious choice.