Four Surprises in Italy

As I bid Rome ciao, I have four Italian observations.

First, from the moment I took the costly cab from the airport to my hotel, to my afternoon wine and cheese at the wine bar last evening, I’ve been surprised by the music that I hear commonly playing in Italy. Very often it is not Italian music, but American music. Even more surprising is that it’s music largely from the 1980s, much of it which has been altered with a kind of techno-dance beat. This is surprising for two reasons. First, since it’s the music I grew up with it’s rather difficult for me to understand it as a high point culturally in music, and secondly, it’s just odd. Imagine, if you will that you were from Mexico or Russia, came to the U.S. for a visit, and most of the music you heard was music from Mexico or Russia from the 1980s. It shows, I suppose, the American cultural influence, whether they want to admit it or not.

Second, no matter how hard I tried, I could not get used to restrooms that had a common or shared washroom. It happened to me twice, once at a restaurant, and the second time at the Augustinianum, where I walked into the washroom, which is separate from the toilet area, to find women. I realize this is common in Europe, but it was still surprising to this American.

Third, an Italian needs to explain to me the tendency for motorists to straddle the lines separating the lanes. At first, I thought it was an indication of a desire to change lanes, but then I noticed cars straddling the line for no apparent reason. Is it to allow for the vespas to go around them on either side? If you’re Italian and can explain this practice in the comment box below, you would satisfy my curiosity.

Finally, Italy has a pace all its own. I was reminded of this most especially last night as I took the shuttle bus home from downtown Rome to my hotel. The bus was to leave at 9 p.m., but the driver was talking on his cell phone and seemed in no particular hurry to end his conversation and begin the drive. So, there the 10 of us on the bus sat, waiting for him. Some may describe the Italian way as lazy, but I don’t see it that way. It’s simply a relaxed way of life - a way of “letting God,” if you will. Italians are generally not so rigidly tied to a schedule. It’s an attitude which seems to say, “There are things unseen beyond my control. Come what may, all will work out in the end.” To this rather rigid American, it’s a pace and a way of living that are most welcome.

Thank you Italy for the beauty and pace of life these past few days. I pray that it’s not another 17 years before I return again.