Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thoughts on Italy.....

Yes, Virginia, there is something called "boredom" even on a holiday in Italy.  Can it be true?

I've been here since November the fourth.  I arrived on a Saturday, part of an Italian holiday weekend.  People were everywhere, it was festive and I was thrilled.  Since my arrival, I've been on field trips, overnight visits, social gatherings where the food was to-die-for and have had lots of lovely time to myself with no one to feed, quarter or talk to if I did not care to. Lovely, especially after the recent months of having to be on a schedule, worrying about so many people in my family, and caring for a dying mother.  And now, here I am in the land of Pace e Bonum, all by myself.  No matter where you go, there you are.....

There are a lot worse places to be alone in.  Most people I know would cut off a hand to be in my situation now.  "Oh, to be in Italy", I think that's the phrase.  Well, I can tell you "Oh, I AM in Italy" and, yes it is the stuff that dreams are made of but, and here's the Big One, time is so much nicer when spent with another person or persons.

I'm sure my daughter would like to challenge that idea at this point in her life.  I can remember, as if it were yesterday, how I longed to be alone.  Two children, constantly in my presence, rarely a moment to myself made me utter these words more than once...."I've changed my name from Mommy and I will not tell you the new one".  But those days quickly passed.  The early days of parenthood fly very fast and leave us strangely wanting more when it is too late to get more.  I never thought that would end.  I never thought I'd be a senior citizen.  I never thought I'd have this much time to be alone, alone in Italy.

There's a point to all of this.  First of all, it does not take long for the glow of something new and exciting to die down to the reality of everyday life.  In Italy, especially in Umbrian hill towns, everyday life isn't easy.  La Dolce Vita was a movie, far, far from the reality of today.
There is a pall over this country, a feeling that is deep and somewhat disturbing.  They're in an economic crisis and it does not look good for the future.  Goods and services are not cheap.  The business owner must pass on the rising costs to the consumers.  The consumers are hanging on by threads with job losses and failed businesses becoming common concerns.  The price of fuel for their cars has impacted on their ability to do some of their favorite things.  With a gallon of gas costing ten euros, one thinks twice or thrice about extra trips to visit friends, all who live miles from the centers of their towns.

I've met a number of new friend since my arrival.  Most of them are ex-pats.  Some came because they married Italian men and others, because they were seeking adventure, escaping something or, for the beauty of it all.  Not all have remained blissful as they were when they arrived.  Those who have purchased houses are having a rough time of it.  The costs of maintaining their homes are escalating and the fees that the government demands of them as "immigrants" are enormous.  A driver's license costs a thousand dollars or more and is not easy to come by even at that price.  There are taxes, fees, penalties and threats associated with home ownership and the right to live in the country.  I was at a dinner party shortly after my arrival when an Australian woman who I had only just met implored me..."please promise that you will never consider buying a home here!"  She has been through the ringer and does not want to see that happen to anyone else.

So, what's left after one realizes that wine is no longer inexpensive, cappuccino is part of the "let's suck the life out of the tourists" and there are very few "made in Italy" items to be found in shops?
What remains is what one sees when not looking at things as a "tourist".  Times here, as at home, are tough and uncertain.  Italy is not the adult Disneyland that the travelogues portray it to be.  It still has its charm, its beauty and its spirit.  It was a land that was blown to pieces in a war.  The people here remember that and it has fortified them.  They've risen from ashes and have found sources of pride in doing so.  They are and have always been brave people.  It's just sad that they have been turned into frightened people once again.

I've had time to think, to study people a bit, to make some good observations.  I'm ready to come home but before I do, I have to host a friend from the states who has spent only a short time in this country on a previous trip.  I'll happily show him the sights, some that can only be found in small Umbrian towns.  We'll drink the wine, the best we'll ever have.  We'll eat the food and remember those meals for years to come.  When he leaves, the best part of this journey will be meeting my husband at the airport.  Together, we'll travel for a few days and we'll savor all the beauty and goodness of this beautiful country.

I'm not bored, I'm just waiting.

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