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Romantic Italy - what's your memory?

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1 Romantic Italy - what's your memory? on 9th January 2010, 8:05 pm

Following on from the other thread where we were discussing Berlusconi.... Rachel started talking about finding Italy romantic. It got me thinking about my first experiences of Italy and how I first fell in love with the place.
I came to Italy for the first time when I was 19. First I was in Milan for 6 weeks, which I didn't much like, then I came to Rome and I really did fall in love. For years afterwards, 'til I finally revisited when I was about 25, I had recurring dreams of Rome. I stayed in San Lorenzo, which is now a thriving student area, but in those days was a bit of a shit hole to be honest. But it was so full of characters....the hopeless hapless waiter at the pizzeria desperately trying to impress us with his juggling (and crossed eyes), the crazy locals conducting business in the street, the old women gossiping and disapproving, the ice creams at midnight, clapped out cinemas with sticky seats, walking the streets among prostitutes, students, rubbish, rats, crazy goings on, anything could happen. It doesn't sound romantic, but really I was hooked! So Rachel I do know what you mean.............. . But I do think that, apart from natural modernisation over the years, since the euro some of the charm has been replaced by the relentless struggle to survive and keep up appearances...such a shame it has altered the flavour of the place....but I still see glimpses of it. And sometimes when I go into the centre (which is rare) I feel the adrenaline I used to feel for being there and part of it all.

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2 Re: Romantic Italy - what's your memory? on 10th January 2010, 1:51 am

I totally agree Lizzie about "since the euro".

I first came to Italy in June of '98 so I had my 23rd b-day here. To preface, I must say I have Italian blood in me - my mother's father's family were all Italians born in the US. However, they were all complete psychos. Growing up I never knew them, but I was both intrigued and turned off about Italians in general. Then my first "boyfriend" was Italian-American and he was a total nutjob too! So, after several years when I met my current husband at a drunken house-party where a bunch of Europeans were gathered, I was totally "oh whatever" when he introduced himself as "Hi, I'm Massimo. I'm from Rome". I was not ever planning to be with an Italian!

Anyway, that said, I ended up getting stuck on him and went back to that intrigue about Italian everything and I started learning a little of the language on my own back in Hawaii. Since I was close to getting my AA but was short a few language credits, I spent all my savings and went into debt to do a one-month intensive Italian course in Florence, which equaled two semesters of language credit.

So that's how I ended up in Florence in '98. And I got hooked, too! The pigeons crapping everywhere, the scuzzy old men getting a little too close and asking if you'd like them to buy you a gelato (WTF???), THE WORLD CUP and Ricky Martin's song, the fashion! everyone wearing things that were a little too tight and a little too short and heels a little too high... The crazy prices people would charge you at the bars when you sat down vs. standing up... I was just in awe! But the best things were the smells and flavours. We had our course in Piazza della Repubblica in Firenze and every day at 10:30 we'd go down to the bar and I'd have a croissant with prosciutto and fontina cheese in it and a cappuccino with cacao - turns out the croissant was probably just for tourists... but I loved that combo of flavours for some reason. The smell of pollution mixed with a greasy slice of pizza eaten on a sunny stone road. The 300 motorini all parked in one spot, packed and stacked together... And then there was Cinque Terre!!! I bought a bottle of that Ambre Solaire tanning gel - they since have changed the perfume in that - so sad.

Then I ended up coming to Abruzzo to visit my (now) husband's family and that did me in! The beach in the summer! The smell of the burning in the fields in September and roasted chestnuts in the streets. The old women gathering bietola whereever they went or sitting down on the doorstep cleaning "verdura" and old men with no teeth hobbling out to the square just to chat with their friends every day at the same hour... And one of my favourite romantic things: Laundry hanging from all the balconies, strung across the streets, and often seeming to soak up more dirt than what got washed off!!!

Lots of stuff like that - the list goes on.

Of course, now I see that old men also hang out at the billiards club and gamble all the time and that's not so fun. Now I am sick of cleaning verdura and would like to just buy mushrooms without paying for the dirt they were grown in Smile I also complain daily about how I hate my italian washing machine. It ruins my clothes and does not clean them! It seriously RIPPED three snaps off of one of my baby's onsies the other day!

It's a whole different world here, isn't it?

And ever since the Euro, I cannot understand why, but Italy has changed! I love the fact that there are more shops open on Sundays, and until 9 pm instead of 8. I love the fact that new products and more convenient things are debuting on the shelves. But at the same time, I'm sad to see "made in china" shops popping up on every corner and am shocked at how the supermarkets just BLATANTLY raise prices on you every few months! They don't even blink an eye! They just know you'll shell out your hard-earned money for bread even if it has tripled in price in just a few years. TRIPLED. I find grocery shopping extremely stressful now, and sometimes feel under attack when I'm looking at prices pale

The whole system of Romanians working under the table in construction and house cleaning/elderly care is out of control nowadays. In my town, everyone I know has a Romanian girl working for them. Nothing against them, but it seems there has been a sort of invasion over the past 5 years (of northern africans as well). Obviously since I'm American, I have nothing against diversity, but I do not think the whole society should be a free-for-all either. The Italian government is completely inadequate when it comes to immigration control, immigrant rights, labour laws, etc. Part of me likes getting away with stuff (I too am an immigrant who didn't follow all the laws to the "T") like I never could in America, but part of me will always love the Law and Order that the US government and society tries so hard to keep intact. Anyway, that's another topic.

One thing is sure: Even if I end up leaving Italy (doubtful), I will certainly never really leave it. I will always feel like part of me belongs here. Every time I go back to the US I stay for 4-6 weeks and although I am never ready to leave the US, I always end up feeling like Americans could use a little Italian chaos to spice up their day or pull the sticks out of their rear ends... you know?

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3 Re: Romantic Italy - what's your memory? on 10th January 2010, 12:09 pm

That's a great account Rachel, and it reminded me of other memories that I have and had forgotten. When I used to land in Italy I could feel it through all senses....the smells, the noise, the confusion. It's like a juxtaposition of all the things that we are used to in our own 'civilised' countries...and yet somehow it manages to be an attraction rather than repellant. (I think it helps that there isn't too much stark poverty, like u see say in Vietnam, India etc..) People regardless of social/economic status, just used to look like they were having a good time, and so chilled out. Less so now...my image of Italians has changed from that cheeky Italian dressed in those too tight, too short etc. clothes,trying his luck, to people who are too self aware, and too concerned with appearances, image, status, money etc.. so sad...........
I realise now that my first visit was in 91, when I was 18 and on my gap year before uni. I remember MTV being a new thing and listening to Chris Isaccs' 'Blue hotel' and Zucchero's 'Senz' una donna', if I hear those now it throws me back in time. Any of you lot out there been here before then????

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4 Re: Romantic Italy - what's your memory? on 10th January 2010, 6:45 pm

Lizzie wrote:...People regardless of social/economic status, just used to look like they were having a good time, and so chilled out. Less so now...my image of Italians has changed from that cheeky Italian dressed in those too tight, too short etc. clothes,trying his luck, to people who are too self aware, and too concerned with appearances, image, status, money etc.. so sad...........

YES! i see it that way too

Lizzie wrote:
I realise now that my first visit was in 91, when I was 18 and on my gap year before uni. I remember MTV being a new thing and listening to Chris Isaccs' 'Blue hotel' and Zucchero's 'Senz' una donna', if I hear those now it throws me back in time. Any of you lot out there been here before then????

Vasco Rossi always throws me back in time Smile Even though he's still around, but those older songs were such an integral part of my italian language learning experience!

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5 Re: Romantic Italy - what's your memory? on 16th January 2010, 11:39 pm

I've never loved Italy but I did fall in love with a person (now my husband) when I came here in holiday in 2004 - and so here I am. He's not Italian but has lived here 23 years. Like you above he thinks that Italy has changed for the worse and he wants to leave.

I've never been an Italy-phile but there are certain things I do like about living here. For example, the markets I shop at (Piazza Vittorio in Rome).

rka - I love the multiculturalism of my area of Rome. I would hate to live in a mono-cultural place - so drab and boring. I grew up in New York and Sydney though and am a third culture kid (ie mutt) myself. I love to travel and have lived all over the world - so I love (for example) going to the playground with my child in the morning and chatting with mothers and nannies from Capo Verde, Romania and the Ukraine (as I did this morning!) So fun! bounce

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6 Re: Romantic Italy - what's your memory? on 17th January 2010, 5:21 pm

Can you smell the lavender? It's grown so very tall.
The smell is so sweet, like nothing I know at all.

I can hear bees working in a distant lavender field.
I can almost taste the honey that they will certainly yield.

I taste salt on my lips, and hear the birds call out.
The sun kisses me on the beach, and on the rocks I laze about.

We drift asleep under an olive tree, and I’ve suddenly fallen in love.
I find happiness across the waters and thank the stars and heaven above.

Italy is my home now, and her beauty is in my heart.
No matter how chaotic life may be, we will never be apart.

I’ve travelled far and wide, and my heart drifts back to him,
The country, the culture, the language is part of the relationship I’m now in.

We’ve fallen in love under an olive tree and now here we are.
Without much else to show for it, not even a decent car!

In a country full of wonder, beauty, bees and romance.
I’m glad I followed my heart once more and gave love a second chance.
flower

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7 Re: Romantic Italy - what's your memory? on 17th January 2010, 6:01 pm

Thats a really good poem it was lovely!!! Very Happy did you make it up yourself?

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8 Re: Romantic Italy - what's your memory? on 17th January 2010, 6:27 pm

Thx, yeah, I wrote it. I love you

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9 Re: Romantic Italy - what's your memory? on 30th January 2010, 11:18 pm

lmarmstrong66 wrote:Thx, yeah, I wrote it. I love you
coooooooooooooooooooooool! afro

I used to LOVE writing poems...we ought to set up a poem thread!
WE are SOOOOOOOOO talented! lol!

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