In Italy, as well as several other cultures, today (8th March) is all about women: “Festa Della Donna”, also knows as ” International Women’s Day”. I had not come across this tradition in England, as though recognised by some, it is not an especially celebrated event. We have mother’s day, but apparently that is quite different. “Festa Della Donna” is a celebration of ALL women, young, old, mothers, maidens, party goers or homebodies. After six months of living among them, I feel Italian women certainly deserve a day of worship, since they include some of the strongest people I’ve had the pleasure to meet.
Had expected fairly traditional gender roles in Italy, due to its more religious stance, with the women expected to cook, clean, and stay at home to look after their children – as it turns out, this is true in all cases except “staying at home”. From what I’ve heard, the economy here does not allow for only one working parent, with little provision given to mothers. Consequently, they must maintain their gender expectations whilst working full time hours – no easy task, and one they amaze me by fulfilling every day.
I have yet to meet a lazy Italian woman – they seem to have an inexhaustible source of will and sense of responsibility, which means even when they return from a ten hour shift, they see to their children, cook dinner for their family, and keep everything in order. Even more impressive, some do all this in heels, maintaining an elegance that us English just can’t pull off.
I have been fortunate enough to meet two such exrraordinary women – the grandmother and mother of my Italian family. As the main Italian women in my life, this post is dedicated to them.
La nonna, Amalia.
Despite an almost complete lack of shared language between us for the first couple of months, Nonna welcomed me into her family within the first hours of my arrival, during which she offered me several traditional homemade Italian dishes (and through translations by Francesca, the mother, repeatedly insisted on me taking second helpings). Though she clearly hasn’t helped me lose weight, she has made me feel at home, simply through her always open arms and kind gestures. I will never forget her making me a packed lunch when I was journeying home, or her hands on my shoulders and in my hair at family gatherings: small gestures, perhaps, but they show her warm heart, and made all the difference to me. After a lifetime of working two jobs – one in retail, and one at home – she is now struggling with the extra time given by retirement. Yet I have never seen her simply relaxing, and I am quite sure she fills those new hours by keeping her entire family and house in order, and maintaining an impressively active and social life. I don’t know how she has done it, but Nonna, thank you for being everything a nan could be, and the most kind-hearted woman besides.
La mamma, Francesca.
If it wasn’t for this amazing woman, my experience here would have been far different – certainly far lonelier, and far duller. Not only did she help me into Italian life by assisting me with the language, but also by finding me opportunties for friendships and travel, and encouraging me into things which I may otherwise have shied away from. I have lost track of how many favours I now owe her, and I find it incredible that I’m not the only one – she has hosts of friends who she does the same for, seemingly always on the lookout for ways to improve people’s lives. Apart from this, she manages to work all hours of the day, evenings included, and still arrives home at 11pm with a smile on her face, asking how my day was. She is as warmhearted as her mother, extremely open-minded for this culture, a truly amazing mother to Agnese, and a close friend and second mother to me.