My recent lack of posts has another excuse: I am not actually in Italy at this time. Why would I leave such a beautiful country, food, host family and boyfriend, you might ask? Well, I was asking myself the same questions within the first week of returning.
Thankfully it’s only for a couple of months, to escape the Italian heat and enjoy a country with full-time work contracts and a legal minimum wage. But meanwhile, there are a lot of things about the bella vita that I’m missing. Some big, some small, but all parts of my beautiful Italian life that just can’t be recreated in England.
Convenient light switches
Okay, this is one of the smaller things, but still something of an issue every time I’m back in England. In Italy as well as most other countries in Europe, there is more than one switch for the same light placed throughout the room. Often, there’s even a switch to the main light right next to your bed. Clearly, they realised the logic in not forcing people to stumble blindly through the darkness in the early hours of the morning. Unfortunately in Britain that is exactly what we have to do. Getting ready for bed is much more complicated when you have to go to the other side of your room to turn out the light – how have we not caught on to the convenient and numerous placing of light switches yet?
Moving on to the bigger things: aperitivo. One of the finest Italian traditions that I cannot believe hasn’t passed on to other cultures. Basically, it is an alcoholic drink (generally a cocktail famed in that region, though there is also the option of beers or wines) served with finger food or appetisers. Most bars will have “aperitivo hour” before and around lunchtime and dinner. The amazing thing for a Brit is that the food is completely free! ….Okay, perhaps not entirely true as some bars seperate their aperitivo menu to increase the drinks price so that the food cost is accounted for. But still, a basic aperitivo shouldn’t cost you more than 5 euros: I’ve also had completely filling ones (by filling, I mean a whole focaccia, crisps and mini sandwiches) that cost only 2 euros 50. The tradition is also enjoyed at home if you happen to have the right food and drink in. As well the “opening up the pallet” aspect, it’s a great way to relax and socialise before a main meal.
While we’re on the topic of food…I miss it. It’s well known that the English and Italian attitudes to food are very different. I won’t satisfy my Italian friends by saying Italian food beats English food every time: there are a lot of English dishes that I always miss and that are impossible to recreate in Italy. But there does seem to be a healthier theme to the Italian food culture, in that they value freshness, quality and nutritional value over the English value of quantity. Apparently the years of living in Italy have affected my appetite, because I now find myself craving salads and fresh pasta sauces more than my native pies and greasy chips. Unfortunately, fresh food is a lot more costly in Britain, and people keep looking at me strangely when I don’t want coleslaw or mayonnaise filled dressing on my salad (olive oil, vinegar and salt is just as good, if not better).
Again, something that is a lot different between our cultures. Truthfully, I still appreciate the traditional English evening of a pint in the pub with some friends, or else in front of the TV Royle Family style. But I still miss the more lively Italian evening. Italians, from my experience, enjoy the fresh air far more than us (it makes sense when you consider the warmer climate) so a free evening will be spent walking through the city or to a local beauty spot, and finding an ice cream parlour or aperitivo-serving bar along the way. I struck gold by living on Lake Garda for this: most clear evenings, you’ll find me walking down to the picturesque Moniga port, enjoying a pirlo or gelato and listening out for English tourists.