La Vita e’ Bella
I have been in Rome for a little over a week, and I don’t think it has even hit me yet. I guess you could say I’ve been struck by a little bit of culture shock, but the best possible kind. Italians have already taught me so much about myself, and Americans in general. Every corner I turn, there is a new history lesson to be learned, and a new picture to be taken. Every floor, ceiling, and column tells a story. Rome has really put into perspective how young of a country America is. This is a modern city, functioning on ancient ground, and never-ending layers of history. Everyone seems to know the history of everything, not only in Rome, but in Italy, and I think this creates its strong sense of community. Sure, in America we will have neighborhood barbeques or garage sales, but we do not all gather in the neighborhood piazza every evening with the entire family to sit back and relax. I spent this past weekend in the Cinque Terre and stayed in a small town ten minutes south called La Spezia. The main road is an area pedonale, where no cars are allowed. Along the street were speakers that played music everyday during the evening passagiata, or evening stroll. It is an Italian tradition to take a walk with the entire family after the sunset. Kids were riding their bikes or playing soccer, dogs were greeting each other, old men were sitting on the edge of a fountain just people-watching. Everyone seemed so happy, as if this was their time to relax and simply enjoy each other’s company. I have never seen anything like it in America. It was obvious that I was not a town native, but la passegiata was just as relaxing and uplifting for me as it seemed like it was for the Italians.
It is the Italian traditions like these that sayings like “la vita e’ bella” come from. Here, I don’t feel bad sitting at a restaurant for dinner for three hours. In fact, that is normal here. There is never a sense of urgency. Probably one of the hardest things I’ve experienced in the past week is trying to get the bill from the waiter. Once you sit down, the table is yours for the night. It is not like in America where they try to get you out as fast as possible, in order to get the next family seated. It is not about the money; in fact, it is not even customary to tip your waiter here. And take-out, or take-away, as the Italians call it, is a newer concept, and not common at restaurants. Italy makes it easy to enjoy the simple things in life.
One of my favorite things here is all of the new sounds. There is nothing cuter than hearing little Italian children speak Italian. I love just constantly hearing the beautiful language; everyone’s voice sounds so different when they speak it. The ambulances and police cars sound different here, too. It is almost as if they are out of a cartoon. The church bells ring everywhere every hour, a sound I’ve already gotten used to. Every church sounds slightly different, and seeing the bells ring is a sight within itself. I don’t think I will ever get tired of the sound of a Vespa speeding down the cobblestone roads, or the constant honking of the aggressive, impatient Italian drivers. This is what Italy means to me. The thunderstorms are different here, too. I have never heard louder thunder, or seen brighter lightning in my life. In a weird way, it is somewhat soothing to listen to an Italian thunderstorm in the middle of the night.