Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I want to be Italian, but I come up lacking in some vital areas

Tuesday, April 10
A year ago March, I wrote a four-part entry about the top 10 things I like about Italy. I’ve thought about writing a similar essay about the things I don’t like about Italy, but I think it would be a short and boring list. Instead I’m going to name top five reasons I do not make a good Italian. I love it here, and I would like to fit in with the crowd, but some of my likes, dislikes and personality traits just don’t align with what is typically Italian.

These don’t need to go in any particular order, so I’ll just list them in the order they pop into my head. My first problem is I don’t really like coffee—American or Italian—and I’m not wild about wine. I prefer fruit juices, water and sometimes milk. Since caffĂ© and vino are the staple drinks of Italians, I’m often faced with the choice between drinking what I like and drinking what everyone else is having.  My cousins here were amazed the first time I visited when I said, “Non mi piace caffĂ©.” They looked at me as if I had said, “I don’t like sunshine.”

I’m sure I could develop a liking for it, but it’s just never been a part of my diet. I remember people telling me as a boy that coffee is an acquired taste, and I thought, “Well, it doesn’t really have any nutritional value, and it stains your teeth, so why should I try to acquire this taste?” I made the same decision about soft drinks and cigarettes. But now, it doesn’t do my quest for Italian friends any good to turn down an invitation for a cup of coffee, so I always accept, and I am gradually acquiring a liking for it. If we are at a bar, I can easily order a cioccolata calda, which I really love, but if I am in someone’s home, I don’t want to put them to the extra trouble. I just add a little extra sugar and I do just OK.

I like wine just fine, but it would be better if I were passionate about it, because there are so many vineyards around that offer free wine tastings. I could have a fantastic time driving around and sampling them all, talking with my friends about the various qualities of each type.

“This rosso is velvety but at the same time vigorous and ripe. However, it is a trifle too woody for my tastes, and the finish doesn’t match the initial boquet. But the balance and character of this bianco is stunning; it is full and flowery, without a trace of coarseness.”

 I can’t tell much difference between a cheap wine and a something really special and expensive, so if I went on one of the “strada del vino” tours, I wouldn’t get much out of it except for the pleasure of socializing with other people on the tour. And while the wine samples are free, the vineyards do expect that most people will eventually purchase something. I can just imagine the conversation.

“Which one do you like, signore?”

“Oh, I like them all. They’re really good.”

“Would you like to buy one?”

“No, I’m going to go to the supermarket and buy something really cheap that’s on sale.”

Here I am about to head
out for the passeggiata. . . NOT!
My second un-Italian trait has to do with appearance and clothing. I appreciate the stylish way Italians dress. They take such time and attention to shop and dress carefully, and I love watching them make the bella figura during passeggiata. Unfortunately, I am too cheap or lazy to join in. I’m not sloppy or unkempt, but nondescript would be an apt term for my clothing tastes. Plain jeans are just too comfortable for me to abandon, and expensive shirts are, well, expensive. I feel maybe just a trifle selfish, because other people spend money for my viewing pleasure, and I don’t reciprocate—but nobody is making them do it, so I don’t feel too bad on that regard. It’s just that I like the feeling that I belong here. I am an Italian citizen, so I feel I should make more effort to fit the role.

The best I can do on this front is a bit of compromise. I have, with some helpful prodding from Lucy, purchased some Italian shirts and sweaters, which I wear when going out to dinner, and I wear black jeans because so many Italians dress in black. But the Armani suits will have to wait until pigs can fly.


  1. What! You don't like coffee!!! That's un-American as well!

    Fun reading Paul


  2. What! You don't like coffee!!! That's un-American as well!

    Fun reading Paul


  3. Hi, I’m sorry you are passing through it. And I don’t think you should make efforts to fit in like this. I’d feel psychologically offended doing so.
    It’s affecting your personal tastes and preferences so why? Italians are sometimes (always) have their culture on the top and forget about how other countries and cultures may have other ways to do things they do well. Not good or bad, just different.
    That’d be good to make them understand it.
    I’m only one, married to an Italian and so involved with his family, and I feel like nobody understands me and Standing for what I like is hard to do allllll the time! But it’s worth it...


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