THE MAGIC AND MADNESS OF ITALY
Italy is truly equal parts wonder and frustration. Yesterday was one of those days where that was constantly evident. Italy confounds you and intoxicates you within the span of two minutes.
The country is not in terrible financial shape for no reason. People really consider work to be a hindrance here. You go to a taxi stand and fifteen drivers all stand around debating something crucial like soccer or sex, and then have a thirty minute debate on who will take the fare. Unlike NYC where a driver will threaten their life and others by running a red light and crossing three lanes of traffic to pick you up.
I walked out of a store two days ago after holding my items for twenty minutes while the woman who worked there chatted with her friend about Christmas gifts. I finally put the things I wanted to buy away and left. For the American it does drive you a bit mad.
So you walk around rather infuriated for a spell, and then you turn a corner and are met with the most magnificent sight that takes your breath away and all is forgotten.
Yesterday we had to go over to the Pantheon as I was turing in my tax refund forms before the airport. We got there and there was a typical Italian sight, a strike in the Piazza. I think this was the tenth one I have seen in five days.
What were they so upset about? What was the crucial issue?
Then I went to the money exchange office. The brochure says it is open from ten to six. Now as we know in the states ten to six means ten to six.
So we went and had a coffee and returned in ten minutes. Miracle of miracles he was there, finishing up a ham sandwich. I handed him my papers and passport. He said “Not working.” I said you are here.. He snarled at me “I have to eat lunch” With that he swallowed the remains of his sandwich. I said “You’re finished.” He said “I need a break.” He disappeared. Hadn’t he just had a break?
He did return to reluctantly do his job. That is the other thing, for many working is such a burden. They moan and groan. Perhaps he too was deeply upset about the fuel they used in the heating lamps across the Piazza.
Despite our own two protestors – they were on Church strike we took off to The Basilca Santa Maria Maggiore. And in then again you are reminded of what a magical place Italy is.
After the Church, (how many pictures of Churches can I show) we stopped for lunch.
After our pizza we went off to explore the gentrified neighborhood of Monti. I had heard about a store that was apparently very in. I asked the waiter how to get there. Unlike the French the Italians are happy to give you directions, even if they are not correct. He told me to walk straight, eventually I would run into a subway station, we should then go down and on the second level we would find the store. Wow, this must be very of the moment, or as Lucy says, shut the front door, when she thinks something is awesome. So we got to the subway. I dragged everyone down the steps, they all thought I was mad. Which of course turned out to be true as there was nothing there but a vending machine. I clearly was in the wrong Metro stop. Lucy said next time we went to a store could it be a real one.
I don’t know how it happened but we stumbled into Monti. For New Yorkers, I guess it would be Nolita in the beginning or parts of the East Village; In LA it would be say, Silverlake seventeen years ago, with one major exception, it’s in Italy.
We get to this little hipster hood of Monti and shut the front door, I see the Metro, and next to the Metro is the shop. The shop wasn’t in the Metro, it was just outside it. Something got lost in translation. The shop looked adorable. It was clearly in many guidebooks and on many lists as there was a gaggle of people waiting to get in. The sign in the window said that annoying “Opens at 3;30.” At this point it was maybe 3:20, the woman who ran it was inside and she was doing nothing. Nada. Niente. She wan’t taking inventory, arranging the window or doubled over in pain, she was staring at the growing group who wanted inside. She had nothing to do. It was two days before Christmas, the economy is falling to pieces; wouldn’t common sense dictate open the damn store and collect some Euros. It would have been easy, but she refused and ignored everyone. I said to my group “Let’s go.” I’m not giving them money if they can’t open. Did they lose a sale? Yes. Did they care? I guess not. But when you think about this with an American mind set you cannot make sense out of it. You go for the sale not the break. They should all go to Asia where the stores are open until midnight. See Taipei, they never close. It’s a goofy way to run a country, though nobody has asked for my advice.
But then as we made our way down the streets of Monti, old buildings dotted with trendy shops, the glories of Italy that blessedly allow you to forget the problems of Italy made themselves apparent.
What else is there to say?