This is that Foreign Land with the Sprayed on Tans

As I have not yet taken the time to tell of my trip to France, I thought I ought to write about Italy while the experience is still fresh in my mind. The many wonders of Rome have been sung by many bards more talented than I, so I will only say that St. Peter’s Basilica, the Pantheon, the Colosseum, the Catacombs, and great city itself are all just as amazing as you have always heard. I did not get to see the Sistine Chapel, as it was part of the Vatican Museum, and there was a pretty stiff entrance fee which my dad could not afford for all of us. I would have paid it for myself, but he also did not want us splitting up. Stepping into St. Peter’s Square was one of the most breathtaking moments of the trip, so long as I do not count the times where family members nearly got hit by speeding vespas (one in every two vehicles on the road is a vesper, and the people who ride them have got to be the craziest drivers I have ever seen. They drive on the wrong side of the road, between other cars, and down the white line. I would think they must know what they are doing, seeing as no one seems to get hurt… except that ambulances went by every five minutes.) I think the experience of seeing all these wonders all so near each other, and all over the course of a few days was summed up neatly by a quote from my father.

“Alright, so how about we look around here on our own for about half an hour, and then we can meet up at the Pieta.”

The rest I shall reduce to my top three impressions of Rome and the Italians there.

Firstly, I had been told that Europeans dress more fashionably than Americans on a regular basis. I had not noticed this so much in Germany or in France, but it was unmistakable in Rome. Long, flowing white skirts are currently in style. I bought one. From a street vendor. It makes me happy. But this was the only “in” item I think I could wear in good conscience. Had this been an anime, my brothers would have died of blood loss from amount of cleavage showing, not to mention the horribly short skirts.

Next, there were the street vendors, legal and illegal, as well as the musicians. I never gave much thought to accordions, unless it was to think them a little silly. But after enjoying a few meals outdoors, in the shade, and listening to them being played by some truly talented musicians has changed my perspective. The legal street vendors were normal enough. But the illegal ones were truly a wonder. I watched them one lunch as half a dozen of them laid out their wares on the street, and proceeded to sell hats, bags, sunglasses… after about half an hour of business, every one of them suddenly disappeared. If they were selling bags, they had their arms through the handles in an instant, and walked off with a dozen on each arm at least. If hats, then they were suddenly wearing six or seven extra. The sunglasses dealers usually had theirs attached to collapsible cardboard boxes which makeshift handles. And just seconds after the last had disappeared around the corner, a Carabinieri car rounded the corner. It was quite a laugh. The vendors never went far, the usually lingered just out of sight, and once the police had left, the would be back to business in under a minute. I once saw on guy with bags under his arms sneaking behind a row of cars to keep out of sight. I am not sure exactly what about their business is illegal. Bags, hats, and sunglasses are not the most suspicious items to be selling. Perhaps they obtained them dishonestly, or they needed a license and didn’t have one. Hard to say.

Finally, we come to the people of Italy themselves. Let me say that every stereotype you have ever heard about them is absolutely true. They talk with their hands. They put emphasis on all the right words. They speak Italian with an Italian accent. They are funny just to watch, because they are so exactly the way you thought they would be. The old ladies on the bus will give you a talking to if you fail to give up your seat fast enough. Our last night there, we went to a nice Italian restaurant for dinner. Our waiter was a pretty funny guy, and again, everything we could hope for in an Italian waiter. He hugged the regulars when they came in, and gave them a kiss on each cheek. His favorite method of communication was to yell at the other waiters from the other side of the restaurant. He made outrageous facial expressions and used both arms when trying to speak English with us. When this failed, as it inevitably did, he gave up, and fell into Italian, which was more understandable than his English, because he was pointing to everything anyway, but this time he had the right emphasis on the right words. He pretended to spill an empty cup of espresso into my dad’s lap. Even his name, Alessandro, fit. We could have done a Mastercard add… Fresh spring water: 1,50 Euro; prosciutto and melon appetizer: 8,00 Euro; seeing Alessandro’s face when your father asks for cream with his espresso?

…Priceless.

7 thoughts on “This is that Foreign Land with the Sprayed on Tans

  1. I am almost certain that the European motorbikes are called “Vespas” and that the female lead (aka “Bond Girl”)in Casino Royale is named “Vesper.”I personally would’ve eaten out of the trash for a few days and gone to the Vatican museum, but I’m an art museum kind of a guy (not to be mistaken for someone who actually knows a lot about art). Glad to hear that you had a great trip to Italy!

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  2. 1) I was going to make a FLCL reference, but apparently you already made one.2) Ambulances… Italy… why is that so funny to me? Eric and the Cous surely know.3) It is likely that the illegal street vendors are selling ripoffs of designer merchandise. These items are made to look exactly like their designer equivalents, but because they aren’t they are cheaper. Naturally, you know this when you buy it, but those people who see you with it won’t know that it’s fake.4) I’m glad I wasn’t there for the cream and espresso incident. I’m embarrassed just hearing about it.

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  3. Hey, you’re right! Vespa… I’ll have to go fix that.1) How could I not? It was all I could think of the entire time we were there.2) I imagine the ambulances would have been much cooler if they were rushing efficiently through the streets of Venice.3) If they were designer purses, they were rather ugly. But ugly purses were also in fashion, so I guess that fits.4) I don’t think dad had any idea of what an espresso was. I tried explaining it to him several times, but maybe I through in too much of the barrista lingo I acquired during my short stay at ArcAngels, because he was still surprised by the size of the cup it came in, he still added sugar, and he still said he would have preferred it with cream. Alessandro was a good-natured sort of person, I think it gave him a laugh.

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  4. XD I would have loved to see that. In America we assume that there are still people around who don’t understand espresso, but in Italy? Oh my.I always wondered about the exaggerated inflections that everyone uses when they’re imitating Italian. I would love to hear it spoken by an actual Italian or two, to hear how much is authentic and how much is overkill.

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  5. Glad I read your blog. I didn’t understand what the espresso incident was about in the restaurant when it happened because I didn’t realize he ordered espresso instead of coffee. In fairness to Dad, you also have to admit that not going into the museum was also because the line was miles long! But not going to it leaves you a big priority to get to on the next trip to the Eternal City.

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  6. Yeah, I had heard that the price of espresso in Italy is actually regulated by the government. Even if that isn’t true, it is such a staple that I would rank asking for cream to go with it close to saying that “beer is beer.” Oh well.And as I said, I am not too bummed out about not going to the museum. As I said, I plan to go there someday…

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