Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Reflections on life in Italy

Today we're staying home for a little R&R.

We thought of a few things which struck us while we're here in Italy. In some ways they are ahead of North America and in other areas they are behind. The biggest thing to adapt to is their store hours; shops, grocery stores, Pharmacia, gas stations, all open at 9:00 am and close between 1:30 and 3:30 PM for lunch, except the ones on the highway at the Service Stop areas. They reopen at 3:30 until 8:00 PM only. The restaurants and bars however stay open during that time but close between 3:30 and 7:00 or 7:30 or even 8:00PM, then open until 11:00 PM, they post their opening hours in the window and no restaurants are open for breakfast, you have to find a cafĂ© bar or a pastry shop.

They don't have breakfast like we do; they call it Collazione and have a pastry with a coffee. We've found it hard to eat supper so late at night, so we tend to go out for a big lunch instead. Hardly anything is open on Sunday and Monday mornings. It took some time for us to get used to this, but we manage and either take a nap, visit a site or read during the closure of the shops.

They might be behind NA for store hours, but they're way ahead for other stuff. Their cuisine is based on fresh everything, so they have fresh local fruits and vegetables.  The supermarkets don't carry much fruit and veggies, so you have to go to the F&V guy. There is fresh pasta in the supermarkets or you can find a little old lady who does that for a living. There are shops that sell only olive oil, vinegars and wine and they'll gladly have you taste anything. A surprising number of the stores sell liquor, wine and beer besides whatever else they're specializing in, like pastry or Gelatto.

Their bathroom fixtures range from the extreme futuristic to the primitive. There doesn't seem to be a standard form or shape for the toilets, however they have bidets, which we have found a few uses for. They come in handy for an overnight icebox with a bag of ice on top of your stuff, or to shave your legs in as well as to do laundry since they have a hot water tap; however I never used one for its original purpose. The toilets don't flush well, the bowl is a different shape and is left with very little water in it once flushed, so you can imagine how much cleaning it needs every day. The public toilets are another matter all together, you will be lucky to find one with a seat, and some times there is only a hole in the ladies get use to squatting if you intend to come to Italy.  Also, bring your own toilet paper.

They have these amazing shutters for the windows which are an integral part of the whole window system and even for some doors. We have had the usual shutters outside the windows, which are great to keep the light out and let air in. We've also had in addition to outside shutters, inside door-type panels which close over the windows instead of blinds. The best ones we've had are the ones we have in the studio apartment in Casteldaccia. These amazing blinds/shutters have a mechanism enclosed in a window header inside. To lower the horizontal shutters which are outside the window, you pull on the cord/strap (on the right of the window in the pictures below), this permits you to leave the slats partly open to let air in but no sun or bugs. These would be great in NA if it wasn't for our Winters, but I'm sure that we can adapt the design to fit..........who is up for a patent?  When darkness is desired, another tug on the strap lets the shutters close on themselves, eliminating the air/light slots.

They also don't recycle much here. In France they did but not in Italy and they don't have many public waste bins; so there's a lot of garbage along the roads in the countryside.  However they collect the garbage from the homes three times a week in town. I like to look at all the packaging in the grocery stores. There are a lot of pre-made sauces for pasta still using glass jars or plastic packaging and since they don't recycle.............lots of garbage.   They have about 10% of our pre-prepared food or frozen food.  I don't know what the students do because there's no Mac & Cheese here.

Here's some pictures of the window shutter system

The track that the blind slides up and down in

The shutters half open

Shutters partly closed to allow air in

Shutters totally closed to darken room

Paul is intrigued by the fact that the cars here use clean-burning diesel engines, mostly small and turbo-boosted, because in spite of their size they produce amazing amounts of torque. This translate into a surprising peppiness and phenomenal fuel mileage. We've been getting approx 65 mpg in our Renault Clio, comparable in size to our gas-engined Pontiac Vibe at home that gets 45 mpg. The torque is very handy for passing manoeuvers, often required on the high speed Italian Autostradas. So much torque is on tap in our little 1.8L engine that the car will move easily in reverse when the clutch is released, without touching the gas pedal (ie: from idle. Try THAT with a small gas-engined car!). European cars however, don't emphasize acceleration but are made to happily run at high speed all day long. More on Italian drivers on another lazy day....................

1 comment:

  1. Sounds as wonderful as our society, culture, life, but in a different way!

    Relax and enjoy the peace and quiet. And the food. And the wine, of course...

    Hedges all done, finally.