|THERE’S NO DOUBT THAT I AM BACK IN ITALY:
1. WHEN the buses are very cheap (50 cents $A a trip here in Bologna) and the trains are always ‘in ritardo’ (late). The digital schedules at the station even have a column to show how late the trains are! However I can report that the Freccia (arrow) trains are pretty impressive and seem to run on time. They travel at about 250km/hour with dedicated platforms. I took one from Bologna to Florence, where I am now staying for one week.
2. WHEN I regretfully realise that I must take one of the inside cafe tables as many people are smoking at the outside tables on the piazza. We really don’t realise how lucky we are in Australia with low rates of smoking and no smoking near food and drinks.
3. WHEN every cafe has an impressive selection of wines, spirits and mixers, people enjoy a glass of alcohol at all hours of the day, but it’s rare to see public drunkenness. Unfortunately I don’t drink red wines and I’m in the region famous for its Chianti. I have tried Pignoletto (sparkling white) and a still white from Orvieto. Wine by the glass is very cheap, depending where you eat.
3. WHEN I enjoy visiting the food market even more than a craft market. In Modena, I saw white asparagus, zucchinis with flowers and rich, red oxheart tomatoes. I’m happy to have apartments here in Florence (1 week) and Siena (2 weeks) so I can cook some of the fresh produce.
4. WHEN it’s common to see public displays of affection and dancing in the street. In Bologna there were some buskers in the piazza. Some of the locals erupted into spontaneous slow dancing, both young and old couples. The sweetest public display of affection was a young couple cycling on the one bike down the street (without helmets, of course). The teenage boy leaned forward to give his girlfriend a kiss. And, small children are spoiled, cuddled and very publically cherished. Having said that, I had an interesting chat with my B&B owner in Bologna about the high rates of female murders in Italy by domestic partners.
5. BUT my pedometer thinks I am in Melbourne so it resets to zero automatically each day at 4pm local time. And even more bizarre, my camera believes it is in Oslo and is showing that location on my photos. I managed to fix the pedometer yesterday and will tackle the camera shortly. The perils of smart technology!
6. WHEN there seems to be a shortage of coins and one is always being asked for the correct money. Difficult when you first arrive and you have large denomination notes and few coins. I have to retrain myself to start using my Qantas cashcard for even small purchases of a couple of Euro - it’s very common here.
7. WHEN I remember that it’s entirely optional for cars to stop at pedestrian crossings and every taxi driver believes they are driving a Ferrari, rather than the energy efficient cars that are popular here. My apologies to the petrolhead readers, but I did not visit the Ferrari museums during my visit to Modena, so no prancing horse gifts!
8. WHEN my feet are very thankful that I bought cushioned walking shoes and hiking boots before I left Melbourne. Centuries of stone and marble paving look beautiful, but demand solid shoes. I walked about 21,000 steps on my first full day here.
9. WHEN standing still invites beggars, usually young black men, to approach you and ask for money. It is very evident visually on the streets that Italy has been at the forefront of the wave of refugees entering Europe. The other consequence of standing still is being asked for directions - 3 times in 3 days. I must have a friendly face! Without even having to search for words, I automatically pop out the phrase, Mi dispiace, non sono da qui (I’m sorry, I’m not from here) and continue walking.
10. WHEN I comfortably ease into standing at the bar to drink my espresso. Perfetto!