Monday, 5 August 2013


Everything about Italy is romantic, have you noticed? I dare you to start to learn about Italy and not become completely seduced by it. I'm writing this because soon I am going to be posting a video of my Italian family to demonstrate an Italian meal or snapshot of our life in progress. I have thought about how to write this article for a long time - not everyone has met or knows Italian people and this will give them some background - because the essence of being Italian is very difficult to put into words, but I think I have finally found a way to do it.

Like I said, everything Italian is romantic (they don't call it a romance language for nothing). There's not one single thing I can think of - and I have been part of the community for 20 years now - that is not romantic. The language, the music - particularly opera, the architecture, the art, the food, the traditions - particularly the ones revolving around the family meal, the way that the men and women interect with one another and even the religion are all very romantic. Catholicism has it's roots back in the time of Jesus Christ and is a tradition based religion: Catholics take their vowells (sacrements) to Jesus very seriously; they are as important as their marriage vowells and require commitment and dedication. To be a Catholic is to be immersed in a world of tinkling bells, intoxicating incense, soul stirring songs, wise and ancient stories that teach you, the glory of a woman called Mary and the thousands of pieces of art that depict her drawn over the ages, flowing purple robes and words spoken in Latin that no-one understands, special midnight meetings (mass) where everyone shakes everyone elses hand - even total strangers - and say "peace be with you" with incredible earnesty. There's a story in there about the church and what a mess it's in too but that has to wait for another time.

My brain has now been hardwired to a new way of interaction between men and women and when I step out of my Italian community and into the real world I flounder. It's expected that there will be flirtation between the sexes and everyone expects a romantic connection to take place whenever there are get togethers. The men (even the ones you may not like so much but then I have never met an Italian man that is unlikeable) are offended if the women do not play the game and they take it to heart. The women take offence if a man does not seem interested in her. Kissing on meeting and saying goodbye is a given (the more affectionate you can be the better), even with someone you hardly know, and mortal offence is taken if you don't. Nothing is off the table, partnered or not, and affection and even titilation is out there for all the world to see although sometimes it is more discreet.

The family get together is one long episode of romance that builds up ever so gradually to a peak as the delicious, mouth watering food that Mama has been preparing for days is consumed heartily and the wine that Papa made with his bare hands makes everyone slightly (or mightily) intoxicated. That's when the men and women really connect: everyone becomes quite loud and obnoxious; we all talk over the top of each other, teasing each other or snorting through the nose at each other which is quite okay - everyone's expressing themselves passionately about one thing or another and fun arguments evolve. We've had meals last for 8 hours in this manner, especially on Christmas day. The conversation never dries up, the food just keeps getting brought out until you feel you are going to burst - every course more delicious than the last. Then after a while the mocha is put on for the short black coffee and everyone calms down a bit and then it's time to say goodbye or people might take themselves off for a walk to stretch their legs. 

There are many more things I would like to share about my Italian community. I hope you found this to be interesting.

I think I was being tickled but I can't be sure!