Love Italy, Love Italy Not…the constant debate I have with myself. On the one hand, there are so many wonderful, beautiful things about this country and about living abroad in general. On the other hand…well, let’s just say there are some things not to love about this country. After discussing these “loves” and “love Italy nots” with a few of my expat friends, I’ve decided to compile my top 10 list of things I love and hate about Italy. At the end of the day, I realize I’ve only been here one year and I really have no right to complain about these things in any serious way. I also realize that if I’m going to stay in this country I’m just going to have to “love it or lump it”. Nevertheless, it is a topic that deserves to be shared, especially for anyone who has fallen for the misconception that life in Italy is all “Under the Tuscan Sun” – because it’s just not!
So let’s start with the bad news first (please keep in mind that these are my generalizations and that its not like this everywhere):
LOVE ITALY NOTS
#10. Table service fees – In most cafès, you have to pay an additional fee to sit down at a table. Otherwise, you must stand at the bar counter while drinking your coffee. To me, this contradicts Italian tradition – I thought life was supposed to be slower here, and therefore I should be able to sip my cappuccino and savor my brioche without being penalized, shouldn’t I?
#9. Disgruntled neighbors – In almost every apartment I have lived in, the neighbors must complain about something. At first, I thought maybe this was just something wrong with me, but then I reazlied that just about everybody who lives in Italy has been complained about. Its absolutely inevitabile when you live in shoebox apartments with cardboard walls that are perfectly stacked on top of one another. And in general, Italians are not shy about sharing their opinions…
#8. People who don’t work – even during working hours. Perfect example: I went to the bank today and there were a total of two people working, with at least 6 empty desks during working hours. Where is everyone else? Look outside every working establishment during the day and you’ll see at least 2-3 people having a cigarette break while the rest of the lot is at the bar.
#7. Lack of convenience shopping – Need food? Go to the supermarket. Need laundry detergent? Go to the toiletry store. Need bedding? Go to the bedding store. Need medicine? Go to the pharmacy. Shoes? Shoe store. Tiddlywinks? Tiddlywink store. There is a store for literally every single thing, but not one store that has everything. It takes all day to get the shopping done!
#6. Being punctual is a guideline – not an expectation – This is particularly true for trains, which are constantly “in ritardo” or late, causing everyone else and their mother to be late. Don’t ever rely on the trains to be one time because 50% of the time they are late.
#5. You can get killed just walking on the sidewalk – People drive like maniacs and you must fear for your life at all times.
#4. Second-hand smoke is unavoidable – Outside, inside, even in the park while you are trying to run and breathe fresh air, people are smoking. My chances of developing lung cancer have exponentially increased since I moved here.
#3. People tend to stare – Italians are fashionable people who tend to be rather opinionated which means anyone who looks and is dressed differently deserves to be gawked at.
#2. Waiting in line – oh wait I mean standing a giant clusterfudge of people at the supermarket because there is only one cashier working and half the self-checkout machines are broken. Lines do not exist in Italy. Instead it works one of two ways: 1) Everyone crams in closely until they get close enough to the front (often resulting in some rather crass language being tossed about) or 2) The “Who is last in line?” game. Everyone stands wherever he or she pleases and whenever a new person arrives, he or she asks everyone, “who is the last in line?” and then remembers that they are after this person.
#1. Customer service does not exist – Especially at restaurants where waiters are not tipped and so they don’t care how they treat the customers. Service is typically slow and if you want anything you must flag down a waiter 2 to 3 times. Don’t even get me started with the customer service at public institutions. Sometimes…I’d rather die and go through Dante’s 7 layers of hell than deal with some government officials here.
#10. La Passeggiata – The infamous Italian walk that typically happens on Saturday afternoon where everyone is out and about, walking with no particular place to go.
#9. Open markets are everywhere – talk about bargains!
#8. Every region is extremely diverse – including the food, dialect, geography, the list goes on…
#7. There is a festival or sagra pretty much every weekend, if not every day. Italians celebrate everything: Ravioli. The History of Ravioli. The Patron Saint of Ravioli…you name it, there is a festival for it.
#6. The Aperitivo tradition – Seroiusly? Why don’t we have this everywhere! 6 euro for a drink AND snacks sometimes large enough to be a meal. It’s a broke girls dream and the perfect opportunity to meet new people.
#5. Trains and cheap flights – Hop on a train and you can go practically anywhere in Europe. Hop on RyanAir and you can get there even quicker for the same price. The range of travel options makes it rather easy to live without a car, a fact I absolutely love, considering I hate driving.
#4. How fresh cheese, olive oil, and produce are, even at the supermarket. Good quality Mozzerella costs about 1-2 euro, which is nothing compared to the price you pay in the U.S. Same goes for extra virgin olive oil, parmesan cheese, fresh pasta….It’s a foodie’s heaven.
#3. Biking in high heels – nothing says chic better than a chick riding her bicycle through town dressed to the nines – and yes, it’s totally normal.
#2. Coffee and coffee breaks – Good coffee is available far and wide here. So much that I don’t think I can drink American coffee anymore!
#1. Eating a whole pizza by myself is not only acceptable, but expected. Leftovers are shunned and not finishing you plate is considered rude. At least thats the excuse I’m sticking with…