I was writing an email to a close friend of mine the other day, explaining that life just seems simple over here. Perhaps it’s because I’m on holidays in one of the most beautiful parts of Europe, far away from the (at times) stressful work that comes with a career in finance, learning la bella lingua and eating a gelato every day (yes, it’s true). Or perhaps the Italians really do have it all worked out (well not all, yes both them and I are well aware of the fragile state of their economy at the moment) when it comes to being happy… They cook simple, delicious food with few preservatives; after they eat their main meal in the middle of the day, they’re tired, (aren’t we all) so they have a sleep for a couple of hours; if an Italian guy likes the look of you, he’ll tell you “BELLA… Bellissima!” and if he wants to see you one on one, he’ll just come right on up and ask you out for a drink then and there!
Life here in this country is about people and their relationships. And first and foremost comes la famiglia or family. To us, the closeness of some of the relationships within the family is perhaps a little too much at times – but being very much a family girl myself (we Cancerians certainly love our home), seeing the Italian family operate is a beautiful thing.
Yesterday, while waiting for a friend in a bar I got chatting to the barman, Pepe, recently a nonno (grandfather) whose first grandchild had just been baptised last Sunday at the age of 2 months. He was very quick to pull out his smart phone and flick through some photos of the baby at 2 days old, 1 week old, 2 weeks old, 3 weeks and 4 days old etc!!! When I asked how often he sees the baby he looked at me confused. I thought I’d mixed up my tenses trying to speak Italian but no, he was just surprised by my question and replied “well of course every day”.
As you know, Annamaria my Italian nonna has her whole family live with her in the same apartment block and she is visited daily by daughter Luci. Annamaria has been away for the past two days and was there when she arrived home this afternoon and the embrace she was greeting with by her grand daughter Aurora lasted at least 2 minutes, both hugging each other as though it had been years since they’d last seen one another.
In most regions of Italy, but particularly in the South, the males are called mammone which basically means ‘mummy’s boy’! Until they find and marry their fidanzata (fiancé), they remain at home with their mum, who practically idolises them – cooking, cleaning and washing for them every single day of their lives. Even then, when they finally leave the nest, mama continues to pop round to cook and pickup or deliver his clean/dirty clothes. One Italian guy even asked me to his place the other night so his mother could cook for me – not him! I actually dissolved into fits of laughter only to be met by his blank expression to which he then added that she was a very good cook. I certainly will never know!
Despite the existence of the mammone to me seeming a little too much, the importance and emphasis on family is acknowledged by all Italians, something that I think is often lacking in our culture at times. And while there are plenty of traits of the Italians which I’d be happy to leave, taking a leaf out of their book on the importance of family and close family friends and the love, respect and loyalty which comes with that importance is something I hope I can bring home with me when I leave this special place.