Just Like Being in a Foreign Country - AForeigners Guide to Quirky Italian Habits
but go for a stroll on any Sunday afternoon and you may witness a seemingly sinister phenomenon taking place in a myriad of local parks and assorted public places all over the country.
Picture a scene a bit like something from a 50's B movie (let's say for arguments sake, a spaghetti western only about spies!), little old Italian couples can be seen shuffling along, Maria (not her real name) is wearing what resembles a floral marquee, whilst Giovanni (not his real name) is totally ignoring her and has a little miniature radio pressed tightly to his ear (secret agent style with a 2 foot aerial sticking up into the air).
Every now and then he mutters to himself or curses in local dialect as if talking to the Italian version of "M".
For those of a nervous disposition, please BE WARNED - at any moment and totally without warning, Giovanni (not his real name) may leap up into the air, gesticulating wildly and screaming the Italian equivalent of "Go on my son" or "ere we go, ere we go, ere we go" or "there's only one Roberto Biaggio (his real name) na na na etc" Giovanni (not his real name) will most probably get all emotional, weep uncontrollably, he may even end up beating the ground with his fists, Maria (not her real name ) will continue shuffling along totally ignoring him, she's seen it all before! Yes, it's Sunday afternoon football on the radio.
In Italy, football games are all played on Sundays, (except the ones that are played on Wednesdays and special holidays in honour of some obscure saint) and any self respecting Inter or Juve fan wouldn't miss a second of the action!! These boots were made for walkin Around 6 or 7 in the evening in every Italian town and city if you keep you're eyes peeled you'll start to notice the same people, usually teenagers walking past again and again.
Either you've been over doing the Caffe corretto" or you've found the "Passeggiata" street.
This Ancient mating ritual consists of dressing up in your best designer dancing trousers, and then walking up and down the same street pretending to ignore everyone whilst actually eyeing up the talent.
After walking up and down for a while the two groups usually meet and get down to the serious business of eating ice cream together.
Next time you're in Italy, why not try walking up and down a street or two, live the experience! Butter MMMMM hot buttered toast, Yummy! Cheese and ham on a buttered, wholemeal bap, lovely! Not here you don't.
Asking for butter on your bread is almost (but not quite) as bad as that after dinner cappuccino.
Italians eat lots of bread, but never with butter.
For example in Tuscany, At dinner you will get Tuscan unsalted bread as standard and each area and town in Italy has its own varieties of delicious breads, some unsalted, some with oil.
Look out for "cotto a legna" which means baked in a wood oven.
If you really crave "Mothers Pride" type, sliced white bread you can find it hidden away in the "Ethnic foods" section of some supermarkets.
Smallest Room Did you know that they don't have coloured toilet rolls in Italy! Only white! (not sure why that one came into my head!) 'scuse me, back in a moment! All Change Please Don't hold your hand out in a shop or bar for the change! In Italy they put the change on a little tray.
Balls If you come to Italy in Springtime or later in the season in Autumn it won't be the smell of spring flowers or roast chestnuts that will be wafting on the breeze, it's more likely to be the smell of moth balls! Italians, especially older women totally change their wardrobe with the seasons.
One season's clothes will be carefully wrapped in tissue paper and moth balls, then stored until the next year.
If you are travelling on a bus in Florence or the Rome underground at certain times of the year the mothball smell from the fur coats can be quite overpowering! Be warned! Stop at the red light As you return home from a night down the local "Bistro" with the sound of "O Sole Mio" still ringing in your ears, you'd be forgiven for thinking all the traffic lights in the whole of Italy had gone on the blink at the same time (it did happened in Naples!).
After a certain hour every junction you come to has flashing amber lights.
When I quizzed a native about this, he explained it was done as a safety precaution.
At first, I was at a loss as to why temporarily putting all the traffic lights out of order could increase road safety, but if you use a bit of lateral thinking it all becomes clear, sort of! At a deserted junction in the wee small hours, no one would wait at a red light, but a driver coming in the other direction would assume it safe to continue because his light was at green, result - kerrunch! On the other hand if all the lights are flashing amber everyone has to be cautious when they approach a junction.
Interesting theory!! Quirky? Maybe, but wouldn't it be sad if we were all the same! Variety is the spice of (Italian) life.