I recently returned from two weeks in Italy. I was in Valdagno, in northern Italy, a town of less than 30,000 people, well off the usual tourist trails. While staying with my son and his family, I always get a tiny taste of authentic Italian life and I would like to share a few of my impressions.
First of all, Italian pedestrians and bicyclists must be the bravest people in world…and the drivers who manage to avoid knocking them down must have lightening reflexes. I have only driven in Italy once, a few years ago, but I can tell you, I do not have what it takes to do it again.
I’ve been asked how Italians stay in shape, considering all the pasta they consume. You have only to look out on any steet in town to see the answer; everywhere you see people of all ages walking or riding bikes. The car is saved for long trips or for hauling things. On rainy days there are fewer cyclists, but more walkers, all sporting umbrellas. I think this is made possible because housing is tucked in among the businesses, rather than being set apart in distant suburbs.
Italian life is family life. When dropping my granddaughters at their preschools I observed many fathers, mothers and grandparents dropping off their little ones. It is easy to see how the children are treasured…and how very fashionably the children are dressed. It is well-known that adult Italians are fashion conscious, but, even in a the small towns, you can see little ones in the latest styles, coordinated to the teeth.
While there are many differences in life style between Americans and Italians, and a language barrier, besides, it is the commonalities that make my visits so enjoyable.
When people anywhere focus on their differences, a wall grows up between them, but when they choose to emphasize what is shared, real relationships are built.