As the tourist season starts in Italy, the savvy visitor knows to keep in mind that one of the Italian national pastimes is to go on strike. Some years see more of lo sciopero than others, but in these difficult economic and political times in Italy it is certain that 2014 is predicted to be a year of delays and inconvenience.
Just last month, I was on my way to France via trains from Florence to Milan and Milan to Lyon. The day of my travels, the Italian national railways went on strike for eight hours. Lucky for me I … Read More
How do you create the perfect Renaissance superhero? Art historian, Elizabeth Lev, narrates the story in her fascinating book, The Tigress of Forlì. The story starts with a baby girl, Caterina Sforza, the illegitimate child of dissolute, but noble Milanese father and a drop-dead gorgeous mother. She is tutored in the classics, learns how to ride a horse and hunt, and masters the management skills of a great household. Then her father arranges for an engagement at age ten (consummated with the fiancée, aged 30) and marriage at age thirteen (blessed by the Pope). She gives birth of … Read More
“Pleasant manners,” writes Giovanni Della Casa, “are those which delight or at least do not annoy any of the senses, the desires, or the imagination of those with whom we live.”
In modern times when we are reminded that President Lyndon Johnson would hold meetings while sitting on the toilet; or there is a kerfuffle throughout the Twittersphere when Mayor de Blasio (correctly according to Italian Food Rules) ate pizza with a knife and fork; or tourists in Florence insist on greeting strangers with “Ciao!”; or foreign students think flip-flops and cut-off shorts are proper attire when … Read More
It is a joy to learn something new and surprising. As a teacher, it is even better when I learn from a student. Here’s a story many of you at TuscanTraveler.com may know, at least in part. It’s about Ann, the Tuscan Traveler. She’s published a book! I wrote the Foreward.
Ann was a San Francisco lawyer in search of any enlightenment that nine months in Italy could bring her when she walked into my Italian grammar class in Massa Marittima, near the Tuscan coast, in 1998. To be kind, let’s say that she had no ear for my melodic … Read More
The first use of the Latin superstitio is found in the writing of the historians Livy and Ovid (1st century BC). At that time the term “superstition” was used in Italy mostly in the negative sense of an excessive fear of the gods or unreasonable religious belief, as opposed to religio, the proper, reasonable awe of the gods.
The term superstitio, or superstitio vana (vain superstition) was applied by Tacitus and Domitian (80 AD) to those religious cults (druids, early Christianity) in the Roman Empire that were officially outlawed.
Throughout history, Italian culture has been rich with superstitions … Read More
Among my friends and family, they know how much I hate Italian Post Offices. Some have described it as a phobia: ufficiopostalefobia (postophobia (var. Italian)).
Actually, it is not the post office building that I object to. There are many incredibly beautiful post offices in Italy.
It’s the people who work there.
Actually, before the byzantine numbering system was put in place, I disliked everyone I came into contact with at the post office, because when we all had to stand in a waiting line, Italians (men or women) seemed to think the closer they were pressed to the back … Read More
It used to be that British and the French perpetuated the myth that the Italians were peasants, living in filth. Read books and essays published in the early 20th century and after WWII in England. Listen to the French, today, as they cross the border in Liguria.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Wall-to-wall carpets prove it.
Remember the shag carpets so popular in the 60s and 70s throughout Britain and the U.S.? Even now, most American and European homes have carpet in the bedrooms and livingrooms. The Swiss rank first in their disdain for wall-to-wall carpets. The Italians … Read More
Carbonifera! Baratti! Campiglia!
How many tourists to Italy or even, Italians, know these places? Already the names are evocative. They are all part of Maremma, the seaside region south of Livorno, but north of Grosseto, where the sea is especially beautiful and clean, and the food is as good as it can be – Acquacotta anyone? Pappardelle al cinghiale? – have you ever tried them?
In the summer this area is beautiful, but there are people – often too many – on the beaches (you sometimes can even go naked if your body still allows it).
BUT… now … at … Read More
“Have a nice day and watch your step!”
I ride buses when I am in the U.S. and pretty much everywhere else.
Every single time I cannot help but notice how nice and customer friendly the bus drivers in the States are. One morning, for example, we were on our way to the Washington, DC train station, schlepping lots of luggage, it was nice that the lady driver “leaned” her bus to help us get on board.
She greeted every single passenger and did not answer her cell phone when it rang. Why am I noticing all this? Because I … Read More
Italy is famous for its shoes and rightly so. There are, however, rules for which pair of shoes is appropriate for each occasion and location.
The short and unchanging list: 1) shoes and sandals for townwear (be it a village or city); 2) sport shoes for participating in sporting events; 3) flip-flops or rubber sandals for the beach or poolside; 4) shower shoes for public or hotel showers; and 5) slippers for home.
The trend-setting Italians base their choice of shoe both on reasons of style and of health. The sidewalks, streets, and floors in the world outside the home … Read More