We spent the last 3 weeks in northern and central Italy, arriving in the south of France a couple of days ago. Here are some of our impressions of Italy.
- Much of the landscape appears dry and rocky, but it’s still green. Not the rich, dark, rainforest green of British Columbia, but the olive green of the Mediterranean.
- The driving gets crazier the further south you go. In the North it was not much different than the other countries we’ve visited, but in central Italy it’s noticeably different, especially in the cities. I’m glad I got to practice in Germany first.
- There are lots of scooters driving erratically. They dart in and out of traffic, drive between the lanes, and force their way between cars to get to the front of the line at red lights.
- Italians love gelato, pizza, and coffee and shops selling these items are everywhere. They are much more common than American-style ‘fast-food’ restaurants which there don’t seem to be too many of.
- Italians drink espresso in tiny cups with added sugar. This can be drunk quickly standing at the bar or savoured over a long conversation. Although you can get a cappuccino, there are no big North American-sized coffees to be had. Coffee is never drunk with a meal.
- Some restaurants have a cover charge just to sit down. If you stand at the bar, it can be cheaper than at a table. Outside seats are usually the most expensive. Taking your food “to go” is usually the cheapest.
- The woman and men dress more fashionably. The majority seem to be in stylish outfits, even when dressed casually. We’ve seen nothing sleazy (if you don’t count what I’m pretty sure were two prostitutes staying in our campground in Bologna) but instead outfits that are more tasteful and elegant. In case you ladies are wondering, short skirts or dresses with tights and long boots are what the women seem to be wearing when not dressed in more formal attire.
- The grocery stores are smaller (no warehouse supermarkets here). There are a lot of small green grocers and bakeries selling only fresh items. Even the packaged products (e.g. olive oil, pasta sauce, sun-dried tomatoes) seem to taste better than in Canada. In most cases, food is similar in price to Canada, but some items are much cheaper (e.g. fresh pasta, cheese, fresh herbs)
- There seem to be many different types of Italian police, perhaps municipal, state, etc. One particular variety looks especially macho and intimidating, more like storm troopers than friendly, neighbourhood cops.
- Italian, when spoken softly and slowly, is a really beautiful language. When a group of Italians get together and talk, it’s sometimes hard to tell if they’re having an argument or just excited. And yes, they do speak with their hands.