It is just days before we head back to the Lunigiana, which is right now in soggy Tuscany but may be a part of Liguria as the reformatting of a broken Italy gets going.
In any case, the moment I start getting ready to head over to the boot these lovely and quite tasty thought bubbles start appearing just over my denuded skull. This is prime time for thinking of all the good things about a life in Italy.
Then as if by cosmic convergence or something, someone asked me via twitter this week, “which do you like living in, Italy or California?”
Ten years ago the answer was a toss-up. Today, more than ever, I lean toward (perhaps fall for) Italy. And I’m not even Pisan.
This morning, after my brain’s coffee-rush, the word-torrent flowed with a white water vengeance: food, people, pancetta, romantic ruins, trout with lardo, fabulous walks, cave-aged cheese, the glories of Rome—and it goes on and on, rat-a-tat like a machine gun in a public school in the land of uninhibited fracking and religious freaking.
Yes, I know, Italian politics is a mess. But, unlike the US, it’s always been that way. Nobody need give a crap. It’s people that count in Italy. Your neighbors make your world. So, I’m different among expats. I don’t do politics. It’s nasty and getting worse all over. What more need be said? Or thought?
Basta! Here’s an orderly list of things I’ve though about. An odd list to be sure.
“Huh?” I hear you say. Well, listen up. the advantage of having 220 volts coming out of every wall socket is enormous. Let’s take your vacuum cleaner. In the US, a 1000 watt vacuum cleaner needs 110 volts at around 9 amps. In Italy, for the same motor, you need 220 volts at 4.5 amps. Thus the wires in the motor in your American device take twice the current and thus need to be twice the size (and weight!) as they would have to be in Italy. So, you can have a vacuum that really, really sucks in Italy and an 89 pound grandmother can carry it around like it’s a lost kitten.
In America, if you have something you know you get all the time and need medicine for, you first make an appointment with the doctor and wait the number of weeks until the doctor can see you. The doctor takes a glance at you and writes a prescription. You take the prescription to the pharmacist and they fill it. You pay through the nose. The pharmacist is a mere pill counter in the US, despite his education.
In Italy, I can just go to the pharmacy and get medicines for little things that need all this special treatment in the US. The education a pharmacist gets can actually be used! Imagine! And one in your area is always open, required by law.
The Rural Life is the Good Life in Italy
Don’t get me wrong, I love Italian cities, but the rural life in Italy is a whole different thing. For example, if you want really good food in the US, you go to the city. There a collection of fine chefs will prod farmers to actually produce food that is safe and tasty for their restaurants, unlike the rest of the country that’s stuck with corporate farms who produce our crap food. If you shop in the hinterlands of California, you’re toast. Every supermarket carries the same poison chickens, the same other white meat fatless pork that cooks up like the sole of a very old shoe.
It’s not that way in Italy. Everyone goes to the countryside for good food because that’s where it’s produced. Gourmets aren’t limited to living in a city full of influential chefs. You can be pretty sure there’s a guy who sells the best cave-aged cheese within a short drive. Your neighbors know of him. You need to ask. In fact, if you do they’ll think quite highly of you. It’s a win-win.
In America we are forced to cook our hamburgers extra well done or risk being poisoned. In little Palerone, I can go to the little supermarket with the (real) butcher shop and get any cut of meat I want ground as I watch in a machine used only for that type of meat. Then I can go down the road to the little shack next to the enormous garden and get some onions freshly dug out of the soil to go with it. Onions not from another state, or heaven forbid from another country, but from 6 feet away.
You can have good food if you demand it. It’s a fact. But the two countries are worlds apart on the subject of food. The majority of people in the US, ill informed by political groups bent on providing profit to industrial crap food producers, think it has to be like that. Boy, are they wrong.
Artisans Are Everywhere in italy!
As a journalists, folks take me around to places they like or think I’d like. I’m constantly amazed at the number of people who make hand-made goods. Violins, furniture, lace. And you know what? There are no signs on the doors. I mean, get hooked up and a whole new world opens up to you. It’s what makes Italy fascinating. Even the very best wine can come from behind an unmarked door.
Yes, Italy can be like a life-sized video game in which the adventurous can win big—in a smallish and very satisfying way of course. It’s the little things that count, but they add up.
And, for those of you unsure of your position on health care, universal, single payer health care give people far more freedom to become artisans. Think about it.
I gotta go. There’s packing to be done.