In part because I’m a Libra/bilancia with a tendency toward fairness, and in part because I don’t want you thinking I sit around salivating over visions of waffle fries, I’ve prepared another list to accompany the Top 10 Things I Miss from the States.
Again, other than obvious answers like P, P’s family, and Luna, we do have some things over here that my friends across the pond aren’t going to find. Collectively, they are the:
Top Ten Wonderful Things Found in Italy
and Not in America
10. Ciobar. For the uninitiated, this is hot chocolate as it’s meant to be. Called “cioccolato caldo” here, order it in a bar (café as we’d call it), and you’re going to forget all about that old broad Swiss Miss. Here and throughout Europe, hot chocolate is thick, creamy, and rich–but the best part is that you can make it at home with a packet of Ciobar, milk, a small pot, and a flame. It’s un-freaking-real. I kid you not.
9. Free health care. That would be the dreaded socialized medicine that about half of the United States is so afraid of. Employees here pay into the system through deductions in their paychecks, but whether an Italian citizen/resident is employed, unemployed, elderly, whatever, she’ll still get a spot in line to see the doctor, a stay in the hospital if necessary, required physical therapy–all without the fear of going into heavy debt.
8. Dish-drying rack above the sink. I’ve been out of the U.S. for a while, so if you have these now, please forgive my ignorance. But these babies are ingenious–so if you haven’t seen them around Home Depot, all you industrious types need to get working on a patent. With these metal wire racks positioned above the sink and hidden inside a regular-looking cabinet, you can put your washed dishes directly there to dry *and* store. There’s a metal tray below that catches the water, which you then take out and dump separately. No more drying and putting dishes away! One stop washing, folks.
7. The World Cup. I know many of you will say you don’t care, but try to imagine something, anything (positive) uniting an entire country. It’s a pretty cool thing–and, you know, the views from the cheap seats aren’t too bad either. So to i miei italiani vi dico “popopopopopo-po!” How ’bout them Azzurri?
6. Raoul Bova. Purrrrr. Have you seen “Under the Tuscan Sun,” which, btw, shared nothing with the book other than the name, Tuscany, and an old house? Bova was the young luvah. We see a lot more of him in Italy than just that film, thank goodness. And on the subject of leading men…
5. George Clooney. You had him but you lost him. Sor. I’m sure you have sightings of him every now and again in The States, but honestly, he and his Lake Como villa are on the news here as often as the Pope. And that’s a lot.
4. Gelato. I doubt I really need to explain this one, but let’s just say it’s so much more than ice cream. Sara at Ms. Adventures in Italy is sponsoring a Tour del Gelato, so go over there and join her quest. For my part, I’ll add that we have a special treat here in Calabria known as Tartufo di Pizzo, which translates as the “truffle of Pizzo,” Pizzo being the town in which it’s made. This tartufo is no mushroom, but it can resemble one after the chocolate and hazelnut ice cream with a liquidy fudge center is rolled into a rough ball and then coated in cocoa powder and sugar. Is it summer yet?
3. Really old stuff. I’m certainly not one of those people who says America has no history; if I did, that would make one of my bachelor’s degrees awfully suspect. But if you want to see some *really* old stuff, there are some amazing artifacts around here. Everyone knows about the Coliseum, the Pantheon, Pompeii, but come further south and you’ll see some excellent lesser-known pieces as well. My favorites are the 5th century B.C. Riace Bronzesin Reggio Calabria’s museum. The detail is breathtaking.
2. The opportunity to see the sun rise over the sea on the east coast and the sun set over the sea on the west coast on the same day without the aid of an airplane. Phew. Still with me? From where I am on the Ionian Sea, it’s a two hour drive to get to the Tyrrhenian Coast–this is the narrowest part of the Italian peninsula and enables the phenomenon described above. Theoretically, you could even put in a full day’s work in between if you do this in the summer. Kinda cool, no?
And the number one wonderful thing found in Italy and not in America:
1. Il pisolino. Perhaps you know it better as the siesta, but that’s Spanish. The afternoon nap, although dying off or already dead in much of the north (they tell me), is very much alive in many areas of the Mezzogiorno (south of Rome)–especially during the dog days of summer when it’s too hot to do much else. In fact, the word “mezzogiorno” means noon, and the south of Italy is so called because of the relentless midday sun. Nothing better than a couple hours of shuteye after a refreshing Caprese Salad on the terrazza (in the shade).
So there you have it. Good things are to be found everywhere if only you look.
Did I just violate the copyright of some Disney film?
But seriously, no place is perfect and everywhere has its positive and negative points. And even though I normally like balance, I do hope that wherever you are, the pluses tip the scales.