Top 10 Wonderful Things in Italy, Not America

And on the flip side…

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.

13 Beans of Wisdom to “Top 10 Wonderful Things in Italy, Not America”
  1. JT

    Well, you can keep Clooney and I can only speak for myself, on my fair share of “Il pisolinos.” However, I am going out right now to find me one of those dish cabinets…even if I have to cover the window above my kitchen sink. (The window above the kitchen sink, a popular American architectural gem…is probably the reason we don’t yet have that most practical household technology.) And yes, please pass the yummy hot “Italian Miss” this way, too! (OK, I mean the hot CHOCOLATE one…I digress!) Anyway, it’s going to remain in the negative Celcius range for the next ten weeks in these parts…and while I have not yet been to Italy, warmth is something I certainly miss on this end. JT

  2. Shan

    Okay, I could go for the hot chocolate because by and large the hot chocolate here sucks.

    Being Canadian I am with you on the free health care. When Maya was born she had a three week stay in the NICU for breathing issues. The doctors did countless tests to try and figure out what was causing the problem. I was so grateful that I didn’t have to worry about the cost of her medical care. She was in a top hospital with top doctors. What a huge relief. When you’re talking about the life of your child money shouldn’t equate into it for anyone.

  3. sognatrice

    JT, excellent observation on the kitchen window phenomenon…it’s all give and take, I tell you. And I *will* keep Clooney, thank you very much, but I’ll save you some Ciobar for when you visit.

    Shan, couldn’t agree more about health care, and I’m so glad that Maya’s doing well. To me, how we take care of our most vulnerable defines a society. *sigh*

  4. Shelley - At Home in Rome

    Ciao bella! E benvenuta al mondo di blogging 😉

    I myself am a newbie as well, just started in late August, so…it’s nice to see someone else who just got on board.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and for putting me on your blog rol–I’ll treat you to a cappuccino anytime you’re in Rome.

    I’m looking forward to reading more of your stuff… in bocca al lupo!

  5. J.Doe

    Ciobar rocks.
    The healthcare system in Italy might be free but when it’s your health at stake I’d rather pay and get some decent care. The healthcare that I received there really sucked, and if it weren’t for private clinics where you could pay for better treatment I would still be sick.
    Free healthcare might work, but it did not for me.

  6. sognatrice

    Ciao Shelley, thanks for the warm welcome! I look forward to taking you up on your cappuccino offer.

    J.Doe, to be fair, I think health care can be awful anywhere. I personally have gotten worse customer service, so to speak, in the United States–and I was paying mightily for it. We have this debate often among expats, and I think most agree that having some free health care available is better than having nothing at all. And anyway, you can always pay here for private care if you don’t like the public service. Thanks for stopping by!

  7. sognatrice

    Oh dear, Shelley, I forgot to say “Crepi!!!!”

  8. Anonymous

    i really like the shovels that have the long handle with the convenient upturned hook on the end, so you can stand up to sweep up your dust. And you can use the normal broom too, instead of having to kneel wiht a little brush.

  9. sognatrice

    This is an *excellent* addition to the list, anon. They are lovely.

  10. Hit the Hiss!

    Oh my family cares about the World Cup…I think we might have been the only ones in Missouri to care. But then again we are still Italians at heart, so I guess it’s not too shocking. 🙂

  11. Marmite Breath

    Yeah, I thought the differences between the book and the movie versions of Under The Tuscan Sun were insane. It wasn’t even similar!

    I do love that movie. I love the views of Positano–man, driving the Amalfi coast is one of my most favourite memories. I carry it with me through this harsh winter.

  12. Anonymous

    I’m new to the blogging, sort of so hope it’s ok I am here? I have to get my site going, it’s quite naked at the moment.
    I fell onto At Home In Rome and from there, well I have been having a peek around. That’s how I found you.
    Have read some of your posts, not all, and enjoyed. I am a big fan of the Doggies. And yours is delicious.
    Read the Top Ten and couldn’t resist a comment, or two!
    10.Ciobar. Definite;y not a good standard in the US, but nonetheless it is possible to make really great hot cocoa if made at home, as I do. Just have to purchase real cocoa, and the spiced one they use in Mexico is fantastic!Available in the better food shops. Nothing like real whole milk, real chocolate, and yes real whipped cream atop! It really should be a standard here, like the wonderful ciobar Italy has, I agree.
    9.Free Healthcare. I almost cringe at the word, free. A big topic and one worth dedicating a post to. (Note to self: I think I shall deicate a post to it!) Having lived in Germany, and Australia there is something to be said about socialised medicine.
    8.Dish-drying rack above the sink. Can’t say I have seen one but sounds like a brilliant idea. It’s the little things that really go a long way, is it not?
    7.The World Cup. Well now! The US hosted The World Cup in 1994. I am a huge fan of the football. I don’t follow any particular team, I truly love and admire the sport. We definitely do not eat, breathe and sleep Footy here as say in Italia or The UK, or most of europe but there is a community of lovers, just not the entire nation, like say in Italy. It is fantastic unity, I agree! I care! hee hee
    6.Raoul Bova. I remember him. I thought all Italian men were like him? HA HA …… now waiting for a good sneer about that.
    5. George Clooney. Yep he loves his Lake Como pad but we haven’t lost him. Still a Yank, true and through.
    4.Gelato. Everywhere you go in Italy there is gelato. Yeah I enjoyed it, all the flavors. Yummy! There is a local shop in the town where I am from and they make it daily, really a delight when not in Italy.
    2. Sunrise east and west. Now that would be something to write home about. I hope I get to experience that someday.
    1. Il pisolino. Are you kidding? That would put a huge crimp in the 24/7 land of convenience! LOL It’s honestly, a fabulous idea! We are all creatures of habit and we do what we know. Slowing down and taking life in is a wonderful idea.

    Enjoyed! See you around.


  13. 10.13.2010

    Just reading over some of your older posts, and I have to agree with most of them. I can remember my first hot chocolate. It was in a ‘bar’ (cafe’ in America), and it was soo good. It puts Swiss Miss to shame!

    Raoul Bova – drool.. He was also in another movie (can’t remember the name of it right now though), featuring Silvester Stallone.

    Nothing can be replicated in terms of gelato. My first summer in Italy, my friends and I literally had one, sometimes two, a day in centro. 🙂 It was all nicely balanced out by the amount of walking you have to do. Which is another thing I love about Italy that wasn’t on your list.

    Yes, America has history, but it would almost seem like we don’t in comparison to Italy’s history. I think it helps to be able to actually see the old-ness of the country. Nothing can compare to the awe of coming out of the subway right across the street from the Colosseo.

    The pisolino in Southern Italy is definitely needed. I’ve been to Puglia and it’s still an important part of the day. A friend of mine would go to work from 8-12, come home and eat, take a nap, and then go back to work from 4-8. Not a bad day if you ask me. Though it makes sense since the heat is relentless. I can’t imagine it happening here. lol

    Haha thanks for going through the archives and sharing your thoughts 🙂

Michelle KaminskyMichelle Kaminsky is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer who lived in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy for 15 years. This blog is now archived. 

Calabria Guidebook

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