Ciao from Cortina: This is Italy

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— In my family, we have a phrase, “this is Italy," which is used in situations that make no sense. It’s accompanied by a dismissive shrug of the shoulders and a facial expression that says “sorry, you’re out of luck.”

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Sophie Dingle

The phrase stemmed from my parent’s honeymoon. They had flown into Milan and were going to spend a week in Lake Como. Unfortunately, their bags did not fly into Milan with them.

They spent the first two days of their honeymoon wearing their travel clothes and waiting. On the third morning, my mother went down to the front desk of the hotel to inquire when the bags might be delivered. The clerk stared at her, shrugged his shoulders, and said, “this is Italy.”

By now, my husband and I have some “this is Italy” moments of our own. Last year, we discovered a huge patch of mold hiding behind a chair in our living room. We were told that the reason we had mold was because we had our heat on too much (this was in January). This outraged me because I never turned the heat on over 18 degrees Celsius, which is only 64 degrees Fahrenheit. Our landlord’s suggestion was to keep the heat off until we were freezing and then turn it up to 30 degrees (86 degrees Fahrenheit) for about 20 minutes until we warmed up and then turn it off again.

Another time, I was having a conversation with an Italian friend of mine. We were driving and discussing what happens if you hit a deer in Italy (we were on a stretch of road that is infamous for having rogue deer that dart out at any point in time). She asked me what happened at home if you hit a deer, and I told her nothing, except that it's sad and sometimes your car is ruined.

She then explained to me that the rules on hitting deer in Italy differ by province. Your car insurance never covers the damage unless you pay for a separate "deer-hitting package," which is very expensive, so you have to pay for everything yourself. "But," she told me, concluding the conversation, "after you hit the deer, you get to keep it."

Not everything in Italy makes sense. I understand that perfectly now, after four years. To live in this country, you often have to take a breath, shrug your shoulders and repeat, “this is Italy.”

The line at the post office will never be shorter than 30 minutes, even if there are only two people in front of you. Inevitably, a little old Italian lady will cut in front of you in line at the grocery store. The train will never get you to your destination at exactly the time that the schedule says it will.

In order to truly appreciate Italy, you have to take it with a grain of salt. And when something doesn’t go your way, you have to do what an Italian would do: shrug it off and go for a glass of wine.

Sophie Dingle is a freelance writer living in Cortina, Italy, where her husband and Steamboat native, Ryan, plays professional ice hockey. While in Italy, she loves to eat, cook, explore and drink red wine. You can follow her adventures online at www.sophiedingle.blogspot.com.

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