Saturday, January 12, 2013


I haven’t seen many Italian movies, though. I decided I would also add a few more observations about Italy given that I visited it for a second time in 2012 because I didn’t get to see everything the first time. This time I went to the northeast and saw towns like Verona and Venice, the Disneyland of canal cities. Verona was funny because there was a house claiming to be Juliet’s house (Romeo and Juliet) and it had the famous balcony from which Juliet called out “Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?” There is a bronze statue of someone that is supposed to be the fictional Juliet and visitors come far and wide to place one hand on her colour-changing breast (due to the oils in people’s hands) and take a picture in that pose. It’s strange but that’s what they do.

Venice is a bit hard to describe. It really is like people tell you. There is a type of romance there, a stink there (though I didn’t smell it), a beauty there, a mystery there, and a resilience there. There really are gondolas, though they may look slightly different than you imagine. The gondola drivers don’t actually sing, but you can hire a separate opera singer to go on your gondola and sing while you float about in the Venetian canal-ways.

I wanted to share some observations, though, about the country, different from what I shared last time. The first is that there is a lot of city and regional pride in Italy. I mean people in Venice are Venetians, first, and Italians, second. That might be unfair since Venice was an actual republic before whereas other Italian cities were not. But there is definitely a regional pride in specific, regional recipes, foods, discoveries, languages, and dialects. Different cities claim to have the best pasta. “Every” city claim to have the best gelato.

The second observation is that Italy has a type of Eastern European feel. I’m not sure what I mean by that but it is poorer than France, Germany, and England. It seems to have that type of rural communal feel, of families getting together and sharing what they have, of people living their dreams, if only in their hands, but speaking it into imaginative existence. There is drama here in the simple things as if they were fantastical. And an intersection in which four cars meet can become the climax of a movie with people getting out of their cars doing various gestures (it doesn’t occur to any of them to back up). A woman might pass you in the street railing against the government as if she had no power, no voice, no ability to affect the change. It’s dazzling, simple, and strange.

The third observation is that the people there don’t care so much about appearance related to swimwear. Women in North America tend to hate men’s bikinis (often called speedos). I’ve been told this is not a cultural experience; women just don’t like seeing that. When you go to some Asian or European countries it’s quite the opposite: no one cares. It’s just normal. So now I believe it is a cultural thing with North America and the love of board shorts or trunks. If a woman grows up in a culture where men and even boys at a young age wear boys bikinis or speedos, then the woman is more likely not to care and to be used to it instead of grossed out like North American women. It was interesting to see. In Italy, I stuck out for wearing swimming trunks. It also works the other way. In North America, if a really large woman wore a bikini, a friend would tap me on the shoulder and say “No she didn’t!” In Italy, when it’s hot outside, a really large woman puts on a bikini because that’s what you do. No one says “What is she doing?” or “She looks ridiculous.” I guess it’s just normal. And I don’t mean just big women, I also mean big elderly women. I also expected bikinis to be a swimsuit that the young would wear, but I often saw elder women wearing bikinis, too. It seems to be more natural there. And more people seem not to care.

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