Brits are known around the world for either shying away completely from the sun, or cooking in it until beetroot red/sunburned brown. Many Brits assume the Italians love extreme heat. This is not the case. Our last few Summers in Italy have been insanely hot and the Italians don't know what to do with themselves either. It makes for an interesting holiday when you are always trying to find ways to cool down and not move. This explains the vast numbers of Italians crammed on beaches during ferragosto. They literally don't know what to do, except go and lay down on a beach all day. My idea of hell. We are looked at with bemusement when we tell them we are going as high into the mountains as possible to cool down.
|Summer. Cooling down at the Ski Resort, Passo Lanciano|
One thing we Brits are good at, is coping with rain and damp. We have to. We have a lot of that over here. We put on our wellies and coats and go for a walk. It's bracing. Not to our Italian friends. If it is wet/raining, there is not a soul to be seen in Abruzzo.
|Raining and we're the only people on the bridge|
|Raining. Pescara. Empty|
Everybody looks miserable in the bars, as if it is end of days. Italians live in fear of catching a cold and will wear a winter coat and scarf when it is 18-21 degrees, which is a decent temperature to us Brits. The older generation will tell you about the dangers of sweat too. You must always mop your child down with a towel when they have been playing and have a change of jumper. I don't really understand any of this. If someone Italian can explain it to me, please do.
Many Italians will say that Italians do not eat spicy/hot food. This is true up to a point. We took one of Will's colleagues from Northern Italy out for a curry, at his request, when he came to visit England. He asked for the mildest curry, a korma and he thought it was really hot! Poor Emiliano drank four glasses of water after three mouthfuls.
We took some Colman's Mustard over to one of our Italian neighbours to try. We explained what to do with it and how good it tastes on roast beef. She opened the jar with great suspicion (anything non-Italian, food-wise, is viewed with huge suspicion), sniffed it, pulled a face and put it in the cupboard. No doubt, never to be retrieved again.
However, in Italy, if you have ever tried virgin olive oil laced with the hottest peppers, it blows your socks off! Great in tiny doses on the right pasta dish, or pizza. Also great if you have a cold you need to shift. I also remember when Will and I first stayed in the Hotel Cercone. We sat down to dinner that evening and the waiter brought us both a plate with a fairly large hot pepper on it. We didn't really know what we were supposed to do with it. It was put to the side of our main dishes. We eventually found someone to ask, who told us that you take a bite after you finish each dish, to cleanse your palate!
In Italy, a barista has pride in their job. One barista will run a bar and serve ten people, who will wait no longer than five minutes for a coffee. This coffee will taste amazing and will only cost €1-€1.10. Coffee comes in two flavours. Espresso, or cappuccino. There are no double skimmed, non-fat, syrups etc. Cappuccinos must not be drunk after 11 o'clock in the morning, or you will immediately be marked out as a tourist, or a person of questionable taste. A cappuccino is a milky breakfast coffee. At all other times of the day, espresso. My best friend always asks for an americano, which is treated with disdain/bemusement. An espresso should always be served with a glass of water.
|Coffee, served correctly, in Pescara|
In Italy, the barista is either exceptionally jovial, loud and chatty.....or wonderfully grumpy. Either way, they make a great coffee.
Forget asking about tea. That is a whole blog post in itself.
In the UK, a coffee will set you back anything from £2-£4. It will take 15-30 minutes to be served and very often the coffee has been burned (see how long I have spent in Italy that I know this!). We met our architect at London Stansted, his first visit to England, and we frequented a well-known chain. He could not get over the size of a 'regular' cup of coffee, nor the taste, or cost. However, we do make a lovely cup of tea.
Already in the know, I have never asked for, or expected to find spaghetti bolognese in Italy. This dish does not exist. It is a dish created in either America or the UK, but is not a proper Italian dish. Ragu bolognese exists (the sauce hailing from Bologna, hence the name), but the ingredients are very specific and the right pasta must be served with it, which is not spaghetti. To a Brit this may sound ridiculous, but the Italians are incredibly proud of their food heritage and cooking and rightly so.
Italians eat cake for breakfast. Cake for breakfast. A sweet-toothed person's heaven. My friend and I threw a cafe into confusion by asking for a fiadone with our coffee, which is cheese. We knew it was cheese. We wanted something savoury. The barista thought we must have had some sort of moment of madness. The barista's husband was told off for serving us something savoury.
Our Italian friend told us how much he enjoys going to England for work.....so he can eat a fried breakfast, which he has fallen in love with!
|Italian breakfast pastries|
British wedding cakes are also looked on by most Italians as something they would really rather not eat. Whilst an Italian wedding cake is a light, frothy affair, filled with a dreamy patisserie cream and topped with fresh fruit/chocolate, the traditional British wedding cake is a heavy dried fruit affair. Quite honestly it could function as a doorstop. It isn't even as though it is light in calories to make up for the taste. Having married in Italy, I escaped the horror of a British wedding cake.
If you are Italian, partly Italian, or Italian in your heart, you will never be without your sunglasses. You will own several pairs. You may even wear them indoors, in a shop, or on a cloudy day, or at night.
|My friend Laura and I. When in Rome wear sunglasses....|
The average Brit thinks sunglasses are posey, even when the sun is out. We have got better at this though. Over the last decade, more Brits are sporting sunglasses than before. I have always loved sunglasses, since I was eighteen and continue to enjoy any opportunity to wear them.
Indeed, there are so many differences and variations. We almost bought our friend's poorly mother a dozen roses. This was greeted with a look of abject terror. You must only buy an odd number of roses, or it is extremely unlucky for the recipient. We were told to buy nine.
All of these things make for a fun and interesting holiday in Italy. I love seeing my boys experience all of these things and hope it makes them confident explorers and travellers when they are older. I hope they embrace change and are pretty open-minded, most of the time. Something I hope I am. Although, there was that one time, at a festa, when I really did not want to chew on a pig's trotter........
|My boys, loving Italy.|