The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Six Things to do Differently in Italy

Posted on | October 17, 2011 | Written by Janice Cable | No Comments

I’m returning to Italy for about five weeks next Monday. The last time I went, which was also the first time, I had no idea what to expect and thus did a bunch of things absolutely wrong. This time, I’m going to profit from my mistakes, and being an altruistic kind of human, I hope that you will too.

Here are six things I’ll do differently this time:

Pack Very Light: There is no easy way to carry, wheel or otherwise convey luggage through Italy, especially once you’re going to rural places. Streets are tight and uneven; train steps are high and difficult; taxis are hard to flag. The only way to do it with grace is to adopt the European custom of wearing your clothes more than once, and taking refuge in an excellent attitude, rather than several pairs of boots.

Double-check the Train Schedule, Seat Assignments and Car Class: There are two Italian women I’ll never forget, though I’m sure they’ve forgotten me. One was a TrenItalian conduttore who had to tell me twice in two different train cars that I had a second-class ticket but was sitting in a first-class car; the other was a surprised little old lady who found me sitting in her seat because I bought a ticket for the wrong day. I maintained I was right and she was wrong. I wasn’t; she was; I am eternally shamed.

Don’t Fear the Farmacia: Being a New Yorker, I expect my health and beauty aid store to be self-serve, along the lines of Duane Reade. Not the case in Italy. However, there’s no reason to fear announcing my symptoms to the white-coated humans who staff my local Farmacia. Everyone does it, and since symptoms have Latin names, they’re pretty much cognates. That said, I’m completely buying a wealth of Claritin, Dramamine and Pepto to bring with me. Which I also didn’t do the first time.

Use Fed Ex for Shipping: When I left Italy last June, I shipped via Italian Air Mail all my winter clothes: two AllSaints knit garments, a winter coat, a pair of boots, a black cashmere sweater, a vintage leather jacket, and a vintage fox collar. The Italian Postal Service “lost” my box. This time, if I ship anything, I’m using a private carrier. I’m consoling myself that somewhere in Italy, a woman is enjoying my very good taste.

Turn Off the Roaming on the iPhone: Stupidly, I didn’t. I got a $1,880.68 phone bill (I bargained it down, but still). Never, ever, ever, again.

Risk the Tongue: I went to Italy not speaking a word of Italian. By the end of my four months there, I found capisco abbastanza bene ma non parlo bene. Which is to say that I could understand well enough, but I couldn’t speak well. Mostly that was because I would refuse to speak. I found my tongue cleaved to the roof of my mouth in fear. This time, I’m going to talk, even if I talk poorly. The only thing I can do is learn from my mistakes.

And One Thing I did Right: Get lost. There’s nothing like finding yourself in places you’ve never been with no idea how you got there and no clear idea how you’ll get back for making you feel like a new person. I may use a map to journey from town to city and back again, but I love wandering around a city without one. Every itinerary predestines your experience. I like my experiences without mediation, at least most of the time. Maps are for tourists. Why tour life when you can live it?

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