From an evening passeggiata to long Sunday dinners, Italians are known for savoring the small moments in life and millions of tourists come to Italy each year to experience the Italian lifestyle.
Nearly every Italian has an opinion on the foreigners that swarm their country: they eat too early, they eat too much, they make too much noise, they look too obvious.
But what happens when an Italian becomes a tourist?
On a whim, I decided to join three Italian men and another American girl on a weekend trip to Ireland.
Within minutes of booking our flights, my compatriot and I immediately scoured the internet for information on castles, pubs and daytrips and even emailed friends, who had previously stayed in Ireland, for advice.Packets of information in hand, we eagerly boarded our flight for an adventuresome weekend.The first sign that the trip wouldn’t go as planned occurred after just a few hours in Dublin.Coming down from a pub-crawling high, the five of us stood outside the hotel debating when to rejoin for breakfast. One of the “Italiani” said, “The hotel only serves breakfast until 10:30, so we’ll have to find somewhere else to eat.” We were appalled!With only three days to see as much of the country as possible, this was entirely unacceptable.
After much nagging on our part, they grudgingly agreed to meet in the dining room at 9:00 am. The first hurdle was jumped and we prepared for bed in anticipation of day two.After an enormous breakfast, ample digestion time and a long smoking break, the Italians were ready to get our rental car. Once the paperwork was complete, we jumped into our car excited to sightsee. Our itineraries were thrown out the window as they decided that the “quick drive” cross-country to see the ocean was the most exciting option.Six hours later, our exhausted group straggled into a bed and breakfast in the small costal town of Spiddal. At 8:45 p.m. my female friend and I left our bags in the room and went to the boy’s room to gather before dinner. When we opened the door, we were surprised by the site of all three italiani, prostrate on their beds, taking a nap.
Accustomed to dining late, they assumed the same applied in Ireland. My friend and I immediately enlisted the hotel owner for assistance. When he called the only restaurant in town and informed us that the kitchen closed at 9:30, the men bounded out of bed.
It is one thing to deny an Italian his rest but it is quite another to deny him his meal.The following morning our Italians didn’t make it downstairs at the appointed meeting time and when we knocked on the door they were still asleep. As a somewhat high-maintenance female, I’m accustomed to rushing when in the company of men but when the three of them finally appeared, I had been ready for nearly an hour.
Too late for the boat trip to the Aran Islands, we instead took a self-guided driving tour through the countryside. We began to check off a number of must-see sights on our list. Italians, however, are notorious for their fast driving and driving on the opposite side of the road made no difference. I held my camera out the window in an attempt to capture idyllic shots of sheep and pastures because they refused to stop anywhere that wasn’t in our brochure.I was beginning to feel carsick when we finally stopped for lunch.Lunch consisted of the compulsory fish n’chips at a small bar in the town of Clifden.
Our Italian friends mocked us for our use of ketchup, but when the table was cleared, they had as many used packets as we did under their plates. Ready to return to the sightseeing, the other American and I waited by the door of the pub. Finally impatient from waiting, we went to the back of the bar to see what was holding the Italians up and discovered them completely embroiled in a game of pool.
At the end of the game and with the afternoon light fading, we managed to drag them to the car to see the rest of the sites, just managing to beat the closing time of our final stop on the tour.
That night over dinner, we discussed our day and one Italian in particular expressed his disappointment at not seeing the cliffs on the Aran Islands.I tried to bite my tongue which wanted to blame his late-sleeping and long smoke for missing the tour boat.
I so badly wanted to lash out about all the mistakes we’d made out on our trip, but kept quiet. If they had been American men, they would have suffered my wrath, but I realized that the Italians couldn’t be blamed for their leisurely breakfasts and death-defying speed on the roads any more than I could be blamed for my punctuality and go go go attitude.
The way each of us travel is just an extension of the way we are raised to live our lives; Italians go with the flow and don’t like to be bothered with schedules while Americans plan each and every detail.
I ultimately learned that one of the easiest ways to learn about another culture is to travel with its people. Just don’t ask me about Irish culture though-all I have are a few blurred photos from the road.
Article by Alissa Johnson