Observations from an Eataliano
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My history with Italy

I first came to Italy over 30 years ago. I was fresh out of college, and on a business trip. I was supposed to meet up in the Milan airport with an American business partner who was going to be my translator. Well, he didn’t show up at the airport. My adventure began as the host company stood outside customs with a paper sign, with my name backwords – Hodge Clark. They brought me to Torino where I was to spend the next two weeks working. No one spoke English. I didn’t speak Italian, and didn’t even have a phrase book.

was tired from my trip and the stress of not knowing how this was going to work. One of the men took me to my hotel. It was about 5 or 6 in the evening. My host pointed at his watch – it was clear – 8 o’clock was when he’d be back to get me. I got cleaned up, took a shower in this old hotel where everything was different and very old. From the old manual elevator to the very old plumbing, including a strange thing in the bathroom that I’d later learn was a bidet. At about 7:00 I headed out for dinner.

Not able to read the menu – I simply pointed at a pizza going by, and indicated that’s what I’d like. That was my introduction to anchovie pizza! Not sure if that’s what went by, or if it was a joke on the american. Many years later I’ve loved to appreciate pizza napoli!

The next morning they took me to the office and they’d found someone to translate. It was then that I learned that my business partner that hadn’t shown up had had an emergency and would be several days. We quickly formulated a plan of how we’d work without him. (The translator was only available for an hour or so.)

I also learned that my host, that had dropped me at the hotel the night before had meant 8pm, not 8am. He had come to my room and when I wasn’t in he returned to the hotel desk. The manager had explained ‘well – he just left’… My host searched the streets and the nearby restaurants and never found me. He was planning on taking me out for a nice dinner, and he’d even arranged a date for me! I don’t know what happened to the woman that I had inadvertently stood up, but she never reappeared.

I knew then that this was a different place.

Skip ahead almost 30 years and I’m returning to Italy to celebrate 25 years of marriage. We were lucky enough to have a friend who the year before had purchased a small townhome in a medieval village. It looked out on the clock tower.

Again, we arrived just before dinner, but, there was no water. The instructions to turn it on weren’t clear, and nothing made sense. None of the neighbors were able to help, so we headed to a restaurant where we’d what turned out to be a phenomenal meal and most importantly – be able to use the restroom! Early the next morning, four very loud men all came to resolve the water situation. And thus began an infatuation with a country and a lifestyle. Adversity, yet an overwhelming effort to help. 

Thus, these two crisis incidents, 20 some odd years apart exposed me to something that was part of Italy. They taught me that things might be a little different in this country, filled with renaissance villages, with church-bells, cobble-stone streets and wonderful people.

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