3 Things Italians Don’t Believe In

Anyone who stays in Italia for any length of time will notice there are three things Italians just don’t seem to believe in.

1. Clocks

After just one week of being here, I quickly noticed the lack of clocks everywhere.  I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise, because it goes along with Italy’s noticeably more laid-back lifestyle. Stores don’t have clocks. Restaurants don’t have clocks. Churches don’t have clocks. (don’t pretend you don’t secretly check the time when your stomach starts growling during your pastor’s fifth sermon illustration. I know there’s more than one of us.) There’s only one single, tiny clock in our apartment, hidden in a corner. Not only is it not digital, but it’s in Roman numerals. Obviously, being the 21st century and all, it’s of no use to us whatsoever. I know I could just use my cell phone to check the time, but I don’t carry it around the apartment with me.  So that presents the issue of having to walk all the way into my bedroom, AND press a button to unlock my phone.  But, if there was an easily readable digital clock, above the oven perhaps, I could just glance over whenever I want to know what time it is. I wouldn’t even have to move my head. Five seconds max. Boom. These italians are so old-fashioned.

I think the most maddening thing is not having a clock in the classroom though, honestly.  I’m obsessed with knowing what time it is during school.  Sometimes, I like to pretend the more I look at the clock, the faster it will move.  It’s usually the opposite.  But still, I would like to reserve the right to stare at the clock as many times as my little American, time-obsessed heart desires.  I mean, I understand why.  It’s distracting for professors to have students constantly looking at the clock while they’re trying to lecture.  But it’s also distracting for students to have professors constantly lecturing while they’re trying to look at the clock.  Goodness. This world works both ways, you know.

2. Air Conditioning

So it’s really hot here. Everyone told me August and the beginning of September is the off-season for tourists, and I totally understand why. Because it feels like you’re in the middle of the desert. Italy is definitely all about being eco-friendly: conserving water and driving smart cars and recycling and all that. Which I think is so awesome! It’s really cool that the whole city of Florence is so focused on the environment, because I feel like that’s something I see a lot less of in the U.S. However, there are definitely some down-sides to going green and conserving energy, such as the significant lack of air-conditioning. We never had air-conditioning in our house, but we also live in Ohio, so it was a non-issue.  But you know how when you’re in a town or a city, or outlet shopping and it’s really hot, every time you walk past a store front, there’s a nice blast of cold air from the air-conditioning? Even if you don’t go in, it’s nice to cool off for five seconds. While we were walking around, dehydrated, in the 100 degree heat the first day, I was totally looking forward to that blast of air every time we passed an open restaurant or store. But, I was severely disappointed. In fact, air conditioning is so rare here, that stores, restaurants and cafes advertise when they have it to entice people to come inside. I’ve seen big neon signs in store windows that say ‘air-conditioning’ in capital letters. It cracks me up every time, because I just love that’s what they’re advertising. Not their new clothing line, or delicious food or great service. Just that they have air conditioning. So simple.

So, if you’re excited about stopping for dinner at a restaurant to cool off, don’t get your hopes up. Because the cooling off part is probably not going to happen.  The good news is, the food will be so incredibly delicious that you will forget all about the heat stroke you’re currently suffering.

Also! We learned some tips from our landlord: 1. Have three fans, one in each room, and you’ll get a nice cross breeze while you’re in the apartment. Just remember to unplug them when you leave to conserve energy. 2. Don’t use the oven to cook (obviously) 3. Open all the windows at night after the sun sets and leave them open all night.  Then, in the morning around 7 a.m. or 8 a.m. when you wake up, shut them all.  It will trap the cool air inside the apartment all day. (this is seriously the BEST tip! It feels like we have air conditioning all day long. It’s heavenly.)

The last thing I’ve noticed Italians don’t believe in is:

 3. Speed-limit Signs

Besides being completely in love with this city, I do have a confession to make: I fear for my life daily. Want to know why? It’s because people are THE craziest drivers here. I thought Kent, Ohio, was bad, with the buses and rogue golf carts and that one kid on his unicycle.  But here, it’s so much worse.  Yesterday was the best day I’ve had in a while, because I only almost got hit by three bicycles, one vespa and a tour bus.  Most days are a lot worse.  But seriously.  Not only are there no speed limit signs anywhere, there aren’t really any specific driving rules either.  No street reflectors, no cross walks, no road signs telling you which way to go, no lanes, no lines on the road…nothing. People don’t use turn signals either. If they’re going in a certain direction and want you to know, they either honk or yell something in italian out the window. Because it’s a city, there are lots of one way streets, but no signs telling you which way.  So what I’ve gathered so far is that you just kind of guess how to drive. Pick a speed, any speed, and hope people run out of your way screaming as you go barreling down the three-inch wide streets. The rule that pedestrians have the right of way doesn’t apply around here either.  It’s kind of like the jungle. Taxis and vespas are at the top of the food chain because they just destroy everything in their path. It’s every man for himself as far as drivers and bikers go. If you’re walking, you have a 50/50 chance of survival. Another interesting fact about Italy is that cars are not equipped with brakes. People just use the sidewalk to stop their vehicles. And since there are no parking lots, that’s where they park too. I actually saw a vespa park so far on the sidewalk today that it’s front tire was inside of a clothing boutique. So, as a lowly little pedestrian, you may think you’re safe walking on the sidewalk.  Or shopping inside a store. But you’re dead wrong.  Literally, dead, wrong. Comforting, right?

Maybe I’m being SLIGHTLY dramatic, but it really is true. I would never, ever, in a million years be able to drive here. Or even ride a bike.

So, those are just a few things I’m learning about Italian culture so far! It’s so interesting. I really like their mentality and their lifestyle…maybe minus the driving skills…and the summer climate. It’s cooling off here a lot now, so it’s actually been the perfect temperature! I can’t wait until Fall when all of the leaves start changing.

I have to get up early tomorrow, but I hope your week has been fantastic and full of clocks, air conditioning and safety.

Love you and miss you!!

xoxo Lizzie xoxo

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