Time to meet the Locals
As you all know by now Russ and I love immersing ourselves in the Italian culture and have made some wonderful friends in Tuscany. After an arduous eight hour flight over the ‘great big pond’, retrieving our rental car and finally looking at the airport in the rear view mirror, I take a deep breath and feel instantly at home. Driving through the rolling hills of Chianti, seeing the landscape dotted with old stone houses and the grapes ripening on the vines makes my heart jump with joy. It’s a feeling hard to describe, but if I had to put it in words I would say: “Something bigger than happiness and contentment - warm, welcoming and simply right.”
In our many years of travel we have always tried to fit in with the locals and to observe and learn as much of their culture as we can. I strongly believe it’s important to show respect and gratitude toward them for allowing us glimpses into their lives, sharing their traditions, their food, their homes, businesses and their homeland with us traveling folks.
One of our favorite pastimes while in Italy is to get up early and sit in the town’s main piazza and watch the world come to life around us. For me it’s heartwarming to see how social and warm Italians are with one another. There isn't any rush to find a chain coffee shop, which provides the much needed caffeine boost to get started in a fast paced cooperate environment. People aren't beginning their days harried, with their mobile devices glued to their ears and running to get to their jobs.
Instead, if you sit and observe you’ll see businesses opening with the staff happily humming away, straightening up produce or setting tables with an elegant ease. The line begins to form in front of the local bakery from which wafts a heavenly smell. People chat and greet each other warmly and discuss the upcoming day’s events, their family matters or the town’s latest gossip. The older generations love to socialize. They grab a cappuccino or espresso, the local paper and then find each other. Any bench will do to sit outside and be friendly with one another. Looking at this from my observation seat I marvel at the stress free, leisurely way to take on the day ahead.
The waiter serving us our cappuccinos has a smile on his face, which broadens when listening to our broken Italian language attempts. It’s a nice smile though, not a condescending one, at our efforts to fit in. A little goes a long way in Italy! Approach the locals with a friendly attitude and don’t be afraid to use your Italian words, even if they are not perfect.
Know that you are in a different world from what you’re used to at home and I promise you a much better vacation experience. Get to know some of the locals, take the time to get away from the often crazy vacation itinerary and make time for the more simple things. You’ll have to return home soon enough, and the worst thing that could happen is that you feel like you need a vacation from your vacation before you join the rat race once again.
Our best recommendations and services were and still are given by our wonderful Italian friends.