Just read through the journal I kept while in Italy. It's pretty detailed (even noted the food we purchased) until day five. Not one more entry.
At this point it seems moot to attempt to recreate our adventures from that date forward but I must admit it was good to be reminded of our first week...I was surprised at how much I'd already forgotten!
Although every person we dealt with in Italy (shop owners, restaurant employees, etc) were polite and kind (except one: the owner of a kitchen store showed great exasperation and scolded us for lifting items to take a closer look or to check the price tag on the bottom--we did not give her our business) not one person made eye contact with us when walking on the street. Even when we initiated a "buongiorno" with a smile...no response. Not in Firenze (Florence), Fiesole, Pisa, Rome, or Siena. It felt so completely incongruous with their individual responses to us when doing business. Have no idea if it's a cultural thing, unique to central Italy or an anomaly that only we've experienced.
I loved that the towns mentioned above (and the landscape seen via our train or bus rides to same) sported very few (if any) billboard ads, etc. It was a welcome media-dearth environment. And when I did see such signs, they were, for the most part, very small. But predictably their messaging was "thin-driven" (a Times-Square-like screen showing fashion run-way models in the main square of Firenze, with a large photo of an extremely thin male model plastered on the building next door (an Abercrombie & Fitch-like ad). This photo I took of a poster in the window of a local Firenze bank, however, actually surprised me:
Reading Italian is not a strong suit but the model's fond, sideways glance toward the donut (and the higher percentage yield) pulls a bit of a reversal on our culture's "good" food / "bad" food portrayals...yet it still exemplifies black & white thinking (it may be that this ad actually originated in the US and was translated into Italian)
Even if there had been a plethora of negative extraneous messaging, nothing could of kept me from enjoying the phenomenal cuisine and wine of the region! We had a memorable time.
Prior to leaving the U.S., I downloaded to my Kindle a book our daughter recommended, Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of my Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman. I didn't begin reading it until I returned home (too much to see!). Although this seems like a real non sequitur, please bare with me. In the final pages of this book, Ms. Feldman writes a message that I'd like to leave with you:
People want to know if I've found happiness, but what I've found is better: authenticity. I'm finally free to be myself, and that feels good. If anyone ever tries to tell you to be something you're not, I hope you too can find the courage to speak up in protest.
A beautiful sentiment, especially for those who suffer with an eating disorder, but it also provides the word I'd been searching for to describe Italy: authentic. Whether or not people smiled at us on the street, the place exuded the feeling that Italy is what it is: no excuses, no apologies. Amazingly refreshing.
[Originally posted on the Gürze Books Eating Disorders Blogs]