Disclaimer: the author was born in Italy and lived there for 30-odd years.. So she knows very well what she’s talking about!
Last time I went to visit my family in Italy I had the strange feeling, since boarding the flight in Edinburgh, that I had somewhat managed to make a mistake. I didn’t feel at ease at all. Not surprising, because since I migrated abroad nearly five years ago I arranged to go back always less and less. I now go for a visit every 14-15 months and I hope to go back every two years from now on, unless it is an emergency visit. As far as my nationality is concerned, not sure why but I feel more British than I ever felt to be an Italian. Apart from speaking the language, I have no idea what I could have in common with modern-day Italians (considering what I think about the majority of them, I hope I have NOTHING in common with them!).
Well, more later and let’s go back to the trip.
As soon as I land in Pisa, a drowsy ‘carabiniere’ has a look at my passport and let me go through the border. I meet my mum and my brother at the arrival lounge, a long-delayed meeting (I had left Cumbria early in the morning, met a friend in Edinburgh and then patiently waited for my flight to leave, one hour delay….). I get to my mum’s home at five to midnight. I soon fall asleep but, as strange as it may be, I feel like I am in a hotel. Since last time I was there, my brother has taken up residence in my old bedroom so I am ‘dislodged’ to another bed in my mum’s bedroom. Husband is not with me on this brief journey, he was too busy at work. Then I also thought that it was a good idea to tidy up my old things once and for all and to take everything back with me (we recently bought a house in Cumbria).
The following day, it is incredibly scorching hot. My mum and I arrange to go to the supermarket before noon and before the heat can take a toll on us. We wall ourselves up until about four, when the heat seems decreasing (it is the first week of June and the temperature is nearly 39 degrees from 1 pm to 7 pm!!), although I guess ‘decreasing’ is not very appropriate in this case given that I feel like I am sweating buckets of sweat anyway. I need to purchase a suitcase to bring back with me to UK and I am totally appalled by the rudeness and impoliteness of shopgirls and counter assistants. Never mind, I think, I don’t have to stand that anymore, I don’t live here. I pay for the suitcase once I find the right one and go back.
On Saturday, I have to go to the Post Office because I have received a credit note from the Italian Revenue and Customs, from 2008… A big amount of money, it took only six years to have them back… 16 euros lol (more or less the equivalent of 13.50 £). Of course I get to speak to the most impolite counter assistant of the whole Italian Post Office system!! First, she asks why I got the wrong letter (“it is C for this kind of document, not B!” How can I know?), then she tries to lecture me why I should have had the ‘Codice Fiscale’ card with me like I am an idiot who never lived in Italy, then she totally appears off her mind when she asserts that everyone in Europe has it, even in the Health national cards, well I show her my British one and then she is forced to shut up because our NIN is not used as the Italian CF and guess what, it is not mentioned on health cards…. Well, needless to say I can’t get the money and I have to go back home and dig the CF card out of somewhere. Two hours later the card shows up and I go back. Although I was silently praying not to end up with the same lady, yet on her request I have to go back. Whilst she is doing her operation and I am waiting for my bloody 16 euros, she starts asking me questions and expressing doubts that I ever moved my residence address. She directly starts insulting my intelligence when she tries to lecture me again that I should have told the consulate I was changing address when I actually filled my application form at the consulate six months after I became a Uk resident, nearly 5 years ago. I am now totally FURIOUS. I explode and I go on a rant finishing with “if things don’t work in Italy and various institutions and companies are unable to speak to each other is not my fault or my business either”. With that, I storm off out of that office with my bloody 16 euros, swearing not to ever go back again.
At this point, I am already fed up and wish I could jump on a plane on the same day and bye, bye Italy. It was not over, though. Sunday goes by with no further hassle. On Monday we have decided to take a day off and go to the beach. We choose a location in Maremma, couple of hours of driving from my mum’s town. First of all, I don’t drive in Italy anymore because people are crazy, as in ‘totally crazy’. Speed limits are only used to get a few drivers fined, otherwise it seems like nobody notices those round signs circles in red with number in them…. Unless they get aware there is a speed camera on their path and they pull the brakes at full force! For example, if they are driving at 130 km/h and the speed limit is 90, be sure that they will drive at 80 in front of the camera, so be prepared to see people suddenly decelerating in front of you, therefore… Keep your distance!
The day ‘off’ at the beach is nearly worse than what I have already experienced at home…. A ton of screaming Italians, people pissed off because you are planting your big umbrella too close to theirs (easy to do, given that all Italians whine they are all poor and close to starving.. Nevertheless, first week of June, midweek, it seems like everybody is on the beach and I am sure you know that hotels and holiday apartments in Tuscany are not very cheap!), African vendors trying to sell you their junk accessories every five minutes, wasps and…. A scorching, unbearably hot sun that burns you after one hour you sat on your beach towel. A first-class nightmare 😦 My mum is with us too and she seems like she is barely able to breathe. I get sunburnt a bit in my back and one of my feet, my brother skin colour is now of a shade close to shiny red tomato LOL. We leave at four and we get home at eight, after the usual, long traffic queues around Florence. I could not mention that I also went into two shops before and after the beach-time and of course I got treated as dirt by the counter assistants twice (maybe Italians customers have no self respect!).
After that unpleasant experience that ruined my only ‘holiday’ day during my week in Tuscany, I decide that staying at my mum’s home until my departure is definitively a good idea. I am counting the hours to my flight back and I am still thinking over how I could have ever stood that kind of routine whilst I was living in Italy. Was it lack of hope, a future? Was it depression or just the unawareness that something better and more ‘civil’ existed? Was it the fact that all Italians have to stand that because nothing changes no matter what they do?
After one week, I say bye to my brother and mum and promise them I won’t be back for a long time. They are welcome to come any time, of course.
Whilst I was on my way to Bologna airport, it was not surprising that: only two Irish guys and a Spanish one helped me with the luggage (Italian guys could ruin their nails, you know!) while I was on the train; Italian people use any kind of exit and entrance while getting on a bus, no matter if you are struggling with your luggage; a group of young Italian girls distastefully commenting about a British family clothes (well at least in UK we are not starving ourselves to buy a Gucci bag and pretend we are wealthier than we are, dumbasses!); another counter assistant replying in a impolite and rude manner (are you surprised?).
In my brief stay, I only saw a couple of friends and only the ones who gave me a positive vibe. I am aware that I can’t take the usual, endless, whining Italian attitude anymore. They get on my nerves. Not to mention they were seemingly shouting all time, even when speaking on their mobiles…. I found that the Italian society as a whole seems like it has totally lost his values and what good of being an Italian was left.
I am very proud to say I grew up as totally different from them. Once I was bullied for that reason, now being an outcast is for me a source of great consolation and even happiness.
P.S. By the way, I can now grow tomatoes in UK too so I am sure I won’t miss Tuscany that much anymore 😉