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Editor's Note: Terry Horne is publisher of The Exponent and Telegram. His column appears every Sunday.
Ten Indispensable Things to Know
When Visiting the Country of Italy
By TERRY HORNE
I married an Italian so understand that the last thing I would ever want to do is insult Italy or the people who live there, come from there or call it their heritage.
But there are some Things You Need To Know when visiting that country _ 10 such things to be exact. In 1996 I made my third visit to Italy. I am now an expert. In other words, I know just enough to have an uninformed opinion.
My wife's mother and father grew up at Sant' Andrea on the Ionian Sea in the province of Calabria in southern Italy. The father married the mother and brought her as a teen-ager to the United States where their three children were born. They still reside in the USA but also own a home near the beach along the Ionian Sea. It is one of the most beautiful spots on earth. Making it even more beautiful is that when making vacation plans it is a free place to stay for family members.
With that introduction of my credentials out of the way, the Number One Thing You Need To Know when visiting Italy is: IN ROME IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO DO AS ROMANS DO.
Romans know you are a tourist and stick you double or triple. Just like in New York or Paris, they treat you like dirt and expect you to pay extra for the privilege.
As an example, we were shopping one day in Rome for an appropriate dress that covered my wife's shoulders so that we could tour the Vatican. All the dresses she packed were light summer dresses and judged inappropriate. Judged that way by my wife because she figured this was a great excuse to get a new dress in Rome.
Anyway, at one dress shop she found a one-of-a-kind dress and had it in her hands discussing its merits in the American language (as opposed to the English language which is quite different, but that is another column). The language thing and my blond hair must have tipped them off we weren't Roman because just as she was about to make an affirmative decision the store proprietor came over and took the dress out of her hands without explanation. He then gave it to a young Roman lady. She bought it and we left the store empty-handed.
Second Thing You Need To Know: UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU DRIVE A CAR IN ITALY.
They drive on the right-hand side of the road in Italy. But that is the only similarity to driving in the United States. Speed limits do not exist even though they are posted. Passing lanes are not required. That is what the yellow line down the middle of the road is there for _ smart drivers from either direction pull over to the shoulder to avoid a passing auto.
Road signs are also quite different from the USA. One sign that I thought for two weeks meant "Do Not Enter" turned out to mean "No Parking." That is a significant difference. In one city I got frustrated because it didn't seem like there was any street that I could enter. So I parked the car.
Number Three Thing You Need To Know: UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES TRY TO SPEAK IN THE ITALIAN LANGUAGE.
My wife and everybody in her family are fluent in Italian. I tried to pick up a few phrases and was really proud when I managed to communicate even the simplest statement. But that changed when one day we were listening to the car radio and my wife began laughing. I asked her what was so funny. She said two radio personalities were doing a skit of Americans trying to speak Italian. She said they were applying the American accent heavily and it was really funny. And also, she said, very accurate.
Number Four Thing You Need To Know: GO ON A DIET BEFORE YOU GO TO ITALY.
Two years ago I gained seven pounds in 17 days. This year I gained six pounds in 10 days. Pasta, fresh cheese, great seafood, Italian bira (beer) and Italian vino (wine) are all irresistible. Another way to
come out ahead in this area is invest heavily in liposuction stocks.
Number Five Thing You Need To Know: ITALY WAS NOT DESIGNED TO BE ORGANIZED.
Do not bother to stand in an orderly line. No one else does. Just shoulder right up front. Lines are for Germans and the Swiss.
Number Six Thing You Need To Know: ITALIANS GENERALLY LOVE ANYTHING AMERICAN.
Most of the television shows are American reruns that have been dubbed in Italian. One of the favorites is Beverly Hills 90210. The young people are all trying to figure out how to visit the USA because they think that is how we all live. Baywatch is another provider of the American Reality for Italian television viewers.
Number Seven Thing You Need To Know: MANY WOMEN GO TOPLESS ON ITALIAN BEACHES.
For American men that means getting your eyeglass prescription updated before visiting Italy. For American women, that means don't let your husband go within three miles of a beach.
Number Eight Thing You Need To Know: TAKE YOUR MONOPOLY GAME MONEY BECAUSE IT IS VERY SIMILAR TO THE ITALIAN LIRE AND ABOUT AS VALUABLE.
In theory, the Italian equivalent of the dollar is the Lire. The going rate for a cup of coffee and a breakfast roll was about 2500 Lire. In USA money that is about $1.65. Take either a very thick money clip or plan on going to a Currency Exchange Center about every other day.
Number Nine Thing You Need To Know: ITALIAN MEN THINK THEY ARE VERY SEXY AND ARE VERY BOLD WITH WOMEN.
My wife tells me Italian men are very sexy. She also says all those guys were her cousins.
Number Ten Thing You Need To Know: IN ITALY THERE ARE LOTS OF COUSINS.
Updated January 26, 1997
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