There’s a certain reluctance that becomes a part of one’s persona when they are traveling abroad in Europe. There’s a lot of second guessing.
“This restaurant has great reviews but I’m not sure this is real Italy, you know what I’m saying?”
“Should we go to the Trevi at night or during the day?”
“Is The Vatican tour really worth going on?”
“How do I order at this vineyard without sounding like a stupid American?”
I struggled to be my usual, confident self while I was in Italy last month because I had never been there before. I think that’s pretty par for the course. You’ve got to be sure of yourself otherwise you’re going to get bogged down. Slowly but surely I acclimated myself to everything that Italy had to offer, though.
I learned how to order an espresso at the counter in Italian (and never, under any circumstances, asked for a cappuccino past 11:00 a.m.). I started using a bidet. I even found myself saying “Ciao” to the people I was traveling with (even though the rest of my sentences were in English) like I was goddamn Carrie in Sex and the City. I started to fall in love with the idea of living in Italy.
In the back of my mind, however, was a little voice reminding me that this wasn’t real life. “This is how they live, John. Not how you live. Remember that because you have to go home soon.”
I spent two weeks in Italy, and towards the end of it, I really started to believe that I liked it better over across the pond than I did in America.
We romanticize European cities here in the states. I’m not sure why that is because if I’m looking at this objectively Europeans do not live as well as Americans. As much as I loved Italy, I was really happy when my feet were back on American soil and I was able to eat Chick-fil-A.
The scenery in quaint villages across Italy will make you second guess what the hell it is you’re doing still living in America. But at the end of the day, there’s just a lot that Europeans live without.
Showering daily is not a priority for most. I like to take two showers a day so that is simply something I cannot abide.
I stayed in several Airbnbs throughout Italy and they do have showers but it’s more of a glorified sink. There’s usually a detachable shower head and a small tub with no curtain. No curtain. You read that right. Which is why I think that showering isn’t on the top of the to-do list for most Italians.
Every morning when I would get up, I would have to wedge myself into these small showers and soap myself up. By the end of my trip, I was yearning for the comfort of my large, oversized sink and shower.
The cabs and rental cars that I used had zero leg room. You want to talk about economy size and traveling light? Look no further than Italy. Those people drive fucking clown cars and they’re totally content with them. As a person who grew up riding around in SUVs that got ten miles to the gallon and currently drives a boat (also known as a 2008 Chevrolet Impala) this was a bit of a culture shock.
And let us not forget about food. Yes, Italians are known for their opulent palettes. Italy boasts some of the best food in the world. But for all of that hullabaloo (and it’s really great, don’t get me wrong) I have to say that they simply don’t eat like we do.
Breakfast consists of a piece of toast, some prosciutto with melon, and maybe a scone or something. I like a light breakfast sometimes but not every morning.
Eggs aren’t something that get ordered very often and asking for an “American” coffee will get you a side eye from waiters. All shops shut down around 2:00 p.m. so if you want lunch (which I’m not entirely certain Italians even engage in), you have to do it before then.
Eating legitimate meals is saved for the evening around 7 or 8:00 p.m. which, if you’re not on vacation like I was, is an absurd time to be eating dinner.
Four or five courses with as much wine as you can drink. Don’t ask for aqua naturale, though because it’s akin to asking if you can fuck someone’s wife.
Okay, so you get the point. Obviously, Italy isn’t America. And it’s no secret that we live in excess here.
But is that really such a bad thing? Europeans are a small people. Tiny cars. Tiny houses. Tiny servings. People see pictures of Europeans sipping coffee on tiny streets at tiny tables overlooking ancient monuments in Paris and Rome and think “Wow, look how cultured they are.” Italy, and Europe, in general, is a great area of the world to visit. But when you really get down to brass tacks it’s not somewhere I could ever live.
Europe isn’t classier or more culturally vibrant than America. It’s simply different and sometimes different can be confused for being better.
Keep that in mind when you’re looking at some douchebag’s Instagram account (i.e., me) at his Italian villa overlooking Tuscany. He may be sipping wine on a hillside but unlike you, he doesn’t have a high-pressure showerhead or the ability to plug multiple electronics into a wall without shorting out an entire block of homes. .