Thursday, July 19, 2007

What the U.S. Looks Like From the Other SIde of the Ocean

I wrote the following post about 10 days ago, but have been reluctant to put in online, thereby breaking my self-imposed vacation. But I’ve found lots to blog about, but can’t start without a brief look back:

This is the Fiat Brava, the car we rented

I’ve been out of the United States for the past three weeks, traveling with my family in Italy. There is something refreshing about leaving your country and seeing the rest of the world from another culture’s perspective. It’s a great reminder how myopic we become when we only hear from one another. Some things I observed:

Italy is full of small cars that deftly zip through traffic and are comfortable doing 130 kilometers an hour on the autostrada. Why doesn’t the U.S. have some of these cars that consume so little gas? (Besides the Cooper Mini) They feel perfectly safe. We drove from Rome, up through Umbria, to Modena and Milan, then to the Dolomites and back to Milan on only five tanks of gas. (Of course gas costs $7 a gallon, but still, we got a big bang for our buck.)

There is something civilizing about long lunches and dinners. When I am at home, I most always eat in a hurry, usually grabbing something for lunch at my desk and throwing together some kind of meal for my family at night. I rediscovered the joy of eating in Italy (no surprise, I know). That’s not to say the food was that much better, as the San Francisco Bay Area is a cornucopia of delights, but I lingered over every meal with no deadline or appointment to divert my attention from pleasure. We stayed at a beautiful 11th century home in Umbria where there were five separate spaced devoted to dining – one under a grape arbor, one on a lawn, one around a stone table set in a sunny herb garden, one in a Buddhist shrine, and an indoor dining room. I couldn’t leave before checking out each one. My favorite was lunch under the grape arbor.

The dollar is very weak against the Euro, going from 1.36 dollars to the Euro to 1.40 by the time we left. This served as a daily reminder of George Bush’s inadequacies. That and the daily death count in Iraq.

There really are other white wines besides Chardonnay.

The clothes really are better in Italy. The most talked about man in Italy is not the former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. It’s Beppe Grillo, a comedian whose tongue and prose are so sharp that he is the unelected leader of millions.

When can I go back?


Tracey said...

I heartily agree about small cars. I am loving zipping around the city in our new Prius. Italy is a contradictory place. I too love the food, landscape, culture, style and way of life but then the people surprise me also. Why is TV dominated by scantily clad bimbos? Why did they support the Nazis at first? They can be conservative too -- that's why all the men wear nothing but olive green! Having said all that my family is planning to rent a place there next year...

Ilana DeBare said...

There is also something to be said for having wine with lunch. :-)