Ladies, we all know that guy. The one you are supposed to avoid at all costs but cannot seem to keep yourself away from? The one your dad prays you will never date. The one that stirs up emotions you never knew you have, that causes you to do things you'd never thought you do, that makes you obsessive, neurotic, all around pazzo (crazy). The one that you can hate with your whole being one minute and cannot live without the next...
Well, for me, that man is Italy.
Now let me be clear that I am not talking about Italian men, in fact most of the Italian men I know are not much like their reputations portray. I think Italian men have earned a lot of their reputations simply because they live in Italy. Because it's Italy, not the men, that can leave your heart racing, dumbfounded, on the verge of tears and completely elated all at the same time.
Italy is untamed, spontaneous, and romantic. He's everything you look for in romance-novel man. He's also often unreliable, unfair, and relentless. He can be brash and dirty, yet for some reason you keep coming back for more. Just as you would with that guy. You can't figure him out and it becomes an addiction. Are you trying to change him, fix him, better him, like we females so often do? Are you obsessed with the unexpected? If that's the case, you're in trouble because Italy is the master of the unexpected for stranieri (foreigners), and you'll never be able to really figure him out. Each time you think you're close, he'll catch you completely off guard and send your head spinning all over again. Everything you do in Italy, even the mundane, becomes an adventure. An average trip to the grocery store will likely evoke immensely strong emotions and make you wonder why you continue this torrid affair...
You drive to the store with 4 things on your list. You are prepared, you have a purpose and you are determined to get in and out of the store as quickly as possible. (In my experience, this is how an American mind generally works). You pull up to find that the 7 parking spots around the store are taken up by 17 cars, who have not only managed to somehow squeeze into unimaginably tight spaces, but many of whom are parked perpendicularly (the Smart cars length is about the same as an average car's width), and a few are half on the sidewalk. So you proceed to drive around for 10 minutes and squeeze into a spot that is closer to home than the store, all the while wishing you had just walked. And it never fails, when you approach the store the parking area has magically cleared and you think to yourself for the first time that day "I hate Italy."
You are on the verge of spewing all of the Italian obscenities you know as you walk into the store when you are greeted at the cheese counter with a familiar, friendly smile and an offer to sample the fresh mozzarella, the olives that they just got that day, and a couple hunks of salumi piccante (pepperoni). In an instant, you demeanor changes as you are comforted by the warmth of the commessa (shop worker) and you think to yourself "I love Italy."
You proceed to look for the four things on your list to discover they only have one of the four. It's close to one o'clock, which means the stores will be closing for the next 3 hours and you will not be able to go to another shop to find what you wanted for lunch that day. You quickly concoct something new to prepare with what the tiny mercado (market) has to offer and you sulk up to the counter to pay, all the while thinking "This country drives me crazy." And, because you had to change your menu on the fly you come up two euro short. This is when the checkout lady tells you "No ti preoccupare" (don't worry) and waves you away with a smile and a "ci vediamo domani!" (see you tomorrow). And you think to yourself, "I love this country."
This is the emotional rollercoaster that I call Italian living. Each day offers something new that send your emotions reeling from one end of the spectrum to the other instantaniously. You can be walking the coast, completely in love with your surroundings--breathing in each step--the flowers, the sea, the rocks...the trash, the graffiti. And the love quickly turns to disdain for a country that has more natural beauty than one can imagine but it never seems like much is done to enforce the preservation of it. As an American you think "why don't they have higher fines for littering...and why aren't they enforced??" And you want to march straight to the municipal building and tell them what they need to do, and how to do it. How we do it.
As an American you might never be satisfied with Italy and how it works. But, also like with that guy, Italy is not asking for your approval. He is who he is; and that's a major part of his appeal. He marches to the beat of his own drum and he makes no aplogies. He's been doing it for so long that there is no changing him now despite the most valiant of efforts.
All you can do is learn to love him for him. It's the only way to truly receive all that he has to offer.