This is my apocryphal story about learning to be content in Italy. I know some of you will gasp and wonder how one could not be content, but ask any expat and they’ll give you a long list, especially when it comes to the concept of time.
My life-changing event took place, rather mundanely, at my local dry cleaner when we were living in Milan. I had brought in my clothes; browns and blacks. The lovely lady who owns the place told me to come back for them on Thursday, which I did.
But when I returned, my clothes weren’t ready. I felt the quick spark of righteous indignation that flares in many Anglo Saxons when services don’t meet the agreed schedule. Decades of living in a society that worships efficiency does that to you. Predictably, my anger started to rise as I stood before the empty counter.
Then I realized – dare I use the word epiphany? – that I didn’t actually need those clothes that day. I had other things I could wear. The reason my clothes hadn’t been cleaned was because Italians don’t mix colours at the dry cleaner’s, they have too much respect for clothing. There hadn’t been enough dark things at the cleaner’s that week to warrant a load. It was a sensible, economical decision. My clothes would get cleaned (perfectly, lovingly, and thriftily) when it was practical.
Wow. I suddenly understood that all I had to do to be happy in Italy was remember that time is fluid, our needs are never absolute, and exigencies are a part of daily life.
And that I have other stuff to wear. How liberating.
Winnifred Rosser-Cozijn said:
Shelagh you are so right. We have learnt that whilst one can start the day with a list of things to do in our small town, if even one gets done it has been a good day. Standing in the queue in the post office for 40 minutes to buy a stamp and hearing the conversations and being asked where I am from have made us part of our community.
Like you, just going to visit our house which is taking its time to be rebuilt and listening to the silence and looking over towards the ‘calunki’ brings an inner peace no amount of aromatherapy treatments etc can provide.
We realised early in the days after our arrival that moving to Italy means disengaging the accelerator – meet someone in the street, have a chat or better still a coffee. Everything requires a conversation and even then there may not be an outcome, but what is the urgency. We love our gentle new life and are learning to accept and live with the occassional frustrations. Above all, we have never been happier or felt better!
Having been in Italy myself, I know too well, that time is secondary to everything. I learned quickly not to believe the ‘hours of operation’..if it said 5 pm.. it really meant, usually 5 pm, but could open anywhere between 5 and 6 pm. Standing in line for an hour to pay a bill, and the wicket closes.. come back tomorrow they say. At the time one does lose their temper.. but now that I look back, I have to laugh about it. I too own property in Italy. And I love the peaceful tranquility of birds singing in the sheer quietness of hte countryside, the slight sounds of cow bells in the distance. It beats Rome or Florence, or Capri, any day.
For me there is nothing more peaceful and restorative than sitting under the cherry tree at the villa and looking out over the valley. Italy has so much to offer, but that one place is my special spot.
What a lovely story! If only some of the people near to me had the same attitude.
I am sure you will be very happy. x
Thank you – there are still times I have to remind myself of this moment (old habits die very hard) but it does help!
I love your comment – make like the patient land and chill out. I know when we move “patience” is going to be one of my biggest challenges – this is a brilliant analogy for me to tune back into – thank you!!!
Glad you found it helpful. I’ve found this issue to be the number one complaint from expats, so thought I’d share. Getting into their time zone instead of my own made a huge difference to me.
Debra Kolkka said:
If we want go spend happy times in Italy this is one of the first lessons we have to learn. I have learned to tackle one thing at a time, and be prepared to wait. It is not easy, but once you accept it life is much easier in Italy.