It’s the end of the year. Time to look back at what I’ve learnt over the past 12 months before setting some frankly impossible targets for the year ahead. The resolutions will come in Part 2 though, for now it’s time to take a look at what Italy has taught me this year…
1. To untrained English ears ‘Cane’ and ‘Carne’ sound exactly the same. To Italian ears they really don’t. On more than one occasion I’ve explained that my dog is tender and delicious and that my meat is really well-behaved. Not good.
2. You cannot teach Italian drivers to be more polite. I’ve spent the past year indicating at roundabouts, letting pedestrians cross at zebra crossings rather than accelerating towards them with my eyes closed, thanking anyone who gives way to me (ok, I’ve only had the opportunity to do this once), all in the hope that it might catch on. It hasn’t. They just stare at me like I’m the crazy one.
3. Never ask an Italian how they are, unless of course what you really want is their detailed medical history in which case, ask away.
4. The Italian countryside is full of scary animals. Before moving here I had a grape-tinted picture in my head of the Italian country idyll. That picture never once featured snakes, salamanders or scorpions. Admittedly, the scorpions are tiny, the snakes are, as far as we can tell, not of the poisonous variety, and the salamander was apparently a very rare sighting. Still, give me fat squirrels any day…
5. Piemonte wine doesn’t give you hangovers. My tests on this may not have been entirely scientific, but I’ve drunk a lot of it and I’ve not had a single hangover in 12 months. So, if you don’t want a hangover (and why would you want a hangover?) drink Piemonte wines!
6. If you can’t pronounce your Rs properly, Italians will think you’re a bit ‘special’, especially if you live near an area called Roero and your name’s Richard.
7. When you get a quote for any form of building work, in Italy it almost certainly won’t include the most important element. We have a quote for a swimming pool that doesn’t include digging the hole in the ground, a roof quote that includes everything except tiles, gutters and scaffolding and a quote for building a staircase that includes everything apart from building the staircase.
8. Not wearing enough clothes can kill you. As far as I’m aware, this is the only place in the world where the cold virus can be caught simply by not wrapping up warm and a draught can cripple a fully grown man. Be careful out there…
9. Italian burglars like Emmental.
10. For all its well-documented political and economic troubles, Italy is still a great country with wonderful people. Plus, where else can you ski, surf and then eat the best food in the world all in the same day? (Ok, probably quite a lot of places, but I still think it’s pretty cool!)