Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Italy: Dead Solid Perfect Except No One Is Smiling

Italy. Near perfect weather on the Venice coast this time of year -- green, lush, a paradise filled with tall, rail-thin olive-skinned women, and even taller, darker men who could give one a complex if ego is an issue. Bottom line? They are beautiful enough to compete for naked space in most fashion magazines.

On its face, Italy is dead solid perfect, but for one nasty little fact that I have not been able to resolve: In developed Europe, say the researchers, the Italians (as a nation) are least satisfied with their lives. And, my anecdotal perspective is consistent with the numbers. The women are pouty and the men sound angry much of the time. Service (as in friendly) is not a common experience here. At best, it is not ugly, just frigid.

The giveaway is that almost no one smiles here -- except when they tell you "no, that is not possible," a phrase that seems to bring them a modicum of pleasure and even then it evokes only a guilty grin -- like a child who just peed his pants and takes some perverse enjoyment in the fact that someone else is going to have to deal with it.

To be fair, however, I readily admit the Italian culture is "cool" by any definition of the word. They wear the best clothes, shoes and without a doubt sport the most fashionable sunglasses to be had in this world, and they wear their "dark-as-legals" 24-7, including in smoky bars where their movements often mimic the blind. I saw one young man salting the table today since he completely missed his plate of food behind his Serengetti shades.

I (theoretically) have only another day to solve this conundrum: How can the prettiest people on earth living in an apparent paradise spend their time grousing about life while hidden behind dark glasses? I must know the answer which means I'll have to stay until the job is done. Such, after all, is the mark of a true professional. :)



Anonymous John Gallagher said...


I find Northern Italy to be a similar mystery. The Italians not only dress the best and have great looking people, but they have the best food, which may be why they don't smile. Most Italians grow older and heavier at the same time.

I also find their culture to be one of a lack of action. "Why do today what can be done perfectly well tomorrow?" "You need it in a week? I can get it to you in six weeks."

Anyway, it is a GREAT place. I loved visiting and working there. I hope you find your answer! Maybe a good glass of lambrusco would help you to determine the answer!!!

7:31 AM  

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