After being in Italy for less than three weeks, I believe we have picked the perfect country to teach us about slow travel in all the right ways. The discomfort that comes from leaving our American pace behind, has been palatable. For example:
I decided to have my hair done in Rome. After three hours, as I was still in the chair and people all around me were smoking, laughing and drinking espresso, I felt forgotten. I felt my, “I am the CUSTOMER” speech lurching in my throat but somehow I knew the moment should be observed. When in Rome, I kept telling myself, when in Rome. I left after four long hours. loving my hair and feeling proud that I swallowed all that I knew long enough to just let it happen.
I realized shortly after our arrival in Italy that clothes dryers were almost non-existent. Not only that, when you start a load in a small, Italian washing machine, the cycle takes 2-3 hours. Then, you hang the clothes to dry, often inside, with no central heating (until after Oct. 15th I am told) to dry them, and presto, they are dry two days later. As a mother of three, I can tell you, this has been a challenge. Last night, however, as I was tucking my son in, he said, “My sheets never smelled this much like home at home.” There is something to be said for slow laundry!
As I have learned repeatedly, while running errands with the kids, almost everything, in almost every city, even H&M in Rome, closes from 1-4 or maybe 5, for lunch. After the initial inconvenience of it all, I asked the one person I found that spoke English, why everything was closed. She told me that lunch time in Italy is sacred. Many kids get out of school at 1:00 or 1:30 and everyone meets at home for their main meal of the day. She believes it is the reason the familial structure is still more in tact in Italy than in some other countries. It is worth noting that the divorce rate in Italy is only 12% as compared close to 60% in the United States. Now when I see Chiuso signs for three hours in the middle of the day, I smile, imagine everyone enjoying family time and I remember that is the reason we are on this journey.
After the towns, villages, and cities wake up from their mid-day Riposo it is time for Passeggiata. Passeggiata is a slow, gentle stroll through the main streets of the old town or centro storico. This also means that very few restaurants are open for what we call dinner time in the United States. Most restaurants do not even open their doors until 7:00PM and because our children are starving by then, we are usually the only people sitting down to eat before 8:00PM. Again, slow travel is a choice and Passegiata is the perfect metaphor for slow travel. No one is in a rush to get to their destination. Some have dressed up, many arm in arm, meeting, greeting, hugging, kissing, and walking. The purpose is to connect. Even if it means we are waiting by the door for the pizzeria to open, it is worth every moment.
Italy, even in its busiest cities, has mastered the art of a graceful pace. We are still clumsy and stumbling and at times resisting, but we can feel the peace artfully washing over us.