THOUGHTS ON ITALY – LATE SUMMER 2017 – Part III
AT THE RISK OF BEING ACCUSED OF BEING CAPTAIN OBVIOUS, IT’S EUROS, NOT DOLLARS YOU’RE SPENDING
The more time an American spends in Europe, the more likely you’ll become accustomed to their currency, and that’s not always good news. Shortly before our trip, €1 bought you $1.15 U.S. After a while, you may see something for €50 and forget the currency sign and think it’s in dollars instead. If you simply want a gelato and cappuccino, the cost is much more mitigated. If I tired of standing in line at San Pietro Basilica and need food and drink, perhaps a primi or secondi this might set you back €20. If this is common, you may find yourself spending 15% or more on items unconsciously. Spending weeks in Europe and perhaps overindulging in food, drink, and hotels for you and your spouse could cost €1000, or, said differently, perhaps $150 more than anticipated.
WHO VOTED FOR DONALD TRUMP?
During the early part of September ’17 with the American election and its current occupant in the White House means, you will have ample chances to discuss American politics. It could be visiting Italy, Germany or Belgium; Europeans want to know about DJT. Most Europeans are dumbfounded on how DJT made it as our POTUS. The subject often came up — inquiring minds from Europe wanted to know how this was possible.
I could directly respond to their inquiry and talk about the Electoral College, voter suppression, wiki leaks and the constant drip of Clinton emails, Southern Evangelicals predominantly voting Republican, the Russian interference in the national election, or the lack of social media scrutiny on who’s able to buy ads to help swing the election towards Trump but I digress.
Anyway, their questions and comments didn’t at all deter me from explaining what I observed occurred on November 9, 2016. Some might say it was a perfect storm and many of our electorate just wanted dramatic change in DC. What also intrigued me was meeting many other Americans in various parts of Italy wonder aloud how this could have occurred. We commiserated on the state of our state. In fact, I didn’t meet one other American in Italy that actually voted for DJT. Many just shook their heads and hoped our nation survived this challenging time in our nation’s history. It’s conceivable that some of these fellow travelers weren’t telling the truth, it’s tough for me to know. There’s a chance some may have voted for Trump but because he’s such a polarizing figure, didn’t want to publically engage in a discussion or possible argument. It’s conceivable that most Americans that I met in Italy indeed were more progressive and wouldn’t imagine voting for the current occupant. Perhaps even some voted for a third-party candidate. Having said that, I suspect most American travelers who were not traveling in a large group were telling the truth. However, if I had run into a large bus tour of American seniors from Iowa or Tennessee, which would have dramatically changed my impression of fellow American travelers in Italy not liking Trump.
LA DOLCE VITA
If you read any travel or culture books on Italy, it won’t be long before you come across the ‘La Dolce Vita’ expression, meaning ‘The Sweet Life.’ Some more sophisticated and well-seasoned followers of Italian culture might also say ‘La Dolce Vita’ was Federico Fellini’s distinguished film from 1960. Admittedly, I’m a little envious we don’t have such an expression in the U.S. While touring Italy, I saw ads with this expression as well as some restaurants and clothing shops with this name. I was intrigued to see ‘La Dolce Vita’ still being used in Italy, which prompted me to ask several Italians about this expression. Is this still used? Is it still in vogue? The general response was that no Italians really use that expression anymore. They realize it’s cliché and is something tourists might think is used in modern day Italy. Perhaps merchants use this for marketing and branding, knowing it’s no longer in vogue in Italy although most travelers are not aware of this and this might still make a connection with more seasoned travelers.
DRIVING AROUND THE AMALFI COAST
Once I returned from Europe, some friends asked me about how Italians drive. My best description would be controlled chaos. They are aggressive and will cut off drivers when the situation arises but it’s more like merging which everyone expects. Fellow motorists are not offended if someone quickly turns in front of them, as this is part of the traffic pattern. With much traffic and narrow roads, you grab what you can. It’s not like some areas in the U.S. where some motorists are offended if you slightly cut them off. They don’t drive as fast as the Autobahn but you need to keep in moving at a quick pace if one chooses the left lane.
On the Amalfi coast, there are as many Vespa’s (Italian scooter) as cars and many of these two wheelers will zoom past cars on the left or right, hill or no hill. If scooter drivers see an opportunity, they will try to get ahead of as much traffic as they can. I would not say they are risk averse, they can be quite aggressive and many don’t closely follow the speed limits in southern Italy. The irony is most Vespa drivers wear helmets even though they are not mandatory. They may speed, pass illegally or zip out in front of motorists, but when it comes to something not required, the Vespa drivers invariably wear helmets.
One more thing about Vespa’s, it means ‘wasp’ or ‘hornet’ in Italian. I’m sure there are many motorists who feel those Vespa’s zooming around them, if given a chance is something they’d want to swat away.