Italian Hours

When are they open?

When we arrived in the Florence area, we reached the area near our pension at 6:15.  We needed cash.  The station was closed.

Today, we needed to get some groceries.  We spent the morning journaling, sorting through 2100 photos and being lazy.  It was time to get something done.  At 1:00, we headed out.

Only to find that Italy freezes up at 1 PM everyday.  This is not a mild aberration where a few old-school, family-owned businesses shut down in defiance of the global economy.  This is wholesale stoppage from 1:00-3:00 for every store that does not sell lunch.  Pharmacies, all retailers and offices close.  But it endeth not there..  Grocery stores?  Closed.

Here is my favorite.  We returned to the same gas station that was closed at 6:15 two days ago.  It was open.  Sorta.  Not for gas.  It was open for lunch and drinks.  We could get Pinot Griggio, a shot of Jamesons or a bottle of beer.  We could purchased the ham and cheese Panini or the tomato and hot dog sandwich (?!?!), but not gasoline.  At the gas station.  “For the gassa, you musta wait untila threeee.”

So I can get alcohol, but not gas, from a gas station in the afternoon.  Staggering.

On the other hand, there is something wonderfully human about this schedule.  After we eat, our bodies redirect blood from our brain and our extremities to our digestive tract.  This is the reason we get sleepy after lunch.  Some societies (Spain and Italy) embrace this.  Others (England, Germany, the US), do not.  Frankly, it makes me marvel at the people that would have 3 martini lunches with steaks in the 1950s in New York and then return to the office.  I want to take a nap just writing “three martini lunch with a steak”.

Yet, the fact that this is what the body wants to do does not seem to make for productivity.  I think that the southern Europeans say “my body is sleepy, why not sleep?” while the cultures like ours think “someone might pass me by, I must eat a light lunch of yogurt or salad and return to my desk.”  I like the former, but the latter will win the day every time.

This, however, is one of the reasons I love camp.  We get tons done every day AND we squeeze in a nap.  That is a good model.


The Tuscan Hills

Two things strike me about the Tuscan hills.  First, they are beautiful.  Second, they look like the Texas Hill Country.  I see oleander growing everywhere.  The rolling hills are strikingly similar.  The trees seem to grow to the same height.  Yet, they do not really look alike at first.

I think the difference is a function of three aspects.

  • The Italian Cyprus trees create distinctive look that we do not see in Texas.
  • The Italians have fields on the hillsides with grapes and olive groves.  We do not till the hillsides.  We understand that flat land is close enough and we would rather use that.
  • The villas tend to have a very eye-friendly and organic feel to them.  They seem meant to embrace the sun and nestle into the hills.  Many of our homes in the states attempt to ignore if not negate nature.  They are meant to be beautiful in a free-standing way.  The villas here seem intent to be a part of the landscape.

Here is a picture.  If you take out the olive grove and the Tuscan house, you have the area between Marble Falls and Austin!


Steve Sir

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