Italian Culture

by Leslie Woodford
(Savannah, GA)

I spent a year and a half in Italy. I loved it. I loved learning Italian and enjoying all of the culinary delights that Italy offers. I frequently ate in the homes of people I met there. Man! The food was amazing. It's hard to imagine a place where so many people are such great cooks.

I drooled over the display windows of shoe shops. There were always beautiful shoes to choose from. I wished I could have an unlimited shoe wardrobe, unfortunately I didn't have an unlimited pocketbook. Ha!

I delighted over the blunt and outrageous things people said on the bus. I chuckled as one woman got worked up about the increasing number of "strangers" (foreigners) in Rome and another man replied to her by asking if she believed there should be only seven Romans in Rome, one for each of the seven hills. Such passion; such uninhibited expression.

Another time, while riding the bus on a early spring morning, the weather was just starting to warm. A woman got on the bus and loudly declared: "Whew! You can tell it is Spring by the stench!" Some Italians wear deodorant, but not antiperspirant. Also, some Italians bathe only every other day. In the Summer, the buses, especially when they are crowded could be quite ripe smelling. Her comment gave me a chuckle because of her passionate, uninhibited declaration of what she noticed as she boarded the bus.

Overall, I loved Italian food. No one prepares it better than an Italian. I'm crazy for pasta, and Italians know how to fix it al dente. Pasta sauce was always made from fresh ingredients and tasted marvelous. From time to time an Italian house wife would treat us to "pasta al forno." We might call it "Lasagna" in the US, but it was nothing like our dish. It was light and wonderful.

However, there were a few dishes that I could not stand. I hated when eggplant was in season--it didn't matter how it was cooked, fried, boiled or included in red sauce, it always had a mushy consistency that I could never quite handle. At Christmas time, I agonized over eating "just one more" slice of fruitcake. Christmas tradition. Blech. I don't like fruitcake; but I ate it anyway because refusing it would have been impolite.

Most of all, I enjoyed the people of Italy. Their love of food, friends, and expression. They welcomed me warmly.

Comments for Italian Culture

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Jan 06, 2012
Glad you enjoyed our food......
by: Italiana

Dear Leslie Woodford from Savannah, GA.
I am from Italy and lived in your country for around 15 years. After reading your article about my culture I was left with a bitter taste in my mouth and shocked by the unsophisticated (nicely put) display of ignorance and bigotry.

You ate yourself through people homes without appreciation. You didn’t find it necessary to mentioning even once how important it is to us to show love and appreciation for the people we care for, by simply inviting them into our home.
Many of the dishes which were cooked for you, were probably done by carefully selection of special ingredients and special heed (not mentioning the additional expenses).

You completely failed to learn about our deep rooted passions, our art and history. And if by any chance you did expose yourself to it to some extend, you failed to mention it in your insulting and belittling article about my culture.

I am certain you were delighted to find a bigot on the bus, you being from the south I am certain that you are very familiar with prejudice and bigotry. You didn’t seem to get the lesson that was given to you that day.

Concerning body odor… is inappropriate and not tolerated in my culture as well as in yours. Your very statement that “Italians wear deodorant, but not anti-perspirent” was a display of your education in the school of “deliverance”. Have you smelled the aroma of a hot summer day on a crowded (and air-conditioned!!) bus in America lately?

Now, I will not get into details about what I’ve learned in your “culture” during this 15 plus years, but I can tell you one thing for sure, the odds are very high that your ancestors were probably still living in caves while mine were bathing with fancy oils in marbled houses with fully functioning aqueducts.

You have described my country just as a typical illiterate southerner would, in a very insulting way. Shame on you Leslie Woodford from Savannah, GA! I don’t believe you should be traveling to other countries, try to stay in America.

Jan 09, 2012
Accept my apologies
by: Leslie Woodford

Dear Italiana,
I appreciate your frank comments about my article especially because it reminded me of the compassion and love that I experienced in Italy. My thanks goes out to all of the wonderful people who shared their homes and families with me.

In sharing my personal experiences on the bus, I hoped to underscore what I find to be a wonderful Italian characteristic which is the uninhibited freedom of expression. The two women that I highlighted boldly announced their opinions of what they saw on the buses. I didn’t intend to be insulting, forgive me if I was.

I welcome your perspective on the US and/or a new post to this website that shares your perspective of Italian culture. I’m sure that you would give great insight and perspective to the nuances of your and my culture. I hope to hear from you again soon.

Jan 31, 2012
Delightful Insight to Italy
by: Karen

I read this article differently than Italiana,

It is delightful and the account on the bus was great. I can picture it in my mind. I have been to Egypt and life there is quite different. I had lots of experiences like the one on the bus in Italy.

We in the west have such a different life. It is great to travel and explore other countries.

Difference is good. Makes life fun. We need to be able to laugh at our selves.

Love your site!

Dec 10, 2015
by: Anthony

Have any of you taken a ride on the wonderful smelling NY subways ? The smell of the unwashed gang bangers with their pants to the ground and their horrid breath are enough to make you get off at the first stop not to mention the homeless that act like they live on the subway.

Sep 15, 2017
by: Julie

My goodness. If this is how Italiana reacted to this article, I can only imagine how she'd react to a truly negative write-up! Some people would complain their ice cream is too cold...

Anyway, I loved this post. It sounds like you had a great time in Italy and look back on it fondly.

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