Living in Italy for just over seven months has brought several visitors to my door for a few days at a time, each with their own list of expectations and misapprehensions. Categorising them has been interesting! Here we go:
- The Culture Vulture. Living in the Veneto has turned out to be an attractive place for visitors who want to visit cultural hot-spots such as Venice, Padova, Verona, Vicenza, Ferrara, Bologna and Ravenna, plus the many villas that dot the countryside within easy reach. For these visitors, I have my guide books to hand and enjoy a few days trekking around, mostly by train and on foot, to visit these beautiful places. This can be pretty exhausting and I have found myself quite tired after entire days spent exploring such wonders as the mosaics of Ravenna, the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza and the autopsy theatre in Padova. I have now visited the shrine of St. Anthony so many times, I am expecting to be on a fast-track to Heaven at some point in the future.
- The Tourist. I have seen by the reactions of some of my visitors that they feel my life in the Veneto is surprisingly ordinary. Expectations of a veranda draped in vines and lined with sun loungers on which to while away the time people-watching with a glass of ice-cold white wine in hand have made me realise that there have been too many movies set in Italy which immediately conjure up this image so loved by holiday makers to Sorrento and Taormina. I am not on holiday, I assure my crestfallen guests. I live here! I have ordinary neighbours who do ordinary everyday things like go to work, for example. We are not sitting around in the sun all day drinking Prosecco! For this visitor the markets are always a huge disappointment too, lacking tourist tat such as fridge magnets and naughty tea-towels and disappointingly (as they see it) full of fresh vegetables, fish, clothes and little old ladies pulling wheelie-bags. I protest that the markets are “real”, but that doesn’t always wash with The Tourist visitor.
- The Barfly. Always deeply disappointed by the social scene here, the barfly is a rare species here in rural Veneto. Thank goodness! But the lack of pubs has caused a bit of bewilderment to the occasional visitor accustomed to social life in Ireland.
- The Food Coward. Now, not that I’m advocating lashing into great hunks of polpo (octopus) or tackling a horse steak, or even a bit of musso (donkey) that is so popular here in the Euganean Hills and eaten with polenta, but really, some unusual dishes can surely be sampled! But no. Not all of my guests are brave enough to try anything outside of stereotypical Italian dishes, despite my entreaties. Upon staring blankly at the menu and listening to my translation, their eyes fill with real fear and they opt for a pizza, or, of all things, spaghetti Bolognese. And having to order milk separately with an Americano coffee causes endless bewilderment.
- The Shopaholic. Yes. The lure of the wonderful shops here in Italy is easy to understand and days spent shopping with friends can be great fun. But I am not really a shopper, only buying something when I need it, or on line. So going shopping with friends turns me into the person who sits on a velvet stool saying things like “too short” “too tight” “too young” “looks great” “you must be joking” and so on. This is a far more tiring category of visitor than the Culture Vulture.
So, visitors, keep it coming and I am sure that by the time I have been here a few years, I will have several more categories to write about.