Saturday, September 19, 2009

Arriving in Italy with Argentines

The word for food in Italian is cibo, pronounced cheebo. Say it, "cheeboh," and you get the feel for what it's all about. There's a swallow, followed by an instant smile, then, with the aftertaste, an oh. Oh my.

The products themselves are why it's so delicious here - the cheese and produce and the right amount of seasoning in every wicked pizza slice. Do those products not travel well, when they make their way to Trader Joe's shelves? Or do they send us the lower quality of the batch? Is it something in the air here in the Emilia Romagna? It's way too tasty in this town.

People-watching on the streets is a similar experience. A look, a smile, an "oh my." The gall of it all - the matching, over-accessorized outfits, the patterns and colors and texture that scream for the attention. Attention the outfit owners so obviously gave in executing that look which, 9 times out of 10, is ridiculous enough to elicit an "oh my" the first few days you're in town. After, your eyes adjust a bit and your fashion tolerance augments to deal with the show of elegant grannies and fashion-forward little girls. Last week I went to the coast to hole up in a hostel. In Rimini, Italians jumped on the styles of recent immigrants from Central Africa - there were clusters of elderly Italian ladies strutting the beach boulevard in corn rows.

There's a silliness here that was missing in my world in Buenos Aires. You recognize Lady Gaga's Italian heritage in the fashion compositions of admin assistants walking through Bologna's city center to work. You enjoy the free buffet that comes with cocktail hour from 6:30pm to 9pm. You marvel at the Renaissance architecture in your daily life.

I got to Bologna one week ago and I'm settling in. School started last Monday, yesterday I went to a lecture by visiting MIT prof Richard Sennett. He's known for coming up with the 10,000-hour rule that appeared throughout Malcolm Gladwell's (The Tipping Point) recent bestseller, Outliers. Everything else is in Italian so it was fun to attend a lecture in the native tongue. By the time I leave I'll be the NYC master at ordering in Italian, waddling my way home from the plane.

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