I recently found the following in my WordPress drafts folder; I wrote it during my first week in Italy last summer, but for some reason didn’t publish it.
With all the activity and transition of late, I’ve been really missing Italy…but reading this post makes me look forward to the day I will visit again. And I remember what I had promised myself back then: instead of focusing on the ‘negatives’ of my own city, I would bring home those aspects of Italy that I loved most.
Fortunately, I still know how to linger over a good glass of wine. 😉
I’ve only been here a few days and already I can tell that dining solo in Italy is going to be one eye-opening experience. I knew this before I arrived; in fact it was one of the things I was most nervous about. Am I going to be the only single gal amongst tables full of amorous couples? How do I order food in Italy? How much do I tip? Do they even serve dinner at 6pm?
In Eat Pray Love, Liz Gilbert writes of a leisurely lunch during one of her many long walks in Rome: “I eat my lunch in a quiet trattoria here, and I linger over my food and wine for many hours because nobody in Trastevere [Rome] is ever going to stop you from lingering over your meal if that’s what you would like to do” (chapter 25).
I’m so glad I’m re-reading this book as I travel, as many of Liz’s insights resonate with my own experience. Back home, when I dine solo (or even with people), I’m usually aware that others might be waiting for my table. Though I’m a slow eater, I often feel I’m on a time limit. Lingering is generally not encouraged in North American establishments!
This morning, my ‘do not dawdle’ conditioning revealed itself. I was at my favourite cafe in Villasimius [Sardinia], having just finished my now-standard breakfast of a cornetto di chocolat and cappuccino. As I ordered some water, tables began to quickly fill around me. One man stood at the cafe entrance, looking for a free spot. I felt a mild sense of anxiety that I must hurry up and leave, as I was clearly finished.
Another man then asked if he could take one of my extra seats. He seemed extremely apologetic for interrupting me, which I thought was sweet. I then saw the first guy’s grandchildren (I presume) rush up to him, and they all walked away together. Turns out he had just been chilling, waiting for his famiglia.
It was then that I started to relax. Maybe no one was impatient and waiting. Maybe it didn’t even cross their minds to rush someone while they were still dining. Maybe the servers take a while in asking me what I want next, or bringing me my bill, because I’m supposed to savour every minute of the experience.
I’m not in ‘hurry-up’ culture anymore.
Later, at a bar having a glass of wine (or two) as I wait to catch a bus back to my villa, the server brings me dishes of peanuts, pretzels, courgettes, and yummy potato crisps. I look at all the food in front of me and again a mild neurosis arises: all this, for just me? I didn’t ask for it. Should I eat it all, or is that inelegant? If I don’t eat enough, is that rude?
Fortunately, it doesn’t take me long to realize that it doesn’t matter to them what I do with it.
I relax (again), put my book away, and stare off into space for a while. Because you know, that’s what they do here.
I love this place.