Toilets, trains and traffic.
Italy’s La Dolce Vita can only become the sweet life once you have mastered these three obstacles.
Did I mention I love Italy? My heritage is English/Irish but my soul is Italian. I am convinced I was a courtesan in 16th century Venice in my previous life. But back to the present.
Having recently returned from this colourful country which glorifies not only the Madonna but the sexploits of its prime minister, allow me to share my top 10 tips on how to enjoy Italy, Zoomer style.
• Travel with a girlfriend who understands you in every way and who can anticipate your next move, your next thought and who lets you use the bathroom first in the morning.
• Leave the husband/boyfriend/man at home.
• Get fit before you leave. Concentrate on developing your quadriceps as these muscles are required for squatting on low toilets or holes in the ground. Do all Italians have short legs? Always anticipate that either there will be no toilet paper, hand soap or paper towels and plan accordingly.
Have said girlfriend scout out the bathroom first and report back to you. Carry Wet Ones in your purse.
• Travel with hand luggage only. You can snicker as you watch your jet-lagged fellow travellers line up waiting for their luggage to arrive.
Also, taking hand luggage prevents you from spending too much money on Italian shoes and handbags as you can’t fit them in your one carry-on bag. Your pocketbook will thank you upon your return home when there is no Visa bill expected to drive you into an apoplectic shock! You will also need to develop your biceps (see Note 3 above) as these are required to hoist said bag onto plane or train overhead compartment as there is unlikely any chivalrous man available to assist you.
• Dress like an Italian and not a tourist. All that is required is a scarf wrapped fashionably around your neck, dark sunglasses, the requisite Prada or Furla handbag and cigarette in mouth (optional of course!)
• Learn a little Italian. But be careful as a slip of the tongue may get you in trouble. For example, Sono felice means “I am happy” but sono facile means “I am easy…”
• Understand Italian time especially when it comes to train schedules.
The trains may leave when they are supposed to, and then again, they may not. Do not be alarmed when the train is supposed to leave from one platform but actually departs from another.
This can certainly cause a huge row with travel partner so again, please refer to Note 2 and leave man at home.
• Unlearn everything you have learned about defensive driving. Realize signals are only for decoration and that the word ‘yield’ is foreign to Italian drivers. Be brave. Be aggressive. And make sure you have an up-to-date will drawn up before you leave home.
• Wear comfortable shoes and not stilettos, as walking and climbing stairs is mandatory.
• Forget about your diet. Eat, drink and eat some more. There are 750 different types of pasta to enjoy in Italy… and did I mention wine!?
That’s it. Return home with pleasant memories of La Dolce Vita and lots of photographs to share with your husband or boyfriend, who will be waiting for you at the airport with a smile. Remember to tell him, Sono felice!
April Lewis is the local communications director for CARP, a national group committed to a ‘New Vision of Aging for Canada.’ She writes monthly.