Sunday 25 May 2008

North to South

The other night I took my parents to Trastevere for dinner. Trastevere is one of my favourite parts of Rome, just over the river it is the old Jewish ghetto and to me feels like a small paese outside of Rome. There are cobbled streets off cobbled streets filled with restaurants, bars and small shops, all well priced and not so touristy. The streets are blocked to traffic thus giving it the feeling of a small paese and people congregate in one of the two main piazza's where buskers do tricks, musicians play tunes, children run around splashing water from the fountains and people sit just watching the world go by.

We were sitting in Piazza Trilussa (above) watching the farmers market spread out before us. It was evening time and peope were buying glasses of wine in plastic cups, handfuls of cheese and other local produce and most of them were coming to sit on the steps and listen to band which was just starting up. It was a lovely evening and my dad commented that you definitely do not see this in Australia - people just hanging out together in a local piazza, drinking a glass of wine from a plastic cup and just relaxing. True true, I said - you do not see this in Australia.

And fundamentally that is what it comes down to, this is where the difference is between our countries. Earlier that day I had been telling my parents about the expensive cost of living in Italy, in particular Rome. I said that it is near impossible to rent an apartment based on the poor wages, therefore people cannot go out every night and drink a glass of wine at a bar, as even the cheap house option will set you back at least 4 euros...and forget about cocktails costing you a minimum of 7 euro a pop. Perhaps that is why the people of Italy congregate in the piazza's? Perhaps it is because they cannot afford to go out and buy lots of drinks in the bars?

Bel ragazzo does not know why there is this traditional of congregation in the main squares. He says it could be because the Italians are not used to going to the one pub all night and getting so drunk that they cannot walk, they are not big fans of sculling tequila shot after tequila shot until they are so sick they vomit. They do like to drink - sure, we are not denying that, but they also enjoy each others company and do not need to be blind drunk to have a good time.

I however think it perhaps has something to do with money, going back years, decades and even centuries. Italy has always struggled, has always lost it's people to other more 'prosperous' parts of the world, and maybe to this day the traditions of old days just live on, being carried out in the main piazza's.

My dad commented that Italian's 'live for the day' and this seems so true. Dad said that since it is hard to get by here that people live life more to the full, enjoying every minute. In Australia on the other hand, where life is 'easy' (it is not without struggles but the cost of living it much lower then here and the wages are much higher, if you are willing yo work you will find it in Australia.) In Australia, and the UK people can become very greedy, self-consumed and hungry for power. You can make a lot of money, you can have a good job and in a lot of cases THIS takes over people's lives. They work 14 hour days, not because they have to...but because they want to. They want to make as much money as they can, they want to buy a house, a car, they want to buy as much as they can - and the reason they work so hard is that these things are within reach. In Italy you work like a slave and you still cannot afford to buy a house, so why on earth should we work ourselves to the ground?

Bel ragazzo and I were discussing this just the other day. The Australian's leave Australia to come to Italy where the way of life is slower, the values and priorities are different. The Italians go to Australia where they can make money, they can buy a house, they can live a good life and never want for anything. I imagine it's not just the Australian's but perhaps any other countries too... What we need however is a half way point. A country where the life is sweet, but where you can make a mark for yourself...where you can be more relaxed, yet still survive. Hmmm...magari here's to hoping.


Romerican said...

Lemme know if and when you find a country that's midway between the two, I'd move there in a second!

Leanne was in Italy now in Australia said...

Hi Romerican,
Here's to hoping!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

Yes that would be paradise and it doesn't exist. :)

I moved here from L.A. so Rome is cheaper to me. Especially food.

Hanging out in the piazza could be because people here live in apts not houses and are more social.

When I lived in NYC people would always be out and about. L.A. the streets are deserted, everyone is in their cars.

In a country that is culturally Catholic this idea that you determine everything that happens to you is a joke. In the States we like to believe that we are the masters of our universe.

However if you believe fate plays a big role you are are going to enjoy each day, it could be your last.

Leanne was in Italy now in Australia said...

Hi NYC - you are true about the a fact that people live in apartments here so they do tend to hang out in piazza's etc...The apartments can be so small too that if you have lots of people over it can be too much - so you need to go outside for some space!