A Pause for Humour (Una pausa per l’umorismo)

Italian Observations: Time, Illumination, Toilet Paper, Laundry and of course, Garbage

Please forgive me in advance; perhaps I’m wrong about everything.

I have been trying to understand this strange and beautiful country since I first visited in 2004.

Even as I write, my arrogance and biases are on display.

I have only scratched the surface with these shallow observations.

A story published by the Florentine 2016


Italian homes have few, if any, clocks. If you find one, chances are good that it will be frozen forever at the wrong time when the battery died, or the grandfather clock was not rewound.

Someone always forgets to wind the grandfather clock

Italians experience time differently than North Americans. If they say, “I will meet you at the café at 6:00, that could mean 6:30 or even 7:00. You will aim to meet them with the best intentions but in truth, you will learn to not arrive until 6:30 or 7:00 so everyone will be more or less on time.

I have only seen public clocks in train stations. If there is more than one clock, you can count on them being two different times. Of course, the church bells ring persistently, but it’s often hard to figure out how the chimes relate to the time of day.

In Venice- you can count on the clock being wrong

Italian homes are dark.

dinner by candle light is romantic, but cooking in the dark is a challenge

Their kitchens and bathrooms are clownishly dim. In North America, we are accustomed to rooms as bright as operating theatres. When we arrive in Italy, we aren’t impressed with the gloominess.  It seems like a bad joke; we search for ways to remedy the darkness.

Are they trying to save energy? Or do Italians have better eyesight? Maybe their eyesight is superior because they are accustomed to the murkiness in their homes and have exercised their ocular muscles.

Why do Italians have the crappiest toilet paper? While we search on NYT’s Wirecutter reviews for information on the fluffiest two or even three-ply sheets, the Italian bathroom has only the thinnest rolls. https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/the-best-toilet-paper/

I can only think it is because they use the bidet, still a feature in every Italian bathroom. I suspect their arses are cleaner than ours will ever be.

Where is the toilet paper?

Laundry is an occupation as well as a passion.

You must plan for this frequent event, or you will be stranded in your under-drawers while you wait for your clothes to dry. The clothes dryer is a rare commodity. The only one I have seen was not nearly as effective as ours. It sucked the water out, into a drawer-like contraption that needed to be emptied frequently

Once again, drying clothes outside saves energy. And it makes for all the sentimental photos that we tourists bring home. The sun makes the clothes smell good and stop bacteria from forming.

Italians are experts at laundering. Look at the array of products in any large grocery store.

It’s an education for any adult. When an Italian son marries, his mama will instruct her daughter-in-law about the proper way to launder her beloved’s undershorts and jeans.

Let’s talk trash.

Tuscany rivels Berkeley for its garbage regulations.  Garbage is rarely picked up at the curb. Italians load up their car to take their rubbish to the nearest bank of dumpsters.

I have ridden shotgun with an Italian friend to a different neighbourhood to make a clandestine garbage drop. In the cities, residents must take their trash to designated receptacles, hopefully only a few blocks away.

There are long discussions about whether cat litter is organic or not.

In the countryside, there is little garbage: paper is recycled to the wood stoves, organic waste goes to the chickens or as a last resort, to compost. Glass bottles are re-used for olive oil or wine.

We could learn how to make recycling a lifestyle choice from our Italian friends. My friend Cristina is the queen of leftovers. You would hardly suspect yesterday’s dinner is now a completely different dish. Chicken has been baked into a “salad pie” which we would call a quiche. Leftover rice when combined with curry and cheese becomes something wonderful on the palate.

2 thoughts on “A Pause for Humour (Una pausa per l’umorismo)

  1. Thanks for the lessons in recycling, and mulch especially toilet paper. If and when I travel there again I hope I will remember to bring my own TP.

  2. love it! Such great pictures to illustrate the point too–and so much I think is not unique to Italy but in my experience are true for the other southern eurpopeon countries as well.

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