Mum came to visit me in Puglia. I haven’t seen her for three months. Obviously it stormed (in August, outrageous), so instead of spending a day on a sun lounger at the beach, we spent an entire day in a bar on the port front, getting cosily hammered on something which tasted suspiciously like Prossecco but which only cost €3 for a carafe.
Aside from a few brief intervals of sunshine, which saw us dash outside to a bench in a bid to get my mother some sun, we spent the day in the same spot, watching the comings and goings of lots of Italians.
This caused her to make an inordinately accurate observation.
‘Italians are just like bees really, aren't they darling’.
Let’s not pull punches here. Italians are fairly predictable. I realise I am about to make a set of sweeping generalisations which might sound borderline xenophobic, but these observations come from a place of love. Honestly.
Southern Italians are, first and foremost, trained from an early age to become creatures of habit. Their days are carefully regimented around mealtimes and weather patterns, thus mornings, late afternoons and evenings are peak times for hive activity.
- Bars in the morning will be buzzing (too much pun fun), when Italians swoop in to down a coffee or to while away a few minutes with a cappuccino.
- The second bout of activity comes between 12.30pm-1pm, when everybody has finished work/school/general errands and they are making moves to their cars/buses/motor bikes to get home for lunch. This is under absolutely no circumstance a time to pop somewhere in the car, unless you wish to face an unwarrantable amount of road rage.
- The next flurry of activity usually happens at around 5pm, when the ‘afternoon’ officially begins for Italians. This is when everything re-opens. Post riposte (nap time).
- After dinnertime Italians will reemerge from their houses, though this time a spruced up mass of high heels and tight jeans, ready to hit up a bar and have another coffee or gelato.
Much like bees, they’re a sociable bunch too, who do everything en-masse. They rarely venture out alone, unless en-route to meet others. Even in Rome it’s rare to find someone having a drink or meal by themselves. Have you ever known an Italian to live by themselves? Of course not. This is why, upon hearing that I moved to Italy all alone, I am often greeted with a tilted head accompanied by ‘all by yourself? No friends?’, which is certainly an effective means to make someone feel like a massive loser.
Italians also behave very defensively when intruders (tourists) are about, particularly in the south, where they are (counter-intuitively) horrid to tourists. We witnessed this at the bar, when two bewildered English tourists wandered in looking for a warm refuge/something which was actually open in the afternoon and asked for two cappuccinos. The barman responded by laughing in their face and told them that they might do weird stuff like that in the UK, but not in Italy.
(On a side note, the only time of day you will find an Italian drinking a cappuccino is in the morning. Such excesses of milk at any other time of the day are considered irresponsible and will only result in the disturbance of a well functioning stomach).
Mothers are so wise.
They're just like bees.