A portion of the story I like to call “The Day I Got My Engagement Pictures Taken in Florence” involves me, once again, being told by an Italian authority figure, “Is impossible! Is impossible!” UGH. This phrase! Nothing burns my biscuits more than hearing that, even to this day. If only I had a leather glove to slowly remove, one finger at a time, with which to slap Italy across the face.
After traumatically getting robbed on the train to Rome and swearing off train travel for good, I found myself all aboard just one week later. Face + palm.
In true Italian fashion, the bus system just didn’t feel like operating that day so I didn’t have a choice; I had to get to Florence to get my dadgum photos taken. Shortly after arriving, my fiancé (who was put in charge of our bags because clearly I was carrying enough baggage of my own I absolutely refused to handle luggage on a train ever again until the end of time) realized he had left all of our stuff on the first train. The one we got off of in Pisa to switch trains to get to Florence. The train holding our stuff hostage continued on to Milan. Son-of-a-bitch! All of our clothes for our engagement pictures. Our beautiful Italian engagement pictures taken by a fabulous photographer who was impossible to book… were now going to be taken in sweatpants and an old college t-shirt. The expensive new dress I brought – gone. All of my fiancé’s clothes – gone.
Back at the train station I tried explaining the situation to the man in charge: Can you call Milan and have them check the train? Is impossible! Is there a lost and found? Is impossible! What happens when people leave their stuff on trains? IS IMPOSSIBLE! Needless to say I was infuriated and possibly made a small scene (picture: shaking my fist in the air shouting, “Why I oughta…!”) before storming out.
If you’ve ever caught yourself in a crappy situation in Italy (which you will almost undoubtedly), then you have probably heard this phrase. Loosely translated I think it means, “I’m-a too damn lazy to worry about-a you now pass me the vino, eh?” That was not the first or the last time I have heard that phrase and it still steams me up every time. So to save you some time on your future trips to Italy, I’d like to share with you an abbreviated list of things that “is impossible“.
Cappuccino after 11 AM? Is impossible!
This doesn’t necessarily apply in the larger, more tourist-tolerant cities such as Rome or Florence, but does, very much so, in the smaller towns. Sometimes they will oblige you (eyes rolling so far back in their head they can see their own hoity-toity brain) but sometimes they will look at you the same way I used to look at my Japanese organic chemistry professor when she would say what I could only assume were the two English words she knew which were, “hehehe backside attack!” when referring to the Sn2 mechanism in which the nucleophile attacks the electrophilic center on the side that is opposite the leaving group, resulting in an inversion of configuration. See what I mean? That face you’re making right now!
Cappuccino is traditionally consumed as a breakfast drink and if you know anything about Italian food etiquette you know that you don’t mess with tradition. And it’s not just cappuccino; all milk-based coffee drinks are off limits past 11 AM. They are also off limits after any meal, whatever the time. A post-chow hot beverage should aid in your digestion (water-based) not hinder it (milk-based). It’s basic biology people!
Touching the food at the grocery store? Is impossible!
You know how we like to hit up the produce section and touch and squeeze all the fruits and vegetables to see which one we want to take home? Do not do this in Italy! They are serious about germs and the delicateness of their vine-ripened produce, even the ones that are going to be taken home, washed, and then consumed by you yourself. Some stores have plastic gloves nearby that you must put on before fondling your zucchini and some stores have their own people to touch it for you. Wait, what are we talking about?
A “quick bite to eat”? Is impossible!
OK, food in Italy is good. I mean like, REALLY good. It’s totally understandable that Italians want to take three hours for each meal to really savor the goodness and fine company. I’m down with that. But, every-single-meal? Who has that kind of time? Eating in Italy is a full-time job only without the dental insurance or trust falls. I should also mention these meals occur before, during, and after the four hour “siesta”. There were so many times I just wanted to run into a store and grab a sandwich to go or just meet friends for a quick dinner… get in – get fed – get out – go to a bar – kiss a German statue – cap the night off by jumping into the Mediterranean Sea with all your clothes on, is that so much to ask, Italy? It was never, ever that easy.
Benadryl? Huh? Che cos’è? Is impossible!
If you are allergic to ANYTHING, take Benadryl to Italy. I am allergic to many foods and therefore stay far away from them. However, in Italy you sometimes get what you ordered at a restaurant and sometimes you get whatever they feel like giving you. I got the shit-end of this stick one night at a restaurant in Rome and found myself on the floor of our hotel room unable to breathe in the middle of the night. Because we were in a major city like Rome, there was actually a pharmacy open. (Sidenote: This is about as likely as a hairy giant showing up at your door telling you yer a wizard.) So imagine my fiancé’s surprise when they had no idea what Benadryl was. He explained all my symptoms and what I needed and all he could get from the English-speaking pharmacist was, “Ehhhh take a Zyrtec?” He had never heard of Benadryl and acted as if a “sudden allergic reaction” was something fabricated to get to the really good stuff which we all know is bubble gum flavored Amoxicillin for kids.
Forming a line? Is impossible!
The struggle is real, folks. You will be pushed. You will be shoved. You will question whether or not you forgot to remove your cloak of invisibility before you left for the market. It is absolutely every-man-for-himself out there. Your manners will be your undoing. Don’t say I didn’t warn you! If you want those strawberries, you get up there and lean as far over the fruit stand as you need to make sure some old biddy and her bony elbows doesn’t get the attendant’s attention first. Make sure to wave your arms in front of their face too so they know you want it more since obviously the world is ending and the only way to survive is to buy all the strawberries!
Sampling the gelato? Is impossible!
Actually, being told “Is impossible!” would have been a much more pleasant experience than what actually happened to us in Venice. Based on my experience, if you ask to sample a flavor of gelato (possibly because you’ve never heard of it before), be prepared to be chased, CHASED I say, across the piazza by the elderly shop owner shouting what I believed to be Italian obscenities. I wonder though… What would he have done if he caught us? Poked us incessantly with those teeny plastic spoons?
Clothes dryers? Is impossible!
Prepare to spend your entire time in Italy concerned that the leopard-print thongs you left hanging from the wire on the roof are going to blow off in a Tuscan breeze and end up on the windshield of someone’s Fiat, trapped in their wiper blades.
Pizza cutters? Is impossible!
Pizza has been around in Italy longer than anywhere else on Earth and yet the concept of a pizza cutter seems utterly lost. Inconceivable! Be prepared to use a knife and fork to inefficiently saw at your pizza in hopes of more manageable pieces. Actually, one time I saw a shop owner using a pair of craft scissors to cut a pizza into slices and just prayed they didn’t harbor construction paper and rubber cement residue.
Finding clothes that fit (male or female)? Is impossible!
So it’s a given that when traveling to a foreign country you are going to experience some major fashion shock. Mocking the man-purses and harem pants is all fun and games until you have only two hours to find complete outfits for an important photo session. On the day of our engagement photos, rather than cancel our appointment altogether we decided to try to find new clothes with the short amount of time we had. FINALLY! All that time I spent training for Supermarket Sweep in my local Kroger is going to pay off! (I’m still waiting on my call, Lifetime Network.)
Let me tell you a little bit about Italian fashion: The men dress like women and the women dress like men. The Italian men wore skin-tight jeans on their thin frames and paisley scarves around their necks and the women wore huge pants that made everyone look like they were wearing diapers. Not even joking, I bought a pair of pants at a boutique one surprise 100 degree day when my jeans were trying to kill me. To this day I have no idea how I am supposed to wear them and I’m fairly certain they are maternity pants. My athlete husband couldn’t even get his calves into a pair of man pants or a shirt over his chest that wouldn’t rip open at the slightest inhalation. He asked a salesperson what to do if you couldn’t fit into a pair of pants. She just shrugged and admitted this was a problem and that’s just the way it is. I am a small girl and couldn’t find anything that didn’t make me look like a losing participant in a potato sack race.
The way we were literally running through the streets of Florence in and out of stores looking for anything that would be remotely acceptable was like trying to find the bulk diapers and whole turkeys while the clock ticks down and the announcer distracts you with today’s Manager’s Special. My husband finally found a pair of pants he could fit into and I do believe it was nothing short of a miracle. I found an acceptable dress on display in the window of the last possible store I could have checked. After noticing it was closed, taking a break to have a beer, then returning and busting the door down, the dress was mine! It was still too big but I was going to make it work. Luckily I didn’t have to try too hard since my fiancé had sewn the dress to fit while I was in the shower.
WHAT THINGS HAVE YOU ENCOUNTERED THAT “IS IMPOSSIBLE” IN ITALY?