If not now, when?

One American woman. Twenty acres and a 1650 farmhouse in Tuscany. Random introspection and hilarity, depending on the day.

26 October 2005

Ode to small towns...

I'm not sure if he was John Cougar or John Mellencamp at the time, but he pretty much hit the nail on the head about 'small towns'. And so here I am in my little hilltop town. I've never lived in a small town before (much less an Italian small town!), so it's been even MORE of an adjustment.

What I really, truly love ...

The woman who sells bread calls me "tesoro" (treasure). The one who sells sheets & towels greets me warmly, gives me a "good customer discount" and teases me that I come in every Saturday (which, when I was trying to get the house set up, I pretty much did!)

The guy who services my lawnmower knows exactly which model I have, and can GUESS what I've done wrong with it when I go in and say "um, I think I need more oil..." (flipped it over, which indeed, I had.)

The lavasecco (drycleaner): there are no "tickets" - just ... come get your clothes later, I'll have them for you, and I'll know you (and says, 'you had the grey sweater this time, right?!) when you walk in the door.

That Wednesday is 'market day' (finally, finally, FINALLY, I understand the "Market Day" concept from my elementary school youth!) Vendors come from all over, set up their trucks/tents/stands in the main piazza and people all go in to stock up for the week. Fresh fish. Cheeses from the nice cheese man. Veggies from the grower. And random clothes, underwear, shoes, you name it... all, once a week, in the main town square.

That everyone drinks their morning coffee with WARMED milk. Okay, this is an Italy thing, not just a small town thing. But how much sense does THAT make? Why 'chill down' your (hot) coffee with cold milk!?!

That I call the guy to get firewood delivered, he says "I'll stop by when I'm near your house." He calls 10 minutes before he comes, looks to understand where I want it placed, and says "I'll bring it sometime next week, maybe Tuesday or Wednesday, whenever it is sunny." And he does. I'm not there, but he leaves it anyway, and he knows I'll catch up with him later to pay him.

That if you don't have quite enough exact change to buy something, they tell you "don't worry about it" or, "bring it back next time." That, if you pay in cash, what was 77 becomes 75.

The poste-lady and the carabinieri wave at me on the street. The carabinieri make housecalls.

Everyone makes their own wine and olive oil (or so it seems!)... though varying degrees of tastiness, as I've found!

'Whoops, the tomatoes had to be canned' is an excuse for missing an appointment. Which I guess brings me to ...

What drives me a little crazy...!

Don't even try to buy a replacement curling iron. Nope. Not in my small town. I could have had three 'crimping' irons, though, likely circa 1989. Footloose, here I come!! (And the man in the appliance shop didn't understand why I didn't want one of those. He seriously took it out of the box and showed me how "big" the waves were. TOTAL cultural disconnect!)

Shops close between 1 and 4. And everything has a different 'shop'. The sheets are at the fabric store. The appliances (radio, toaster, hair dryer) are at the appliance store. Meat is at one of the four butcher shops in town. The veggies are (you guessed it ...) Shopping is not a one-stop deal! (okay, I actually love this and hate it all at once... these fit in BOTH categories!)

The bank is open 8:20 am - 12:20 pm. Huh?!?!?

No sour cream. No tortilla chips. This isn't a small town thing, I think it's an Italy thing. But it's awfully hard to satisfy your craving for good mexican food ... Ditto asian food. Thank heavens the Mom is importing boxed PadThai for me!

That mushroom & wild boar hunters seems to roam freely throughout my woods in the fall. A little creepy hearing random voices and seeing flashes of orange in your otherwise serene woodland setting.

That I call to get the heater (caldaia) serviced, and all they can tell me is that they'll call next week sometime to let me know when they can come out. No appointment setting, just 'Hmmm. Okay, you're on the list. Maybe next week. We'll call later.' They called yesterday at about 7pm, before arriving today at 10am. Totally not able to plan your life around THAT! Thank heavens I've got a flexible /work-at-home job!

When things are 'out of season' - they're just not available. Today, no brussels sprouts (and I was seriously having a brussels sprouts craving.) After it gets cold, no basil. "Sorry, it all got cold" (go to all 4 frutta & verdura shops, the answer is the same everywhere.) Which reminds me of the crazy story of Beatrice's Great Basil Hunt: she was desperate to have fresh basil for one of our meals... we looked everywhere for 2 days. We then walked into the drycleaners to drop off our clothes, and sitting in the front of the shop was a basil plant that the woman at the cleaners had bought that morning from the market. She sold it to us (for 1 Euro!) and said 'she'd get another one'.

HAH! Basil from the drycleaners! Try THAT in America...!


Blogger Gia-Gina said...

I have brussel sprouts here and sour cream too, want some nachos? I loved this ode, it was wonderful. I am having trouble with the big city of Torino and so I try to only frequent the shops that are nice to me. I ditto your setiments on what bugs you, they bug me too. Banks esp.

10:24 PM  
Blogger michele said...

The only thing I'm concerned about, Kellee, is your thing with brussel sprouts. !! I think you're the first person I've ever met who doesn't gag at the mention of them.

Then again, maybe it's just me. OK, it IS just me. :-)

Great post - I'm going to reference it on my blog soon - more businesses should treat their customers this way.



5:51 PM  

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