A few months ago, I fixed my favorite heels using the “bailing wire and duct tape” method. I knew I could only extend their life by a few hard wears, but I didn’t have time for a ceremonial burning. This past weekend in Florence, Italy, my shoes died for the last time. No resuscitation attempt was made.
Average height for the Italian female is 5’4″. My close friend and travel buddy, Natalia, and I stand out at our 5’9″ height. I went to several stores and asked several clerks if they even carried shoes in size 42.5. The standard response was a slightly shocked look, ‘That is really big’, and ‘No’.
I don’t always have the most exciting stories. But experiences like these have been teaching me how other cultures view size. Very few Italians are obese. Few Italians are very tall.
Some close friends went into a giggle fit while we were eating in a restaurant together. I asked what was so funny, and they said, “Forse lei sara mangia tutto e il tavolino”. They were wondering whether another patron, an overweight women, would eat everything on the table and the table too. This is only one example of the regular “fat shaming” that occurs in Italy.
Being tall women, my friends and I feel fetishized. We’re followed home and yelled at in the streets. There’s a lot of pressure to dress more conservatively; no heels, skirts, bright colors, and makeup. Don’t be nice and don’t smile.
I love Italy, I love my friends, I’m so happy here, and I feel a need for disclaimers. I understand that this is not characteristic of everyone in Italy. Nor is everyone in America perfectly well behaved when it comes to issues of weight and gender. These are simply my experiences and observations.
This weekend, I went to visit a friend in Milan. Though I was only there for a short period, I had a good overview of the city. Most importantly, there’s graffiti of Bender. This may be as important as all the cathedrals combined.
The culture, art, and food of northern Italy has been influenced by France, Switzerland, Germany, and Austria. A popular recipe borrowed from the French is brioche. Mornings in Milan aren’t complete without this hearty yellow pastry and a cappuccino.
After breakfast, it’s time to see the sights. Our first stop was the cathedral of Santa Maria Nascente. This gothic cathedral has become one of the most important landmarks in all of Milan.
To the right of the cathedral is the Milan Galleria. This used to house a McDonald’s, but after the 2015 world expo, is now home to a Prada outlet. The galleria is named after Vittorio Emanuele; the first king of Italy.
After seeing the sights, it’s time for lunch:
And an (large!) espresso:
Milan is a fascinating combination of modern and antique. Somewhere between the cathedral and the infamous middle finger statue, you find Milan. I suggest taking a walk, eating a macaroon, and posing with something unique.
Traveling to Italy brings along the opportunity to see some of the greatest art in the world. Lucky for me, not all of it sits in a museum. Graffiti and it’s hesitant status as art has been debated all over the world. Here in Perugia, I’ve found some art I’d like to share with you.
Jesus Disks: Pictured Above.
These rooftops are easily accessible from the road. Several old satellites were first painted a base color of blue, purple, orange or green on which an image of Christ is superimposed. For a country with such strong ties to the Catholic Church, it makes me chuckle to see rules being broken in such a “holy” way.
Each city that I’ve visited seems to have a signature artist. In Florence, there seem to be two artists with very distinct emphasis: stick figure and classical art. Our stick figure artist sticks to a palette of white, black, and red. Blub, gives famous artwork an aquatic feel.
One or maybe many artists in Perugia do simple portraits. They sit at eye level on walls bordering high traffic streets. These are the only ones I’ve found so far, but I hope there are more to be discovered!!
I love traveling. I love art. I love the individuality of every single city. I’ve come to think of graffiti as a part of the development of urban personality. Which makes appreciating graffiti a part of getting to know my new home.
If you don’t like the weather in Kansas, just wait, it’ll change within an hour. I have learned that the same goes for Perugia. Yesterday, the day started out sunny and bright and ended in nasty, cold rain. It’s predicted that we’ll have snow on Sunday. And I thought I had moved so far away.
In a continuing Kansas theme. . .
There’s even a yarn shop!! I was so excited to find some like minded crafters. The proprietor was a little unsure about standing in photo, but I did manage do capture this smile. If you’re looking for some Italian-made alpaca yarn, this is the place to shop.
None of my photos come close to showing the true, natural beauty of Perugia. Lucky for me, if the scenery is hard to capture, other wonderful aspects of Perugia are a little more photogenic.
Perugia is not only visited by Ferrari in the summer, but by car hobbyists through out the year. The detail that goes into the preservation of classic cars is absolutely stunning. But I found the car I really want. I think it matches the hippy, dreadlock lifestyle. I can just see myself riding around in a green Volkswagen bus.
I hope some sense can be made of my rambling thoughts. I raise my glass of vino to another week in Perugia. In reality, to another week in the Kansas of Europe.
Classes began on Tuesday and I am exhausted! The Italian teaching method is quite different than any other I’ve experienced. There is a lot more physical contact; shoulder grabs, head pats, and prodding. Along with that, there were a few other things I’ve had to adjust to.
Non-Italians will want to take photos with you. Immigrants, expats, and visitors to Italy from the Middle East and Africa are not shy and usually speak some English. Just pose, getting a photo with an American seems to be very exciting.
Some of the stereotypes are true. Italians are LOUD.
Deodorant here does not deodorize. Good luck smelling nice.
If you intend to live in Italy beyond three months, you will need much more than just a visa. You will need to apply for a codice fiscale and a permesso di soggiorno. These are a social security number and residence permit respectively.
Christmas lasts forever in Italy!! On January 5th, Day of Epiphany, Italians celebrate Befana. Befana is a character very similar to the American idea of Santa. Her day is celebrated with roasted chestnuts and a nativity parade.
Because I’m tired, here are some pretty pictures! Talk to you next week!
Guiding star in the nativity story. Befana Celebration.
The last week has been a real adventure. My Dec. 28 flight got cancelled and was rescheduled for Jan. 1st. To add insult to injury, my luggage was lost in transit. *Whew* it’s been a rough go.
Once I found my hostel, Ostello Mario Spagnoli, I was a little intimidated by the clientele. I’m one of three women in a sea of men. If I hear “Mamma Mia, mi piace tu,” one more time, I might hurt someone. The Pakistani men warmed up to my presence fairly quickly and we had a good time trying to talk and translate. I might take them up on their offer for Pakistani food tonight.
This morning, I woke up late feeling well rested for the first time in days. I took the Mini Metro into the city center and felt right at home. I navigated my way through the city as if I hadn’t been away for months. I found my school, apartment, and the police station. Every expat needs to show their visa at the posto di polizia within seven days of their arrival for proper documentation.
Tomorrow morning I move into my new apartment and meet my roommates. I have a testo d’ingresso (entrance exam) in the afternoon and begin school on the seventh. I can’t wait to begin!! I still cannot believe that this is my life!! Maybe after a week or two I’ll finally realize that this is not just a visit.