Italians: A Short Reference Guide

There they are.
In all their Italian glory.
You want to know more about this curious animal, don’t you?

Good, because this just in from my favorite LA-based Italian. Guest Blogger/Artist,
Michele Castagnetti.

So why are the Italians so obsessed about il caffe?

While Americans see it as merely a good addictive beverage with awakening, productive qualities, the Italians will talk about it for hours, especially when abroad and dissatisfied. The Italian espresso is not more than a quarter of a sip but its as powerful as two cups of the American. Personally, I don’t have enough quantity to really taste it. And when looking at suited Milanesi handling the tiny cups and rotating the little spoons for minutes, I can see they could use a longer experience as well. They have opened up to an Americano version, which is a bit longer but they still look at you strangely when you ask for a cappuccino and its not morning.

It used to be unorthodox, I remember, to wear a watch on ones right wrist as if it really mattered. Wearing short socks when not in sporting gear is still considered the worst of style infringements. Every season there is a trend/brand that every single Italian has to have to feel with it, like the Burberry scarf. They were addicted to Lacoste products for years and they would always carefully examine the label of your collar to check the authenticity. During the Paninari era in the eighties the standard look of the young urban Italian was: Montclair bubble jacket, Timberland shoes (carefully dirtied from day one with different techniques that they would discuss very seriously), Burberry socks, lots of hair-gel and Levis 501 (the Tatiana Patitz commercial made everybody fall in love.)

One sad year, a polo shirt by Best & Company became the must have. I could go on, but it isn’t really worth it.

The obsession of ‘what kind of car do you drive?’ reaches levels so high that before considering a certain vehicle, prospective buyers would picture a hot model asking the question in a club and they would repeat the brand to see if it sounded cool enough. The Harley Davidson trend invaded Italy only in the late nineties. Obviously, being such obsessive trend followers, owning the bike was just the beginning. They watched all the motorcycle movies as a style reference. They got the tattoo, the leather, the boots, the belt, the lighter, the hats, the helmets, sold their car to afford it but they live with mom and pop. The Hells Angels lifestyle is a bit problematic when you live with your parents.

The Stare: Nobody in the world stares as much as Italians do. It is an examination from head to toe, or vice versa. They need to spot who you are, the brands you’re wearing, your income, where you live, where you work, who you date and what you are doing there.

The Watch: The Rolex obsession is only equaled by the Swatch one (FYI – This is the Rolex Daytona, Putin’s favored timepiece) . I know guys who have a $5000 Rolex but couldn’t afford a beat up Fiat. Italians in their mid-forties would get stopped at customs with twenty Swatches, I still can’t find an explanation for that one.

The Drugs: Cocaine or bamba is the latest trend. It arrived in Italy (in large quantities) only in the mid-nineties but quickly took over the market as the coolest addiction. And like coffee, it would be talked about for days: who has it, who shares it, who’s sharing but not paying for it, who’s cutting it too much, who’s overcharging, who’s going to the bathroom by
him/herself, who’s not doing it, etc. A new topic that keeps them really busy.

Hash remains the proletarian alternative.

The Tan: It’s essential for that well traveled diva/o look. The boom of tanning salons that dates to the mid/late eighties is still strong. ‘Sei stato/a alle Lampados?’ Means: ‘Did you go tanning?’ The obsession of the tintarella (nice tan) reaches dimensions of such proportions that if the sun was really so cancerous, there would only be a couple of hundred Italians left.

Travelling represents the major hobby. The destinations are always the same and they vary according to trend as well. They will always say, ‘I hate Italians’ during vacation, but they’ll always go to the same places where the only natives are the people that work at the resort. Most of these places had to get Illy (the best Italian coffee) just to keep ’em happy.

The problems they have: The most common is the cervicale (neck-ache) due to air drafts of which they are terrified. Stomachache is the second due to the food being not as good as that of mama and never because of the quantity
they ate. Migraines: Just because headache is not as dramatic a word.

The Police: We have two kinds, one called Polizia and the other called Carabinieri. The difference is not quite clear, but there are a million jokes about the stupidity of the Carabinieri. You can ask anybody on the street and they’ll be happy to inform you of the latest. They deal mostly, but not only, with car and traffic related episodes and for that they aren’t very well liked. The Polizia is supposed to deal with murder and intrigue and for that reason you never see them around. Although they are known to put on the siren and hit 150Km/hr at peak hour not to be late for mamas lunch.

The Food: Well, this could be a book on its own. I’d just say that it is the very first hobby, actually more, it is a reason for living. The entire life of an Italian revolves around lunch and dinner and if anything comes in between, is drama. Lunch is at 12:30 and dinner at 8.

Who they don’t get along with: The French, because both think of being the best. The language, the clothes, the wine, the cheese and the small cars have always been elements of a bloody competition. The Spaniards are the ones they get along with the best, but they also respect the Germans enormously for the Benz, the BMW, the Porsche and generally for their ability to do things precisely right.

The Politics or better yet, the Politicians: This is a sure controversial conversation from the start. Italy has thousands of newspapers and the same political story is different in each. If you think the American politicians are good at spinning questions, the Italians are so professional at it that they could talk an hour and not say anything. The bottom line is that if there isn’t a problem they’ll create one or they’ll solve it by creating three more. Corruption is the purpose of becoming a politician. Craxi, is one of the most famous. He retired after a scandal to a royal palace in Tunisia that somehow belonged to his wife, who was a housewife; he was never persecuted.

This could be an encyclopedia.

The Soccer: After food, it is the second reason for living (for a man, for a woman, it is the clothes). Half the TV shows are dedicated to this sport. One is called the Monday Trial and it is more serious than a murder trial. They can talk and argue for years about one game or one player. (The top players to debate: Giacinto Facchetti, Dino Zoff, and Paolo Rossi)

The Women: After soccer, it is the third reason for living (for a man). I’ll just say that men would study, memorize and rehearse different approach techniques and they would refine them according to the different nationality of the prey.

The Religion: The words Catholic and Christian are often used interchangeably and confused. Going to church is a must until sixteen. Afterwards, parents are more lenient with child rebellion.

The Priests: There are good and bad ones. The best ones after mass hit the bars, get drunk and sing traditional dialect songs with the locals.

Guest Blogger:
Michele Castagnetti

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