So do you face the front or back in….making those reverse beeping noises?
Why, when you are supposed to be immersing yourself in the rich otherness of a culture is toileting, the seeking out of toilets and the whole prospect of ablutions such a curiosity when you are on holiday? My sister always investigated the loo first, wherever we went and made her judgment of entire civilizations based on the quality of the privy. When faced with the prospect of a bidet on our Italian holiday I contemplated the two porcelain bowls. Each designed for a different purpose. One more familiar than the other and decided…..
I think you back in.
So I lifted the mixer tap full on and soon was shivering because it was too cold. Move a little to the left, okay, still too cold…..hard left and wait…OUCH…I could have blisters. Oh the trials of the risk takers.
I wanted to remain in love with Italy. I had been once before about 20 years ago, for about four days in the air-conditioned clinical comfort of the tour bus, complete with tour guide. So, no navigating the roads, no being stuck on the ring route out of Rome for two and a half hours, no forgetting your supposed to be on the right, no crazy Italian drivers becoming acquainted with your rear end, flashing their headlights and yelling abuse out the window with wild hand gestures to match.
I was left feeling like a bride who has been in it too long and realized marriage is not all it’s cracked up to be. Jettison the idea of the love affair and learn to live in the culture or get out. This was what was left. I wondered if I should never have returned and been content to just keep the romance alive, like the distant memory of a former lover who over time you have decorated in nostalgia, so much so, they become the perfect one that simply got away.
Michelangelo saved the day. There is nothing quite like staring up at a sixteen-foot man carved from a single piece of marble to make you reconsider the greatness of a place. He was truly spectacular. I sat and stared at his muscular behind for at least ten minutes. He didn’t look like David did in my mind. He looked like any good-looking Italian youth on the street. In fact he looked like the first man I was ever in love with. That was the beauty of him. No grand god-like gestures just a real person, who has the potential to be extraordinary, carved by a real, extraordinary person.
Touch the marble and you wonder if this somehow connects you to history, to the great man himself, if some of that divine inspiration that passed through his brain to his hands as he chipped away to reveal the shape of a man, could transfer itself to you and manifest itself in creativity, wisdom, revelation or winning the lottery.
However it wasn’t long before the cracks appeared again and I discovered that Italian hamlets, towns and cities all have a smell. And that smell is rotting garbage. Yes I am sorry to destroy the ambience, but this is exactly what happens when small cobbled roads are inaccessible by modern garbage collection trucks. All rubbish is collected and placed in large bins which, inexplicably seem to be placed at the entrance to towns and thus your first impression is rubbish. How can a country that produced Michelangelo, Botticelli and Leonardo Da Vinci get it so so wrong?
Florence however has discovered how to keep it underground and away from your olifactories, but only in the wealthy pars of town. This leaves you free to indulge in the mountains of gelati for sale. Depending on how well heeled the lcoals are in any particular place will determine how much you pay. Still there’s nothing like a gelati on a hot Italian day. Or hot chocolate that has the consistency of the insides of a self saucing pudding. Or a coffee that tastes as good as it smells.
And practically everyone in Italy speaks English even in out of the way places, so my attempts at …”Io sono Australian, parlare Inglaise” or “due per cena” were met with frowns and “yes of course I speak English” and “You would like two for dinner or your poodle is a food item???” Even checkout chicks could speak better English than my Italian. If I had to say to an Italian person “You have to weigh your vegetables first before I can put it through the register” I think I would be struggling. How anglocentric I really am.
So with the benefit of time and hindsight the adventure seems to have lost the bidet, the smells, the bad tempered drivers, the near divorce as navigator and driver almost come to blows. Now all I remember is the beautiful terraced olive groves and vineyards. The delicious red wines, the friendly man that spoke no English and took us on a tour of his loal church, the artwork, the sheer impressivness of ancient buildings and breattaking architecture. I am still in love with Italy but Australia is home.
I met that man that I first loved in a café recently and he looked very different after 20 years. The lustrous dark locks had completely gone and his chiselled youthful profile was worn with lines from living. But I could still see my Statue of David and I can still remember being in love. This is how I feel about Italia. Take me back there again so I can continue the love affair from the safe distance of my committed relationship with home.
So who cares if I constantly burn my bum on the bidet, true love, loves risk takers!