Jane suggested that I write my recollections of living and working with the Italians. In summary, professional, creative, hardworking, rule breaking, fun and sometimes exhausting. I know many Italians, of course, and trust you will be able to have a smile as you read this. I worked in the south of Milan between 1998 and 2000, living with Jane 15km north, in a village called Lesmo. Some recollections in no order.
Long socks – I was sitting at the lunch table during a company meeting in Florence, wearing my black ankle length socks. A colleague pointed out that it wasn’t appropriate for men to display leg flesh, when wearing a suit.
Alfa Romeo 145 – The tow truck guy on the hard shoulder of the Tangenziale Est told me that occasional breakdowns were just part of owning an Alfa. Good to know. Anyway, great car.
Milano-Roma – Linate airport, dark suits, brown shoes and blue ties, Corriere, cappuccino brioche, Alitalia green, cramped Roman taxi, Espresso, meeting, mangiare, Fiumicino, Alitalia, a domani.
Italian lessons – so much more. My brilliant teacher, Valeria, is the Commercial Director’s sister. Small, but beautiful apartment in the city centre. Spumante, elegance, rules to be obeyed and not, really thorough teaching. Twice a week – thank you Luciano!
Coffee rules – cappuccino before 11am, espresso after. How hard is this to understand, you dumbfuck foreigners?
Pizza and pasta rules – pizza with beer, pasta with wine. How hard is this…..?
Rhythm of the working day – arrival by 09.30, tabs and coffee 11.00, lunch 13.00-14.00, tabs and coffee etc, leave between 19.00 and 20.00, smart, streetwise, creative and competitive colleagues.
The suit – understand this – they think we have no idea – Marco, the mid-level Finance guy, told me what he spends on a suit (wow!).
Da Gianni – local trattoria to Via Noto, because of my experiences here, I am a strong believer in the proper lunch break. Fat, white apron, big smile. Antipasto, primo, secondo, dolce, café – parts 1 and 4 might be skipped. Sharing, politics, gossip, football – essential! No, we’re not lazy and pasta is NOT a main course dish!!
Fitness – we were really impressed by this – running and walking in Monza park, hiking in the Alps and foothills, cross country skiing, not many overweight people.
Bella figura – can write a book on this – it’s about being seen to conduct oneself correctly – it’s about pride, ego and reputation. The opposite is brutta figura, which is doing or wearing something inappropriate. It’s alot about how you are seen, and how your behaviour might impact others in your company or group. I might say the wrong thing and the look, because no more was required, was ‘brutta figura, you bloody idiot’.
Il Gigante and our neighbours – perfectly dressed for the supermarket (Il Gigante), matching handbag, bella figura – unlike the English and Australian peasant neighbours.
Whatever it takes – ever been to a mountain refuge in the Italian Alps? Nothing, nothing gets in the way of what’s important – fantastic food and wine, time to enjoy. Total class!