April 21, 2010

Savoring Life

Italians relish their daily rituals and pleasures, and being around them gives us the freedom to do the same. The pleasure of feeding someone a home cooked meal- or of eating it- to be present in body and mind- are all qualities present in that delightful environment. All the mindfulness we endlessly hear about- it’s right there. While a lot has changed since I first started spending time in Italy, the essence remains.

Thirty years ago, I was a young student living with a family not far from the Ponte Vecchio in Florence. My “Italian brother” Giorgio, who at 29 was still living at home, would come home every day for lunch, as did I. (And yes, of course I had a mad crush on him...) Mamma was always ready with a hot meal for all of us, pasta, meat, wine and all, finished off with fresh fruit which she dutifully peeled for her adored son. Try going back to work or school after that every day!

Fast forward to 2010, and mealtime, even a lunch during the workday downtown, is still sacred. Now, there are plenty of Italians who eat a quick panino at a bar- they certainly do. But it's way different than eating a burger out of paper bag. And there’s always a caffe’ to drink, albeit tiny, that must complete the meal, along with conversation with the barista and the other regulars.

I’ve got my favorite bar, Le Logge, right near the Straw Market, which at lunchtime turns into a restaurant, with tablecloths on the small round tables, hot pastas, full meals, and salads, ready for the 1PM rush, all served on lovely dinnerware. And all the local office and shop workers pile in, ready to be fed by the mammas of the 21st century. The pleasure is reciprocal!

If you spend time in Italy, you certainly notice the care taken in preparing your purchase- and maybe it makes you feel as if the shopkeeper’s job, to wrap your selection- be it an Italian bracelet or leather purse, or even your morning brioche- with flourish, care and attention, is the most important thing they have to do in that moment. And in fact it is.


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