6 May 2009

In Your Other Life, French Or Italian?

 

French or Italian in your other life?
I have always thought that when it comes to France and Italy, passions are divided.
It seems to me that there are those people who love Italy and who love all things Italian and then there are the Francophiles who can think and dream of nowhere but France.
If we were making a count as to who loves where, my hand would be raised well and truly above my head or placed over my heart when it comes to France ….but ….there would also be a moment of hesitation, a sentimental pause, when it came time for the Italian vote.

I started thinking about this after a recent visit to stay with friends in the Chianti region of Tuscany. Would I have wanted an Italian life if serendipity had lead me there before my fateful encounter with Provence?

 

Italy and France: so close yet so far.
Far that is, in that France and Italy are like two siblings – bought up together under similar circumstances with the same ingredients yet they have personalities that are poles apart. A strange analogy but fitting as France and Italy are geographical neighbours although as two nations the people could not be more disparate.
 

 

We drove to Tuscany from our home in Provence and as soon as we crossed the border I could sense the change. The Italians drive faster for a start and they are less inclined to follow the rules of the autoroute. I thought the French pretty wild when they get behind the wheel, but the Italians – they own the autostrada. We were caught in a massive blocko or traffic jam just near Portofino. It was a monumental mess – we are talking three and a half hours of almost stationary crawl – going nowhere at snail’s pace. The Italians took it all in their stride; they left their cars, chatted with each other, shared their lunch and generally made the most of a frustrating situation. The police were directing the traffic with wide smiles and buongiornos all round and at the same time they happily indulged in harmless flirtations with the female drivers. I have been caught in plenty of bouchons in France and we most definitely stayed put in the car.
 

 

I know that the French have a reputation for arrogance – I don’t believe that; I believe that they are a reserved race, shy even and that they are not people to outwardly express their emotions.
The Italians are more transparent whereas the French are formal and take time to relax and drop their guards.
The Italians seem to live from one day to the next in what appears to the outsider as a kind of chaos; the French are ordered and disciplined where procedure and traditional practice are the guidelines for living.

As contrary as the French and Italian personalities are, so too are the regions of Provence and Tuscany.

 

We were only six hours from home and yet it felt like another world. xv

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72 Comments

apriliniowa

We will be in Italy (Tuscany and Venice primarily) in March and I’ve felt I will identify with Italians for quite a few of the reasons you’ve mentioned in this blog: the food, the culture, the countryside, and from what I’ve read, the people. Italy sings to me far more than France somehow. Of course, I want to visit France, too, and we might make a trip to Paris when we visit Italy in March of next year but at the end of the day I chose Italy first. Thank-you for sharing your thoughts on the two countries. I really appreciated it. :)

Judith. ..de Santa Fe

I must say, I’ve been struggling with the France Vs. Italy concept for the past year. Having grown up in an area of the US with strong french ties (Louisiana), I always felt my dreams belonged in France. The language is comfortable/ familiar – even though I don’t really speak it.
I recently felt I needed to give Italy a bit of investigation, so I’ve tried to get to know it by reading about it.

Your beautiful observations and comparisons, in this post, have been so very helpful in helping me expand my base of considerations!

I shall tuck them away … . just in case I ever have to make a decision: Villa in Tuscany or Chateau in Provence ??

Hopefully I’ll just be able to say –
“I’ll take one of each!”

Jjjj

C'est moi

Oh this is one post I will not share with my husband. We met in Ireland as friends and worked together in Italy where we fell in love. Despite this romantic connection with Italy I am truly in love with France. My husband on the other hand, being of Italian descent is very firmly for Italy. Although he does appreciate everything French and, having gotten to know so many wonderful french people through our daughters school appreciates what I consider the fallacy of the french nature. I finally have him looking at the Provence region as a place to move to……to the point that he is searching the property listings but, this description of Italy, which I fully lust for from time to time, would have him fighting to cross the border again. For me it will always be France so this one will stay between you and I….

linda

vicki~such a lovely and visual post…I can see the hillsides, the food, the trees, the glances…your writing is stunning as is this wonderfully romantic little outing…you make me want to move to Provence so I can take that 10 hour car ride to Tuscany~how lovely it all sounds~

A Gift Wrapped Life

Beautifully written Vicki! Makes me want to hop over to both and compare. Haven’t been to Italy (can’t quite believe it myself) but it’s next on the list. I think you should move there for a year, write about it, then head back home to France.
XO

Ingrid Mida

What a fascinating analysis! I feel equally at home in Rome as I do in Paris. Vive le difference!

C.T.

Flawless observation and fortunate to be able to travel between these two beautiful countries.

mimi charmante

I have been in love with France since my first visit nearly 9 years ago. I love visiting and dream of one day being able to spend an extended visit pretending to live there. I am studying french weekly with my fabulous little french class, and am thankful that my family has a long, well-documented french history and one day I would love to see those cities for myself. That being said…
My handsome husband and I spent time last October in Turin and although my first trip to Italy 9 years ago to Milan was anything but pleasant, this trip to Turin changed my mind completely. While it certainly hasn’t taken France’s place in my heart, the food was amazing as was the beautiful countryside. I look forward to going back to Italy one day (while spending time *living* in France perhaps…).
:)

g.

Hmmm….interesting thoughts and observations. After visiting both, I think I could have a smile on my face doing either..and that thought makes me even happier! What a fun trip.

La Maison Fou

Definately France!!
My next big trip will be to go there, I am already planning it as I dream of Paris……
Have a good day!
Leslie

Olga Granda-Scott

When I was in college I fell in love with Italy and cut short my year in France to do the 2nd semester in Italy. Ironically, last year, after a long absence I went back to Italy only to discover that I am a hard core francophile. I loved my trip–but still feel more at home in France. I’m finally going to Paris on June 3rd and am eagerly counting down the days. Your blog does make it easier!
Lastly I have to give you credit for a little “groupage” I just posted on my blog. Please visit–you are an inspiration.
Much love,
from another Italian-loving yet true francophile!

Willow Decor:

I love this post! Its always been a conflict for me to choose! I lived in Europe for many years and I have fond memories of both. But, perhaps I fall to Italy more, because at my most homesick I would go to Italy to recharge. I am Italian and eating the foods and hearing the language would bring me back to my Nonna’s kitchen and I would just feel closer to my faraway family.
xx-
Gina

Ms. K @ Write On Thyme

Loved this post on the two countries (and people’s) differences. Having a French-in-law and traveling frequently through Italy, I found your comments fun and insightful. Myself, I find driving the Italian autoroutes the most frightening of anywhere in Europe. Everybody has their need for speed but the Italians have their own careless rules, as if they don’t care if they live or any of us dies. Take a look at Andrea Lee’s short stories–she is an American who married an Italian Count and her fiction is filled with insights on Italian men. Specifically go to the New Yorker magazine fiction archives and read her “Three”~absolutely beautifully written!
And Happy Cinco de Mayo!
Kirsten

Easy and Elegant Life

Tough choice. Both beautiful languages. Great foods. Wine. Only place I’ve felt underdressed was in Italy. Loved living in St. Raphaël.

But the Spanish taught me joie de vivre.

jlc

so funny that you posted this on a day I blogged about both countries. I’m half Italian and can always identify myself with Italy and yet my career and passion falls towards France and everything about it. Am I an oxymoron? :)

from the right bank

I’m a lifelong Francophile but every time I go to Italy, I ask myself the same thing. We had an especially great trip a couple of years ago – one of those where everything just came together perfectly. It won a little piece of my heart after that. But ultimately, I think I’m in the same camp as you.

Vicki Lane

A fascinating comparison — and how fortunate you are to live in Provence and vacation in Tuscany. The other way round would be pretty fine too!

Ali @ Betty and Violet

An interesting and difficult question to answer ~ although you did a wonderful job doing just that! I just couldn’t choose, but I think that is because I have not had the opportunity to actually live in either country but only visit for holidays. I love both countries equally but for different reasons…
I thoroughly enjoyed reading your thoughts today.
Ali x

Alicia @ boylerpf

I totally agree with you on the differences between France & Italy. I loved reading this post…made me quite homesick to go back to Provence.

Bonjour Madame

I love them both, even though I have never been to Italy. They both offer such a love for living well you can’t go wrong with either. I’ve always admired the confidence of Italians.

Miss Kris

Hi Vicki~

So beautifully said! I, myself think I will continue to be a Francophile. Like you, I do love Italy, although only been there twice not really enough time to make such a quick call. So today I think French! What fun it would be to have a home in each! hehe

Have a lovely day in Tuscany!
~Miss Kris~

Noel Solomon

Right now I would have to say France! I have never been to Italy so maybe later in my life my choice will change? I love how you get us thinking Vicki and I even more love how enjoyable your story is~

xoxo Noel

Margarita

I adore Italian food, customs, and everything – but France has my heart. Paris is my world.

Lee

Vicki, this post really struck a chord with me. A few years back I was lucky enough to spend a (mere) couple of weeks in each of these beautiful countries & you have summed up so well both the subtle and distinct differences between the two. However, just like a parent I could not choose a favourite child. They are both amazing and I love them both equally for very different reasons. Lee x

Tracie~MyPetiteMaison

Definitely… Français! I love Italy too though. I’m with you, the French are lovely. Our experiences are if you’re willing to smile and try with the language they are very, very helpful. Love your blog.

Lisa

For unknown reasons, I’ve had the same karmic reaction to Italy myself, although, interestingly enough, I’d just posted something the other day regarding an intriguing 14th century convent that had been converted into a B&B.; It’s located in Puglia, which is located on the southernmost tip of Italy. From the description, it sounds like quite an experience, that I’d someday like to certainly try.

Porchlight Interiors

Amazing post Vicki! Such insight into the differences between France and Italy – would love to spend enough time in both to experience these differences! Thanks for sharing! Tracey xx

down and out chic

you have a talent with words and it makes your posts such a joy to read. i feel like i just returned from a trip myself (thank you).

Callie Grayson

amazing post!
I went to school in florence and then in paris. I would have to say that italy was amazing, went out to the same restaurant every night but then paris was amazing too but my stay there was a bit more reserved…… i don’t know, I can’t pick… maybe i need to visit both again to see which is my preference:)

Paloma {La Dolce Vita}

I so love this post, V. I studied French for five years prior to college and then minored in Italian Studies, so I have a deep rooted love for both countries. I think you described the parallels and similarities so well. I admire so many things about both countries and cultures, but I must say that after spending time in Spain, I would be quintessentially Spanish. Perhaps it is a matter of familiarity. Either way, I don’t think one could go wrong. :)

Ladybug

Vicki, this was lovely and I agree entirely about the Italians and their ways. I’m aching to get to France, have since I was a little girl and found out that my great-grandfather was French.

I must see if our library has your book. LBx

DolceDreams

My mother and sister both lived in Paris, and I would go visit…and then I started going to Italy and everything changed. My family speaks French, and I speak Italian…need I say more?? I am crazy about Italy, the passion, the food, the art.Exactly for the same reasons that you speak! Of course France is incredible, and I hold them both deep in my heart. I am so envious, it has been far too long since I have walked the streets of either! Thank you for your beautiful comparisons,
Nathalie

Di Overton

I am so with you on this. I have a great love for France and Chianti in Tuscany and various other Italian regions but Chianti is by far the best. But then there is France which is so varied and beautiful and my gorgeous daughter lives there. France it is then.

Quality Villas

I very much enjoyed reading your post – as a professional in the travel business, I travel often to these two countries and see the same differences as you do. I have to say, my preferred country is Italy of the two, but England has a rather difficult past with the French so maybe I am biased! http://www.qualityvillas.com

Mado

OUF !
L’honneur est sauf.
C’est intéressant cette analyse, on ne perçoit pas ces différences mais en même temps on les connait.
J’aime beaucoup l’Italie aussi mais mon tempérament est français ! Un mixte des 2 serait idéal ?!

lily-g

If there is such a thing as a second life I’m coming back as you!!! To even be able to make such a choice can only mean you live on the right side of the world, don’t get me wrong I love Australia but how I would love to make the choice,to have such wonderful experiences. The closest I have got to Italy is marrying an Italian but since we got divorced I suppose that doesn’t count. I will just have to live my dreams through you. Thank you for always posting such beautiful posts!

Zita - Mlle Magpie

I really like how you put it in the end, Vicki. I lived in Paris for three years and went to Portofino for a little vacation, which I loved, but was happy to return to Paris. Alors, je suis d’accord avec toi!

Linda at Lime in the Coconut!

Oh Vicki…what a beautiful and very tender post. You describe them both with such love.

But, like a mother, you don’t really ever need to choose.

As a child we lived in Switzerland…smack dab between the two. So, I cannot make a decision. Neutral…like Switzerland…figures!

Emily

I love France and Italy, but I have to admit, my heart nudges me more towards France. I even have a thick plot of lavender growing on the side of my house to remind me of Provence.

willow

Wonderful post, Vicki. My daughter’s delightful boyfriend is French and you’ve described him to a tee.

Fabulously french

It is a hard call to make as I adore France but having watched “Under the Tuscan Sun” for the 10th time last night feel that a trip maybe required as it has been a while since I have been to Italy.

Both countries are similar and yet so very different at the same time.

L x

Polly

I love Paris, I’m learning French but… I’m absolutely besotted with Tuscany and it would be my number one place to live in the world if I had a choice!

Have you seen Stealing Beauty??

Rose

interesting post! I am always seduced by Italy. I think the Italians have things worked out and know how to live their lives well.

I think you may be right though, it’s somewhere to holiday, living your life like that could exhausting- and those roads are thrilling but sometimes a little too thrilling!

mary

Home is where the heart is…and olive trees and so many moments.
Glad you had a great trip. Thanks for sharing.

benson

great post! I’m feeling like I’m French when we first meet- but, turn into an Italian after a few minutes of conversation. Perhaps that’s the great thing of being American… we’re quite the mix!

Merisi

So much food for thought,
I’ll have to come back! :-)

As an adopted Roman I certainly feel as at home in Italy as you do in France. Thanks to friends who live in Tuscany I get to visit there often, now that I don’t live an ocean away anymore.

I do not know the French (never been to France), but I second what you write about the Italians.

I am not so sure Tuscans are as carnivorous as you think they are – besides their love for bistecca fiorentina from the famous Chiana Valley and the Maremma. Bread soup, bread salad, lots of vegetables, crostate and chestnut flour cakes in the fall – friends from Bologna (La Grassa!) always joke about the “cucina povera” of Florence, its spinach and ricotta lasagne versus Bologna’s meat sughi and meat filled tortellini. ;-)

Pamela Terry and Edward

Such a wonderful tour for me this morning as I sit at my desk with the wind through my open window heralding a storm. Ah…. I am in Italy!

I agree with you about the French temperament. Americans seem to always find the French unfriendly, but never seem to stop and wonder what their own behaviour was like. In my experience, if you treat people the way you would prefer to be treated, the French are as cordial as anyone else. I think the brashness of so many Americans might offend their sensibilites on occasion.

Your descriptions of the food has made me quite hungry, so I am now off to see if I might persuade the Songwriter to take me out to lunch! Thanks!!

Fifi Flowers

I need to visit the South of France… I have only been to Tuscany… then I can give a TRUE answer… I do LOVE French things… and I do LOVE Tuscan food… I can see where it would be a tough decision…. I choose to NOT pick… LOL!
ENJOY both!
Fifi

Marie

Ditto, Vicki! Two years ago, we drove from France to Italy and I can immediately see the difference. I was always stressed in Florence and even in Tuscany. I also think the Italians speak too fast. I luv both countries but my heart belongs to France :)
-marie

Madame DeFarge

Lovely thoughts. I adored our time in Dordogne and Provence, but have rarely been to Italy, so France would probably do it for me. But it would have to be the south everytime.

LIBERTY POST EDITOR

Perhaps you will do another home in Italy for Book III. My Sister-in-Law lived in both places and she loved Italy best. She fell in love with the Italian people. I have never been to either – only in my dreams and through your book – I think I would have a very difficult time choosing. Why are you forcing us to choose my Dear Friend? Can we have both. (or would that be considered ‘cheating’)

annechovie

Vicki, you so nailed the difference between two of my favorite places! You had me laughing and nodding in agreement as I read. I am definitely more fit for French life than Italian, though.

Anonymous

Almost apples and oranges for me. Having spent quite a bit of time in Firenze designing shoes and then doing wine art in Tuscany, I’d say Provence is more like Italy than most of France-the tempo and the temperature.
But no one does GELATO better than the Italians!!!

alice

Oh such a hard hard question!
As soon as I thought I might have to go with France, my mind started racing with all the things I love about Italy!
Hmmm… I guess I will stick with France, but Italy is a close 2nd. Very close!

Primrose

Truly fabulous post, Vicki! I find myself torn between Italia and France at times as well. I feel Italian in my heart but France seems to whisper to my soul. When I visited both countries, Rome was very off-putting and my experience there was of rude and hostile Romans. I know that was just the area I was staying and that the city has obviously a lot more to offer than that! However, I didn’t have the passionate Italian experience I was expecting. I truly thought I would kiss the ground when I got to Italy. I do love Venice however and that city haunts me.
In contrast, everybody had warned me about the French being so rude and hostile and I found them the opposite. They had perfect manners, were most helpful, had a wonderful sense of humour and time after time touched my heart with their generous spirit.
It is hard to choose between such great loves. Italy is such a great oil-painting masterpiece but France is equally as exquisite in her cooler, muted tones. I love the light in both countries. I love the French for their style and love of culture. The Italians for their passion and appreciation of family.
Both beautiful. Both so much to admire.
But it is in France I burst into tears looking at the city from Notre Dame. I think she is the siren whose call is perhaps the most beguiling and bewitches me more.
Still very hard to choose! A great post! It is almost like choosing between your book an Carla’s Italian Joy. Impossible!! Both so beautiful and needed for the soul.

Rebecca@Harmony and Home

What a beautifully written post. I loved when you started talking about food… it is truly a passion for you, yes? From this writing, I can see how you are being paid to write another book! Simply poetic!

BTW, never been to Europe, although I’d love to come over one day. Both countries look so beautiful.

Mindy

I adore both. I have only been to France once – Paris & Nantes. It was so magical, I soaked it all in while my husband worked at a convention. The bread, fashion, art, wine, the simple pleasures of life.

Italy I have been on 4 holidays, something about Italy is intoxicating for me. The lustiness of the food, the way you described it. The history of the ages, etched in Pompeii, the rugged beauty of Amalfi, the history of Christianity at the Vatican, the enormity and amazing depth of beautiful art in Florence lure me back time and time again.

Our last trip to Cinque Terre & Montepulciano was quintessential Italy – the tempo similar to fresh laundry drying in summer sun. The laughter of children playing football in the piazza. It is all so seductive for me. The welcoming smiles, the unsolicited invitations to have coffee or wine. The spontaniety of life ~ it lures me again and again.

Kelli

What a fun and wonderful post Vicki!

I love certain things Italian but my heart rests in France… pour toujours. This doesn’t mean I would say no to a villa all my own somewhere in the Italian countryside!

zenlifer

I very much enjoyed your post. It took me right back there and so I thank you for a most enjoyable visit!

I came to the same conclusion you did…the French are just more reserved and take a little time to warm up to you. -Nothing wrong with that.

I liken it to the difference between toddlers…there is always the one that is more reserved, watching the world and taking it all in before deciding to step out and explore. This is the child who is a little shy with strangers…snuggling up to her parents until she has had time to assess the situation and deemed you “okay.”

Then there is always the other toddler who is out running and falling down, willing to go to any person he meets. No fear, it seems. Everyone and anyone is a friend right from the get-go.

I’m American (Southern Californian) and enjoy both countries and cultures, but I’ve always been drawn to life in Italy. No doubt it’s because I identify most with the first toddler and (luckily) I am able to recognize my need for the complimentary aspects in the gregarious nature of the second toddler!

The longstanding debate will no doubt continue, but for me, it’s taking what I like best about each to achieve the perfect blending of the two. –(Just don’t tell my Italian friends as I do hope to be allowed to live there one day!)

massi

vicki, as usual, your post is great!
Maybe…i’m too italian to leave a comment!
Hope you return and visit also other region.
Ciao
Massi

Millie

Great fun post Vicki. The question you've posed is a bit like comparing men. We all need the experience of falling for a bad boy once in our lives. Passionate, exasperating, dangerous, hot, exhilarating, wild & totally unreliable. Lovely for a fling but at the end of the day we know we want a long-term relationship with a man who's sophisticated, worldly, charming, elegant, loving & totally reliable.
Millie ^_^

Anne in Oxfordshire

I will take either !! I love France and I love Italy…My husband does prefer Italy..I have just been to Paris and it was amazing I cannot believe it has taken me so long to get there..Hard choice for me!

Blue Muse

I could never choose between them – separate they are wonderful, together — magical. I’ll take both. – and Greece. hehe.

This is one of my favorites of your posts. I love your gentle insight, and I could just see the Italians in the traffic jam sharing food and chatting it up. It made me laugh. A very happy laugh.

xo Isa

Mélanie

I should use your world ” italian for a day , french for lifetime ” and may be mexican after life

Tina

Just stumbled upon your blog. Lovely post :-)

I have two comments though:

I’ve lived in Italy and every traffic jam I’ve seen, the Italians swear angrily and shake their fists… Have never seen happy Italians in a traffic jam. Maybe I need to get myself to Portofino! :-)

I always wonder why people think the French are reserve. I have shared homes with French girls in Italy, and had several friends from France when I lived in Argentina, and every single one of them was outgoing and gregarious from the first moment. Not a hint of reservedness.

I’d raise my hand for Italy by the way. But, I’d also hesitate on the basis that Paris does own a chunk of my heart. Must go back someday!

Mary

You have captured my very thoughts, and feelings, in this wonderful posting! My husband longs to live in Italy and, although I love Italy and we have visited there numerous times, my heart will always be with France. Our dream is to expatriate from the US to either Italy or France. Knowing that I am a hopeless Francophile, he has given me the choice of where to move, bless him:) I just discovered your blog and I am completely and utterly hooked, thank you!

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