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