Piano, Piano...Slowly, Slowly
We have been here one month and already I want the time to stop. Saying that seems sort of ironic because time doesn’t seem to move here. It’s fundamentally one of the things we love most about Italy.
In California, time is a pressing force and constant stress. Our phone alarms obnoxiously wake us pre-dawn to start our day so we can race to work, only to be stalled staring at the clock in commute traffic. Our computers flash alerts to advise of meeting we are about to miss while our phone buzz yet again delivering text messages reminding us of tasks we must accomplish before we end our day. Our daily existence is parceled into consecutive to-do’s, one needing our attention after the other at an unrelenting pace.
In Tuscany, time is much more elusive. Time isn’t a number on a clock and it certainly isn’t concrete. Time is general and more about moments. Time on the clock is used strictly as a means to roughly estimate a time to meet friends and colleagues, designate the start of a sporting event or listed on signs in front of shops outlining hours of operation. All of which really should come with an ‘-ish’ at the end.
Time here is more about pace. And, for us, it’s the biggest adjustment we have to make. One of the words we hear from our friends most often after we arrive, in our harried, California state-of-mind, is ‘Piano’ (pee-AHH-no) or ‘slow’. Everything about us oozes stress and urgency and we are told over and over, with arms motioning up to down, “Piano, Piano”. If they really mean it, sometimes they will then add the English for emphasis, “Piano, piano…Slowly, slowly”.
The day is divided into morning, pausa, afternoon, evening and night. Each portion of the day carries with it expectations. Morning is espresso and perhaps a pastry while standing at the café bar. The morning news and pleasantries are shared with family, friends and acquaintances before everyone goes about chores or their job. Pausa or ‘Pause’ mandates a ‘stop’ in the day. It’s a ‘regrouping’ of sorts to eat lunch and be with family. Being the biggest difference in our CA life and Italy life, Pausa reserves it’s own post at a later time, but suffice it to say, once we fall into the cadence of daily life here, Pausa is our most favorite part of the day. Afternoon is reserved for returning to work, whatever that may be - at an office in a city, in a kitchen making ragu, or tending to the land. Evening is kicked off with Passeggiata (directly translated as ‘parade’, but more loosely, an evening stroll). In bigger cities with larger piazzas, this is more prominent, but it’s again time to regroup with family, friends and acquaintances. It’s sort of an outdoor happy hour for all ages. When we first arrive, it’s an awkward time of day for us as we haven’t yet assimilated, but once we are able to partake fully, it remains a fascinating social commentary (and also one worthy of a dedicated post). Night is reserved for cena (dinner) with family at home and on occasion at a restaurant including friends or extended family.
For those ‘clock-obsessed’ and need some understanding of how this breaks out - Morning is 7am to 10am (or the time it is acceptable to drink cappuccino), Pausa (lunch) is 1pm to 3pm, Evening is from 5-8pm, Night (dinner) is 8-11pm. I feel the urge to add my ‘-ish’ caveat. As previously mentioned, everything in Italy is ‘just a suggestion’. You may arrange a work meeting at a particular time, but you must change it because you run into a friend you haven’t seen in some time and you must sit to share coffee. You may see a store owner slam his door at 12:30 even though his sign on the door reads ‘Chiuso 1 a 4’ (closed 1 to 4). And, as is witnessed at the famous Palio, even sporting events may not have a prompt starting time.
Living by pace of life versus the ticking of a clock, is our favorite part of living on the boot. We wake up by the sun piercing the windows and the church bells tolling. In our slumber we count their clammer to 8 and decide it’s time to start our day. It’s been a month and we’ve fallen into pace. Gone are the demands “Piano, piano” because our innate urgency has reverted to a more natural state of calm. We may still have our to-dos, and they get accomplished just as they would in California. However, they get done between the important things - espresso, walks through vineyards, bike rides on historic gravel roads, friends, good food, great wine…and just a little more “slowly, slowly”.
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