Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Slowing Down Mid-day by Barbara Quinn

In Sicily they still shut down mid-day for about a 4 hour break. Other than restaurants and bars everyone is at home enjoying themselves between the hours of 12 or 1 to 4 or 4:30. Then it’s back to work again till 8 PM. That means there are four rush hours. Outside the big cities it’s not very crowded and the tiny roads are able to handle the rush home. How wonderful to be able to be with your family mid-day for a meal, a nap, and a little love. Life has a different rhythm. The dinner hour often begins at 10 PM and afterwards there is a “passeggiata” – a walk around the town square or along the ocean where all ages take a healthy, long stroll. I enjoyed joining the crowd walking along, studying the shoes which are the best giveaway to nationality. (We left the sneakers and baseball caps at home!)

As tourists, the mid-day hours were a good time to take a drive out to the countryside. We drove past shuttered shops and were often the only car in remote villages. Even the gas stations were closed. Luckily some of them have machines that will take your cash and allow you to fill up. One day we put in more money than we needed. The machine spit out a piece of paper that we stared at. A young boy on a bike came over. Eventually we understood that he wanted to help us out. He took the receipt to a closed shop where he knew the owner and returned with our cash. We were more than happy to reward him with a tip. Then we headed off to a local bar for an espresso and a chat with the few locals who were hanging out.

It’s fascinating to see how different cultures approach life and to learn that there are many ways to fill the twenty-four hours of each day. We commute too long and far to adopt this lifestyle in the States. Could you imagine the local mall shutting down between 12 and 4? But what a thrill and pleasure it was to be a part of it for a short time.


Nannette Croce said...

I do remember those lovely afternoons in Italy when I lived abroad many, many years ago. I had heard that up north they had started grabbing a sandwich in the "bars" (which are really cafes) and going back to work. Don't know if that lasted or if they realized what they were missing and went back to the old way.

Angie Ledbetter said...

Ah, now I know where my love of napping originates! The Italian daily schedule fits my rhythms than the one we have here in the States. Lovely post.

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