Here is an end of the year list of some things I like and some things I don’t about Italy. My list wasn’t prompt, but I didn’t even make resolutions this year. Consider me bucking the trends.

Also, this is simply a list not an “A” List

Top 5 Surprises in Italy. Actually 6.

6. Cheek kisses. Men women… whomever. All get a kiss on each cheek. Or really more of an “air kiss”. A touching of cheeks with kissing noises. Still, It’s sensual, warm, and sensitive, yet manly. Also, If it’s a guy you just met, or don’t really like, you can just kinda firmly touch cheeks when you say goodbye. If it’s somebody who’s company you really enjoy, you pucker up and make kissy noises.

5. Suppli. Rice and tomato sauce, deep fried with a chunk of mozzarella hidden in the middle. Everyone thinks pizza and pasta when they think Italian food. That’s because they don’t yet know about the suppli.

4.Irish Bars. Not really a surprise, beacause Irish bars are to Ireland as MacDonald’s is to America: the pandemic cultural symbol. But it’s really nice to be able to get a proper beer here in this country of weak and watery beers. Peroni? Nastro Azurro? No thanks. Guinness? Yes please.

3. The bidet. It’s not something that’s appropriate to talk about all the time, but it’s so fresh and so clean clean. People sometimes say Italians are dirty, but considering most have a bidet twice a day they’re probably cleaner than you.

2. The Sistine Chapel… really is that cool. You’d think the 500 year old Catholic hype machine might have made it a bit of a letdown, but it’s actually spectacular. (A little less so after the hundredth visit, but still blowing my fucking mind apart on a regular basis).

1. Coffee. Oh god the coffee. Though I still get the occasional hankering for a bottomless cup of joe, I’m really feeling the espresso, the cappuccino, the caffe macchiato (espresso with just a shot of latte caldo) and the caffe correto (espresso with just a shot of booze). Starbucks can stuff their 5 dollar coffee, i’ll take an 80 cent Italian cappucino.

Bottom 5 Surprises. Five plus 1.

5. Traffic State of Mind. Traffic here is nutser than you can believe. However, it works. The Romans have a functioning chaos on their roadways. As I’m learning to drive, I am first unlearning what I thought I knew about driving. I still haven’t felt the flow though. I usually just feel scared.

4. Dirty. Rome is dirty.

3. Black Work. I have a work permit, but don’t need it to do my tour guiding. In a sense I’m a vigilante, but it would be nice to offer my services with authorization. However, Italian culture has a long and ingrained history of lavoro nero, it touches every family. Mine too.

2. Gypsies. Or the Rom. I haven’t figured out what the deal is with them, but packs of adolescent girl pickpockets, or vacant and dirty looking children playing a prerecorded Casio keyboard beat on the metro looking for change, it’s just sad. I don’t know the social or political history well enough to comment, but I do know it’s a problem; both the theft aspect and the unhealthy pallor in their faces.

1. Italian children. Are generally the most spoiled and pampered ill behaved group of people you could ever hope to meet. And I’ve worked with a lot of kids. This does not apply to every single one, nor does it apply all the time. But generally children and teenagers are really really ill behaved here.

0. I’m Old. The ugliest surprise of all is that I’m getting old(er). Besides the frequent fussing about my hairline, and more frequent pains in my back, I also have taken to complaining about the younger generation (see above). Not cool.