Bon Appetit magazine, posted a list on their blog, 20 Reasons We Love Italy and then asked what readers might add to their list. Having just returned from six months in Umbria, the landlocked region just east of Tuscany, I found I had my own list, which didn't coincide with theirs much, if at all. My Top Ten:
1. That five grown men can sit in a bar and talk passionately for an entire hour about what makes a good Carbonara.
2. The set-in-stone ritual of an aperitivo before dinner. And how fiercely they guard their appetites. No snacking here!
3. Being personally served in a grocery store, as if I were at Tiffany, buying diamonds.
4. The absence of a "diet mentality," the innocence of which is eroding as I type. As I ran through the list of things that might be considered "bad" for you with a group of Italian friends, I got the following response. Pasta? "Pasta non fa male." (Pasta isn't bad for you.) Gelato? "Gelato non fa male." Prosciutto? Mortadella? Pizza? "Noooo. Non fanno male." It wasn't until I got to fried foods that I finally got a different answer. French fries? "Si. Fa male." Potato chips. "Certo!" And fried, stuffed squash blossoms? "Si, fanno male." But, "Buoni!" In other words. Who cares!?
5. That you can get a very good sandwich, on pretty good bread, at any Autogrill off the Autostrada.
6. Those cars! Ferrari are everywhere, and they're moving fast, as opposed to those stuck at stop lights on Sunset Boulevard.
7. That Rufus can go just about anywhere.
8. That families still eat together. Even at lunch. At a table. On weekdays, too.
9. Olio nuovo. That is, new, just-pressed, bright green, peppery, throat-burning olive oil, and the annual, autumn obsession around it.
10. Gelato. And even though Bon Ap wrote on their blog that you can't go wrong, you can go wrong, or at least you can go more right at some gelaterie than others. The majority (Grom!) of gelati sold in Italy are made from mixes. A select few gelaterie really and truly make their own, like, from scratch. The delightful, family-owned Vivoli, in Florence, and the spectacular Giolitti, in Rome, are just two of so many to love.