Thursday, August 6

neighbors on the edge

As far as I'm concerned, we live in a little slice of heaven. Amalfi is alive. People bustle from morning long into the night, working to make those tourist dollars. Droves of young adults have returned for August and sit and catch up at the beach and in all the squares, every alley and doorway. The drone of the sea is drowned by the buzz of scooters, kids lamenting, girls squealing at boys. I could record Amalfi's noise and meditate to it during my long quite winters in northern Italy.

My enthusiasm is not shared by all...

In this square, a small, off the beaten path square, there are shops that have been here for over sixty years, and families who have lived here much longer. Aging buildings and people all stacked right on top of each other. We have a basket that sits in our kitchen that my mother-in-law used to use to lift up bread from the balcony, filled by the young boy who now runs his father's bakery with his own children across the square. Many from her time, who were once children in this square, still live behind the shutters that open up to it.

But, like I said, they do not share my love for the sounds.

There used to be an older gentleman who played guitar and sang at one of the restaurants in the square. He played both the lunchtime and dinner crowds and he had one set that he did during lunch and then repeated later in the day. He repeated the same set the next day. And the next. And the next. Except when they were closed on Mondays, you could be expected to be serenaded by the exact same playlist twice a day for the entire duration of the summer.

Despite the repetition, I liked hearing this old fellow. He was part of our home, our day. Mondays always seemed off without him.

I found out that the mother of a local friend lives next door and I asked her what she thought about the guitarist. She launched into a rage about how he is driving everyone insane with the same songs, day after day, year after year. She complained that people cannot take their siesta, and don't want to be bombarded with his racket. What a perspective that I hadn't expected!

Besides the man singing, there are people talking, carts making deliveries. After the restaurants close for the night some of the locals like to come and hang out on the tables. They play cards or just chat. I don't even notice the noise... although that may be because of the language (it's very easy for me to not hear people speaking Italian)... but last night I heard something much louder, that then became screaming out in the square.

"Shut up! Go home! Why do you idiots have to hang outside my window and keep me awake all night! I can't sleep! We are
all trying to sleep!

Since they were speaking in dialect, that's a very rough translation... the actual words were probably much more colorful. The teenagers at the table started arguing with the guy screaming from the balcony which resulted in a pot being thrown at them, which resulted in the pot being thrown back at the old man, which turned into a threat of a larger pot being thrown, which resulted in a very angry old woman scream, I think both at the old man and the young adults in the square. A bit of advice. Never piss off an Italian woman. My god. She didn't stop berating them for a good twenty minutes.

I smile and still soak it up. And laugh at it too. But it makes me wonder, if I stay here long enough, will I end up pissed off and throwing pottery at the local youth?


  1. What a lovely real life sketch of your sweet amalfi! Bene!

    Comfort Spiral

  2. you make me wanna be there!

  3. I had no idea of Amalfi. And i just googled to find. So thats a find. And there it goes to my 'must see places' list ! Thank you.

    By then, i plan to work on my other skills. That includes picking up some parts of the dialect. And also, of catching pots.

    And about
    "Let me tell you, never piss off an Italian woman"

    as an operating rule, i dont discriminate based on nationality !


  4. I don't like to generalize either... but just a quick story...

    I asked my American chiropractor, who now lives and works in Italy, if he was married to an Italian. He looked at me in shock and said "do you think I am crazy?!?!"

    Ha ha... I laughed. And I am learning a thing or two from these vivacious women about how to be married to an Italian man...

    Also, vivacious (vivace) is an adjective in Italian which is also used to describe something spicy hot. I like this word very much.

  5. I can totally relate. In Paraguay, I always wanted to sleep with the windows open, but my husband was bothered by all the street sounds. Especially the drunks who return home at 5am and want to keep the party going so they turn on the radios. . . which anger the neighbors who start yelling at the drunk. I have always found this part of the "charm" but my husband calls it something else. I think we just all have different tolerances and it hits us all differently, I like to hear life happening around me. But not everyone see's it that way :)

  6. I like your etymology on the word Vivacious. ;) Love the imagery of the square, the singer, the fight and the Italian raging women. Was it weird coming back from WI?

    I am leaving for the UK next Sunday.... My husband has been there for 3 days and is in love with the house and the country already. :)


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