Italy is a place full of artists. Yes, there are many that come to mind when I say this; Michelangelo, Donatello, Botticelli, and DaVinci. But what I have learned over the past few days is that Italy is full of “everyday” artists.
In fact, the country in itself seems to have a creative flare. For every turn on the old streets bring you magically around the corner to another life tapestry. Bright colors kiss shutters and doors among the intimacy of narrow cobblestone streets. Doorsteps seems to reach out in friendly affection for one another.
Coming from a country that has a McDonald’s quick fix mentality, my senses have been both inundated and challenged to slow down. I am learning to walk at a leisurely pace and to pay attention to the new tastes, smells, sights, and sounds surrounding me. You see, Italy has a culture that takes pleasure in these senses.
Yesterday afternoon I sat on the beach by the sea with Gionni and Lucia. And on this beach it was not just the sounds of the sea that lulled me peacefully, but also the sounds of the people. The gentle murmur of a beautiful language spoken all around me. It was a graceful melody that calmed me. Gionni explained that while Italian of course has rules like any language, if something did not flow well then the rules were changed. If the sentence was not pleasing then the rule would become irregular in order to make it sound more cohesive. In a sense, it was if they were making a symphony out of a form of communication. And to me sitting on the beach yesterday, that is exactly how it sounded.
Last night we went to a restaurant sitting on the side of a great hill. The restaurant was on the first floor of an old Italian villa. Upon entering you felt as if you were stepping into someone’s personal dining room, and the service matched the atmosphere perfectly. Lucia said that this restaurant only used the fresh ingredients of the area in their food. I was amazed as plate after plate arrived to the table. Meats, cheeses, olives, vegetables, pasta, and bread. All complimented by overflowing wine. My eyes became rounder with each course until I felt that the experience itself would be engulfed within them. I have never had a meal in which the feast was an art and the diners were bonded together in appreciation for the beauty of it. This was something prepared with purpose and design. Once again there was a lovely melody, and we were the bars on which the notes rested. Each taste building on the crescendo of the last.
Another form of everyday art that the Italians possess is their exuberant hospitality. If you are a guest, then you are like family. My hosts have not allowed me to pay for anything, and instead they have served me with smiles, patience, and kindness at every turn. I have learned not just part of the Italian language from them, but also the heart of the Italian people. True hospitality is a great form of love and to give it well is a beautiful craft.
I want to live my life in a way that builds on the art of living. Seeing the beauty around me and giving exuberant love to the people around me. If, like the Italian language, a cultural rule inhibits the flow of the language of my life then I want to break it. And if I live in this form, then I want it to end on a great crescendo that compliments the chapters before it.