These frantic mid-life days get us all tangled in knots. We work to keep schedules that intersect the demands of work and family while tapping into the activities that keep us going on a practical level – groceries, gas, bank, dentist, doctor, laundry. We are a people at the mercy of our schedules.
And then we go on vacation.
I was sitting in a highly recommended restaurant in Rome just weeks ago, a little buzzy from a shared bottle of Valpolicello when I noticed it the first time. Our meal finished, we waited with our North American norms for the waiter to brings us the cheque. Instead he brought us dessert. Thirty minutes later, we asked for the cheque. He insisted he would, right after we enjoyed cappuccino.
But wait, we protested. People are in line waiting for a table.
He looked. He shrugged.
He was right. There was no toe tapping. No frustrated glares toward dining patrons.
There was lots of chatter. A few glasses of wine were consumed while people passed the time waiting for a table, living. It all seemed very normal.
Still, our North American sensibilities kicked in and we were quick to settle the bill and move on.
This happened again and again as we moved through Italy, until I was so enamored of this life, that I began to slip my wrist watch into my back pack whenever we were not at the mercy of a train schedule.
I wanted to experience life, as the Europeans seem to. Cool. No rush. Sucking the marrow from life. Well, there was that one women who flipped me the bird while flying by me as I drove the posted 130km/h on the Autostrade. She was not cool. Definitely in a rush. It was so Italian… I loved it!
As the days wore on and my travelling companions noted the same relaxed behavior around mealtimes, we all started to chill. Our days were no longer capped with dinner, but with dining. It wasn’t just food and wine we savoured – though we certainly savoured some of the best food and drink I’ve ever tasted. More, we savoured time. Sweet, perfectly aged, beautifully spiced and scrumptiously seasoned life.
I was moved each day by the treasures Italy keeps safe for the world. The historical, religious and art works left to us by the masters. I fell in love with the sweet perfumed spring winds that blow through, even in the bustle of Rome and Florence.
But I will remember forever how we were welcomed in and offered the opportunity to stop and live, and enjoy. With no time limit.