Sunday, May 29, 2011

10 Things to Do to Spoil Your trip to Umbria

An extraordinary occurrence...the piazza with only 2 people in it!

For those of you contemplating a trip to Umbria, I thought I would post some things to help with your trip.  There are many ways you can spoil a vacation in Umbria, but these are my top 10 as of today.  Will  welcome any comments from you!

10. Pull the cord next to a public toilet thinking it is a flush mechanism because you can't see anything else.
(In Italy these cords are required by law in case you fall or are in trouble.  They are connected to alarms in the main office and once set off tend to annoy the proprietor, unless of course you are in trouble.  The flush is either on the back of the tank, a little button under the tank up towards the ceiling or on the floor.)

9. When greeting an Italian, go to your right to air brush the person's cheek.
(In the U.S. we generally go right, Italians always go left.  If you go to your right this can result in smashed noses or mouth kisses with a toothless old man.)

8.  Go into the Italian breakfast place, the local "bar" and order a Denny's grand slam.
(You could perhaps order this at 8:00 pm at a restaurant, but breakfast for Italians is a "cornetto" and a capuccino. Italians are night people and don't function very well before 10:00 am and become nauseous at the thought of meat or eggs for breakfast.  They do feed their children cereal but I think this has been influenced by American advertising.)

7.  Go to the fruit and vegetable section of the local grocery store and hunt for tomatoes, melons, or anything like we do by squeezing it, smelling it, putting it back and then putting the one you want in your basket. You wonder why the produce people seem unfriendly.
(In Italy you need to look for plastic bags and then under the plastic bag is a plastic glove that must be worn as you select vegetables.  They are phobic about germs.  Oddly this does not apply in the open market where you can pick up what you want.  Once you select your fruits or vegetables, you must remember the number of the bin and then go to a scale and weigh it yourself. If you don't do this, all chaos will break out at the check out line.)

6.  Have a lovely lunch that finished at 2:00 and then make plans to go shopping, into the museum, go to any site that you have marked in your guidebook.
(Unless you are in Milan or Rome, nothing will be open between 2:00 and 6:00.  Also every restaurant is required by law to be closed one day a week.  Although this law is not always followed, it is always good to check the "orario" for you restaurants.)

5. Get on the autostrada and drive like an American.  Meaning, drive in the left lane about 10- 20 miles an hour above the speed limit, passing the slowpokes on the right.
(If you do this you might potentially be killed.  The left lane is meant for passing only unless you are a huge Mercedes that goes 200 km an hour or faster! I mean this literally)

4.  Have specific goals of things you want to see, times you want to see it in and length of time you think it will take to see each thing.
(This is bound to make you feel desperate, want to pull out your hair, and jump out my piazza window. Nothing in Italy goes on a plan although they talk about organization constantly, and there are certain patterns that are never broken.   If you can not control your "J" MeyersBriggs tendancy to make to do lists and then cross them off when accomplished,  make short trips to Switzerland or Austria to break up any Umbrian visits.)

3. Sit down with the card playing men in the piazza and ask them who is winning.
(I have never had the courage to do this myself, but I can not imagine that it would have a good outcome.)

2.  Come to a "T" intersection with 20 signs in a vertical row pointing all directions and in a nanosecond expect your navigator to tell you which way to turn.
(This can result in the mother of all fights right up there with a trip to Ikea.  The driver will think you can look at all of this data and glean some relevant information from it.  They are mistaken!  When you come to one of these signs just shout out "right" or "left".  You have a 50% chance of being right.

1. Begin to compare everything you experience with what you have experienced in the US.  Commenting on the plumbing, the internet speed, the lack of road signage that has any relevance.
(Umbria is one of God's gifts to the world. It has exceptional physical beauty, delicious food, sweet people and talented crafts people.  In living here, it is best, if you want to keep your sanity, to have a glass half full point of view.)

We or some of our visitors have done all of these things with sometimes maddening, often hilarious results.  Buon viaggio!


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  2. Good stuff to know. Question: What do you keep your glass half full with? Looking forward to a local wine review or two.

  3. We drink wine from a local monastery for 1E for a liter. Will pay attention what we drink when we go out tonight.

  4. Just discovered your blog and reading from the beginning. This information is precious! I learned about #9 the awkward way.

    1. Thank you Anthony. Glad you are enjoying the blog. I know about "awkward" myself. Life in Italy is never dull!