When I talk to different Americans about why they love Italy and or why they would like to live here, a common answer is "life style." I also love the Italian life style. But what exactly does life style mean to people? As people discuss this topic further, they talk about life being at a slower pace, which means that they live at a slower pace. What makes the pace slower here, or to think a bit differently about it, why is the pace in the US so fast? One reason, which I have talked about ad nauseum, is the difference in our understanding of the value of time. Coming from Silicon Valley, there was a sense that time was a precious and finite resource. To not value time, brings up the idea of profligate spending. Italians, as opposed to most Americans, have a much broader sense of time. I think that it is based upon living in a place that has been inhabited for more than 2000 years. I am still struggling with the idea that time is something to be enjoyed rather than segmented, and accounted for in a total reckoning at the end of the day.
Life style is a way of living that reflects our values, habits and attitudes. My life style here in Umbria is quite different than my life style was in Oakland, California. It is not only that I am in a small town. I have lived in small towns in the US and trust me it is not the same as living in this small town in Umbria. For me life style also includes a sense of community; the emotional experience of community; a sense of belonging, of identification, of feeling emotionally and physically safe; a feeling that I can influence others and they can influence me. I feel all of these things in Umbertide. I know that part of this is because we are retired, and so we can take the time to integrate into the community here. Part of this is that there are not many Americans in town, so the citizens here still have patience and interest with foreigners.
We had lunch here the other day with a mixed group of Italians and Americans. We talked about how you can never really "belong" in a small community like Umbertide. I said I belong here as much as I want to belong. Quite frankly any more feeling of belonging would feel very invasive, but that is just me.
I have a very simple example to show how a sense of community works for me here. We were leaving town for a few days, and asked our friends Joseph and Paul to watch our dog Luca. Before we took him to their home, we had Luca bathed and groomed. (He came back with a bit of a short hair cut.) When two of the Italian women in town saw Luca, they almost had a heart attack. "It is too cold to have the dog in such short hair." "Luca will surely catch cold without a coat. What was Susan thinking?" So far this might seem like criticism rather than sense of community. What happened next seems like it could only have happened here.
(When I got back in town, I did return the pony blanket and got him a proper US sweater.)