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Lessons Learned from Traveling in Italy (by a Recent Vacationer)

Jul 312013
 By , July 31, 2013

Traveling lessons: Italy

Traveling is supposed to broaden one’s mind (while narrowing one’s wallet). So I never travel outside the country without returning with some important new experiences and lessons to share.

Here’s what I learned in my visit to Italy:

  1. The five key phrases one should learn in the local language, anywhere, are “hello,” “excuse me,” “thank you,” “where’s the toilet,” and “check, please.”
  1. When driving an Italian rental in Tuscany, find a gear you like and stick with it. Unsure? Try third.
  1.  After two glasses of Chianti, all food tastes great; after four glasses, so does the toviglia.*
  1. After the ooing and ahhing subside, one Tuscan hill town is pretty much like another.
  1. The Euro has greatly contributed to the standardization of how American tourists get bilked traveling in the E.U.
  1. The person who coined the saying “All roads lead to Rome” probably never drove through Umbria (and that “wasn’t built in a day” thing? Damned obvious once you’ve been there — it looks like they’ll never finish).
  1. To appear learned to lovers of Renaissance art, you only need to learn a few key names, like Caravagio, and choice words, like “chiaroscuro.” For example: “I appreciate the neoclassical chiaroscuro effect achieved by artists like Caravagio by combining stracciatella with bacio.” Or: “Donatella uses color like Titian, but lacks the perspective of Tintoretto and the passion of Nocciola.”**
  1. In Venice you should never run for a gondola, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the canals— there’ll always be another (gondola and canal).
  1. When a waiter asks “gas or no gas?” he wants to know which bottled water you prefer and is not inquiring about your digestion.

* Italian for “tablecloth.”

** Stracciatella, bacio and nocciola are flavors of the Italian ice cream known as “gelato.”

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Howard Zaharoff

Howard Zaharoff reads (a lot), writes (mostly humor), teaches (occasionally) and practices law (doesn't everyone?). He is the author of "Stump Your Lawyer!" (Chronicle 2007), and his work has appeared in The Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, Amazing Stories, Computerworld, The Journal of Irreproducible Results, The Annals of Improbable Research and the books Growing Up Jewish (Penguin 1987) and Sex As a Heap of Malfunctioning Rubble (and Further Improbabilities) (Workman 1993), among other places.

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