There is something truly great in Italia that I have fully learned to appreciate…the use of the hands. It’s very exciting because it isn’t one of the cultural differences I had thought about before leaving. Many know that the Italians use their hands to talk and to communicate; that stereotype is pretty accurate. But there is something so awesome about taking the times to do things by hand. It lets you take your time, have good conversation, and appreciate the work much more.
Water is “free” in our apartment. So why use 2 euro for the washing machine? I decided to do what the Romans do and wash by hand. We don’t use the bidet for anything else, so why not just fill that with cold water, detergent, let it soak, and then let it dry on the porch? The clothes are very stiff when they dry but once you put them on they’re back to normal after 2 minutes. It’s actually extremely simple. I may do this when I get back to Philly, can’t be sure yet. I feel like hanging my clothes out to dry in Philly would make them reek of four loco and cigarette smoke.
Perhaps the best part of living here is making the food, again all by hand. Last weekend, 15 of us went to a professor’s house and made gnocchi from scratch. There is something truly remarkable about food here in that people actually take time to make it. After grinding up the patate (potatoes) for the gnocchi, you have to sprinkle flour over it and make it with an egg. Then you knead it into a ball of dough, cut off a sliver, roll it, cut that into little pieces and you have your gnocchi. The kneading and making a mess is the best part of the whole thing.
Then of course there’s the art. Sculptures, paintings, architecture. All done by tools and hands over hundreds of thousands of years. There is absolute perfection in these priceless sculptures, and it would most likely be difficult even for a machine to replicate the details in the folds of fabric and the hairs on the heads. In Italy, seeing all the art around me, I’m reminded that there’s great unified spirit that all humans have, a desire to create. The Michelangelo’s ceiling of the Sistine Chapel displays this perfectly.
And finally, of course, there is the appreciation of writing by hand and taking notes. In my Museum Theory and History class, we learned about something called the Grand Tour. This is in the 17oos, when sons of aristocrats (and eventually others), just college-aged would travel around Europe, making Italy their final destination. To keep records, they would write in “tagebuchs,” or journals. Writing by hand, not a journal, but simply a list of things I did that day, has been awesome. I’ve been lacking in it a bit and I’d like to be doing it more. I still spend a lot of time on the computer.
Try doing some of those things by hand. It lets you slow down and really appreciate the task at hand, literally.