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If you don’t like it…(part 2)

June 1, 2011

This is the continuation of this previous post in which I attempt to answer the question “if you don’t like it in Italy why don’t you get the f*k out of here.”  Stay tuned for parts 5 through 7.

Reason #2. Just like anywhere, there are a few really good people in Rome. Actually Rome attracts people drawn to the same things that drew me here all those years ago so,  while still a minority, the people for whom I feel an affinity seem more abundant here. Certainly more than if I lived in Las Vegas or Dubai. It’s easy to see the jerks, there are so many of them in rome, the caffoni, the prepotenti, the maleducati (many of them in positions of political or economic power which makes them more visible and more dangerous), but when I look at my address book (or the results of this week’s elections in Milan and Naples)  I realize that the nice guys are a growing majority. A majority I like to think I’m a part of.  Sometimes Rome gets under my skin and makes me less than nice, but I do my best to think positive.

Reason #3. Things are still made and done well here. I guess the word is “quality”,  for which there is often an obsession that defies concepts like practicality or efficiency with which I am more familiar.   This is true in cinema, Italians being more apt to make a great film rather than a successful one, and even more famously in food and fashion.  Sure there are many exceptions which must be resisted and exposed (friends like Katie Parla  and Elizabeth Minchilli are doing a great job here with their attentive observation of Rome’s restaurants) , but better to fixate on quality than the lack thereof. A well-made pair of shoes, a finely crafted doorknob or handrail, a perfect plate of pasta…where else am I going to find such a concentration of good stuff?

Reason #4. Even the bad stuff is beautiful.  Here I’m stepping into philosophical quicksand, I know, but it has to be said.  There’s an aesthetic quality that enriches my world even in the things I find distasteful and despicable. Great design extends to motor vehicles, excessive luxury products, weapons, uniforms, and other things that play no positive role in our society. Religious art, especially that pertaining to particularly despotic times such as the Renaissance, is often really pretty good. I’m a connoisseur of Fascist architecture while being profoundly anti-Fascist.  I can even appreciate the personal style of Italians for whom I have not respect otherwise.  Let’s face it, many good people in other cultures–and I don’t want to single out Anglo-Saxons– are not so attractive, while every time I get off a plane in Rome, or even approach the check-in area of a Rome-bound flight, I am wowed by the style and charm that even the most obviously cut-throat, neo-liberal bourgeois bigots manage to exude. I don’t know if this is a good thing but it makes life pleasurable.

Stay tuned for parts 5 through 7.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. June 3, 2011 07:50

    As always, I agree 100%! (and thanks for the shout out)


  2. Petulia permalink
    June 3, 2011 17:17

    Caro Tom,

    Che belle parole usi per descrivere la nostra cara Roma. I tend to agree completely with what you say, especially now that I live abroad, and I feel pride every time I see a well dressed Italian at the airport, or walking around in London. However, we must hope that this sense of beauty and style, the appreciation for quality and the innate love for complexity does not remain the only positive trait of Italians (Romans). Let’s hope that this change in the political scene will allow Italians to shine also for other things, bringing back the association of Italy with culture and beauty tout court!


  3. June 3, 2011 18:55

    Bravo! When you’re done with the posts I’ll have to put them up somewhere as a constant reminder. It’s quite often that Rome, as you say, “gets under my skin and makes me less than nice.” It’s far too easy to forget the good, and how good the good really is. Thanks for the refreshing reminder of why I’m here!


  4. June 4, 2011 05:29

    Ha! This post is brilliant. I totally agree with you regarding the attention to design and beauty.

    There are plenty of good looking people in L.A. (hello, actors/models), but it’s different. There isn’t the style or appreciation I see here. L.A. feels less authentic.


  5. May 28, 2012 20:19

    Great post Tom – very insightful. The last time I was on a flight, I happened to be sitting next to a lovely, stylist Italian woman.


  6. Enrico Dressler permalink
    July 25, 2012 08:35

    Bravo Tom! You’ve expressed my feelings exactly. Talking to a friend earlier today, I was trying to explain why I feel as I do about Rome, and “beauty” was central to my reasoning. I know of no other place where the look of things, where comportment and style and pleasure, have such preeminence in the values of a society.



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