Life in my corner of Italy has changed a lot and not at all. If you are my sisters who have resisted the advance of technology all their lives things have not changed at all. They are twins and ten years older than I and color television was the beginning of the end of civilization for them. The internet has wrecked the picture postcard habit. They like the old ways and adhere to them with gentle stubbornness.
The married couple on the left, the widow on the right, me taking the obligatory portrait. My sisters this year fade into the background as my brother in law Vincenzo has made 2018 the start of a new more intense relationship with me.
Thin and wiry he grew up a farmer and married my sister the heiress over fifty years ago. He told me yesterday for the first time he married her because she found beauty and joy in the place she lived. Not because of her land; I had never thought of him as a gold digger. They thought of selling their land but they could think of nothing else to do so they raised their boys there and now the old folks are sidelined, the boys farm and their wives run the bed and breakfast.
We take long walks in the woods talking about the past and it’s mistakes, the future in a country that can not straighten out its politics and a present that is hedged in by rules and restrictions that deal with issues that have never been problems.
Every activity Vincenzo used to undertake has now been stymied because of regulations and European restrictions and health and safety rules. He enjoys retirement with his dog Caramella and his vegetable patches and watches his sons work as hard as he once did.
Italy he says is a country without a purpose. Italians have lost motivation and he too finds petty bureaucracy maddening. He warns me against living in Italy. Taxes are high and services don’t work. In this Byzantine world where every message must be understood on all levels I find myself trying to parse hidden meanings.
Does he mean I’m not wanted here? Is he expressing his discontent? Who knows. I listen and am glad he confides in me so I can unravel later the hidden meaning. He is doing me a favor and reminding me how complicated life is here. But he is also confiding in me so I have somehow earned his respect. You brave to go to America he says. I was desperate I say and he shakes his head.
I like being a visitor. Perhaps I am irresponsible perhaps I am lazy but for a week I get time to not care about the big picture. We talk of the past, of people we knew. The night I arrived he had to go to a funeral. So far we are the lucky ones he said. So far.