I have gone past the half way point of my stay in Italy and my thoughts have turned to finding small gifts to take home to my family to assure them that I really have thought about them while I was enjoying my “Me” time. The upshot of this is that I have to sometime go into shops that are not on my usual round.
I am getting really good at faking it in the galleries or supermarket, bookstores and cafes. I have enough grasp on the language to be able to order a meal, buy a ticket or pass through the checkout unscathed. I have the usual tricks of a surreptitious glance at the register readout when the Italian gets too fast or to dialectic for me, which is actually most of the time. But now I am stepping out of my comfort zone.
Sometimes I come across a vendor in a little, off the beaten path shop who doesn’t have any English at all … well, that’s what they will indicate, even if they can manage a little. It is on these infrequent occasions that I get what I find to be the biggest buzz of being here in Italy. When I can carry on a meaningful dialogue with a non-English speaker which results in my carrying off the items I went into the shop to buy the feeling is even better than finding a previously unseen art work and almost as good as Venchi gelato.
I bring this up because I had the experience today, surprisingly in a small shop opposite the Acadamia. I am not going give away where as I don’t want to spoil the surprise for a couple of my loved ones. The gentleman who was looking after the shop, Mario would you believe … TRUELY! … I think usually relies on his son in the English department but he was out to lunch. That left Mario and I to struggle through the transaction on our own. I couldn’t even use my old faithful shake of the head and mumbles about “What is the Italian word for …?”. He couldn’t rescue me.
A perfect gentleman, Mario kept apologising for his lack of English and, of course, I kept saying how bad my Italian is but we managed and I came away feeling quite accomplished and, I might add, a deal poorer for the purchase. It really does work if I am not lazy and give an honest effort and it is so satisfying to succeed.