When last I wrote, the topic was Air Conditioning and its possible effect on Italian culture. Let me assure you that as of this year, there are no outward symptoms of such a change.
My friend Liz wrote a delightful blog:
about the day we (along with her absolutely adorable 7-month old daughter Naomi) actually did find air conditioning in Orvieto. I highly suggest you read it; let’s remember – she is married to an Italian, so she has much first-hand knowledge of the depths to which they will go to avoid AC. You might think she’s exaggerating when she talks of Italians wearing scarves around their necks on 96-degree days, but that’s only because you haven’t been in Italy on a 96-degree day.
At the time of our discovery of the air-conditioned restaurant, I had experienced one night when the temperature didn’t get down nearly as low as I would have liked. The next day I got out the fan we had tucked in an attic storage space. It helped.
Then, the following week we had more “uncomfortable” nights. I couldn’t help but notice that my voice was getting more and more annoyingly whiney. Every e-mail I wrote to people back home included multiple mentions of the terms “friggin’ hot” and “no air conditioning”. When looking back at my conversations, I realized they had all been on only one topic.
Italian restaurants and shops, in general, have an open door policy. If the door is closed, passers-by might think the shop is closed. I went into a pharmacy to get some pills, and the shop was so hot that I thought I was going to pass out in the middle of asking for what I wanted. I had to stagger back outside for the 90 seconds it took the woman to find it, just so I could breathe. When she found the item, I darted back in, threw my money on the counter and escaped with sweat dripping off my elbows.
Some restaurants have an air conditioning sign outside, but like Liz found in the first place she tried the day we found real AC, the unit is mostly the size of something suitable for a small Manhattan studio apartment – not for a sizeable restaurant that hopes to attract lots of people. And, of course, they must have the doors open in order to look open.
So it turns out that few places that say they’re air- conditioned meet my standards. I have 2 desired settings for AC: 1. So cold you could hang meat, and 2. So cold you could make ice cream. “Tepid” is not one of my settings.
The one place you’ll find a pretty good system is in the Supermarkets. But you can’t set up shop in the produce aisle of the Coop without attracting some unwanted attention.
The other good air conditioning is in hotels. If you’re a tourist, you will be blissfully ignorant of the discomfort I’m talking about. You might wander into a warm shop or two, but at day’s end, you’ll be sleeping in a heavenly cool room.
Why don’t we get air conditioning, you might ask. As with most evils in the world, the answer is: money. Our apartment is in a 13th century building with walls — through which they will have to drill — that are almost exactly 1 meter thick (that’s 39 inches for those of you who are metrically challenged). We are on the 3rd floor. Where to put the compressor is the major problem, since the land at the bottom of our walls does not belong to our building. We got an out-of-this-world estimate when we first moved in, and my benchmark is that anything over 8 times the cost of my first car is out of the question. Yes – we put in a new kitchen, but in theory we’re supposed to be able to take that with us; air conditioning, however, is much more difficult to transport.
So this brings us to 2 weeks ago. For some reason, I passed a mirror and noticed not just the sweat pouring from my brow, but also the wrinkles around my eyes, which made me suddenly wake up to the fact that I really am (more than) old enough to do whatever I want to do. There was an option to all the whining and sweating I was doing. I could “go home”.
…..Hence the fact that you didn’t hear from me last week. I was busy. Being a Half Year Italian means that I’m also a Half Year American, and that’s exactly where I currently am. True – our friend Kip just wrote, telling me that it was 59 degrees in Orvieto last night, but I don’t care. True – the weather here is much worse than in Italy because of our humidity, but I don’t care. It can do whatever it wants outside. I am in THE perfect constant temperature. Do I adore Italy? ABSOLUTELY!!! Am I looking forward to getting back in early September? YOU BET!!! But do I LOVE being home where I can hang meat AND make ice cream at the same time? You know the answer…..