Sometimes it’s the little differences that you notice. Sure, Venice is 40 kilometers down the road, and I ride my bike over roads originally built by the Romans on my way to work, but you get used to that to the point of almost forgetting about it. I’m talking about the little things that you bump into every day.
For instance, it’s finally started to get hot out, and that means mosquitoes. Since we don’t have air conditioning, we like to keep the windows open to cool things off. But through the windows, come the bugs – lots of them, and hungry, at that, and there is nothing to keep them out, because no one has window screens in Italy. It’s one of those things that no one seems to be able to explain, because they aren’t opposed to the concept, really. Many people think it’s a good idea, just no one has them. Like everyone else, I’ve gotten used to it, but it apparently drives Americans a bit batty. My friend Brad improvised screens for their place.
On the other hand, Italy has serious window shutters. Most american homes are equipped with either some light drapes, or those crappy “venetian” blinds that don’t really block out much light at all. Italian shutters, “tapparelle” are slats of wood or plastic that roll up into a box built above the window, and when they are lowered, a room is dark. Not just “a little bit darker than outside in the sun”, but inky black. What’s great about this is when you really need to sleep, you can make sure no light enters the room to disturb you, which is a godsend if you’re a light sleeper like me. Years ago, I returned to the place I was staying in Padova after a particularly long flight and subsequent train ride, and I was thoroughly exhausted, so I dropped the shutters all the way, and fell asleep. I felt like I’d slept in some the next day when I got up, and figured it was going to be lunch time soon… until my house mates told me it was nearly 3 in the afternoon! They also insulate well, both against the cold during the winter nights, and against the heat of the noonday sun in summer.
It seems strange in our globalized world that clever ideas don’t spread more quickly. Until they do, I suppose I’ll either be scratching mosquito bites or having trouble sleeping as the daylight floods in, depending on where I am.