Arriving back in Italy after having been away I am always dying for an Italian coffee and a cornetto (Italian sweet breakfast pastry). So my first stop is always………the airport. Yes, that’s right, I can’t wait until I get into the city for a long awaited cup of Italian coffee, so I stop at the first cafe I see in the arrivals section of the airport. It is important to note that this does not apply to the departures lounge. For a simple reason. The Italian airport staff are served their coffee in the arrivals section of the airport (as it is open to the public). The departure lounges do serve departing Italians but they also serve mostly tourists. So you know that the standard of coffee etc. you get in the airport will be the same standard as that outside the airport as their custom is the discerning Italian local and worker.
As well as providing me with my Italian coffee fix this stop also serves to gently ease me back into Italy by being able to sit awhile and leisurely savour my cornetto and cafe. Otherwise it all hits me hurriedly in the face as soon as the glass sliding doors open and its almost too much to take in. The perfectly coiffed women of all ages, the impeccably suited men of all shapes, the uniformed personnel of all statures, the crisp neatness of the designer clad children, the amount of women wearing high heels that can actually walk in them, the sun tanned slick haired touts and tour guides. It overwhelms me and I feel an immediate need to go to a hairdressers and book a gym appointment, or the other way around.
“OK can we go now?”, says my husband ten minutes after we have both finished our respective coffees and cornettos.
I have been watching a steady flow of men and women of all ages and shapes come to take their morning coffee standing up at the bar. They all look magnificent and I try to analyse why. I notice they dress in a way that suits their particular forms, strong features, and advantages – so well that you don’t notice their less than perfect statures or girths. And their clothes fit. Their hair is also groomed, all different styles and generations of fashion but they all have good hair cuts, and shoes. Even those that are not naturally gorgeous looking, dress as though they are, and it has the same effect.
I watch a short, grey haired man walk to the bar in an immaculate suit with a tall, wrinkle-faced woman wearing a gorgeous green silk knee-length dress and gold high heels. They happily talk and greet others, chit chat and move on. With his perfectly cut suit, silk tie, shinning skin and good hair cut he looks ten feet tall even though he is a head shorter than the beautiful woman on his arm.
“Oh please just a few more minutes, now the Carabinieri are coming over, and they are wearing their winter uniform…………..knee length boots…..”
The carabinieri notice me checking them out. They glance boldly fully at me in the face, an acknowledgement of the compliment they know I am paying them, before they turn their backs to me, one heeled boot resting slightly higher on the bar running under the counter in order to show off butt muscles to perfection. I appreciate the gesture and salute them with my empty coffee cup. Ahhh viva Italia I am home!
Speaking of perfect buns………The Perfect Bun restaurant, American bar, is celebrating their fifth anniversary this month! I am particularly excited about this because it is a place I visited for the first time five years ago and features in my book “Roman Daze – La Dolce Vita for all Seasons”. It is the setting for the Chapter entitled ‘Foreigner’ and features because it was a good example of what was so hard to find in Rome back then (and still now). That is, an authentic escape from Italian culture, which all expats need from time to time!
There are many wannabes and my book talks about why that is so disappointing – imagine missing a particular Anglo-Saxon dish and then ordering it at a place that advertises itself as producing it and then having an Italianised version of it served up. It is better to avoid the whole experience than to try and convince yourself that your ‘Greek salad’ which consists of mozzarella cheese, tomatoe and basil with an olive thrown in, is really OK. The list goes on – cold pasta as “brunch”, Italian almond biscuits as “Devonshire tea” and my favourite – a pastry case full of melted chocolate advertising itself as a “brownie”. No, the disappointment is just too keen. Sometimes it is just best to accept that Italian food is SO good, they don’t need to offer other nationalities as well. Sometimes its best to wait a year or two til you get home.
For this reason many places fail to survive after a year or sometimes only a few months. The fact that The Perfect Bun is celebrating its fifth anniversary is truly a feat and shows they have catered to the Anglo-Saxon palate and those Italians that remember their Anglo-Saxon treats and want to re-visit them, successfully. Well done Perfect Bun and many happy returns!