23 May 2010

LIFE: It's About Time

SARONNO, Italy - Before I actually moved to Italy permanently, I lived in Rome for a short time. I had decided to get serious about learning to speak Italian and figured living here and taking a course at a language school would do it.

Largo Carlo Goldoni, Rome

Through the school I found a room in an apartment in the center of town that was owned by a rather odd old woman.But that's another story for another time. The school was out on the Via Nomentana, about a half hour bus ride from the Via delle Vite where I lived. It was wonderful living in the heart of Rome, and I loved every minute of it. The only real problem I had, besides trying to conjugate Italian verbs, was that for some reason I just couldn't get into the rhythm of Italian life. I kept running out of money. By the time I would get back into town from a grueling morning session with those nasty verbs, most of the banks were closed.

Via delle Vite, Rome

With my stomach growling I would wander the streets trying to find one that was open so I could change dollars into lire – remember this was pre-Euro, pre-ATM days, and buy something to eat. Anything. I wasn't always successful. Most of the time I would put together what change I had and try to make the best of it. This is when I developed my love for those fried Sicilian rice balls called arrancine, although in Rome they are actually called suppli.
And I don't even want to think about how meals I ate at the Delfino Self-Service Cafeteria, (aka cheap and filling) which if I remember correctly is at the end of the Via del Corso. Actually, if I'm going to be truthful, my inability to pick up the rhythm of Italian life was more than just about making it to the bank on time. No matter what I tried to do, it seemed like it was the wrong time to do it. But I learned. I learned the hard way, but I learned.

One of the things that amazed me was just how many people were out walking the streets of Rome in the late afternoon. One minute the city would be almost empty and the next minute it would be throbbing with life. It was as if someone had rung a bell that signaled it was time to leave the house. And it’s still true, even here in Saronno.

Via Condotti, Rome

But like I said, I learned. Now, when friends and family come to visit they seem impressed that I know what time it is without having to look at my watch. They can't figure it out, but it's really very simple. If we have been walking around for a while and the foot traffic on the street is starting to thin, it is noon and time to head home. If it is the middle of the afternoon and the bars and cafes are filling up with customers, it is 5PM and time for an apperitvo. There's no mystery to it at all, just years of observation and conditioning.

Piazza di Spagna, Rome

Italians seem to know everything about time: the best time to eat, the best time to sleep, the best time to plant seeds, the best time to harvest, even the best time to have sex. You think I'm kidding? I'm not. Not long ago Italy's major newspaper, the Corriere della Sera, published a schedule of how you should organize your day. Of course this being Italy the day does not start with Wheaties, but with . . .

7 AM - As soon as you wake up you find yourself in the ideal condition to make love because your testosterone level (the hormone that stimulates our sex drive) is at its highest peak. This is true for both men and women.

8:30 AM - Time for breakfast and also the best time to take vitamins. This is when our metabolism is at its highest peak and there is less chance of what you eat turning into unwanted fat. Besides, if you take A, D and E at night there is a probability that they will disturb your sleep.

9AM - If you are going to have a flu shot, or another type of injection, this is the best time of day to do it. This is the hour when your adrenaline level is at its highest, which means you can tolerate pain better at 9AM than at 9PM.

10-12 Noon - Your brain is now working at full speed. Your attention span and creativity levels are at their highest. It's the best time to work.

12 - 1PM - Time for lunch. No getting around it. Lunch is important not only from a nutritional point of view, but also to maintain your body's digestive rhythm.

1-2 PM - Your attention level has dropped, maybe from eating all that pasta, and according to the medical community the best thing to do is take a nap. Napping, they say, is good for you.

3-5 PM - Your muscle tone is at its peak during this period, so this is the best time of day to hit the gym or take a walk.

4-6 PM - If you are a student and can't hit the gym, then hit the books, especially if you have math homework to do. It seems that at this hour your brain is more prepared to deal with concepts and logic.

6-8 PM - Ahh, time for an aperitivo and dinner. This is the time of day when your liver is the most disposed to digest alcohol. It is also the best time of day for a facial masque because your skin is more receptive to creams and lotions.

10-11 PM - Spend this hour relaxing before going to bed. Take a warm bath or drink a cup of chamomile tea, both put your body in the mood to sleep.

11 PM -7 AM – Make with the zzzzzzzzzzzz’s. Buona notte.

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