Monday, December 3, 2007


My co-worker introduced me to the term F-Cubed or "Forced Family Fun." Think of those nights when your parents forced you to play board games with them.

Well, it pretty much sums up my trip to Italy. We had gone about 10 years ago to northern Italy, and this vacation swept up Rome and Naples. In that intervening 10 years, however, I have discovered that I simply don't like skipping lunches to run from location to location - treating the country as a repository of historic places to see - eating dinner, then conking out somewhere between 8-10 pm.

Sadly, my sister is of the hyperactive, must-see-the-sights kind of person, although tellingly "sights" does not include actual people. So, while I saw an overwhelming amount of churches (I think there's some religious rule by which I am now Catholic), I didn't actually have a conversation with any Italians while with my family. And unfortunately, my parents are getting old, so they pretty much have to fall asleep after dinner. All of which meant early rising, lots of walking, little sampling of the food, and even less sense of what the places are actually like.

All of which made Italy an only okay trip. Rome was gorgeous, and I loved Bologna, mostly because I was not with my family and visiting a friend there. Another notable event was going to a resort town on the Mediterranean coast. As is often the case in resort towns in non-resort seasons, the local industry gets a little desparate. Thus, I forced my sister to stare at me, rather than the guy desparately foisting himself onto a hooker in his tiny car.

Then there was being racially profiled by a Neapolitan cop. The previous night, two Philippino men were picked up for drug running and money laundering. The cop thought my dad and I may be part of that ring and asked for ID. I pulled my driver's licence out of my wallet, to which he asked "What's in the wallet?" and "Who's money is that?" Really, what did he expect me to say?

So, in sum, Bologna was great, Rome was nice but superficial, and Naples sucked, except for the food.


hcduvall said...

Little tasting of food? Man, what the hell's the point then. Still, it sounds strikingly similar to my trip with Jonny America to Italy a few years back. Mind you, we had more of the energy and interest in knocking out sites, we tuckered ourselves out walking and skipping lunch (not seeing sites, though, our's was poor siesta planning).

And funnily enough, I've got a couple personal Italy doesn't like asians stories too.

Chengora said...

Yeah, the no food thing: I kept telling my sister that! It's really interesting to me how she can be so interested in what happened someplace 2000 years ago, but not care about how people now are living.

She's also thinking of going to Central and Eastern Europe next year and considering taking my mom. I've already told her what a bad idea that is. I mean, going with mom is fine, but not if this is meant to be your "pre-B School" fun trip. I can just see them spending two months traveling around, never staying up past 10 pm.

hcduvall said...

Ha! I meant it in a more purely hedonistic in man, I like food. Anyway, I'm sure it's coming to you in the slow realization, maybe your sister will be fine with that. It might not be balls out fun, but it'll be comfortable, no?

Chengora said...

Oh, yeah, I loved the food, although now looking at pasta in the States just disappoints. As for comfort, well, it's comfortable. Just superficial, and I think that was the biggest issue.

On our way back at the airport, an Italian woman tried to cut the line through security. Well, actually, she was standing in line while the rest of her group checked in, hoping to time it so that they could just hop right in. It didn't work, but I respect that they took the risk. However, the Americans behind us started complaining about how rude and snobbish Italians were. And that jarred completely with nearly every Italian we met. I'm not overly worried that the way my sister travels will lead her to make those conclusions. But I do think that she only gets a truncated, superficial understanding of the cultures and people she's meeting/seeing, which is really sad to me. Why travel then?

HoBs said...

Yeah, food in Italy is fantastic. One of my favorite countries for food. And unfortunatley, proper Italian food is impossible to find in the US. Even Mario Battali's super fancy Del Posto disappoints. The single exception I've been to in the US is Obelisk in DC (though a new one in Baltimore has potential). Definitely go if you haven't gone yet. It's not far from where you work.

So yeah, your family's vacation style is very familiar. Typical asian style. Though now that my brother and I are grown up, we've managed to force my mom to slow down. So our vacations are far more balanced. Not ideal, but a fair compromise.

Italy also has a surprising number of Chinese immigrants (which might be one reason for the ill will, ala Mexicans in the US). I had neat conversations with a bunch of them (mostly waiters in varios restaurants, Chinese or otherwise). Something I make a point of in any country I visit, to chat with the Chinese diaspora.