In my last post I shared and celebrated Duncan’s recent article but also commented that I felt there was so much more! So, what exactly is it that Donald’s excellent article did not discuss, and which, for me is one of the absolute gems of Le Marche that makes me come back time and time again?
The people – the Marchigiani are unbelievably stubborn and inflexible in my opinion. Not strikingly positive qualities at first glance you might think? And indeed, perhaps one of the reasons why tourism has been slower to take off in the same way as other areas of Italy.
For example, the Marchigiani still take their three hour lunch break each day. A concept which is absolutely alien to me as I’m doing well if I get time to eat a Pot Noodle at my desk while typing and talking on the phone simultaneously. When we were renovating our house in Marche, I remember flying into Ancona just before lunch and driving south along the A14 to get to the office of our Architetto. I was surprised to be met with the news that he was just going home for lunch for several hours, so perhaps I could wait until he returned. Initially I was surprised, even irritated, but then realised I actually admired this adherence to his values – why would he compromise on his lunch with his kids just because I had flown across Europe to meet with him? There were many times in the early days when we got up late, had a leisurely breakfast and then meandered our way around the mountains to some town or other, only to find that everything would be open for only another half an hour and then it was shutting for lunch. This is just one example of something being the way it has always been, and not showing any signs of changing now, for anyone. Far from finding this problematic or concerning, I am encouraged and admirable of the Marchigiani ability to hold strong to their traditional values.
English in Le Marche
Another example is the absolute disinterest in learning English. I laugh at the times when I tried to order a drink or some food in English, or perhaps trying to speak Italian but not using exactly the correct pronunciation. How many different ways are there to say “due birre” or “té”? The response was often a mix of initial curiosity, amusement and then just giving up. Even now, the simplest of drinks orders can often go so wrong, or be misunderstood because my pronunciation is not quite perfect. That’s completely apart from the endless telephone calls to Enel which (after I have spent twenty minutes navigating the automated system) ends a while later with them putting the phone down on me. It can feel as if the Marchigiani ear has never heard a foreigner struggling to learn Italian before. Well, maybe these ones haven’t, and maybe I really know that I should speak better Italian anyway.