O dolce stil italiano!
Some people are afraid of crossing the streets in Italy, and it’s easy to see why, for the subtle conventions that regulate interactions between pedestrians and drivers are different here. But there’s no reason to linger on the footpath; all you need do is project an air of confidence as you step into the traffic, while being prepared to retreat if necessary. In the same way, people walking along a crowded footpath or standing in what pass for queues in the Latin world manoeuvre for advantage with no bad feeling. One just has to present oneself before others in a manner that doesn’t come naturally to Anglos.
The Italian language facilitates such presentation of self. A tongue that is so rich in vowels, particularly at the end of words, does not merely lend itself to opera, but somehow gives a dramatic tone to speech: Galileo’s ‘Eppur si muove’ sounds so much better than ‘And yet it moves.’ No wonder Italians seem to use their mobile phones for talking rather than texting. And Italian conventions of conversation are different to those operating in Anglo countries, being more forceful and less reticent.
It’s been said that style is a way in which Italian waiters cope with boredom, but perhaps the projection of style, of which dressing to kill is another manifestation, is simply a function of being Italian. Le style c’est l’homme, it’s been said. There’s a lot of it in this country.