Italians are bonkers, absolutely stark raving mad the lot of them. Fruit loop esq. Now, dare to share this sentiment with an Italian and it will be accepted as a generous compliment and received with smiles and rapturous appreciation. Offer the same view towards a Brit and in fact most other nationalities, you’ll likely be flattened, out cold on the floor and down for the count. Finito la musica or sparko as we so eloquently put it up North.
Why? Well because Italians are thick-skinned and unique, a colourfully controversial and complex law to their own who generally posses a steely sense of self belief and inflated self-worth and I love the whole damn penne pasta fuelled lot. Forza Italia! Yes, this is an island famed for making tomato pie (aka pizza) fashionable, who believe all their women are hotties, (even their Priests’ are big fans of the youths) and feel responsible for producing one of the, if not the worlds best (groomed) football team. Yet, amusingly enough are equally proud and entertained by what the rest of the world would, frankly, be ashamed by. Consider the unethical business escapades and extra marital dalliances of their controversial Prime Minster; Berlusconi. By many, considered a national hero and much celebrated celebrity. And what about the elusive Mafiosi, the inspiration behind many Hollywood movies and best-selling books. And for the country that built an economy around the Siesta they are rather aptly, originators of their ingenious A-Z of tax evasion. Bellisimio!
A fun-loving, obliviously hypocritical nation, whom I affectionately call, family.
My mother thinks my father is deluded. He’s first generation Sicilian and if I were to show him the picture at the top of this page, he’d enquire where he could buy such a delightful appendage. I’m not joking. Let me paint a clearer picture for you, we’re talking about a man who ignored the fact his wife is Jewish, which via the female bloodline makes me a member by default, baptised me Catholic and to add insult to injury, insisted I was schooled in a Church of England establishment as the uniforms were ‘..So cute..’ to coin his words. ‘My darling…’ my father would purr to me in his thick accent, ‘you’re Italian.’ The inadequate explanation received when questioning my convoluted religious direction. I gave up querying my origins and became subservient aged twelve.
This is the man, who at the grand old ‘mature’ age of sixty-eight, escaped from hospital on day three of his scheduled seven-day stint following a full knee replacement, using his long-suffering, oblivious, wife as an accomplice. He’s now banned from Wythenshawe hospital – for life and terribly proud of it. It’s a delightfully inspiring, Tiramisu flavoured story in fact. Upon waking, post op, dad already decided the medical team, assigned to assist with his rehabilitation, were conspiring to prolong his recovery by sedating him via a prescribed concoction of tablets and infecting him with E coli riddled hospital food. This seed of fantasy was sown after reading his Bible of choice; the well-informed Star newspaper, who allegedly reported a similar ‘incident’ in Outer Mongolia to three alien transgender FBI informers. So of course, the natural conclusion was, the same would happen to him.
Dad’s escape was incredibly well thought through for a man who has always claimed he arrived into the UK on a banana boat wearing odd sized shoes. I blame his choice of newspaper. His first failed escape attempt, a mere two hours post op, saw the doctor insist he now cooperate with full hospital bed rest for the entire week. Not to be out foxed, dad embarked on a fast track recuperation regime between 3 and 4 am while ‘normal’ patients were fast asleep. On day three at 4am, an SOS call was made to my mother, explaining how the night shift had discharged him and she needed to hot foot it over immediately. Quite why she believed him, I’m at a loss to understand, but they left the hospital in the dead of the night in a swirl of Chanel Allure aftershave, his choice of hospital sanitizer. Never to be seen again, fortunately for the hospital staff.
I once had a momentary lapse of concentration and dated an Italian, it was the longest recorded hour in my personal history. He claimed to have a disease, was his response when I asked why he felt compelled to eye up every single woman who passed within a kilometre of our table. Red card you Latino bandito.
But one of my favourite Italian stories originates from a wonderful Neapolitan hairdresser who styled my hair for an event I hosted at the House of Commons in London. His response to my question about what to wear was absolutely dead pan and serious, ‘Suspenders and fishnets Melissa, oh and a really really tight, short skirt.’
Made in Italy. You can only love them.