I am writing this at home after the eventful course in Mazzano. My mind still lingers back to the sunny medieval village and its narrow streets. Best part of the whole thing though, was the interaction with the local people in both Mazzano and Faleria. I’ve visited different cities and villages in Italy, but this was the first time that I felt like I was absorbed into the social culture of the place. It felt like I was a part of the community, not just observing it – and I loved it! All the meetings and short chats were cheerful and joyous, even though the message sometimes was lost in translation.
Quickly after arriving in Mazzano most of us students got used to a certain morning routine. After waking up, we headed straight to Café Falco to get breakfast – a coffee and a croissant or a sandwich. Some of us learned that ordering a ’latte’ gives you a glass hot milk instead of a smooth cup of coffee. It was also totally okay, if not even necessary, to greet everyone with a cheerful smile on the way to the café (something that is hard to pull off back in Finland). It was like having breakfast with your extended family of a village. Buon giorno!
I stayed in a cosy apartment, Casa Graziella, with three others. We got one key to the apartment and we should return it when leaving, simple enough. Then we got some instructions about recycling too. There were bins of different color for every recyclable material, five in total. Then there was a timetable when to take different bins outside to be collected by hand – “just put them where everybody else puts them”. We got three different timetables, one from the apartment, one was given to us and once a gentleman advised us to take the recyclable papers in a public bin beside the church ruins. The recycling system is brilliant and most efficient in the narrow streets of old Mazzano, we just didn’t completely figure out what to put where and when. The apartment was still tidy after a week though, so I’d like to think we cracked the code.
When working on the course project and generally communicating with locals I learned that by speaking a couple of words in Italian (or some Spanish or French) you will go a long way. But to really get understood, you can enhance the effect of words with hand signs, facial expressions, singing or even dancing. Or maybe that way it’s just more amusing to listen to. Somehow the working culture was easy to understand for me at least, because it seemed that having a meeting meant wine and small talk in a pleasant piazza and twenty minutes break meant usually forty minutes and other refreshments.
The final presentation was held in English for everybody’s comfort, except maybe Orlando’s, he was the translator among multiple other things on the course. Our group presented the project in both villages and the first presentation in Faleria was a little more exiting of course. Even the architect of the last restoration of the castle was present and I decided to mention that during the presentation; “…and that is the most recently restored part by architect Eugenio.” My pronunciation of the name was probably too American, because in the feedback notes someone had asked; “Is that architect a genius?”
Best thing in Italian social culture – interaction in all it’s richness!