Saturday, January 06, 2007

Lessons from Italy

Italy was a wonderful experience! Spending the holiday with my daughter was really special -- and to spend the time in Tuscany (where she lives as an art student) was a great adventure. Though I mentioned in my last post that I might peek into the legal industry I am happy to report that I thought of nothing even close to work related. Cell phone off; email a distant memory; just relax and enjoy. Yet in retrospect there are some interesting insights that have occurred to me since returning that I'd like to share.

  • Social awareness goes further than enforced law. We witnessed a man urinating in an alley and in typical American fashion we shook our heads and turned away. A young Italian gentleman walking by actually stepped into the alley and berated the man relieving himself in public. He didn't challenge the man but instead simply told him that he was acting shamefully and terribly inappropriate. "Have you no pride?" he asked. The man he addressed was an immigrant street vendor and the young Italian was quite comfortable to confront someone that stepped outside the boundaries of “acceptable”. It felt like much of Italy operates this way – act accordingly or be called out.
  • Look further than your own mirror before walking out the door. Italian’s have a great sense of fashion and personal appearance. While everyone exuded personal expression, in total, they fit in with each other. What really stood out where so many American tourists who dressed like they didn’t own a mirror nor cared about what other people thought of them. Now I can certainly appreciate the value of individualism but, if first impressions state, “dork”, what benefit is derived? Italian’s seem to understand that individualism has to start from within accepted boundaries.
  • Tradition is crucial for creating anything new. The people of Tuscany are building plenty of new things… buildings, businesses, cultural centerpieces… yet everything new feels like it is built on what has come before. Tradition and history offer a stable foundation for exploring new ideas without being too far from what is known. Too often, in America, we think that unless we are totally outside the box it’s not worth trying.
  • Old is beautiful. Instead of razing old neighborhoods to build something grander the people of Tuscany make the effort to renew grand old places without destroying history. The result is of storybook quality.

If you have not been to Tuscany (Florence, Siena, San Gimignano, and more) I heartily recommend at trip for you. It is AWESOME!