In northern Italy the community is reserved, polite, efficient, and focused. There is a sense of hustle in the streets where people are moving around the city to arrive at some place by some time. Scheduled dinner with friends. Dr appointments. Dance classes for their children. Work schedules. Lots of someones going lots of somewheres. And tourists are clearly in the way. I’m not saying in the North they were rude about tourists- in fact they were not at all, in any of my interactions, rude. But there was a sense that they were simply “doing their jobs” at the grocery store, cafe, or museum. A lot of head nods, but not a lot of Buongiorno’s and smiles. Which was fine by me, I’m pretty reserved myself and don’t need to talk to a bunch of people just to go get groceries or ride the bus across town.
In southern Italy, however, the community is relaxed, welcoming, cheerful, hospitable, and encouraging. It was immediately noticed upon arriving in Sorrento. Smiles everywhere, invitations to come into stores and restaurants, and a sincere desire to serve you once you accepted the invitation in. Even the dialect is accented with warm and rich tones. In Florence all my interactions were positive and I never felt I was an imposition to anyone; however, I did – at times – feel as though the Florentines wished the tourists weren’t so many. Whereas in Sorrento they seem to have embraced the the tourist culture completely! They are excited to serve you anything from a croissant to a gelato to a high end meal at their fancy restaurants.
My favorite moment in Sorrento was a seemingly simple interraction with a local who was watering the plants on her window sill. It was early in the morning and I had gone for a walk. On my way home, I passed her house and she looked up and said with a great big smile, “Buongiorno, Senorina! Benvenuto a Campagnia e Sorrento!” (Good morning, Miss! Welcome to Campania and Sorrento) I smiled and waved back, returning, “Buongiorno e grazie!” I continued on my walk and thought, “She’s the poster child for southern hospitality.”
It was neat to see the difference between the northern cities and the southern cities. It’s very similar to how things are in America with the differences in the “New York Minute” (fast paced lifestyle) and the “Southern Hospitality.” It makes me wonder if all countries have this same sort of geographical division. It’s an interesting thing to consider.