A friend sent this NY Times article on Rome’s new kind of tourist – the “lets have a party and throw it in Europe” variety that travel from country to country in a drunken slur and call it a “European adventure”. Rome used to be off the circuit, attracting those inclined to share a bottle of wine with friends and a large plate of pasta instead of slugging down endless beers and shots in Campo de’Fiori. Not that this behavior is unusual in other European and American cities, but it is new here, and not very welcome by local residents. Until really quite recently, Roman youth didn’t do the drinking thing. A beer (or coke) with pizza, piazza and a whirl on the motorino provided nightlife.
Not to be nostalgic, but the change is jarring, especially since it is being forced on Italian youth by the barbaric hoards that have descended on the city (including approx. 7,000 American study abroad students that pass through over the year) and the mass media. Until now, Italians have stood on the sidelines, watching the spectacle, but not joining in. That too will change.
In connection with a course I taught a few years ago for a study abroad program on, “Contemporary Italian Society”, one student did a final paper on the differences in drinking cultures between US and Italian youth. She interviewed students, talked to local pubs, performed ethnological sightings on the weekends and concluded that the different approach to drinking was fundamentally an outgrowth of the bella figura -- that intrinsic Italian need to always act in good taste, to put forward one’s best as a way of showing respect to others, to maintain aesthetic standards at all times. She found this explanation amazing and profound.
I also think she moved one step down the road of cross-cultural understanding. I wonder if she put some of that knowledge into her suitcase when she returned home?