I’m used to having people come up to me in the street in France and Spain and ask me for directions – . Being Black Irish in coloring, I could pass for either depending on the light and state of jet lag. But never before have I been mistaken for Italian. What gives?
Here’s what got me thinking:
In the Uffizi, I was taken under the wing of a very nice docent who explained to me in great detail all about the ancient Roman statuary. All in Italian without even asking me which language I spoke. Thank heavens for my French and Spanish teachers. Between the two languages, I was able to follow 90% of the conversation and respond in such a way as to make this lovely lady happy. Mission accomplished. I figured it was a fluke.
Next, I was happily prowling the streets of Florence mapping out all the places Vlad wanted to see the next day. I was asked directions several times in halting Italian. One very nice French family approached me in excreable Italian and the look of surprise when I responded in French was priceless. I then got into a long discussion of how I learned French at University, along with the obligatory smirks on the other side. Always flattering, but I am convinced they only said it because they were embarrassed at mistaking a dreaded Californian for an Italian. Not sure why. I think we Californians are pretty nice people, and the more I travel, the more I’m sure of it. Don’t look at my passport. I came to California as a mere infant, and consider myself pretty much a native.
The following day at the Pitti Palace, in one of the galleries, I was taken under the wing of a very nice, extremely elderly gentleman docent who explained in detail about the subjects of the paintings in the Ducal wing, as well as a good deal of history surrounding Botticelli, Rafaello, Fra Bartolomeo and other assorted artists that executed the masterpieces. He was a dapper gentleman who reminded me of my grandfather, so I let him chatter away. The strange part was I understood him perfectly (which is making me a bit suspicious) and was able to respond in a mixture of pseudo-Italian and French that made him happy. When Vlad caught up to me, he gave a very gallant bow and went off to find other newbies to educate. What a dear man.
There has to be something here. There were just way too many coincidences to make it a random occurrence. Hey Dad – are you sure you’re not part Italian?? Really sure??