I’m sure that I have very particular neighbours and that their behaviour can’t be viewed as specifically Italian. Nonetheless, they are very interesting.

When you spend more time at home, it’s nothing but logical that you see a lot more of the people living next door, downstairs or further down the street. Often these are the only people you see for days. When I heard the well known chatter again of the group of old gentlemen that used to roam the streets before the lockdown, I was pleased to finally see other faces around. It told me that slowly things were going back to normal. I also started thinking about the people I had been seeing on an almost daily basis and I came to the conclusion that my neighbours are very particular people indeed.

A lovely old couple is living downstairs. They have, I suppose, a nice apartment and the old man is a true gentleman. Still going outside quite a lot to walk his dog and then keeping the door open when he sees you return with hands full of groceries. When we had no running water in our apartment (the first few days we started living here this was unfortunately the case), they were the first to offer us the use of their kitchen and shower if we wanted to, even though they didn’t know us at all.
There is only one moment when our old neighbours are less pleasant. This is when somebody is trying to park the car in front of our apartment building. It always starts with friendly suggestions from the old gentleman, but it always ends up in screaming orders when the driver is not really listening. The irritation is clearly audible and the screaming match peaks when the driver gets out of the car to give him their peace of mind. I’ve made my decision. I will never park my car there.

Further along the road resides a middle aged woman. She spends her days sweeping the street. First we thought she was just trying to clean up some of the mess as a good citizen, but soon we realised that the streets in Cittadella are already kept perfectly clean and the sweeping is completely unnecessary. It specifically struck us when she even ventured outside during lockdown to sweep the streets, something that was strictly forbidden. Every day, you can here the sound of a broom brushing the pavement, whether there is dirt or not. Often there is nothing to be seen, or at least we don’t see it, but the sweeping can’t be stopped. For hours she moves around to uncover the last speck of dirt.

Our nextdoor neighbours are quite friendly people and from time to time the lady next door takes some time to talk to me in Italian, slowing down her pace, keeping things easy. When she talks to Davide, I have issues following her, but she makes an effort to be understandable when she speaks to me. Anyway, fortunately, some topics are just impossible for me to discuss yet. Davide on the other hand is less lucky. The lady next door tends to trick him into talking about the weather or the plants and then smoothly moves on to a more sinister topic. Who or what is behind the coronavirus or is there actually a virus? Every week there is another conspiracy theory that only we apparently haven’t heard of. Everybody else already knows that the government has diabolical plans to murder us all, or that there is an unknown world power that is trying to dominate us. Davide is far too polite to interrupt her and hide inside the apartment, like I do, which makes her even more eager to talk to him. We’ve now seen that one of her sources is the sweeping lady, so we’re leaving the conspiracy theories for what they are.

All in all we have very nice neighbours. We can’t complain. They have their quirks, but who hasn’t. When Davide is playing Rammstein on top volume or when I’m trying to play the guitar, I’m sure they are also doubting our state of mind.

From Italy with love,

Merel