Life and Missions in Small Town Italy

Moving to or even visiting Italian villages is a unique and sometimes perplexing experience. Expect people to stare (and I mean really stare) as you walk down the street, without letting it give you a complex. No, you are not funny looking or strange. They just don’t see many outsiders, and curiosity is one Italians thing people do not lack!

Life in small-town Italy can be interesting!

“But they’re whispering about me!” That’s normal. They want to know who you are. And actually, if they’re limiting it to polite whispers you’re probably in a medium-sized town. In smaller towns they loudly query with a total disregard of discretion, “Who are they? What are they doing here?” 

And then there are the villages. Ah, the villagers. They’re really a breed apart! They cover all those bases, and then if they still haven’t discovered any inside info, come right up to you! “Ma chi sei?” (Who are you?) Or in whichever local dialect they speak, “What relatives do you have here?” Again, no worries. It’s all quite normal.

You see, the small Italian towns in most areas are diminishing. People (especially the young) move away to find work. So perhaps through this multitude of questioning, they’re really searching for long lost friends or relatives. It’s hard to watch people go one by one.

And as they don’t get many visitors, they’re searching for a connection. Something that will tell them just who you are, how you fit in, and how they can relate to you.

Most visitors and new comers find this an unmitigated nuisance or downright rude. But I don’t believe they’re trying to be rude. It’s natural to want to connect to others in some way.

But all this nosiness can take a lot of getting used to.

Here in our village, our house is part of a little group. Sort of what you’d call a cul de sac in America. It’s in a u-shaped row of houses, with one little house planted right in the center. The comune (city hall) has conveniently placed park benches along these little alleys, which make great gathering spots in nice weather.

And we love it! Most of the time. Of course, there are annoying dogs, this one neighbor who loves loud music, and all the rest. But it’s got a real community feel to it, almost like a family!

And we all watch out for one another. Sometimes too much! Bringing home any kind of shopping can seem a bit like running the gauntlet. Everything gets a good looking over. Any large items commented on, and if they tend to be unusual, actually inspected. They do stop short of opening the bags to see their contents. But just barely.

If you come to visit while we’re gone, no need to leave a note. The neighbors will tell us. When we get take-out pizza, they all eye it longingly. And if we leave for a trip, they of course want to know where we’re going, why, and when we’ll be back.

Or if shifty salespeople show up at the door, the neighbors are quick to pay a visit. Don’t buy from them. They’re con artists. And trust me, people up to no good will have a hard time getting past our neighborhood watch!

Italians love tradition.

And tradition can be a wonderful thing. But they often seem to think that tradition is an equivalent for conformity and uniformity. We must all think alike, act alike, and be alike. The same language, ideas, beliefs, dress code, religion. Anything else is a threat.

Because if I change or alter from this, what will people say?

Like the mom came to see us about English lessons for her son. I didn’t hear her, as our door bell was broken. No problem, the Neighborhood Watch always on duty came to get me. Her response? “Oh no, now everyone knows I’ve come here!” Imagine if she had been coming for Bible study! This is not a place one can easily hide.

Please pray with us that the people will be liberated from this unspoken obligation to confor, even though it does give them a certain sense of security. Because it also hinders them from embracing new things – even the message of Christ’s liberating power to make them totally new creations.

So remember, unless you want your life to be an open book, an Italian city might be best for you!

Images are my own.

13 thoughts on “Life and Missions in Small Town Italy

  • I’ve noticed the nosyness even in Italian cities, but I appreciate it’s much more in villages. And I am clearly a foreign tourist when I visit.

    I can imagine for the gospel in a way it’s a good thing- “Why are you here?”… “to tell you about Jesus”… but then I guess when you have layers of unhelpful tradition to peel back it’s not so easy!

    God bless you in your labours 🙂

    Like

  • Hi Sheila. Having just relocated from UK to a small town in Campania, I can relate to your post and the stares. Loved your insights. Your neighbourhood looks lovely.
    .

    Like

    • Hi there to you too, Sheila! I’m sure you can relate! Small town Italian is great. I think it’s really slow living at its best. But it does come with challenges, for sure. Welcome to Italy and I do you are enjoying your small town and the wonderful simplicity of Italian living!

      Liked by 1 person

  • You’ve got a real knack for reading people well–and believing the best. It’s one of the things that makes you so good at what you do. I love the downhome feel of all this–this is community in action. Makes me a little jealous–people in the states are rarely that interactive.

    Like

    • Thanks Dayle, that’s really sweet of you! The existence of community is one of the greatest things about Italy if you ask me. We count it a real blessing!!

      Like

Share your thoughts...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.