As amusing and alien as we might find this however, it gives an insight into one of the strongest links in the Italian social fabric: family. Some 95% of Italians sit down for Sunday lunch with relatives every week. Our next door neighbours are testament to this every Sunday, with son and daughter bringing their spouses and children to eat at midday, without fail, every week. We have hardly begun to even think about lunch before they all drift off for an afternoon of football, hunting or Grand Prix viewing. I once asked our neighbour, Antonietta, if she enjoyed cooking for the whole family every weekend, to which her reply was that she liked having them all over, she did not really like all the cooking but, who else would do it? As the matriarch of family, the responsibility falls to her, but then, she would not want it any other way.
We had always watched this familial activity from afar, until the 10th of May this year when all of that changed for good, with the arrival of Cecily Grace at the hospital near Montepulciano. It had became clear, when
Having Cecily was to prove the key to the Italians’ hearts. A lady who generally wears an almost impenetrable mask of distaste, for which we coined the phrase “lemon lips”, smiled for possibly the first time in her life on meeting her. People whom we knew only well enough to greet in passing on the street were suddenly stopping us for a peek, eager to see a new baby. Even the usually too-cool teenagers displayed their future parental skills. On one particularly fateful trip to the supermarket, Cecily decided she had had enough, causing much fuss and almost bringing the roof down on our fellow shoppers. Preparing ourselves, in a thoroughly British way, for an embarrassing few minutes standing in the long queue, we were surprised to find people parting the way and ushering us past them in a sort of Moses/Red Sea fashion. Whilst one lady took it upon herself to grab the baby and attempt to calm her down whilst we hurriedly threw our shopping onto the conveyor, the cashier neatly packed everything for us and even helped us to the car, leaving the other shoppers waiting at the till.
A trip to the