In 1988 Neapolitan singer and drum player Tullio De Piscopo presented his song, Andamento lento (‘slow pace’), at the Italian Song Festival in Sanremo.
There are at least two good points I’d like to make here:
1. De Piscopo is from Naples, a town which is considered the ‘Italian capital of expresso coffee’ and is also looked upon – at the same time - as the ‘Italian capital of slow pace’. It sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? Well, welcome to Italy, land of contradictions!
2. Tullio De Piscopo’s song ranked 18th at Sanremo Song Festival in 1988 – which proves one of the most evident Italian truths: winning songs at the Italian Song Festival in Sanremo (67th edition in 2017) are rarely successful hits; whereas low ranking songs are most likely to make it into the storia della canzone italiana (the ‘history of Italian song’): every Italian has hummed De Piscopo’s Andamento lento while taking a shower or riding a bike at least once in his/her life;
3. The third point, totally non influential, is that in 1988 I was 18 years old (ARGH).
Today we are getting into the mysterious world of andamento lento (a ‘fact of life’ for us Italians - like the sun rising and setting every day - but draining and unnerving for the rest of the world). How ‘slow’ is a ‘slow pace’? And in which context can you have a reasonable ‘slow pace’ without flipping out?
You’ve got to consider that Italians living in Alto Adige – Südtirol (the Italian region bordering with Austria up north) are very different from those living in Sicily (symbolizing here a generic southern lifestyle). However, I’m talking here about the ‘average Italian’ (me! – who, incidentally, live in central Italy). In medio stat virtus – that’s medieval philosophy saying, not me ;-)
Anyway, a reasonable ‘slow pace’ in life goes between the Italian Adagio tempo marking (‘slow and stately’- according to Wikipedia – literally ‘at ease’, ‘ad agio’ – 66/76 bpm) and Andante (at a walking place – 76/108 bpm). Mark this: a ‘walking’ pace not a ‘running’ or ‘rushing’ pace. That’s how Italians walk into life, slow-paced.
Here is just an example of our 'andamento lento' (for the full post - again! - please pledge $1,00):
Business meetings (le riunioni di lavoro) in Italy.
They are usually useless. The boss bosses around. All the others pretend to take notes. But before starting the meeting you’ve got to wait the quarto d’ora accademico (especially if people from other companies/public bodies/institution are going to attend the meeting). When everyone is seated around the table, someone goes: ‘anyone cares for coffee’? If you listened to my podcast on coffee you should know that the coffee rite takes more than a couple of minutes in Italy. And ordering a coffee in Italy certainly takes a lot of patience. If in the rest of the world, when someone asks: ‘anyone cares for a coffee?’, the answers range from ‘yes’ to ‘no’ (and you just have to count all the people lifting their hands to know how many coffees you have to order at the bar); in Italy, even in a business setting you get the more creative answers: caffè corto, caffè macchiato, un cappuccino, un montebianco, al vetro, un latte macchiato, etc.
It may take half an hour from the time you start ordering coffees to when the waiter from the bar downstairs actually delivers them to the meeting table. 15 minutes for the quarto d’ora accademico plus 30 minutes between the coffee order and the coffee delivery, you get 45 wasted minutes (while awaiting coffee nobody talks seriously about anything – just gossip; because hey, you don’t want to be interrupted by coffee once you do get started, eh?).
Then, as I was saying, the boss is the only person who takes the meeting seriously (that’s because he or she takes himself/herself seriously) –as a chance to show off, as work meetings produce zero work for everyone involved, except the bar downstairs. All the others pretend to be taking notes. You’ve also got to consider that in Italy, especially in state bodies, the boss hardly ever has any competence whatsoever and doesn’t have a clue on how to run the place. All the others know of course and just draw treble clefs, random lines or unmentionable obscene objects on their pieces of paper.
Besides, nobody has a serious note-book or an agenda or a pen. There are A4 sheets thrown on the table together with pens that never work (as nobody ever takes serious notes during the meetings they are considered more of an ‘artistic’ object than actual pens). After about 30 minutes from the start of the meeting someone has to leave to get copies of some important document for all the participants. The person usually makes a stop at the coffee machine, another at the toilet, and upon entering the meeting room again he shakes his head with disappointment saying that the delay was due to the low toner in the copy machine. Of course, on his way back to the meeting room he’s walking andamento lento ;-)