The early evening music of Reggio Calabria begins to fade. The tired orchestra makes its way home on the tail-end of the rush hour concert. The horns and percussion of the cars and scooters blare and slam Varese-like in their impatience. I, on the other hand, stroll down to Via Marina in the first balmy air of Spring. My work is over for the day and so I go to Bar Sotto Zero for a glass of Sicilian white and wait for Maria to finish her work then meet me there. As always I have a book to keep me occupied, my little treat while I nibble on some green olives and sip my wine.
“Amo!” a voice purrs behind me. I turn quickly, smiling widely as always when I hear this sweet word. My arms are open wide ready to embrace. “Amore!” I answer. “You’re early.”
The words stop in my mouth. The attractive girl I’m about to hold and kiss steps back in shock, a look of horror and panic large across her face. A look complimented by the frown that glowers down at me from her very tall husband. First he looks at me and then to his partner, accusation forming in his eyes. “Oh I’m so sorry, scusa.” I gush. “I thought you were someone else, really. This is where I usually meet my wife and when you said Amo I thought it was her.” I’m talking too much, providing too much information. Suspiciously he accepts my apology and they order their ice creams to take away while I return embarrassed to my book. As they leave a few moments later, the husband is whispering to the girl harshly while glancing over his shoulder in my direction. I’ve landed this poor, innocent woman in trouble, I can tell.
You see, in London no-one else was referred to as ‘Amo’ but me. Having an Italian partner was not usual in our area and this was always the way Maria called me. In a crowded shop, from the end of the street or in a busy bar I always reacted to this word in the same way because I knew it was aimed solely at me. I haven’t quite got used to the fact that in Italy it’s probably not, I’m not so unique after all. I use the endearment myself now (when talking to Maria of course) adopting it over darling or sweetheart or, heaven forbid, baby.
There’s something about the Italian language that just lends itself to amore, to passion and love. Love is a three syllable word, the stress point making it more emotional, more expressive. Try adding some emphasis to ‘daarling’ and it becomes a sort of greeting between two thespians who can’t really stand each other. Even the use of bello or bella between two friends signifies that the recipient may not even be good looking but simply a beautiful person. The same passion applies to food as much as love, recipes are just as jealously protected. The heart is open and dares speak its name. It almost puts a lie to the concept of the horoscope, either that or everyone’s a Scorpio in Italy. Watching a history of Italian cinema recently, underlined the lack of fear that Italians have in expressing an opinion about say, a beautiful woman walking down the street. It doesn’t seem offensive and is indeed appreciated when an approving comment is overheard. If we can talk about the view in terms unrestrained by fear of offence why not its occupants? If a woman does take offence and dishes out a sharp slap to the face, then so what! It’s all part of the fun of life…. just make sure there’s no husband around!
Profondo: Deep, profound.
One of the ways I’ve picked up a little Italian is listening to football commentaries and it has thrown up a number of interesting lessons. It was fairly simple to grasp the ideas of an auto-goal (own goal), angolo (corner kick) and even the more obvious arbitro (referee) but there’s one that really makes me chuckle. The concept of a Partick Thistle centre half making a profound pass has me in stitches. Not so bizarre possibly for his Italian counterpart who probably studied Greek philosophy at primary school, but surely beyond the cells of your average home-grown player, well unless he’s on the home grown.
(TV Anchorman) “Let’s go over to Firhill for the first-round replay between Partick Thistle and Celtic, Malky.”
“Welcome to a soggy Glasgow. Well Tam, it seems to me that the Thistle defence is playing a little too profoundly. And only after ten minutes play!.”
“Aye Malky, I couldn’ea agree more. That Partick legend, McAristotle, will be turning in his grave! But that might be mere speculation. Who knows”
“For half-time analysis, we’ll be going over to Jimmy Freud.
Passion isn’t just a game of two hearts!