Chapter 1 - Welcome to Italy!

Welcome to Italy!

Language level: intermediate


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One morning David and I went to London’s Heathrow Airport and boarded a plane for Milan.
As expected, there were Italian and English passengers aboard.
The English read newspapers, while the Italians happily protested about London prices and how bad the food was... except for a large Italian lady who said: “I love London! I lose five kilos every time I go there. Forget diets! If you want to stop eating too much, just go to London for a week!”

Everything was going very well, until suddenly, a strong wind started to move the plane: up and down, up and down we went and everybody was very afraid.
Then suddenly I saw something strange: the Italian men were putting their hands on a very delicate part of their anatomy.

“Why are they doing that?” I asked David.
“I don’t know” he said. “Maybe for protection.”
“Protection? David, if I want to protect a part of my body, I will protect my face, don’t you think?”
“
John,” he said patiently, “if this plane goes down, I don’t think it’s important which part of your body you’re protecting!”

“Well, I think it is important!” I protested, “because I will be protecting my face so, if we crash, at least they can identify me!”

David considered this for a moment, then said, “Well, maybe in Italy men are identified by their....”
“What?” I said, “I  hope you’re joking, David!” 
Finally we arrived in Italy and everybody aboard the plane prepared for landing.
The Italian ladies closed their eyes and talked softly, while the Italian men put their hands back in that sacred place I mentioned before.

A big hand for the pilot!

When the plane touched the ground the Italians stopped breathing for a few seconds.
Then, when the plane finally stopped, something very strange happened: all the Italians started clapping loudly!

“Why are they applauding the pilot?” I asked. “It was a very normal landing.”

“Because they appreciate a good driver,” said David, and he started to applaud the pilot, too!

“What are you doing?” I asked.
“John, we’re in Italy: come on!”

Outside the airport we couldn’t find a single taxi, so we decided to take a bus.
It was an experience I will never forget.
First of all, we were on the wrong side of the road, so we were nervous from the start.
The bus driver was incredible. He took us through total pandemonium. Motorbikes were coming out from every direction and many cars didn’t stop at red lights.

“My God!” I said, “why do they have traffic lights in this country? Are they simply to add a little colour to the roads?”
For one desperate second I considered putting my hands in that sacred place.
Then I said, “Wow, if they applauded the pilot on the plane, what will they do for this driver? They will kiss his face!”

How embarrassing!

David looked at me. His face was unusually white. He said, “If we are all still alive, yes,” but the incredible thing was that the Italians were very calm and the men had their hands in very normal places: on their newspapers and their cell phones.

When, at long last, we reached our destination, the bus stopped.
The moment we stopped David and I jumped up and applauded very enthusiastically, “Woo hooo! You are a hero, man!!! Yeeees!!!! You are number one! You are number one!”
Then we realised, with a lot of embarrassment, that we were the ONLY people on the bus showing our appreciation for the driver!


Glossary

up and down we went - venivamo sballottati su e giù
I hope you’re joking - spero che tu stia scherzando
started clapping loudly - iniziarono a battere le mani fragorosamente
at long last -  finalmente
jumped up - saltò su


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