Early in our stay in Italy, we learned (thanks Stefania) that the phrase “Parla Arabo” (lit. speaking Arabic) actually means “speaking gibberish” or “making no sense”. The fact that we actually speak Arabic seemed to be funny for some of our Italian friends.
We had a few encounters where Italians started talking to us in Italian. They would start slowly with words we understand (Pia and I learned French in school so it’s not too hard to understand Italian if we’re concentrating). Then they pick up the pace and we lose the meaning. That’s when we actually tell them we’re not Italians and that we do not speak Italian (“no parla Italiano”). At this, many would turn to our Italian friends and starts talking about us in Italian. We still understand what they’re saying, but they seem to forget that and go on talking about us anyway. It’s all in good fun.
Italians are friendly. I guess it’s in their nature. And everyone wants to help out if they can. For example, the other day we were looking for the bus stop for the Ikea shuttle near S.M.N. Stazione in Firenze. I started by asking the guy in the ATAF (bus company) booth where the shuttle stop is, and got the right answer. Being paranoid, and learning from earlier bad experiences, I wanted to ask someone else, just to make sure. The second guy I asked, also an ATAF driver, told me the stop is on the other side of the street, about 20m away. Humm, now that’s a bit confusing!
I went ahead and asked yet another driver, and got a totally different answer: “go to where the Taxis are parked and ask there. It’ll be near …”. I thought he might be mistaken, so I asked a street salesman who pointed me in yet another direction! All in all, I had 7 different answers from 7 different people on the same street.
At that, we decided to go look for another way to Ikea (Busses no. 29 and 30 go there). Pia’s “positive” reaction about the whole experience: “Italians are so helpful, they don’t want to turn you away, so they would tell you anything they think might help :)”
Oh well, and they say “Io parla Arabo”!
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