I think one of the reasons I enjoy traveling to Italy so much, apart from the obvious beauty of the place, is that I feel very comfortable around Italians. The men and women I saw on my trips look just like the ones from my old Brooklyn neighborhood. I am not referring to the younger Italians who live in the cities, who look so slim and elegant in their fashionable clothes, but rather the older, country people who inhabit the streets of every small town in Italy. Their brown faces, mended sweaters and the way they gesture with their hands when they talk is so familiar to me.
The old Italian women on my street were fixtures too, with their black dresses and grey hair in buns. They rarely went indoors for fear that the other Italian women would talk about them. We used to make money running errands so they wouldn't have to leave their posts on the stoop. In the summer they loved the shaved ices with flavored syrup that were sold off a push cart. Since it would be undignified for them to negotiate this transaction in person, they would give us the money, usually wrapped in an old lace handkerchief, and we would do the deed. Our reward was a few pennies, or if they were feeling generous, they would treat us to an ice and then pump us for gossip about what was going on in our families.
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