Article by Lucy Harding - San Ginesio
When you live in Italy, it's essential to abandon your preconceptions about timekeeping.
We northern Europeans tend to expect functions, concerts and meetings to start on time, (except social gatherings of course, for which you have to be half an hour fashionably late!). Here, however, time has an elastic quality, which seems to work for the Italians but keeps us Brits guessing.
Often a poster advertising a show, won't even mention a time or even a hint of whether it's a morning or evening event. If it does optimistically predict a time, it will inevitably start late. The only things you can guarantee are: that nothing happens between one and four in the afternoon and almost everything starts at about ten in the evening.
For Italians, the anticipation seems to be part of the enjoyment. I now understand why Italians are so good at hanging about, waiting; they've had an awful lot of practice! It probably also explains why they are so chatty with strangers; it gives them something interesting to do.
When I first moved here, I assumed that I would find this infuriating but strangely I adapted quicker than I expected and have adjusted my expectations accordingly. Some people never reconcile themselves to it however. I have an American friend who is driven to distration by the shop opening hours and I know a family with young children who still perservere with "British Bedtime" and think there is nothing happening in Le Marche because even children's activities start after nine thirty in the evening! I must be more acclimatised than I thought because I was unprepared for my parents' reaction to an event in my local town San Ginesio, the other night.
My son and his classmates had each painted a picture for the Carabinieri Calender and they were coming to town to say thank you. The details were rather vague but it was supposed to start at eight thirty in the evening. As veterans of many "waiting" campaigns we set off for the piazza at eight forty five, only to find nothing on our arrival but a few of my son's friends, their patents and teachers. We all admired the displayed pictures and then waited amiably together exchanging the odd word or quip.Then out of the night, we felt an approaching rumble, the old buildings of San Ginesio gave a shake and a sigh and expelled a huge coach into the piazza. The National Carabinieri Band allighted and lets be honest, there's always something about men in uniform, even if they are the local police who have the power to impound your car, for the most meagre of traffic offenses (another story)..., these uniformed offices were thankfully only bearing instruments.
The circus began! Miraculously Polizia Municipale arrived and cleared the piazza of cars. Tables bearing tantalising presents appeared. Dignitaries arrived, chairs seconded from the cafe's gave them something to sit on and the band began to tune up. Soon hundreds of people were there, agreeably chatting, watching the children playing or enjoying a gelato while waiting for il spettacolo. But not so my parents! They kept pacing about wanting to know when it was going to start and muttering about organisation and beweries, I'm sure you get the gist. At nine fifty five they left in a huff! At ten the band played the National Anthem (a curiously forgettable tune) to rigid attention. We then had the presentation and the opportunity to buy postcards of the childrens' pictures in aid of the Abruzzo fund, something I will treasure for a long time. Then, with the formalities over, the sun set and the moon and stars visible in a clear, dark blue sky framing the illuminated church of San Ginesio; the band played the most beautiful rendition of "The Chorus of the Hewbrew Slaves" I have ever heard.
They may have been late, but they were worth waiting for!