There are rules. Living in a small 13th century comune' (municipality) the rules are not so much law as habit. But those habits are fiercely enforced and protected. And so far, I'm happy to live where the rules seem to be in place to protect and care for the land, and the people.
If you don't know the 'rules' people generally lean over, whisper and pat your arm as if to say "it's ok. now you know."
First, the only things that open early are the traghetti (ferries) and 'bars', some cafes and some pasticcerie (bakeries ). Most open at 7 am. The bars serve either sit down or stand up espresso- any variety you like. Basically with my 4th floor windows open all I smell is baking bread and coffee in the morning. Nothing else in town opens until 10. And nobody cares because it keeps the pace slow and easy. Va bene.
Espresso is essential to begin the day here.
There are no rules about noise. Italians are by nature a loud people, mostly because everyone likes to talk at once and joke and laugh and the only way to be heard is to raise your voice. In this town, particularly on the weekends it is a favourite spot for bikers who come in groups and stop for una birra, or an espresso on their way around the lake. They are welcomed as they bring a consistent stream of revenue to Bellano. So if they are noisy, if the bikes are noisy, if the boats bleating there announcements are noisy - va bene. (it's all good).
Living right next to the main road on the lake is fun for a while. I'm not sure it's a long term plan.
There are rules about keeping each other safe. During Covid, Italians banded together to fight the virus with solidarity and a shared mission. For many this meant moving in together as families and riding out the storm. It is required to wear una maschera (a mask) any time you are in close quarters (inside the boats, on the train, on the bus, or in a store), or if you are in a crowd or queue unable to social distance. You may not eat inside a restaurant without a 'green pass' which is validation of being fully vaccinated. And no one argues about it. There is an unspoken agreement that people will do what is right for themselves and for each other.
The shops open around ten each day, close at noon or one o'clock for 'la pausa' and reopen at four, and remain open until seven or seven thirty. This allows the families to eat lunch together at home and take a rest. The trattorias and lakeside cafes remain open to accommodate tourists. In the evening, after the shops close, you will see the families with even the tiniest children and babies taking the passeggiata (stroll) to greet their friends, have a glass of wine or a gelato into the late hours. The sound of children playing mixed with the sound of dogs and people chatting becomes a familiar music that reminds you that life is meant to be lived out loud.
There is joy in that music.
Every step to become a permanent resident and citizen of Italy must be completed before the next step can be attempted. Ci sono regole. There are rules. You must present yourself to the polizia to announce your intention to present your documents. You cannot purchase a phone plan, or rent an apartment, or buy a car, or anything else without a coda fiscale ( like a social security number or a national ID). To do that you need to find someone to help you because they want to sell you something or help you rent.
I found that person this week. Woot!
Finally, and maybe most impressive to me in this time of climate change and awareness of. the need to take every action more seriously, there are rules about the 'spazzatura'. The trash.
Italians take this very seriously. There are 5 different categories of garbage, and each must be bagged in a compostable bag of a specific colour.
Vetro-(glass bottles or jars ) in a Green bin, or bag
Plastica e' Metallo (just what it sounds like) In a yellow. transparent bag. no lids. no corks. Nothing that has held food)
Carta e' Cartone - (paper and. cardboard) broken down and put into the white bin.
Organico (food waste- disposals are virtually non existent) The bin is called 'umido' and the bag is cream colored.
Indifferenziato ( a bunch of other items mixed together - non sorted because they. don't exactly fit the other categories.
Oh, and there is a 54 page book to tell you every single detail of this process along with which days to put out your spazzatura for collection.
Thankfully there is not a test.
I like the rules. They seem to help everyone feel at home and cultivate a culture of respect. And I like knowing what is expected. The people here greet their friends with a loud Ciao, or Bongiorno, and a smile.
Yesterday I met Lela who runs the boat rental store next door. I wanted to find out about kayaking on the lake. We had a nice talk and introduced ourselves. Today on my way to buy some fruit, I was surprised to hear a loud and friendly ' ciao Tia!' as I passed her. It made me smile a smile that is still inside me as I write this.
It made me feel 'at home'.
I hope wherever you are today you stop and say hello to someone new if you can. Make them feel at home, if only for a moment. It means a lot.
Ciao amici! xo