One of my many regrets in life is that my daughters will never see the Italy I knew. Other people probably feel the same about Greece, France, Spain or Portugal, recalling the age before everyone seemed to be everywhere. When even Florence was not that crowded in summer and the small towns and villages of Tuscany and central Italy — certainly the south — were Italian in every way: few foreigners and that uncompromised way of life.

An early start in the cool of morning, hard work followed by a good lunch with wine from a jug. Then the sacred siesta — a nap, or cuddle-up with someone else during the Italian afternoon, when everything is determinedly chiuso — closed. After the impenitent heat of day relents, the shutters reopen and evening begins for most with the passeggiata, Grandpa on the arm of his granddaughter, teenagers showing off, heated discussion over Gazetta dello Sport or the L’Unita. For others, back to work, for a few hours.

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