Our man in Calabria discovers that when a fist hits your eye, that's amore
The early evening music of Reggio Calabria begins to fade. The tired orchestra makes its way home on the tail-end of the rush hour concert. The horns and percussion of the cars and scooters blare and slam Varese-like in their impatience.
I, on the other hand, stroll down to Via Marina in the first balmy air of Spring. My work is over for the day and so I go to Bar Sotto Zero for a glass of Sicilian white and wait for Maria to finish her work then meet me there. As always I have a book to keep me occupied, my little treat while I nibble on some green olives and sip my wine.
'Amo!' a voice purrs behind me. I turn quickly, smiling widely as always when I hear this sweet word. My arms are open wide ready to embrace. 'Amore!' I answer. 'You’re early.'
The words stop in my mouth. The attractive girl I’m about to hold and kiss steps back in shock, a look of horror and panic large across her face. A look complimented by the frown that glowers down at me from her very tall husband. First he looks at me and then to his partner, accusation forming in his eyes.
'Oh I’m so sorry, scusa.' I gush. 'I thought you were someone else, really. This is where I usually meet my wife and when you said Amo I thought it was her.'
I’m talking too much, providing too much information. Suspiciously, the husband accepts my apology and they order their ice creams to take away while I return embarrassed to my book. As they leave a few moments later, the husband is whispering to the girl harshly while glancing over his shoulder in my direction. I’ve landed this poor, innocent woman in trouble, I can tell.
You see, in London no-one else was referred to as ‘Amo’ but me. Having an Italian partner was not usual in our area and this was always the way Maria called me. In a crowded shop, from the end of the street or in a busy bar I always reacted to this word in the same way because I knew it was aimed solely at me.
I haven’t quite got used to the fact that in Italy it’s probably not, I’m not so unique after all. I use the endearment myself now (when talking to Maria of course) adopting it over darling or sweetheart or, heaven forbid, baby.
There’s something about the Italian language that just lends itself to amore, to passion and love. Love is a three syllable word, the stress point making it more emotional, more expressive. Try adding some emphasis to ‘daarling’ and it becomes a sort of greeting between two thespians who can’t really stand each other. Even the use of bello or bella between two friends signifies that the recipient may not even be good looking but simply a beautiful person.
Just make sure there’s no husband around!
Charles Winning is a Scot and Blue's guitarist who has started a new life in southern Italy. You can follow his adventures, in this largely ignored part of Italy, on his blog Winning Over Italy
"This was my introduction to the way that the Calabrian economy works. You never think about spending until you’ve met at least a cousin or a friend of the man who sells the item you want, be it a car or an evening meal. Drop the name and see the price drop too."
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