from Americans in Italy
by David Kirby

copyright © 2003 David Kirby

      The three things Americans visiting Italy worry about most
are (1) being cheated, (2) being made to eat something
      they don’t like, and (3) being cheated in the course
of being made to eat something they don’t like.
      To these people, I say: Americans, do not worry.
Italians will not cheat you. Dishonesty requires calculation,
      and Italians are no fonder of calculation than we are.
As for the food, remember that you are in a restaurant,
      for Christ’s sake, and therefore it is highly unlikely

      that your handsome, attentive waiter will bring you
a bunch of boiled fish heads, much less a bowl of hairspray soup
      or a slice of tobacco pie topped with booger ice cream.
Indeed, you have already been both cheated and made to eat
      bad food in your so-called Italian restaurant in Dearborn
or Terre Haute where the specialty is limp manicotti
      stuffed with cat food and welded to an oversized ashtray
with industrial-strength tomato sauce; therefore be not
      like the scholar in The Charterhouse of Parma

      who never pays for the smellest trifle without looking up
its price in Mrs. Starke’s Travels, where it states how much
      an Englishman should pay for a turkey, an apple,
a glass of milk, and so on, but eat, drink, and spend freely,
      for tomorrow you will again be in Grand Rapids or Fort Wayne.
As Cosimo strolled his corridor, he could glance out from time to time
      to see if three or four of the abovementioned Pazzi or Albizi
were gathering to discuss something that almost certainly
      would not have been a surprise birthday party for him.