Greetings.  After a wonderful week in Italy a few additional thoughts stand out in my mind…

First, customer service here is uneven–ranging from the remarkable warmth and hospitality of our innkeepers in Venice (whose lovely Bed & Breakfast I would be delighted to recommend)…to the less than customer-centric behavior of many shopkeepers who operate on their own schedules and agendas.  And once you get outside the big cities most shops close for three or four hours in the middle of the day.

Second, organization and planning does not seem to be the highest national priority.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Third, Italians are passionate about food and it really shows.  In fact, it's almost impossible to get a bad meal here even at the smallest and most out-of-the-way restaurants.  And everyplace, at least in Tuscany, seems to make its own wine and olive oil.

Fourth, hardly anyone here speaks English–which is fine…except that the country's major industry is tourism and English has become the de facto language of travelers from a wide range of lands.  Not that I should expect everyone to speak English.  And besides, this "language barrier" doesn't stop them from trying their hardest to give wonderfully sincere and detailed guidance complete with inspiring gestures.  Unfortunately, given my limited knowledge of Italian, I rarely had any idea what they were saying…though I am pretty awesome at reading an Italian menu.  And I always said a resounding "Grazie!"

And here are a few of my very favorite "handmade" signs.  The first three provide interesting insight on customer service…

Information

Sometime

No Maps

And the last one provides a higher level of guidance on how to get to the amazing cathedral in Orvieto…

Duomo

We win in business and in life when we try our best to understand and appreciate other cultures.  And when we keep our eyes open for clever clues all around us.

Cheers!