Everything that is done is done at speed. Coffee is taken in espresso form and drunk swiftly at the counter, followed by a shot of water (or preceded by. Like the correct tea to boiling water relationship in England, the matter of water before or after an espresso seems to be of some debate). You order at the till (in most places), repeat your order to the harried person at the bar and watch as two tiny cups clatter on the counter before you, filled with hot delicious coffee. Cooling of the coffee is quickened by rapid stirring. This caffeine hit is necessary for the crowded streets and winding between walkers who, if wanting to stop and look in a shop window, will stop instantly. Friends greet each other enthusiastically, acquaintances pause mid-step for a quick shoulder pat, and dogs wind around their owners and others. My walk to work is reminiscent of an old-style video game.
Crossing the road is done quickly, by both cars and pedestrians, and if you are nervous find someone to follow. Crossing one busy street I suddenly hear a beep – a moped joining me across the road and winding down the pedestrian filled street on the other side. Pizza is made quickly, you can watch as the dough is spread into a circle, dressed and pushed into a huge stone oven. In minutes you have a box of gorgeous pizza to walk away with. Though beware of this precious box, people leap from shop doors into the street and somehow I have missed them each time. One of these days I am sure I will collide with someone charging out of a shop.
There are people handing out flyers, people waiting to usher you into restaurants, people selling scarves, bags, jewellery and lighters, tourists taking pictures and processions that turn a busy street suddenly into a parade of characters in Renaissance dress (and just as quickly back again).
Maybe because of all this business, lunch times are taken slowly. At least an hour with a hearty bowl of pasta. Coffee breaks involve ordering espressos and leaving your desk to chat, not a mug of instant at your desk (though I do miss the comfort of a large mug of hot drink). Sundays are a time to relax, with most of the shops closed and even the water moving languidly through the taps as so many do their Sunday laundry, and hopefully sit on a terrace in the sun.