Semi-unplugged in Italy

Something I thought I noticed early on in my trip and starting watching for as my time went on was the lack of cell phones around me. Now, all the Italians have smartphones and are tech savvy, but they seem to be less tech dependent than what I see in America.

In America, I feel like waiting is synonymous with smart phones. Waiting to be seated at a restaurant, waiting for your uber to arrive, waiting for anything is done with a smartphone in front of your face. This isn’t to say passing time with technology is a bad thing. In the 6 minutes it takes for an uber to arrive at my apartment, I can tell my friends where I am, check the weather for the evening, even shoot off a final work email. However, when I watch Italians waiting for food to arrive, waiting for a train to depart, or wait for a show to start, I see very few people with smart phones in their hands.

When a smartphone does make an appearance it seems to be to answer a call, take a selfie, or play Pokémon Go. Yes, Pokemon Go is just as big overseas as it is back in America. In fact, when I noticed a group of young Italians all gathered outside a museum at night with their faces being illuminated by smartphones, I knew immediately that I had stumbled across a Pokestop.

Italians are all about living in the moment and while that might mean laughing off a delayed train, it also means enjoying the environment they are in, instead of escaping into a digital world. And while this means more face to face conversations are happening in public places, it also means a lack of concern for wi-fi in public places. Very few places in Italy have a public wi-fi available and the places that do have it, have very weak and unreliable wi-fi.

I assumed that all of our accommodations would have wi-fi available and tentatively planned my blog posts around that. I was wrong. A winery and resort we stayed at in Tuscany had no wi-fi except for in the restaurant, and that was only sometimes. A hotel I stayed in had wi-fi available if I sat in a very specific spot, and even then the upload speed was excruciatingly slow. But, in Italy, who cares?  Italy is a country very focused on being a part of the community you’re in and smartphones and the internet only seem to detract from that.

The first morning we were at the winery resort I mentioned, the owner joined us for a cooking lesson and took some pictures on his phone for his new website. At lunch he apologized for be being so “hooked” on his phone. I saw him take 3-5 pictures and then put the phone away immediately. If that was his idea of being hooked on smart phones, American cell phone use would probably make him very uncomfortable.

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