Foreign diplomats in Rome disconsolately say, Italy is the opposite of Russia. In Moscow nothing is known, yet everything is clear. In Rome everything is public, there are no secrets, everybody talks, things are at times flamboyantly enacted, yet one understands nothing.
They eat the dainty food of famous chefs with the same pleasure with which they devour gross peasant dishes, mostly composed of garlic and tomatoes, or fisherman's octopus and shrimps, fried in heavily scented olive oil on a little deserted beach.
Their smiles and laughter are due to their habit of thinking pleasurably aloud about the pleasures of life. They have humanity rather than humour, and the real significance of the distinction is seldom understood.
I myself spent hours at the Columbia library as intimidated and embarassed as a famished gourmet invited to a dream restaurant where every dish from all the world's cuisines, past and present, was available on request.