Italian Kids stay up late! – Nessun Dorma

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Nessun Dorma - Modena's White Night

Today, I want to talk about differences.

I’m becoming more and more aware of them.  What is normal in North American culture is totally strange in Italy and would never work here and vice versa.  In Toronto we have a “White Night” called Nuit Blanche, have you heard of this?  I think there is a White Night in pretty much every city and town in the world, but incase this phenomena hasn’t arrived in your area yet,  it is basically an evening dedicated to culture, and usually museums are free and open until late.

 

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In Toronto the event is a cultural extravaganza with programing, performances, street installations and site specific work done in every corner of the downtown core and it runs literally ALL NIGHT.  I remember one year walking through the streets at 4 am, hungry, tired, lost and exhausted, but generally having a great time.

 

In Modena things are a little more toned down, and are definitely not on the edge of the avant-guardia (like they are in Toronto), but things are ENJOYABLE, SENSIBLE and END AT MIDNIGHT!  Italians have this fear of exaggerating,  things must be taken to the limit but not exceed it.  Midnight seems like a reasonable hour for families to be out and about, so free music events throughout the city, museum hours, performances etc. all pretty much end at midnight.  The exception are nightclubs and music venue for people who obviously have no kids that run all for the whole night.

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Nessun Dorma “No One Sleeps” – Modena’s White Night!

 

Last week on Saturday there was the event Nessun Dorma in Modena, which means “No One Sleeps”, this is what I wore!!!  The name comes from Puccini’s Opera Turandot, and it is a subtle homage to Pavarotti (Modena was his home town!!!!) whose version of the Aria “Nessun Dorma” remains on of the most powerful and emotional versions ever heard and recorded.  Have you heard it?  IT IS A MUST, here’s the youtube video!

I’ve written before about balling my eyes out in the Casa Enzo Ferrari Museum in Modena, dedicated to the Ferrari founder, that played this Aria every 20 minutes.  Every single time Pavarottis voice came on the loudspeaker I began to ball!!!!

 

Even though Modena’s White night is called “Nessun Dorma”, I can assure you that everyone slept at some point!  Maybe just a few hours later than normal.   I never really realized how much different our lives as parents are in Italy compared to North American or British parents.  I read a lot of UK based blogs (check out the #AllAboutYou linkup by London bloggers Mama and More and Mother Wife Me, it is FILLED with amazing mommy blogs from the UK) and in reading their stories I became aware that most families stay in after bed time!  And bed time is EARLY.

Like REALLY EARLY!

 

Like….. we haven’t even eaten dinner yet at that time!  No wait,  we are most likely still at the park when kids in the U.S., Canada and the UK are getting ready for bed!!!

A Few Thoughts on Differences

 1 – Street Food

Before I move on I just want to say that Italian street food during these events is absolutely nothing like North American street food.  The temporary vendors were selling things like (and I’m not kidding), pasta with a duck tomato or wild boar sauce, tortelloni filled with ricotta and spinach, tortelloni filled with pumpkin and served with butter and sage, Borlenghi (an Italian “crepe” that is filled with parmigiano and pesto)….and so on and so forth.  Not a single hot dog in sight the entire night!

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My man feeding my little guy pasta with wild boar!

2 – Street Drinking and Drunks

As I mentioned before Italians aren’t really fans of exaggerating.  Sure every town has their own “token drunks”, but in general to much debachery…and generally loosing your cool, is looked down upon.  You’re not the fun guy if you have too many drinks, you’re just the guy who “exaggerates” ……l’essaggerato.  In saying that, although Modena was filled with outdoor vendors from local bars selling every kind of mixed drink possible, AND people could consume these in glass cups (not plastic) that you can even take away from the bar (and later return at your own convenience) there were no drunk people.

At least none that I saw, of the thousands of people out that evening.

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Here’s the bar tender from a bar in Modena making my “Melonito” a mixed drink with melon liquor and mint….it was delicious and served in a glass mason jar that I brought back at the end of the night!

In fact, 90% of the time if you see people that are completely drunk and acting ridiculous they are not Italians!!  In other words, when I first arrived in Italy (note: without kids, technically single and CANADIAN) I was most likely that drunk in any given social situation!

That being said, there are situations were people get completely wasted, but they are usually tasteful about it, in nightclubs, in groups and away from families with children. So it is pretty safe to walk around the streets even when literally THOUSANDS of people all around are drinking cocktails out of breakable glasses.

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3 – Italian Kids Stay Up Late!!

The biggest difference I really want to talk about is baby/toddler/kids hours.  I really enjoyed reading a Mums Day’s account of taking her son out in the evening and forgoing their bedtime routine.  He goes to be at 7 pm, which I think most UK parents would agree is a reasonable bed time. In Italy if you tell someone that your kid goes to bed at 7, they look at you as though you just said that your kid eats at McDonalds….with complete disbelief and slight disgust!

No one’s kid goes to bed at 7. Or 8 or even 9 for that matter!  Ok wait, I do know ONE PERSON whose kid goes to bed early but she isn’t Italian, she’s from the UK and so is her husband and she also never goes out at night!!!

Here is a typical schedule for a child, anywhere from 9 months to 3 years old…ready?

You may be shocked….

8 or 8:30 or 9 am –  Wake up!  Daycare kids get up earlier but generally parents WAKE their children and NOT vice versa!! 

10 or 10:30 or 11Morning nap.  Not all kids have a morning nap, mine for example does not!

12:00 or 12:30 or 1pmLUNCHTIME!  Lunch usually consists of something ridiculously delicious and never involves anything like cut up carrots!

Anywhere from 2pm to 5pmNap. Some kids nap earlier, some later, but usually a good 2 hours of the afternoon is spent sleeping.  My son sleeps from around 3:30/4pm – 6/6:30!!!

7:30 or 8:00 or even 8:30Dinner.  Dinner is eaten as a family with all members present.  Kids eat what their parents are eating whether that be cotolette, spaghetti with clams, octapus and potatoes, lasagna, pesto….you name it, it’s served to kids.  Again, there are no separate “kid appropriate” foods prepared and everyone eats together!

Anytime between 9:30 and 11pm –  Bedtime! Totally not kidding!!!!  The bedtime routine isn’t that big a deal, Italians follow a loose cycle of cues but nothing that is an intense regime.  My husband and I usually drink wine together after dinner, hang out with our son, chat, play, give him a bath and get lost in our discussions.  My son usually has to TELL US to start putting him to bed.

All of my friends put their kids down to sleep between 9:30 and 11, but let’s say that 10 is usually the expected bed time.  Don’t believe me?  There is a really popular site called “Forum al Femminile” which is like the Italian “Baby Centre” where moms talk about mom things.  This discussion is all about standard kid schedules and pretty much every mom follows the above mentioned hours.

So what does this mean in terms of quality of life…..

In my opinion a few things are really positive about how Italian kids live.

1 – They have social lives!  After dinner you can easily bring them out for an ice cream or walk before their 10 pm bedtime!
2 – Parents have social lives!  If your kid is waking up at 8 and not at 5:30 am or 6 you have the morning to get ready for work calmly, read the paper, workout or god forbid have sex!  Not only that, but if they are going to bed at 10 and the parents go to bed at midnight (a pretty normal time) then you also have a few hours together in the evening.

 

****And if you go to bed at 2:30 am as we often do, then you have a full 4.5 hours alone and still get in 6 hours of sleep before the kids are awake!  During the week this isn’t very practical, but it can make for a very fun and social weekend!

3 – Dinners are yummier!!! Since the family eats together and eats the SAME FOOD, dinner is usually yummy and not processed.
4 – Events . Events like Nessun Dorma don’t completely throw your kids schedule off and are easily do-able.

 

Back to Nessun Dorma…..

Nessun Dorma is a special occasion so people come from all the small towns around Modena to participate, the streets are filled with groups of friends, parents, families, kids, old people, young people, hip people, not so hip people ….you name it they are out!

I really don’t have much to say about the cool events we saw, since the streets were too packed for us to move.  Considering that we had a stroller and so did our friends it became impossible to navigate through the crowds.  We mostly enjoyed the outdoor temporary street vendors, street acts, puppet shows and live music.  We did our normal Modena things like met up with our different groups of parent friends, had an ice cream, hung out …. etc.

A few years ago (sans bebè) we were much more mobile and got to a few different events, but this year we took it easy and did what we could, considering the crowds and pushing a stroller.

Here are some photos documenting  how the night went, to see what I wore in greater detail I’ve done a post about it here!

 

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Throughout the night we ran into all kinds of friends!!

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The night started out pretty great we had street vendor pasta and hung out having drinks with our friends on one of the main bar streets.

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We watched a few of the street performers.

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Tried to take our some out of the stroller and he quickly destroyed a balloon display!

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Keeps us on our toes.

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At some point there were TOO MANY people and we started to have a really hard time getting through the crowds.

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Here I am saying “I don’t know where we should go, there’s too many people!”

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So we turned around and headed home with our friends at around 11:30 (kids were still awake!)

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End of the night shot on a quiet side street.

 

So there you have it, we didn’t really see much, but hey at least we were out of the house and with friends. Plus I didn’t have to cook dinner AND I enjoyed a yummy “Melonito”!!

 

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  • Nuit Blanche in Toronto is a very cool event. I loved reading about the differences between the culture in Canada and Italy! I always think that Italy seems to have a better idea of things than we do here in Canada. Looks like you had a great time!

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    • Nuit Blanche is absolutely cool…actually I miss the event A LOT!! Italians certainly have a very clear idea of what a “good life” (bella vita ) should be. I don’t want to generalize and say it’s all pasta, ice cream and the beach ….but certainly those three elements are very important! ….and thanks for your comment Lauren!

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  • You wrote our schedule down! HAHA. I was literally just thinking about this yesterday evening when I told my husband Florence dips cookies in my coffee and he said “MY LOVE! Not until she’s six!” (he was dead serious) Anyways we got on the top of how do people put their kids down SO early to sleep and this was as we are skipping out the door for pastry around 9 last night!
    By the way Florence and I clean to Pavarotti and Nessun Dorma is our favvvvv! And by “our” I mean mine and I listen to it on repeat.

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    • How much do I LOVE the name Florence for a girl!!! My son loves coffee….seriously, and he’s only two. We usually order him a decaf espresso….sssshhhhhh don’t tell anyone.

      Nessun Dorma is such an incredibly powerful piece sung by Pavarotti, honestly that man’s voice was a gift to all humanity.

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  • Interestingly enough, when we were in Milano this year during the White Night, most of the museums where either closed or not free (as it is true for public ones only). Nonetheless, we enjoy each and every of them!

    And yeah, too many people everywhere!

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    • Ugh…that is so Milan for you. I lived there for a few months, but it is strange, in a way I don’t really consider Milan Italy!!! The life there is so completely different from life anywhere else in Italy. So sorry to hear the museums weren’t free and that there were so many people, but it’s great that you had a nice time anyway. Thank you for coming by and for leaving a comment!

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  • I live in Vilnius, Lithuania and the social life with children and late bed times seem exactly the same there! I’m completely loving it even though I don’t have kids yet. I think it is such a great thing to have a more flexible lifestyle and dinner with the family.

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    • It is MUCH more flexible. I’d probably be cool with my son going to bed a teeny weeny bit earlier, but on the other hand we were out with friends the other night till 11 pm and he was awake and fine. Not once did I feel stressed out because it was SO late that he would go into temper tantrum meltdown. I would love to hear more about Lithuania, must check out your blog! THank you for your comment and for coming by!

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  • This is so amazing! Every photo looks so festive! I want to attend this event but its far fr me. I am from the UK and one of the things that I am so not proud of is my son sleeps 8.30 – 9pm. This is of course when i fixed this as before he sleeps 11pm. But its really because at the day he sleeps so that he can spend time with me and my husband at night. I felt really guilty with making him sleep late so I moved it up. It is nice to know that there are poeple who let their kids sleep a wee bit late for the same reason. Thanks for sharing this! #Allaboutyou

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    • There you go Merlinda!!! Feel guilty NO MORE!! Whenever you worry that your son is going to bed late, think of MINE and you’ll feel better! he also ate a ton of dirt today!! Dirt has nutritional value, no???

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  • Oh my good lord!! That all sounds lovely and you answered my question about when do you have adult time but the biggest difference is I need about 10hours sleep so I’ll go to bed at around 10:30-11:30 at the latest, unless I’m out of course! Yes, Reuben goes to sleep at 7 and has been sleeping recently until around 7:30/8! But he’s also not been napping during the day as much but during a growth spirt he’ll also sleep for 2 hours during the day 🙂

    The other big difference is that it’s effing cold here, we live in a place where you really wouldn’t want to be out after dark (!) so we’d have to travel around 20 mins and if you did you’d be looked at very strangely! When we stayed out, it was only until 7:30 and we we’re getting the looks then!

    It might be different further south or a kind of holiday destination like London or Brighton though?!

    Anyway, fab post, really enjoyed reading it 🙂 xxx

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    • Yes I was just thinking about that actually, perhaps climate has a lot to do with it. But also culture. I think that if I got strange looks, or if we were the ONLY ones at the park that late that I would also be inclined to change our schedule, but then the fact always remains that dinner here is so late and we eat as a family (I’m NOT COOKING TWICE!!!)

      And to be perfectly honest sometimes I go to bed at 10:30 too!!!

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  • Wow I loved reading the routine that Italians have. Actually I am a bit jel. Here is the UK I think we are a bit strict due to Gina Ford but I wish maybe I was a bit more relaxed? When we go abroad we do keep the kids up awake a bit later and then they generally sleep in. Mine are up at 6am here!! It is a night mare! Thanks for linking up another post for #AllAboutYou. There is one blogger that does routines. She will love this. Will hook you up! xxx

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  • Hi Angie!

    This post has fascinated me beyond belief! I have only visited Italy once but I have a little bit more experience of Spain (I studied Spanish for a year at uni) and I was amazed and totally taken aback at how late people stayed out. In Madrid there are people queuing to get into cinemas at 11:30pm and the coffee bars are full. It seemed so completely alien to a girl from the UK. I couldn’t work out how they all had the stamina but then again everywhere was closed over lunchtime so that break in the middle of the day was fuelling the nocturnal behaviour!!

    My favourite aspect of the Italian way of life you’ve described is the food. I think here in the UK there is too much emphasis places on “baby food”. I’m not saying Gwenn doesn’t eat things made just for babies but why is there such a huge industry surrounding it? Why can’t babies just eat what we eat (minus the salt & sugar!). I’ve always tried to share my lunches with Gwenn, so if we go out we both have the same thing or I’ll make pasta at home and she eats her with her hands while I go for the more sophisticated fork option!

    You make living in Italy sound incredible? Have you done any posts on the negatives?

    x

    #AllAboutYou

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    • Beth GREAT COMMENT!! One of the biggest shockers was weaning for me. You would NEVER BELIEVE how Italian kids are weaned, it is like nothing in this universe. Honestly, I should do a series about it. No baby food whatsoever!! ANd I have done a few posts about the negatives..I’ll send you the links on twitter!

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  • Angie, I absolutely loved this post, so interesting to read a typical Italian schedule, and yes, it is SO different to in the UK. Personally, I really appreciate my time with my husband to ourselves in the evenings, but sometimes wish the kids could cope with going out a bit later. I’ve always followed their needs, and they just both want to sleep by 8. Having said that, they both love sleeping for 12 hours, so everyone’s happy – no early morning wake ups! The Nuit Blanche Nessun Dorma sounds amazing, how fun. Fab fab post, and I love that picture of you turning to look at the camera over your shoulder. Thanks for linking to #AllAboutYou, and thanks for the mention! Xx

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    • Honestly, I don’t even know how you do it. For example, do the kids nap?? If so, how are they tired again by 8 pm? Do you and your husband eat AFTER they go to bed? Do you have to cook dinner twice?

      So many questions!!!

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  • Wow. They stay up that late?

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