What is lo farò domani?

Lo farò domani.

I learned this phrase, maybe the third day I got here. I kept hearing it, repeated over and over, from teachers and students, from street vendors and shopkeepers, even from the loud-talker on his cell phone on the bus. Everywhere.

I heard first in a hasty jumble, as all people new to a language hear things, without recognition of the spaces. To my untrained ears it sounded more like: Lofarodomani.

After hearing it another handful of times, the words started to separate. I began to distinguish this jumble from some of the other words pouring out of these Italians’ mouths. After all, I wasn’t deaf to the language, I had been studying, using Rosetta Stone and the DuoLingo app, but in those earliest of days, when I was still a little jet-lagged, still a little off, I was still surprised when I heard these people speaking Italian. Caught off guard by seeing a beautiful person, however oddly dressed, speaking Italian. It was like back in the states, when you drive from Illinois to Texas, sporting your Illinois license plates, and you get there, to Texas, and one morning you’re stuck in traffic and you look around, kind of numb and zombie-like on the commute, and you think, man there are a lot of Texas license plates around here. Then a moment passes and you realize that’s because you are in Texas you dummy.

Lofarodomani.

But the words began to separate, as I said, and finally I asked someone what this meant in English.

Translation: I’ll do it tomorrow.

I think this sums it up. There’s a reason I heard this phrase so immediately upon arrival. All of Italy can be summed up in these three words. It is this phrase that sits on a razor’s edge between what I love and occasionally hate about this place.

The Italians would rather do it tomorrow.

The native Italian teachers, on finishing up some planning for school, I was going to do that but the sun came out, so I went to the beach. Lo farò domani.

The plumber, after putting in a stop-gap fix to a leak in the shower that was flooding my downstairs neighbor’s apartment, assured me he’d be back in the morning to finish the job. I didn’t see him again for a week and a half. Lo farò domani.

Even the homework my students owe me, incomplete because they went to a soccer match in Florence and couldn’t be bothered. Lo farò domani.

The ‘it’ that the Italians will do tomorrow? The ‘lo’ that starts it all off? I would characterize it as anything loosely described as work, or an activity not entirely, wholly pleasant.

This is why I love the Italians. Life is first. The work to live. For the Italians, many of these little things they put off and off and off eventually work themselves out. They get forgotten, or smoothed out, or done in due time. The planning gets done, the plumbing does get fixed, the homework will someday be turned in. And in the meantime, they’ve gotten some sun, or had an aperitivo with friends, or saw Genova football club tie Florence away. Lo farò domani.

Incidentally, this is also totally frustrating for me the American. To these Italians, every American must seem like an anal-retentive type A+ personality. My paperwork for Italy is still on someone’s desk in a Consulate somewhere—has been for months—waiting for the civil servant to spend literally ten minutes and approve all my documents. The plunger lever on my toilet, while awaiting replacement by my landlord, has been wrapped awkwardly with wire to keep it together. My lease? Hasn’t been signed, hasn’t even been given to me. I could go on and on. There are literally hundreds of things like these, both big and small—things to do—that will be done sometime in a hazy future.

Despite this, we Americans stream into Italy. For many it is our dream vacation, or our honeymoon, our getaway, or the place where we think we’ll finally fit. There are reasons: the wine, the cheese, the food, the beaches, the vistas, the history, the art, the…the…the…you name it. Americans long for this, but the Italians? They have it. What’s more, they know they have it.

So is it really any wonder, when facing a decision between a bit of work or an Aperol Spritz on a sun-drenched beach with their amici, they look at the work and say…

Lo farò domani?

I think not.

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