Modena - where have all the nice people gone?

Fox Image
06/03/2009 - 09:03

 We were staying at our house in Emilia-Romagna last week with friends, and took them to Modena for the day. Now I don't know what had happened since we last visited and were struck by how lovely and friendly everyone was - after all, isn't ER renowned for being the friendliest region in Italy? It remains true in our local area up in the mountains, but I can tell you, I was very disappointed by my Modenese experience. First of all, it was like Vulgaria in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang - not a child in sight, apart from the four under five with us! Usually 4 blond children cause a flurry of activity, admiration, stroking and all things friendly but this was not the case last week. We went to a restaurant that came recommended in our guide book. I won't be passing on the recommendation to clients who rent out our house. There was nobody else in the restaurant and indeed, no-one else came, and yet we were treated like a major inconvenience. Wanting to pay for food! In a restaurant! What a cheek. When our friends' two-year-old started eating her pasta, the owner came out, tutting, and lifted her up in order to cover the chair with paper towels. Service was grumpy and humourless. Later, we went to a cafe in the main square. Again, the same grumpy treatment even though there was next to nobody there. I can honestly say that the children were very well behaved but we were clearly very unwelcome there. When I went in to pay I was told off for having lost the scontrino even though I wasn't aware of ever having had it (you must have torn it up or thrown it away or something, tututututtutut). I was then charged E31 for 4 soft drinks and three icecreams so I asked for the breakdown as it seemed expensive, even given the location in the main square (it wasn't the really posh cafe). She muttered under her breath and reluctantly added it up again, this time getting E27, and said 'you must have had something else as well because we don't make mistakes'. I assured her we hadn't and she said 'don't tell me you're not wrong because I've been doing this for a long time'. Having added it up one last time, they settled on E29. I pointed out that she HAD in fact made a mistake and should surely be apologising to me, at which point she just looked at me belligerently and said 'it's E29'. 'And I've paid E31', I said. She threw down E2, which she obviously thought I should be leaving for a tip - ha, as if! - and I left, absolutely fuming. I would like to add that this whole conversation was in Italian, so there was no excuse for being cross about tourists who can't speak their language or anything like that. Do they want business or not? If they have a cafe in the main square, they must expect tourists. I am very cross that our experience was so negative in this lovely town. I will never go back to that cafe with the miserable spinster women.