Thursday, January 29

I highly recommend watching this superb production piece on full screen! 




An incredible video by Rome's FederAlberghi Hotel Assoc who rolled up their sleeves alongside RetakeRoma & started cleaning up our City Center.

It starts with:

Millions of tourists dream of coming to Rome looking like this... But when they arrive...it looks more like this.

And ends with: 


We've applied the elbow grease - now it's up to City & Govt institutions to do the right thing.
 

And then...asking your officials (everywhere in Italy as the graffiti, garbage& stickers is a pox on our society) what are they doing with the 90 million euro each year taken out of the pockets of our visitors "for services to improve our fair City?"

Tuesday, January 27

Advertising in Italy: Not for the faint of heart

Anyone who has followed my blog knows that every so often...I come across a delicious ad campaign that I can't pass up.  But honestly, I never caught this one until one of my peeps @ABroadBrush pointed out the irony...
So here it is, my first entry of 2015 of ad campaign fails of the Bel Paese.  
This one, properly translated, states Switch over to WIND (mobile phone carrier).
Literally translated is...Pass to Wind ... if you get our drift...Well, actually, scratch that...you won't want to find yourself anywhere near our drift...
It's no wonder they use English so much in their ads. 

You actually could have some fun with their little vignettes...
Like...he who smelt it, dealt it!
Or...like this one...starts you wondering about those poor astronauts out there in Outer Space


For more fun posts on Italian adverts...try here!



Tuesday, January 13

Your Government at Work

Walking around my neighborhood as I am wont to do is often a wonderful experience, that is if you don't count my playing three times a day Doo-Doo Dodge'Em on the sidewalks: There are the old guys who hang out on the benches or in little groups talking - incessantly - about Lord knows what; the old ladies wheeling their carts to the mercato,  the Bangladeshi green grocers and other dog owners with whom I always stop to say hello.  In short, you get to know your little quartiere fairly well; with all its pox-marks and forlorn tree stumps lining my path.
So I was taken aback when rounding the corner, suddenly street signs had gone up, official yellow paint sprayed with a decisive cautionary aire down on the ground, and no cars in my midst - a rarity if there ever was one in Rome...The spanking new sign posted was still sans graffiti so I could read it:  NO PARKING.  TOURISM BUSES ONLY.  
Taking up (or shall I say, taking away from us mere mortals) a full five, treasured,  parking spaces -- while day in, day out, the street stands empty.  And yet we're all afraid to park there.  But the street waiting to host these phantasmagoric monoliths is quite wide.  Wide enough, in fact, to allow passengers to alight every so often.  That's because nearby, are the catacombs.  And sometimes, around Easter, their parking lots are full.
My first thought was...of all the darned places?  Just further on, in fact, there are miles of wide streets where none of us choose to park -- wide enough to hold countless numbers of monstrous buses (and Suvs for that matter...but, dream on...).  So this entire fiasco wreaking havoc on our parking rhythms, reeked horribly of skunk.
So, I ventured over to the cabal of guys-on-a-park bench and pondered loudly, Isn't there something we can do to make them take this back? After all, Rome is famous for do-overs.
And then, the guys shared with me their very best conspiracy theories; a national pastime in Italy.  But, I'm fairly certain this one was spot on:
Prior to the bus parking lane, huge trash containers were perched there.  The residents had asked for them be removed as there were others nearby. No one listened.  So, someone got the brainy idea to ask for a bus lane and Ecco Fatto! the horrible containers were gone; and along with them, so were the mountains of trash pulled out of them by the indefatigable hoards of gypsies...
So now, we're just waiting to put in the request to restore parking in that same spot for our cars and, gazillions of tax payer dollars later, all will be good in my corner of the world once again.  Talk about Civic Duty.
And the bonus? I now know what all those guys are busy plotting each day.

Tuesday, January 6

Italy has an Epiphany

January 6th marks the day we all get to have extra holidays in Italy.  That's because no one truly considers working between Christmas and New Years and not even between New Years (the Feast Day of Stephen-Santo Stefano) & the Epiphany, or La Befana - marked by the arrival of that old gift bearing kitchen witch floating by on a broomstick.  Once she turns up, expect the huge post-Epiphany sales, which cause tourists and residents alike to have their own sort of Epiphany.  The streets of Rome are so mobbed, even the counterfeit vendors don't have room to display their wares curbside.
In Venice, they hold the annual Regata of the Befana - From the looks of things, men can run the race dressed up as women, but still, a woman gondolier is as hard to find as a female priest.  Maybe this will bring the 'ol boys club just one step closer.
And, as a little curiousity, I just read in my charming This is Venice book (by M. Sasek) - a gift from the Befana herself - that in its heyday, Venice had over 10000 gondolas roaming its canals.  Now, fewer than 500 are in existence.  No wonder prices are so high for a ride. Talk about diminishing returns...

Pic from Venice.nu search engine site: 
  http://www.venice.nu/photos/regatta-della-befana/
And click here for a fun slideshow of the Venetian event.


And, for all those who don't know what we're celebrating exactly, here's my favorite video on youtube depicting the arrival of those three kings on this day:


Buona Befana a tutti!

*For more on our beloved Befana...Click Here

Wednesday, December 24

Away from the Manger-Christmas Eve in Italy

Christmas Eve is the night Italians often celebrate the birth of the little baby Jesus. This event is quite significant, especially if you are to judge by their crèche or manger scenes; something we Americans can only remember with nostalgia of days of yore.
But you see, Italians are nothing if not highly literal people; especially given their long history of language, discourse and oratory, starting with Latin and Lord knows what languages even before. And so it is with their manger scenes.
When I first came to Italy, I thought all those presepe showing an old Giuseppe and his young wife looking fondly down on a heap of hay, standard issue donkey, sheep and even the Three Kings in the distance, was simply yet another indication of Italians' poor planning: Someone clearly had forgotten the Baby Jesus!!!
Who stole Baby Jesus?picture from GodsDiscussion.com
After seeing this a few more times, I thought: 'Okay, who stole the Baby Jesus?!!'
But then, I finally figured it out: This is a country in which article after article, conversation after conversation, they feel the need to warn you prior to making a joke or a cynical statement, just in case the meaning is lost on you - so you don't take it literally.  [I always envision this practice much like the Robot in Lost in Space: “Danger! Guglielmo Robinson! Giovanni said, with a note of irony…”] In Italy, unless forewarned, and if no hidden meaning is implied, they take the sentence for what it is fully worth.
And so, little Baby Jesus never shows up on the manger scene until the stroke of midnight. Although, in their search for authenticity, something is always a bit amiss. You will always find him looking more like an 18 month old, than a cone-headed red-faced newborn; bright-eyed and chubby on Christmas morn.
Incredibly, to add to the veracity of the scene, I have only recently discovered that those three kings, though smaller in size, to represent distance, actually creep up day by day, until January 6th (the Epiphany, for you pagans out there) when they bestow their gifts on the Baby Jesus.
What I don’t get in all of this figurative placement is why, then, they don’t swap a very pregnant Mary for a less pregnant mamma (and perhaps decidedly exhausted one due to labor pains whilst riding a donkey) the next day, too. I guess they don't take it that literally, after all.

Buon Natale a Tutti!

F. Maggi @IrreverentItaly
(decidedly not Magi, like those three wise men!)

Saturday, December 6

Italian Fashion: Dressed to the Nines

Lately, I've been giving a lot of thought to what's changed in Italy - for better or for worse - since I first landed over twenty years ago. Sometimes, it's hard to say if anything truly is worse (although Italians & economists from all corners say it is).  Perhaps I simply hadn't noticed issues when I was younger and too busy traveling for both business or pleasure.  
With these thoughts constantly ferreting through my mind, I got a chuckle from a certain Dory on Twitter - when she posted @DFindingDory:
some bitch: omg you wore that shirt the other day me: yeah well in my house we have this amazing thing called a washing machine

It reminded me growing up in the U.S., you could never be caught dead wearing the same clothes two days in a row.  I swear in U.S. corporations it is still cause for dismissal.  So when I first arrived in Italy, I would be stunned to see those impressive men and women impeccably dressed, right down to magnetic blue high heels to match their acquamarine tailleur. I am still in awe whenever I see that mix. They were memorable.
So much so, that I believe large part of the rage against FIAT head Sergio is less about moving his profits to Holland and closing factories than his insistence on wearing sweaters instead of the mandatory stunning Armani business attire of his fellow countrymen.
Coming from the country that invented "leisure suits" - "sweat suits" and "casual Fridays, you'd face your coworkers, duly impressed.  But then, waltzing into the office the next day, you'd be struck by some bizarre déjà vu episode.  You could swear that that classy woman in the fabulous hot pink ensemble would be wearing the same thing again, going about her business as if nothing was amiss.  I would wonder if it was some sort of code of honour, basically spelling it out lest we glaze over its rich symbolism: "Wow--Did I have a whopper of an evening last nite! What day is it, again?"  When in reality, it was probably nothing quite so tantalizing. They just slaved over their outfit with a handy iron - something that I believe Italians are trained to use as soon as they are out of diapers.  And that's so they can iron their underwear.
Find the Canadian.
Over time, I, too, would adopt the practice of repeat dressing -- sadly, with or without the wild nights prior (okay, okay, mostly without).  And now I find it's a regular part of the repertoir.   But try as I might, it just comes off appearing more like homelessness than anything else.  That's because my outfit -- would be tossed mindlessly over a chair the night before.  As for Italians, much to my chagrin, they will look classy no matter how many times they put on the ritz - wearing the same thing as before.  Maybe it's that their clothes -- are wrinkle-free.

Tuesday, November 25

Thanksgiving in Italy-Fine Feathered Friends

For Thanksgiving, I bring my annual tradition of posting one of my earliest entries on celebrating this very American tradition as an expat...Today, or often over the weekend, people are breaking bread (well, actually stuffing) with their native friends, and many foreign faces as well. So, wherever you are, enjoy your own Festa di Ringraziamento!

Spending time in the USA during my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, well, makes me think about all those wonderful Thanksgiving Days celebrated by all us 'expats' in our adopted countries. In much the same way that Italy (and Europe, for that matter) have adopted Halloween as their own, well, in industrious Milan or places like Geneva or Lausanne, even the store owners get ready when Thanksgiving comes around the corner.  It's so popular, you now need to order the bird in advance.  Those same stores stock their shelves with many items that ordinary Italians would probably have fed to their pigs if they had them.

Although Italians eat lots of turkey, they seriously don't eat - much less prepare - the 15kg. version -- whole. But, right around the last week of November, you could ask the butchers to purchase and then hold onto the whole bird. And this was terrific. Aside from providing the butchers and cashiers a bit of holiday entertainment, you (along with your bird) would be the center of attention. One year, they were so confused by our request, a friend ended up with an 11kg bird for the price of one kilo: 3euro95. Even after questioning the amount, they insisted the price was right...let's just say given the cost of things here, we had lots to be thankful for that year!

Surprisingly, Thanksgiving in Italy brings one lots closer to the original Thanksgiving feast. First, there's the shipping of all the canned foodstuffs, probably not unlike the stuff our forefathers brought in huge wooden crates to and from the New World. Americans start filling up empty suitcases with goodies like cans of pumpkin and cranberry, Stovetop stuffing mix, and packs of Jiffy cornbread (because polenta just doesn't do the trick).

One bird that doesn't need
de-feathering!
But, in a nod to those original pilgrims, I must say, it's the turkey. While we don't have to quite break its neck & clean out its gizzards (although, if you forget to request it, you might just end up with the whole thing, head and all), we all get a bit tripped up by something never quite seen in an American home -- all those feathers. Or, feather tips, rather.
While in America, you get something that very remotely resembles the animal from whence it came; here, you're reminded that this was, in actual fact, a bird -- feathers and all. And so, you learn how, exactly, one rids oneself (or one's turkey) of his down without actually peeling the whole skin off, feather tips and all. I can just imagine those early pilgrims trying to figure this one out: the Indians furious that their guests tried cutting away the feathers along with the tasty (and fatty) skin. No wonder so many died of hunger. So, ignoring old traditions of plucking, you find your best gas-powered flame thrower, and start burning away.

Although no matter how long you painstakingly go about de-feathering, there are always a few tough ones left over-- kind of like those grey hairs you try so hard to dye. And, while I must say, this process does not make me nostalgic for the huge butterball turkeys with a self-popping thermometer inside, it does add a bit to your preparation time.

The last problem you must face in serving your feast, is that, contrary to popular belief, Italians do not feast, least of which during a non-Catholic holiday, and especially, in the evening. So, that annual pigging out fete sort of falls a bit flat, with each Italian carefully choosing their primo (mashed potatoes & stuffing), the secondo (turkey), and the contorno (veggies), and questioning why one must eat 'family style' and not one dish at a time. They barely fill their plate, never mind second helpings. Stuffing is seen as an alien life form and desserts, well, whoever heard of a dessert made from a vegetable?

So, while the rest of us heap up our plates again and again, and then start loosening our belt buckles, well, judging by our girths, we see why Thanksgiving is an entirely American phenomenon.