Saturday, December 29, 2007

The joys of efficiency

I'm working in NYC for a few months on a gig and the general efficiency in the workplace here has blown me away. For example: every Friday morning my paycheck is on my desk by the time I arrive at work. No ifs, ands, or buts involved...
But wait, there's more! The office was going to be closed from December 24th- January 1st for the holidays so instead of making us wait until January 4th for our paycheck from the week before, we got double checks on December 21st.
WOW. I'm liking this!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

My man Roberto

(Image courtesy of Field to Feast)

There is one shop in Rome that I truly love, with a shopkeeper who is so incredibly nice, polite, friendly, helpful, cheerful, and efficient (I could go on and on, but I'll spare you). His name is Roberto Polica, the smiling face behind the counter at the one and only Antica Caciara Trasteverina. This place kicks ass, as does Roberto. I've been going there for years to stock up on Parmigiano for the family in USA (Yes, you can buy Parmigiano in USA but the kind sold here tastes MUCH better). Since D-day is nearing, I went to get my cheesy booty and he rocked my world with his niceness, as always.

Roberto's the kind of guy who always says hello, who thanks you just for stepping foot inside of the shop and then will continue to thank you every few minutes until you leave- even if you end up buying nothing.

I would suggest going there even if you hate cheese, just for the experience of meeting the nicest shopkeeper in Italy! I have to admit that I'm not a big fan of mom & pop shops here in Rome because they can be rather rude, the service can be iffy, they don't always have clearly-marked prices hence can jack you if you're not a regular, and their products sit on the shelves a lot longer (bugs in pasta boxes- ick!). Obviously there are a few exceptions and this place is one of them, it's a hardcore mom & pop shop without the sketchiness.

Roberto is the man!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


A woman is eating a panino, holding it with a napkin, she takes the last bite and just chucks the napkin on the ground even though there is a garbage pail 10 feet away (the incriminating object could be a gum wrapper, empty pack of cigarettes, dog crap, etc... you get the picture). Scenes like this still horrify me even after years of living here! It's soooooo hard for me not to say anything BUT I've had to learn to shut my trap because after a few unpleasant clashes with litterbugs, I've decided it's not worth risking my hide.

Living in the land of litterbugs, I can't help but wonder- who taught me not to litter? For the life of me I can't remember when I learned that littering was bad. Did my mom teach me? Did we learn it in school? (after all, they even taught us how to properly brush our teeth with a giant set of denture-like teeth) Did I see some sort of public service announcement on TV? (I loooooved those, especially the pill one! Back in the day, my sister and I even tried to re-create it with our own sock puppets)

So my question is, do any of you remember when or how you learned that littering was a no-no?

Monday, November 12, 2007

I spy

The GS supermarket in Trastevere (on Via Tavolacci #1) now sells Oreo cookies, or as they say in Italian: biscotti snack al cacao! They're even reasonably priced compared to Castroni. Now I know where to go when I get my Oreo cravings... yum!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

What in the world...?

What is going on with Roman youth and their pegged jeans these days??? I mean, I admit I rocked the pegged chinos during my 80s preppie phase but it was not nearly as bad as these:

Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera with me this morning when I saw a kid with baggy jeans (hence adding to the diaper-ass effect, as I call it) that were seriously pegged- safety pins and all! This image is courtesy of Bootsintheoven's flickr page.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Another one bites the dust

What an appropriate title for today, All Souls' Day!
It's official, an exodus has begun in Rome. Yet another friend has decided to leave Rome for greener pastures (green=money). Now that I think about it, this exodus first started about 5 years ago. One by one, friends (mostly American expats but not only) started jumping ship for one main reason: work and consequentially, money. After trudging through the dismal job market of Rome for years, they gave up. Some of them were actually being paid well for Italian standards BUT not well enough considering the job they were doing, and considering that same job would be paid 10 times more in any other European country. So naturally, they left... One example, my friend R was being paid rather well (for Italian standards, let's not forget) and lived comfortably in Rome BUT she knew that her job and her skills were worth more. She applied for the same sort of job in USA, got the position and a hefty salary of $100,000+. No, money isn't everything but knowing you're being exploited in the workplace is never a good feeling. Pouring your heart and soul into a job that offers no security and no possibility for growth can be a tad frustrating, don't you think?
The decision wasn't easy for any of them but when you get to the point where you're feeling shafted on a daily basis, you have no choice left but to abandon la dolce vita and head towards more rewarding work environments.
So far, none of them regret the move. Of course they miss Rome at times, but they feel the overall quality of their life has improved. I've been picking their brains for years, asking about health insurance and whatnot, it's an invaluable resource for me as I consider my future in Italy (or not!).
This post is dedicated to all the dearly departed who've left Rome for greener pastures, 10 and counting... Thanks for setting an example!

Monday, October 29, 2007


I'm not a big fan of Italian TV but there is one show I enjoy watching when/if I have the time: Prova del Cuoco.

Today, one of the contestants was a foreigner! I'd never seen a foreigner on this show before and was rather excited to discover it was an American! As this American man, who's been in Italy for 6 years, talked a bit about himself and his life (he had a degree in languages, spoke something like 5 languages, had traveled to 43 countries, and had lived in Asia for a summer and in Switzerland for 4 years), the Italian chef looked around in disbelief and said "Is he 90 years old or something?" because to him it seemed impossible for someone to have done so much while still rather young.
And that my friends pretty much sums up one of the biggest cultural differences between Italians and Americans.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Gold star

Lately Rome has been on its best behavior with me, and by "best behavior" I'm talking about freaking gold-star behavior! After months of acting up and being a pain in the ass, all of the sudden it's making life easy on me and making me smile, imagine that! The past few weeks have been the smoothest and most productive weeks I've had in a long time. Even the worst bureaucratic tasks have been a piece of cake. I've managed to get appointments, people have been punctual, I'm being paid on time, I've been crossing things off of my "to do" list like there is no tomorrow! Of course I'm psyched about this but I can't help but think that Rome is rather clever... Now that it knows I'll be leaving till Spring, it starts behaving properly just to make me feel a pang. Pretty sneaky, sis!
This got me thinking again about how similar a relationship with a city is to a relationship with a partner/significant other. Just think about it, when you first move to a new place, you are usually so enthralled with everything- good and bad. You find all of its quirks, eccentricities, and flaws so endearing and quaint. Much like when sparks fly upon meeting a new person- you adore every little detail about that person. You're more willing and able to overlook any issues that might pop up.
But with time, these quirks, eccentricities, and flaws start to lose their charm because you're dealing with them on a daily basis. What was once picturesque is now downright annoying. You try to keep your chin up and keep a positive outlook, you try to fondly think back to those early days when things were so peachy keen and you loved everything about the city/person. Sometimes these positive thoughts prevail, sometimes they don't. Just when you think the time has come to go your separate ways- BAM! The city/person does something to change your mind and leaves you with a warm, fuzzy feeling in your heart. Unfortunately, the opposite can also happen: just when you think you've found true happiness - BAM! The city/person does something that tears your heart out. Yep, we've all been there.
Rome is really messing with me these days, but I've already made my decision: we're taking a break till Spring and you cannot change my mind, dear Rome. Hey, a little time apart might be just what we need to get our relationship back on track.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


During the past few weeks I've found myself discussing this topic with coworkers and friends alike. I suppose it all stems from the fact that I've scored a sweet short-term job in NYC this winter, and by sweet I mean it pays well.
I was playing around with the numbers, adding, multiplying, and dividing and couldn't help but notice: 1/4 of my monthly salary would cover rent, and the rest was mine to pay bills, to buy food, to put in the bank, or whatever. That's the way it should be. In fact, there's a general rule of thumb that says at max, 1/3 of your salary should go toward rent.
Try applying that formula to current Italian salaries and you'll fall off your chair. Let's say the average Italian makes something like 1,800 euro a month (I'm being rather generous here), 1/3 of that would be 594... there's no way in hell you can find an apartment, let alone a decent room to rent in Rome for that price! If you want to live in central Rome you'd have to fork out at least 1,000 euro- which leaves you with 800 to spend on bills and whatnot, and nothing to stash away in the bank. The equation is completely off balance for Roman standards. You'd have to earn 4,000 euro a month in order to be able to apply this rent formula. And from what I know, very few people have the luxury of making that kind of money.
Now let's think back to the days of the good ol' lira, this equation was actually applicable, or at least it was for me and most of the people I know. We actually earned enough to be able to pay rent and bills, and then save some money. Didn't we?
I had dinner with some friends and their friends visiting from Amsterdam and we ended up talking about Rome and the state of things. They were blown away by how pricey Rome was, and they were even more blow away when they discovered what the average Roman earned! Even in the center of Amsterdam, rent isn't nearly as outrageous as it is here YET they earn more than we do on average.
Something has gone terribly wrong here...

Friday, October 19, 2007

Lost for words...

I'm lost for words, really...

From beppe grillo's blog:

Ricardo Franco Levi, Prodi’s right hand man , undersecretary to the President of the Council, has written the text to put a stopper in the mouth of the Internet. The draft law was approved by the Council of Ministers on 12 October. No Minister dissociated themselves from it. On gagging information, very quietly, these are all in agreement.
The Levi-Prodi law lays out that anyone with a blog or a website has to register it with the ROC, a register of the Communications Authority, produce certificates, pay a tax, even if they provide information without any intention to make money.
Blogs are being born every second, anyone can start one without a problem and they can write their thoughts, publish photos and videos.
In fact, the route proposed by Levi limits access to the Internet.
What young person is going to submit to all these hoops to do a blog?
the Levi-Prodi law obliges anyone who has a website or a blog to get a publishing company and to have a journalist who is on the register of professionals as the responsible director.
99% would close down.
The lucky 1% still surviving on the Internet according to the Levi-Prodi law would have to respond in the case of the lack of control on defamatory content in accordance with articles 57 and 57 bis of the penal code. Basically almost sure to be in prison.
The draft Levi-Prodi law has to be approved by Parliament. When Levi was asked what would happen to Beppe Grillo’s blog, he replied with perfect Prodian-bottom-protecting words: “It’s not up to he government to establish that. It’ll be for the Communications Authority to indicate with regulations, which people and which companies will have to register. And the regulations will arrive only after the law has been discussed and approved by the Lower House.”
Prodi and Levi take cover behind Parliament and the Beppe Grillo Communications Authority, but it’s them, and the Ministers who were present at the Council of Ministers who are responsible.
If the law gets passed, it’ll be the end of the Internet in Italy.
My blog won’t close. If I have to, I’ll transfer lock stock, barrel and server to a democratic State.
PS. Anyone wishing to express their opinion to Ricardo Franco Levi can send an email to:

Monday, October 15, 2007

A day in the life...

Oh the joys of Italian healthcare.
According to Michael Moore's film Sicko, Italy's healthcare system is considered to be the second best in the world. I beg to differ, Mr. Moore. Why, you ask? Well, I'll answer that by describing a day in the life of Italian healthcare:
I need to get a kidney ultrasound. I go to my general practitioner (medico ASL) and wait 1 hour to see him (it's on a first come first serve basis, appointments are impossible to come by), which is actually not bad considering I've waited 2+ hours before and at times have not been able to see him at all. He gives me the "prescription" (ricetta) for said procedure and suggests I do it as soon as possible to make sure all is well. Easier said than done.
Next step. They've set up a toll-free number (CUP) you can call to schedule appointments for specialized visits and services at public clinics in Italy. Cool, huh? You can even do it online, but when I tried this service was out-of-order. I call the toll-free number about 15 times throughout the course of the day, only to hear the same message over and over again "All operators are busy, please call back later", and then they hang up. Holding the line is not an option apparently.
Okay, time for Plan B- I'm lucky enough to have a hospital within walking distance so I stroll over there hoping to be able to make an appointment there or through their network. I walk in, wait in line for 25 minutes (again- very good for Italian standards) and ask them to schedule my kidney ultrasound. The guy scans the computer for what seems like ages and then tells me the first appointment available in ALL OF ROME is in mid-February. Say what?! Come on, if there were something wrong with my kidneys, they'd fall out by then! He tells me to try calling the toll-free number because they might have more options open. Thanks for the tip, buddy!

At this point, my only goal is to get the damn ultrasound, so I call a private clinic in my neighborhood which has relatively low prices. They schedule me for Thursday, THIS Thursday! And the cost is only 9.00 euro more than what the public health clinic charges. So, what do you think I did? Naturally I'll pay the extra 9.00 euro and get an appointment in real time as opposed to waiting around till next year and hoping my kidneys don't rot.
BTW: I called the toll-free number again a few minutes ago, just to double check, and I actually got through! Unfortunately, the first available appointment they could find is also in February.

All in all, a happy ending, right? But why the hell am I paying taxes for a healthcare system I can rarely ever use because it's SO inefficient?!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Tick tick tick...

That's the sound of a timebomb about to go off, that timebomb is none other than yours truly. I've gotten to the point where not only do I have to close one eye in order to avoid the usual annoyances of Roman life, I almost have to close both eyes - and believe me, it ain't easy walking around with both eyes closed.
Little things really can make or break your daily life, some of you may think it's petty or insane or extreme, but after x years, this shit will get to you, or at least it gets to me!
Setting of today's annoyance: a grocery store I've never been to before. I get 3-4 items and stand in the single long line, assuming there is only one line because there are about 10 people ahead of me, so I figure they are in the ONLY line.
Enter: pushy old (but not elderly) Italian woman who shoves past me to a secret cash register. So I loudly ask "Are there two registers?" She turns around with a sneaky grin and says "Of course", and bolts ahead. Breathe in, breathe out. "Excuse ma'am, maybe you should let these people go ahead of you" (I'm referring to those 3-4 people with surprised looks on their faces who, like myself, obviously had no idea there were two lines because they couldn't see the other register and because I HIGHLY doubt they'd be standing in the long line for fun).
And what does Mrs. Simpatica say? Come on, I know you know! "It's not my fault all of you didn't know there are two lines, plus I only have these (she holds up her two items)". I said, "Well, I only have these, and this woman only has those!" Mrs. Simpatica doesn't give a shit, neither does the cashier. She steps right up to the register all the same. Oh well... So I, much like a UN Peacekeeper, help move part of the line- in the order they were in- to the secret register and say to Mrs. Simpatica "Too bad some people don't have respect for others, but as we all know what goes around comes around".
I can't help myself, I cannot just stand by and watch blatant rudeness without commenting- especially because it is sooooo rampant here. Let's just say I'm very glad firearms aren't easily obtainable here, or else...

Monday, September 24, 2007

"Mind the gap"

As I mentioned in my previous post, I've been truly enjoying my stay in USA for many reasons, but mainly because I'm not squandering my day (and my nervous system) due to disorganization, chaos, and whatnot like I do on a daily basis in Rome.
This morning after reading Shelley's and Michellanea's posts about the frustrations of living in Italy, I feel even more grateful to be in a country/city right now where life is easy & convenient, I also feel compelled to share this picture with you. I took it on September 18th while at the Dream Concert at Radio City Music Hall. I had an all-access pass, hence was in the perfect spot for taking pictures of the performers and guests (Stevie Wonder, Cuba Gooding Jr., etc.) who were arriving for this special event, yet the one thing that caught my eye was this:

It's not the best of pictures I admit, but if you look closely you'll see there's a crowd of people awaiting the arrival of the stars behind the barricades, but as my Italian-accustomed eye noticed, the barricades were missing in several spots (near the bike)... YET nobody even dared to step into the reserved area, people stood along the side of the road in an orderly and civil manner. I was so impressed and blown away by this, it made me so happy to see people who are respectful and law-abiding even when faced with a "hole in the fence".
I pointed it out to the people I was with and they were surprised that I was surprised, their reaction was: "Of course they wouldn't bum-rush the barricades, they know they're not supposed to, plus there are cops on every corner". Bless their souls, I know for a fact (I've worked on big events in Italy) that most Italians wouldn't be as respectful or fearful in a similar situation, in all likelihood they would try to be furbi by sneaking through this gap with no regard for order or the law.

I think I’m suffering from more than a seven-year itch, it has turned into a full-blown ten-year hive outbreak!!!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

My kind of book

I wasn't planning on writing any posts while in the land of convenience and comfort... BUT I came across a book at Barnes & Noble while drinking coffee and flipping through magazines/books for over an hour (it's GOOD to be back in America!) and I think it deserves to be mentioned. It's called The Dark Heart of Italy, I'm only on page 30, but so far so good!

Apart from that, it feels great to be back in a place where I don't have to spend (waste) 85% of my time battling against annoyances, lawlessness, inconveniences, illogicalities, rudeness, bureaucracy, incompetence, inefficiency, and uncivilized behavior.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Sunday, September 2, 2007

The million dollar/euro question

This morning I went to the local supermarket (which luckily is open on Sunday) and as I nonchalantly walked through the store I found my flip-flopped feet in a pile of dust, schmutz, and filth that the cleaning woman had swept into the center of the sales floor. I admit, I wasn’t paying attention but that's because I usually assume I can walk around a store without being as observant as I would be on the streets... I was proven wrong. Which leads me to the million dollar/euro question: Why the heck don’t they clean the store BEFORE it opens???
This is an Italian mystery I’ve been trying to solve for ages. How many of you have seen stores being cleaned in the beginning/middle of the working day? I’ve seen clothing stores open for business but with a clerk outside saying “Come back in 10 minutes when the floor is dry”. Gimme a break! I’ve seen cheese shops workers/owners step in front of clients peering at the goods in the glass case so they could wipe down said glass case for a good 10 minutes. I’ve gotten dirty looks and/or been shouted at by cleaning people in stores because I inadvertently walked on a floor that was wet (mind you, there was no “wet floor” sign).
Come on, I worked in stores in USA before, I know the drill. The cleaning people come in before the store opens so 1) the store is clean & shiny when customers arrive and 2) you don’t have a cleaning person sweeping and mopping while customers are trying to walk around and shop. So why can’t they do that here? It seems so logical and simple to me.

***While I’m at it, they also need to learn how to stock up on change and small bills BEFORE the store opens. That's rule #1 in how to run a business- big or small!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Lack of linguistic command

As I stood at the platform awaiting the detestable trenino (commuter train) to Tiburtina, I had the pleasure of overhearing this amusing conversation. ***Note to non-Italian speakers: this probably won't be that funny to you.

Big Fat American Woman (BFAW): So you said you work in a bank, what exactly is your position there?

Dorky Italian Boy (DIB): Is very difficult to explain. In Italy bank have different mansions.

BFAW: Ohhh, the banks have mansions? Is that so?

DIB: Very different from rest of world.

BFAW: I see. But what do you do?

DIB: Uhhh, how do you say? I make the contability.

BFAW: You make what?

DIB: The contability...

BFAW: Countability?

DIB: I make numbers (he mimes typing on a calculator).

BFAW: Oh you work with numbers... you're an accountant! That's a very good job.

DIB: Yes, is good.

The End

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Linguistic command

The other night I was hanging out with a group of friends and something struck me… most of us were speaking English (American English to be exact).
This got me thinking about how ex-pats, at least the ones I know, seem to follow the same linguistic cycle: During my first years in Italy I had very few American friends and made an effort to keep it that way. It annoyed me to be around Americans who preferred to speak English or who didn’t know how to speak Italian at all. Why? Because my main concern in those years was to learn Italian, so I avoided situations where I might end up speaking English all night. I wanted full-immersion, Italian 100% of the time. And it worked! My Italian improved rapidly and I was officially fluent.
But as the years went by I noticed I wasn’t nearly as rigid about not wanting to speak English in Italy, in fact, I actually missed speaking English, I missed shooting the shit in my native tongue. Once I felt I had mastered the language, I allowed myself the luxury and pleasure of seeking out fellow Americans.
Now I have several American friends who are all also fluent in Italian. Most of us have been here for many years and have such a good grasp on the Italian language that we feel comfortable opting not to use it all the time. So it’s not uncommon for us and our Italian/foreign friends to all speak English together. It’s rather amazing and amusing to hear how quickly and easily we all alternate between Italian and English, or how we intersperse Italian words into our English and vice versa. The perfect example: we had an hour long discussion about the comb-over (ala Donald Trump) and continuously alternated between calling it “riporto” and "comb-over" without even blinking an eye. How’s that for linguistic command!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The decline of Italian cinema

The death of the legendary Italian director, Michelangelo Antonioni, got me thinking about the state of Italian cinema. I’ve been translating Italian films for the past 7 years so I’ve seen just about every film that was released during those years and I must say, I have come across very few good or memorable films. When I see the sort of crap that’s being spewed out in Italy nowadays on TV and on the big screen, I wonder if the forefathers of Italian cinema are turning in their graves. What I find mind-boggling is the fact that a country, a culture that produced some of the most amazing films in cinematic history is now producing some of the worst trash I’ve ever seen. Totally lacking in quality, originality, substance, etc. So very sad but true. But just to be fair, here are a few "recent" films that I enjoyed and would actually recommend.

My Name is Tanino
Le conseguenze dell'amore
L'amico di famiglia
N (Io e Napoleone)
La meglio gioventu'
Arrivederci amore, ciao
Non ti muovere
Primo amore
Mio cognato
Io non ho paura

***Update: I've added a few more titles:
Non pensarci
La giusta distanza
Il dolce e l'amaro
Lascia perdere Johnny

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Going postal

Where I come from, mail is sacred. There are serious laws in America regarding mail and mail delivery. Tampering with mail, handling mail improperly, or even vandalizing a mailbox are federal offences. Then we have Italy and its postal system… Where to begin? I won’t bother commenting on that madhouse known as the Ufficio Postale- that’s another can of worms. Today I want to complain about the mail carriers. For the past few years I’ve noticed that every now and again, our mail carrier just tosses all the mail on the floor in the entrance of our building. You might be wondering: Do you have mailboxes? Yes we do. Do your mailboxes have names on them? Yes they do. Is the mail too big to fit in the boxes? Nope. That’s my beef.

Yesterday morning as I was leaving the building, I saw a huge pile of mail on the floor yet again. On occasion, a letter or two might arrive for people who no longer live in the building, so this mail might sit around on the floor for a few days until the mail carrier takes it back, and that’s understandable. But this pile I’m referring to was OUR mail, the entire building’s mail. After cursing under my breath, I proceeded to sort out the mail and put it into the appropriate mailboxes. It was simple enough- just insert the mail into the mailbox with the same name. So if I can do it, why can’t the mail carrier? Furthermore, although I’d like to think that my neighbors wouldn’t touch other people’s mail, I’d rather have my bank statements, bills, and personal info safe in my mailbox instead of lying around on the floor. It ticks me off that this person is paid to d-e-l-i-v-e-r mail but isn’t fully delivering it. This is not the first time it’s happened and I’m sure it won’t be the last. In the past, I’ve sent complaints to the post office via their internet site. And each time I got the same ol’ response: “Thank you for your input. We’ll look into it”. Yeah, right!
So after I did my mail duty, I ran into the building’s superintendent and shared my postal woes with him. He told me this often happens in his own building and he actually denounced the post office. He sent a registered letter to our neighborhood post office and Carabiniere denouncing this violation of postal laws. When I told him I sent email complaints to no avail, he sort of chuckled and claimed it was useless, apparently the only way to really see results is to denounce them. Great, so not only do I have to waste my time playing mail carrier, now I have to write two formal denouncement letters in Italian AND pay to send them via registered mail?! All this just to have my mail put in my mailbox…

***And while I’m at it, what’s the deal with mail carriers not wearing uniforms here? I mean, Italy looooves uniforms of all sorts, so why don’t mail carriers wear them? And why do they go grocery shopping and promenading about while carrying our precious mail around in a bag that looks like it’s about to burst and leave a trail of our mail on the streets of Rome?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Roman one-upism

In a city that’s famous for its "dolce vita" and mellow attitude, I’m always slightly surprised to see such ruthless behavior. Yeah, I’m talking about Rome… It’s not the same sort of ruthless behavior one might encounter in the workplace in NYC, it’s a different breed that’s mixed with furbizia (slyness/cleverness) and arrogance.
Italians are very fond of furbizia, oftentimes it’s considered more of a compliment than an insult. I myself am also a fan of furbizia, BUT orderly furbizia, not chaotic furbizia. What’s the difference you ask? I’ll explain using Rome as the case in point.

Lines: Romans think they’re being clever when they cut or try to cut the line. They’re not, they’re merely wasting more time by creating chaos and disruption and by causing a standstill. This can escalate in places like the post office or ASL (public health clinics) and involve many people including the workers who then have to act as referees. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve had to say “Excuse me, I was here first”, and trust me, I'm one of those people who will say it! What makes these people think they have the right to be so overbearing? Why do they consider themselves above the rules? Do they think they’re that much more important or crafty than the rest of us schmucks? (*note: I’m not referring to the elderly, handicapped, or pregnant women who might ask to cut ahead for obvious reasons)

Driving: Romans think they’re being sly when they pass other cars on tight streets while trying to get ahead, when they speed through a yellow-turning-red light only to end up blocking the box, when they double-park or park in illegal spots, but they’re not. They’re just creating more traffic, more blockage and more annoyance. Buses and trams get stuck because some assclown felt he/she had every reason to double-park on a tiny street to go yap it up with a friend at the bar, or because another assclown felt he/she just had to go through that intersection without considering the consequences of blocking the box.

Public Transportation: Romans think they’re cunning when they try to push their way into a bus/tram before the passengers have exited, but they’re not! They’re just slowing down the whole exit/enter process and creating annoyance. This is especially frustrating when the bus/tram is clearly not full, hence there will be seats for everybody. So why o why must they shove and elbow their way in? Because they want to pick a specific seat? Or simply because they’re rude?

These three examples pretty much sum up what I call Roman one-upism. The question that always comes to my mind is: Do you really think you’re that clever? But above all, do you really think the rest of us are that stupid and oblivious? If they really were clever, they would manage to be sneaky without anyone else noticing and without creating chaos or disruption. There’s nothing wrong with being resourceful or clever, but this kind of furbizia is, in my opinion, just rude, inconsiderate, and uncivilized.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The extinction of sequins

After reading a few posts about clothing choices and different standards for dressing up/down courtesy of Kataroma, Shelley, and Nyc/Caribbean Ragazza, I started thinking about the differences between Italian-Americans and Italians when it comes to clothing. Growing up as a first generation American (my parents are old-skool Italians), I specifically remember being forced to wear fancy clothes for certain occasions like weddings, holidays, parties, funerals, and Mass. Even picture day at school was considered a fancy event, my mother always tried to dress me up as if I were having my First Communion and I would always put up a stink. The American kids were usually dressed casually on picture day, while all of the first generation kids (Puerto Ricans, Italians, etc) were usually awkwardly fancy, or at least that’s how it was in my neck of the woods! Still to this day when I go home to visit the family, my mother will comment on my overly-casual choice of clothes for events like Christmas Mass and whatnot.
If I think back to all the Italian-American weddings I had to endure, the one memory that stands out is: SEQUINS. Without fail, all of the older women wore shiny dresses on these special occasions. I always found it so odd to see my grandmother, who normally wore black housecoats and aprons year-round, all dolled up and in her shiny sequin dress. For ages, I assumed it was an “Italian” thing. But I was mistaken. Once I started spending more time in Italy, I noticed that my young/modern aunts and their kids were always dressed casually but chic. Even for fancy events like weddings and Mass, they would dress their kids in nice jeans (they ironed them!) and a stylish shirt or sweater. They managed to never look sloppy or underdressed without resorting to sequins. In Rome there’s a whole different dress code which I often describe as casual-skanky, but I'll save that topic for another post.
Viva causal chic! Maybe that’s why I decided to move to Italy…

Friday, July 13, 2007

Coffee & racism

Coffee and racism, what an unfortunate combination! Especially at breakfast time. I was at one of my neighborhood bars, still half asleep, waiting for my cappuccino and cornetto when in walks a foreign man who very politely asks for directions to the nearby health clinic. The barista answers him abruptly.
Once the man had left, the barista starts going off on a racist tirade about foreigners in Rome, how he’s so sick of them, and how they shouldn’t be allowed to have free health care, etc. (Those of you who live in Rome or Italy are probably all too familiar with this tirade. It’s certainly not the first time I’ve heard it!). I tried to keep my mouth shut, but I just couldn’t. “Ahem... You might want to be careful about what you say, because I too am a foreigner”.
And so began the debate but apparently, the fact that I’m American makes me exempt from Mr. Racist Barista’s foreigner hatred. Did I forget to mention the polite man who asked for directions was of Slavic origin? I tried to reason with Mr. Racist Barista, tried to invalidate his stereotypes, tried to plead my case that everybody deserves health care and everybody pays for it with their tax money. All in vain. He’s convinced all Eastern immigrants are criminals, thieves, and moochers. And I’m convinced I’ll NEVER go to that bar again.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Doggone it!

Let me get straight to the point, I’m not a big fan of dogs. They just don’t agree with my personality (I’m more of a cat person). Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an animal hater, actually I’m more of an animal rights activist than the average Jane, in fact I’ve been a vegetarian for more than half my life! And I can’t stand the idea of keeping an animal locked up inside of an apartment without a yard or garden to play in, I think it’s cruel and selfish. Nevertheless, I do have major issues with dogs, especially dogs in the city.

Recently, my normally agreeable neighbor bought a little yappy dog, and boy does it have a set of lungs! So far it has woken me up with its shrill, eardrum-piercing, nerve-racking howls at the very indecent hours of 5:00 AM (on a holiday) and at 4:30 AM. But wait, there’s more… last night during my peaceful slumber, I was woken up in the dead of the night by the most gut-wrenching dog barks which then set off all the other neighborhood dogs for about 45 minutes. Mind you, I‘m not one of those city people who expects total silence, no siree. I have no problem with “city-noises” such as ambulances, police sirens, car alarms, beeping, shouting, gun shots etc. But things like dogs and roosters* in the city really tick me off. (* Yes, a few months ago, someone in the neighborhood was harboring a rooster which woke EVERYBODY up at the butt crack of dawn. Needless to say, they got rid of it.)
I realize I can’t exactly blame the dogs for the fact that they’re just doing what comes naturally to them, but I can blame their owners and I will. So here we go:

I find it nasty and unhygienic to bring dogs into bars and restaurants, it’s even worse when owners let them wander freely, licking the floor, sniffing around my feet or worse, cramming their noses into very private places on my body.

I find it rude, inconsiderate, and irresponsible to let dogs roam around city sidewalks without a leash and or muzzle. First, it is NOT safe for the dog, and second, it’s not safe for me! I don’t care if the owner says “È buono non ti farà niente”, I’d rather not have to trust him/her. And quite honestly, how can anybody predict what an animal will or won’t do? Come on, we can’t even predict what humans will or won’t do! Perfect example- several years ago I was randomly attacked by a dog on the streets of Garbatella. Out of nowhere, literally, a dog lunged for my neck. Luckily I reacted quickly, so all it got was my bony elbow. The owner had to kick the dog off of me, I kid you not. After pressing charges against the owner, I discovered his pet was a trained attack dog that he liked to take around for walks without a leash or muzzle because he said it was a “good” dog. Real nice! (Side note: I took him to court and won, but have yet to see a cent. I couldn’t work for 2 weeks because of this accident and since I work freelance, nobody paid me sick leave.)

I find it rude, inconsiderate, irresponsible, and disrespectful to let dogs poop all over the city. There is a pooper-scooper law in Rome yet nobody seems to acknowledge or enforce it. I usually do enforce it on my own, but I can’t exactly change the bad habits of an entire city or risk my hide by scolding the wrong person.

I find it cruel, inhumane, and rude to leave dogs at home by themselves for extended periods of time. No wonder why they howl and cry as if they were about to die- it’s no fun to be locked inside a tiny apartment for hours and hours on end. And it’s no fun for the people who are forced to listen to this howling for hours and hours on end.

I find it cruel, inhumane, selfish, and dangerous to bring dogs to large events like demonstrations or rallies. I highly doubt that the dog will enjoy an animal rights march as much as its owner would. Being surrounded by people who are making lots of noise, smoking up a storm, and stepping on your paws is not exactly fun. So keep the dogs at home instead of subjecting them to this torture.

I find it irritating and rude when owners impose their dogs upon other people. Just because you like dogs does not mean that everybody likes dogs. So when your dog is bothering, licking, sniffing up a random person, don’t just turn a blind eye. And when that random person says “I don’t like dogs”, don’t look at him/her as if he/she were Satan in person. You can’t expect everybody to love dogs as much as you do. So respect my space and I’ll respect yours.

I find it annoying and inconsiderate when people walk their dogs as if they owned the sidewalks. Meaning, I have to double-Dutch jump rope in order to walk past the dog because the dog owner has a 60 foot leash and the dog is spinning around me as I try to take cautious steps around it. Wake up people, and pay attention to your surroundings. This is a city, not the countryside!

That’s all my friends!

Monday, June 25, 2007


Today’s topic: public transportation… AGAIN!
I really do not understand why it's so difficult to manage the buses, trams, and trains in a city like this. I’m a compulsive organizer and I, who have no experience working in city administration, could list a few hundred things they could do to make the system more efficient and user-friendly. One for example: make announcements when trains are late or cancelled. It’s as simple as that. At least this way, passengers could plan accordingly, take other buses, trains, metros, whatever. But no…
This morning after waiting 30 minutes for my train (which is normally supposed to arrive every 15 minutes) I started to get suspicious because I saw lots of VERY disgruntled looking commuters. I asked around a bit only to discover some of these people had been waiting 2 hours for a train, but nothing had shown up yet. After 1 hour of waiting for my trenino to Tiburtina, not ONE single announcement was made regarding why, when, or what. There were rumors that some Neapolitans had been fined by the Police for not having a ticket, so said Neapolitans got off the train and protested on the tracks at Tiburtina, blocking train traffic for 4 hours… that seemed a little insane to me, even for Italy! I still have NO idea what happened or why the train took forever to show up and when it did show up and I got in and sat down, I overheard passengers saying it wasn’t even going to go all the way to Tiburtina. At that point, my nerves were shot, I was sweating like a hog, and the last thing I wanted to do was try to find another way to get to work. So I called in and said “I’m working from home today.” The end.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Family fun & hooters

Is it just me, or is this ad downright wrong? Why advertise a family water-park with a picture of Miss Hooters straddling a dolphin? So inappropriate.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Yogurt = nudity

What’s the deal with yogurt commercials in this country? Why do they always use naked or semi-naked ladies to sell yogurt? I just don't see the connection...

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

ode to public transportation

Public transportation, how I loathe thee, let me count the ways…
I’m one of those ex-pats who has NEVER driven in Italy. I have an American license but I’ve never had a car here because my neighborhood is a parking nightmare, plus with registration, insurance & gas, I probably couldn’t afford a car anyway. I’m scared shitless to drive a motorino (riding on the back of one suits me fine though!) soooo I’m eternally condemned to public transportation. Most Romans I know avoid all “mezzi” like the plague and I don’t blame them. I used to work 5 minutes from my home which meant a nice, leisurely stroll to work in the morning, but for about 8 months now I’ve had to haul some ass: tram to stazione Trastevere then the commuter train (trenino) to stazione Tiburtina. Yes, it’s 1,000 times better than taking the metro which is filthy, stinky, and slow BUT it’s still a pain in gluteus maximus. Let me share with you the joys of my daily commute:
I walk quickly to the tram stop, making sure not to run or I might get tackled by one of the many loose punkabbestia dogs hanging around the small, shit-covered grass area near the tram stop. As the tram nears the platform, I stand back and watch as the locals gather smack dab in front of the opening doors… even if the tram is empty, there still seems to be a race to get inside first and grab a seat. This always grates on my nerves because it’s soooo counterproductive. If they would just let the people out first there would be no need to push and shove, and it would be much more pleasant for us all! It’s common sense and common courtesy.
I watch the smokers outside take their last drag from a cigarette and then exhale INSIDE of the tram. Classy! They aren’t technically smoking in the tram but they’ve just filled it with the smell of smoke for the next 5 stops. On the tram, most people behave as if they were raised in a cave: standing right on top of you when there is plenty of room elsewhere, standing way too close behind you, not holding onto the bars and thus plowing into you once the tram accelerates, hogging the bars and leaning full body into them hence squashing your hands, or harassing you with the “scende alla prossima?” question even though there is plenty of room for them to go around you (note: I normally do not block the doors, as I consider it a major public trans faux pas, but if the tram is crowded you use any space you can get). As we reach the big stop, half of the tram has already huddled around the doors as if there were some invisible prize waiting for the person who steps off the tram first. The tram doors open and we are greeted by hoards inconsiderate passengers shoving their way inside before we’ve managed to step out. At this point I’m usually muttering under my breath. But wait, there’s more!!!
Next I have to walk through the always foul and smoky stazione Trastevere. Despite all of the no smoking signage, people are puffing away in the lobby and in the underpasses. Side note: I actually wrote a complaint letter to Trenitalia about that, so far no response! (YES, I write complaint letters, that’s how I am … it’s part of my character to fight for what I think is right). Speaking of underpasses, why don’t people walk on the right side of the corridor/stairway? It’s really not that complicated- if those exiting stay to the right, they’d leave room for those of us entering on the right. But instead, you get enveloped in this sea of people pushing their way up the stairs while you elbow and shoulder your way down.
Now I wait at the platform until the train decides to show up, it’s usually about 5-10 minutes late every day. It shows up, I step back and watch the senseless “let me shove my way in before everybody gets out” game, then I step inside like the civilized person my mamma raised me to be. There is one positive aspect I must mention- I have ALWAYS found a seat on the train. It may have been filthy or stinky or in a non-air conditioned car but I’ve never had to stand.
And that is why I hate public transportation… I know, lots of whiny whining BUT I feel I have the right to complain because I actually buy a yearly bus pass unlike the majority of people. So there!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

it's not the 25 cents...

Taxis in Rome: not my favorite topic but it’s on my mind right now. Why? Well, I had another run-in with a taxi driver. Here’s the story: I’m running late to meet some friends so I hop in cab. We reach my destination and the meter says 8.75. I’m paying by credit card (I asked before hopping in because not many cabs are equipped with credit card/debit card readers) and as I'm about to sign the receipt, I notice the total says 9.00 Euro. So I ask Mr. Taxi Jerk why the meter says one price and my credit card receipt says another. He brushes it off by saying: “That’s what WE usually do”. We who? All taxi drivers? Romans? Service providers in general? At this point I’m late but annoyed enough that I’m not going to let it go. I let him have it and specify that it’s not about the 25 cents, it’s the principle. He has no right to round up, it’s not acceptable and furthermore it’s illegal. Mr. Taxi Jerk starts to get freaked out because he thought I was just some clueless, gullible foreigner but he now realizes he’s in trouble. He tries to calm me down by saying: “Don’t get mad” (yeah, like that’ll work!) and even offers to give me 25 cents back. Too little too late. At this point I storm out and am already plotting my revenge. I have a credit card receipt that can be traced back to the vehicle and driver, and I intend on using it.
I called the cab company the next day and told them my story. They were very courteous and apologetic. I was asked to fax the receipt so they could find out who the culprit was and take necessary measures. As some of you may know, taxi drivers in Rome constantly rip foreigners off: taking the longest routes, adding mysterious surcharges and whatnot… I say enough is enough, just because I have a slight accent does not mean I’m an idiot. So hopefully justice will prevail and I feel good about that!