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...