Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Likes and dislikes

I've gotten sucked into the rat race in NYC and have been neglecting my blog. Sorry! I've been here for a month and started compiling a list of likes and dislikes I noticed this time around:

LIKES

1) I love the NYC subway system. It takes me 20 minutes on average to go from Brooklyn to midtown Manhattan... Need I say more?

2) I love the fact that you can return/exchange things in USA without a fuss. I bought a coat online, it didn't fit so I just returned it to the store. I bought a sweater at a store, a few days later it was 50% off, so I got refunded the difference. Comfort & convenience!

3) I love how people randomly smile here. Not in a sleazy pick-up artist way, as one tends to see in Rome, I'm talking about harmless and genuine smiles. It's nice. And people say NYC is a cold city- HAH!

4) I love the banks here... Never mind the financial meltdown, I'm talking about how EASY it is to do any sort of transaction here. It's still a shock for me to see banks open on Saturday.

DISLIKES

1) Since when did they start carding people at Target? I got carded while trying to purchase cough syrup. What the fuck is up with that? They actually scanned my drivers license before allowing me to purchase. And to top it all off, some products (like my beloved Zyrtec D) are actually locked behind a case at the registers. So you have to ask for it and then they card you.

2) I hate tourists in NYC! They don't know how to city-walk: they stop in the middle of sidewalks, linger at subway entrances, stand on corners looking confused... they get in my way.

I'll keep observing and hopefully will post more soon.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Turn it down!

I am back in USA working on a gig and the first thing I noticed when I got to the office was: HOW HOT IT WAS!!! I just don't understand why the heat can't be lowered. Why should people wear T-shirts to work in the middle of winter?! So wasteful... 

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Italy reacts

After Berluska's inappropriate comment about Barack Obama, many Italians felt the need to react, to express their opinion, their anger, their frustration with this country's ass-clown of a leader. Some efforts were good like this one.
And some efforts were just in bad taste, stupid, offensive, and senseless like this:


I'm lost for words....

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Oh no he didn't!

Actually he did... Berluska referred to our President-elect as, "giovane, bello, e abbronzato".
Whoa, not even sure what to do with that!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Bill Viola

If you haven't seen Bill Viola's exhibit at Palazzo delle Esposizioni yet, I strongly recommend it!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Black & white


Why must they always use a black person to represent licorice/dark chocolate in Italian advertisements?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Stay home today

To those of you who live in Rome and are considering stepping outside and using public transportation: DON'T DO IT. The city is in total chaos today due to some rally in the center. I was trying to get from Trastevere to Piazzale Clodio and had to give up and go back home. It's ridiculous, the city is paralyzed today and apparently it will be tomorrow as well.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The horror of Italian TV

For obvious reasons, I don't watch much Italian TV but Le Iene is one show I enjoy, or used to enjoy... Apparently, they weren't meeting the national quota for semi-naked dancing on TV so they decided to make some changes. Instead of giving more time to the content that made the show worthwhile: hardcore investigative reports, spoofs and pranks embarrassing public figures, revealing scandals, etc., they decided to add more crap by making the presenters do stoopid and humiliating dance routines throughout the show. One of the presenters is none other than the lovely Ilary Blasi (Totti's wife for those of you who don't know). She's forced to wear skimpy dresses and do ridiculous dances, at times causing some rather awkward moments for her. Exhibit number one: while wearing a skin-tight pencil skirt, she attempts to perform the lame choreography and ends up tearing the slit in her skirt. Exhibit number two:

Major wardrobe malfunction here, this outdoes Janet Jackson's nipple slip! Maybe the costume department and the choreographers should compare notes before subjecting this poor girl to further embarrassment. Can't an attractive woman be on Italian TV and still maintain her dignity?

Has anyone else happened to witness this atrocity on Italia 1 called "Saturday Night Live" (from Milano)? I caught about 5 minutes of it and was appalled by how bad it is, there's no comparison to the real Saturday Night Live. This is not a format like reality shows or game shows that can easily be repeated in any country, by any comedian or "actor". It requires talent from the writers and the performers- a talent which seems to be lacking in the world of Italian TV.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Sinful?


Is buying lottery tickets or scratch & win cards considered gambling? Is gambling considered a sin??
While I was playing some lucky numbers (or so I hope) at my neighborhood tabaccheria, I saw a priest buying a stack of Enalotto tickets and scratch & win cards... if only I had my camera with me!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Postal mystery

Last week I finally received my absentee ballot- YAY! So as not to take any risks, I decided to mail it back directly through the post office instead of buying stamps at a tabacheria.
I mailed it out on Saturday morning and this morning I found it in MY mail box. WTF??? I went back to the post office just now to try and find out why this happened. The postal clerk stared at the envelope for 10 minutes but could figure out no logical reason. I'm thinking the postal employees might've gotten confused by such a complex, official envelope.
We decided to draw an arrow near the recipient's address just to make sure and the postal clerk sent it out again without charging me. Fingers crossed!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Best ottico

I love my neighborhood ottico, this shop is a model of efficiency and they are super nice, to boot. When you order lenses, glasses, etc., they take your name and cell phone number and when the product comes in, they send you a text message informing you. No need to waste time calling them, or passing by to see if your goods have arrived- they tell YOU. Seems basic but here in Rome, most stores/service providers seem to take pleasure in making you waste as much time as possible. So here's to my boys at Europtical on Via San Francesco di Ripa 154. Tel: 06-581 2091.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Tales of traffic

One of the benefits of working freelance is I usually get to work from home, hence no morning commute! Unfortunately, the other day I had several morning errands/appointments around the city and let me tell you, the commute was HELL. I was feeling lazy and decided to take the 8 tram to my first appointment instead of walking to largo Argentina... Big mistake. The tram took 20 minutes to show up (I could've walked there in the same amount of time) and when it did, there were 3 in a row, packed to the gills. Now for those of you who don't know, the 8 tram was constructed years ago to free up some traffic on Viale Trastevere and to give commuters one sure-fire quick way to go back and forth along this route. There used to be lots of different bus lines along this route but the city decided the 8 tram would make everyone's life better. And it would have... if Romans weren't such obnoxious drivers. You see, the problem is drivers block the box and get stuck in traffic at intersections so the tram gets held up by car traffic. So during rush hour, the tram is at the mercy of traffic as much as buses or cars are. Brilliant.
I finally get on the tram and after one stop, it stops... We're all told to get out because the tram ahead of us has broken down. As I start walking toward Ponte Garibaldi, I notice a huge accident in the other lane which is blocking traffic and the tram coming from the other direction. All the traffic coming from Lungotevere was blocked because people couldn't turn onto Viale Travevere, etc. Absolutely insane.

This morning I had more errands and opted to walk. MENO MALE! Trastevere and most of the surrounding areas have been paralyzed for the past few days because of the demonstrations going on outside of the Ministero della Pubblica Istruzione. This morning the entire area in front of this Ministry was pure chaos. No trams were running in either direction, buses were either not running or taking strange mystery routes, and the locals were rightfully grumbling as they trekked to their destinations. I saw elderly ladies waiting for buses to Monteverde for an hour... When I left the house they were there and when I got back they were still there, loudly and angrily discussing the annoyance of this demonstration. Now as much as I support the demonstration going on, there has GOT to be a better way. Why should an entire city have to suffer because others are protesting? We all pay taxes (or at least some of us do!), and it's not fair that we have to endure this insanity for days and days, that we can't get to work, that we can't get around the city.
Maybe they should make Milan the capital of Italy and transfer all the ministries and government offices up there and let Rome breathe a little...

Monday, October 6, 2008

Movie madness

Wow, where to start... We went to see Spike Lee's Miracle at St. Anna tonight and it was horrrrrrible. I was so excited about the storyline that I chose not to read any reviews on it because I didn't want to be influenced. But it was a disappointingly bad flick, I have no words to describe it, just really pitifully bad.

AND to top it all off, we had a horrrrrrible movie theater experience at the Metropolitan: the movie started and it seemed slightly out of focus to me but I assumed my contact lenses were dry or dirty so I shrugged it off... as the film went on, the focus got worse and worse until everyone in the theater was whistling and shouting out "fuoco", "proiezione" in hopes that the person in the projection booth would wake up. Well, we found out the hard way that there is NO person in the projection booth anymore, instead they have tiny monitors near the ticket booth that they use to check up on the various screens. First off, it's really hard to tell if a film's out of focus on such a tiny monitor and second off, it's even harder if you're not looking at the monitor! Soooo, after missing out on 25 minutes of film because it was incredibly out of focus and because everyone was shouting at the screen, I get up and walk down to the ticket booth (thus missing even more of the film). I tell the workers the film is out of focus and while I'm complaining, another guy from our theater comes down and starts yelling too.

So that should've fixed it, right? It did, for about 5 minutes, then it slipped out of focus again, not extremely out of focus, but enough that it was noticeable to everyone. In fact some people start shouting out "fuoco" again but it was useless because they can't hear us from downstairs and there isn't a soul in the projection booth. We stay till the end (as does everyone else) and watch not only an out of focus film, but a bad out of focus film that lasted forever!

Movie ends, we go down to the ticket booth and I politely say "We'd like a refund, the movie was out of focus the whole time".... The ticket seller starts giving me lip saying that the movie was not out of focus the whole time. I politely insist that it was and remind him that I even had to come downstairs to tell them to fix it. Then he goes on to say the subtitles were out of focus, not the film. Give me a fucking break buddy, I can tell the difference between an out of focus film and out of focus subtitles. The most annoying thing was his attitude, he was being so rude, condescending, and uncooperative. He kept denying the movie was out of focus, hence implying I was lying. I'm a believer in the saying: You catch more bees with honey than with vinegar BUT I have a limited supply of honey so I started turning sour at this point. The dickwad kept insisting and shaking his head and treating me as if I were full of shit. Some of the other people gathered around by now and were confirming the fact that the film was indeed out of focus the entire time. Funny sidenote: not a single man from the audience said a word, the only people involved in this confrontation were women... interesting.

Anyway- I ask for the manager. Whoa, if the ticket seller was a dickwad, the manger was King Dickwad. A total asshole who had the audacity to say "If the film was out of focus then why didn't you leave sooner? Why'd you stay and watch the whole thing?" Well asshole, seeing that I work for a living and I don't have free time aplenty, if I make plans to see a movie with people and make an effort to haul my ass to Via del Corso #7, then I'm going to stay. Especially because it shouldn't have been an issue to fix the focus in the first place! I already had to get up once and miss part of the movie to complain, which is in itself a reason to give me a refund. This went back and forth for about 15 minutes and I was blown away by how flippant and asshole-ish this manager was. I suspect (and hope for Metropolitan's sake) that this guy was not the real manager because he did everything a manager should NOT do. You have a group of 10 people complaining about the focus on a film- and instead of apologizing or mending the problem, you insist the film was in focus and tell us we should've left the theater? Dumb dumb dumb. My theory: the manager was not on duty and these dickwads didn't want to give us a refund or proper voucher because then they would get in trouble for not having paid attention to the focus of our screen.

I asked for a refund or a voucher, at first the manager refused and said he would only allow us to come back and see the same movie again... (now why on earth would I come back to see a movie I just watched???) then he gave in and signed our tickets, which apparently is our voucher. I'm curious to see what happens when we present said "vouchers", I have a feeling it's a crock of shit... I'm pretty pissed off, not so much about the film, but about the outrageous behavior from their staff and "manager". They should've been apologizing to all of us for the inconvenience but instead they were furiously arguing with us, telling us we were wrong. For the record, I do plan on continuing this battle because it's unacceptable for them to treat customers like that.

Oh yeah, note to non-Italian speakers: although this movie is publicized as "original version", there is a lot of Italian dialogue that is not subtitled at all and a lot of German dialogue that is subtitled in Italian... so if you can't read/understand Italian, do not go see it because you'll miss half of the film.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Fumes & perfume

This morning while running, my ipod and I realized something: What's worse than breathing in smog while exercising? Breathing in cigarette smoke (who smokes at 9:00AM?!!) and excessive amounts of perfume from people I jog past. Damn, those ladies sure do douse themselves, I'm surprised they can actually breathe in their own presence! They must spend a fortune on perfume every year...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Medley

1) How happy am I that the summer is FINALLY over? (Answer: unbelievably happy)

2) Just came across this website which lists farmer's markets throughout Italy. The ones in Rome aren't exactly centrally located but I may try to check one out eventually. But I have to say, some market stands at Testaccio are essentially run by farmers. In fact, they're the ones who usually charge less- most produce (which is strictly seasonal) is 1.00 euro a kg and quite tasty.

3) Yesterday while standing in line at the tabaccheria to send a fax... You may be thinking: who the hell sends faxes in 2008? I DO- not by choice but because my Fastweb saga is still not over and the only real way to get in touch with them is via letters or fax. Ridiculous huh? Nice to know that Italy's biggest telephone/Internet provider is so behind the times. Anyway, I'm in line and there's an elderly lady in front of me mumbling to herself... not in a crazy way but rather in a "I'm so fed up I don't know what to do anymore" way. Her story: she had been on a waiting list for 4 years to get a knee operation at San Giacomo hospital, it was finally her turn and guess what? The hospital closed down. So now she has to start the request process all over again. It broke my heart to see the desperation and frustration in her eyes. She didn't know who to turn to, where or if she could complain, she's yet another victim of this fucked up public healthcare system.

4) Is it just me or has the number of cars in Rome increased threefold??? WTF! I don't remember there being this many cars before the vacation exodus. Twice yesterday I had to get off the bus and walk because we were stuck in traffic for ever. Argh... it could also be due to all the roadwork they've decided to start doing in the center of Rome in September. Nice planning, guys! Just a suggestion for next time: consider doing it in August when the city's empty and so are the roads, it would make for a much better work environment for you and a more livable city for us.

the end

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Smitten

I just saw a movie that made me fall in love with Rome again. Although I've seen Rome on screen many times, this film actually gave me goosebumps and reminded me of why and how this city and my neighborhood first stole my heart way back in '94.

Pranzo di Ferragosto is a true and tried masterpiece. Low budget, simple story, but powerful and impressive. Hard core Trasteverini will no doubt recognize some of the neighborhood characters featured in this movie.

This is a MUST MUST see...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Da Venezia a Roma


Listen up, cinema fans! Da Venezia a Roma has begun: a selection of flicks from the Venice Film Festival will be shown at various movie theaters in Rome so I suggest you check out the schedule and get shaking because most flicks will only be shown for one day. All films will be shown in original language with Italian subtitles.

Today we went to see The Wrestler. Beau-ti-ful.
Modern Italian directors should watch and learn...

Monday, September 8, 2008

August blues

To think that just a few weeks ago I was singing the blues waiting for August to be over: the city was too deserted, stores were sealed shut, and everyone was away on vacation while I was stuck here working...
Well, now I'm singing a different tune- September is here and the Romans are back with a vengeance: cars are everywhere, I risk life & limb on a daily basis while crossing the street near my house, the supermarket is jammed with people who stand uncomfortably close to me in line (Why do they do this? It won't make the line go any faster... I've come up with a new technique to ward them off and create more space between us: I pretend I'm stretching my hamstrings. What can I say, I can't stand having strangers breathe down my neck).
Sigh, I miss August now...

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Feccia del mare

Love this, spotted it at the Roma- Lido di Ostia train station. Instead of "Freccia del Mare" (which literally means arrow of the sea but idiomatically can mean sea express), someone cleverly scraped off the R so it says "Feccia del Mare" (scum of the sea). Too funny, especially considering how nasty Ostia is!!!!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Nasty butts

Why is it considered okay for smokers to chuck their butts on the ground? Is that not littering?? Contrary to what some people may think, cigarette filters are not biodegradable, actually they take quite a long time to decompose. 
And then there are those smokers who chuck still-burning cigarettes on the ground. Not only are you too lazy to walk to a bin and dispose of it, but you're too lazy to put it out? Wow...

In Japan, land of cleanliness and civilization, all smokers carry these around. They are personal, portable ashtrays (keitai haizara). Brilliant!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

You know it's August when...

You know it's August when even the homeless junkies are going on vacation! I overheard this conversation between two Roman junkies on Via Natale del Grande (which was recently coined "Beggars Boulevard"):

Woman: Io me ne vado al mare, ho bisogno di fare un po’ di vacanza.
I'm going to the beach, I need a little vacation.

Man: Pure te? Se ne sono andati tutti!
You too? Everyone's gone!

Woman: Aoh, quando ci vuole, ci vuole!
Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do!

And they say Italy's in a recession... Ha!

Monday, August 18, 2008

New Italian rules

"Tourists beware: if it's fun, Italy has a law against it..."

Rai Due's response to this article (just now on the news) basically said: Many of these law and more exist in England and the Brits have no problem abiding by them, yet when they come to Italy they like being on their worst behavior.

Whoa- do I smell a cat fight??

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Quadriennale


Rome is a ghost town right now but at least I finally managed to see the Quadriennale because Palazzo delle Esposizioni stayed open! This space had been closed for five years for a much-needed renovation, and they did a fantastic job. Well worth a visit just to check out the space itself, and of course the Quadriennale is rather impressive too. A few of my favorites were:
Elisabetta Benassi- They Live We Sleep
Andrea Mastrovito- Eine Symphonie des Grauens
Sabrina Mezzaqui- Il cielo nell'acqua
Antonio Riello- Elegant Warfare
Alice Guareschi- Delicate polyhedra: rosa dei venti

Friday, August 15, 2008

Lost in translation... for real


Let's talk about Italian translations of American film titles. Now mind you, we translators have very little say in this, by the time a film reaches us for translation, the title has usually already been decided by the production/distribution.
I realize that some titles are difficult or impossible to translate, so why not leave the original title instead of inventing something random? Some titles are overly-translated and basically give away the plot of the film, some titles simplify the movie, and some titles are just downright stupid! Here are some of my "favorites" in no particular order:

1) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Se mi lasci ti cancello (If you leave me I'll erase you)

2) The Outsiders
I Ragazzi della 56a strada (The kids from 56th Street)

3) Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Non mi scaricare (Don't dump me)

4) Vertigo
La donna che visse due volte (The woman who lived twice)

5) Lost In Translation
L'amore tradotto (Love translated)

6) Adaptation
Il ladro di orchidee (The orchid thief)

7) Road to Perdition
Era mio padre (He was my father)

8) Reservoir Dogs
Le Iene (The hyenas)

9) Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Non aprite quella porta (Don't open that door)

10) Intolerable Cruelty
Prima ti sposo poi ti rovino (First I'll marry you, then I'll ruin you)

11) Runaway Bride
Se scappi ti sposo (If you run away, I'll marry you)

12) The Break-Up
Ti odio, ti lascio, ti... (I hate you, I'll leave you, I'll...)

13) Waitress
Ricette d'amore (Love recipes)

14) Total Recall
Atto di forza (Act of force)

15) Hide and Seek
Nascosto nel buio (Hidden in the dark)

16) The Cave
Il nascondiglio del diavolo (The devil's hiding place)

17) Jeremiah Johnson
Corvo rosso non avrai il mio scalpo (You won't get my scalp, Red Crow)

18) Dude, Where's my Car?
Fatti, strafatti, strafighe (Stoned, super-stoned, super-hot)

19) The Hudsucker Proxy
Mister Hula Hoop

20) Brokeback Mountain
I Segreti di Brokeback Mountain (The secrets of Brokeback Mountain)

21) Dirty Harry
Ispettore Callahan: il caso Scorpio è tuo (Inspector Callahan: the Scorpio case is yours)

22) Leatherheads
In amore niente regole (Love has no rules)

23) The Science of Sleep
L'arte del sogno (The art of sleep)

24) Coming to America
Il principe cerca moglie (The prince is looking for a wife)

25) The Hunger
Miriam si sveglia a mezzanotte (Miriam wakes up at midnight)

26) Things We Lost in the Fire
Noi due sconosciuti (We're two strangers)

27) Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
Onora il padre e la madre (Honor your mother and father)

28) Click
Cambia la tua vita con un click (Change your life with a click)

29) Home Alone
Mamma ho perso l'aereo (Mom, I missed the flight)

30) The Legend of the Fall
Vento di passioni (The wind of passion)

31) Knocked Up
Molto incinta (Very pregnant)

32) Frankie & Johnny
Paura d’amare (Afraid to love)

33) Walk the Line
Quando l'amore brucia l'anima (When love burns the soul)

34) Rebel Without a Cause
Gioventù bruciata (Wasted youth)

35) Hurlyburly
Bugie, baci, bambole & bastardi (Lies, kisses, dolls & bastards)

36) Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Un biglietto in due (One ticket for two people)

37) The Holiday
L'amore non va in vacanza (Love doesn't go on vacation)

38) My own private Idaho
Belli e dannati (Beautiful and damned)

39) Reality Bites
Giovani, carini e disoccupati (Young, cute, and unemployed)

40) Eastern Promises
La promessa dell'assassino (The assassin's promise)

Feel free to add your own favorites.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Brutta figura


When I hopped on the 46 bus the other day, I noticed two Indian tourists (middle aged husband & wife) trying to get info from the bus driver. I was at the back of the bus but I could hear the driver rudely yelling at them as they held out a map to him with confused faces. It was clear they were trying to ask him how to get somewhere but he was being impatient and condescending, and although they didn't understand his words (one example: "Ma che cazzo vogliono questi!" "What the fuck do these folks want!"), they did understand that he was being rude.

I was about to intervene (I know, I just can't help myself) but we were at my stop so I got off and signalled to the tourists to get off with me. They followed my lead and as the bus was about to pull away, I did a hand gesture that more or less meant "ignore that dumb bus driver" (somewhat of a downward hand wave). He saw it and obviously had a guilty conscience because he stopped the bus and opened the front doors to shout at us saying "I don't know what the hell they were asking me, it's not my fault I don't speak English"... Of course it's not your fault dickhead, but if they are holding out a map to you pointing to "Trastevere", you can tell them they're going in the wrong direction without speaking a word of English, just use the universal hand-gesture language. Essentially, this is what I said to him (minus the dickhead part) and who knew it would trigger a verbal brawl between me & the driver! The Indians stood behind me, frightened and appalled by this scene. The driver kept yelling at them and at me, it was so ridiculous I almost started laughing. He kept going on and on, so I called him a "cafone" (boor) and told him to get moving because he was holding up traffic. I realize these bus drivers make shit for pay and navigate obscene traffic all day in buses that often don't have air conditioning, but come on... there's no need to be that obnoxious to tourists who are clearly clueless. He doesn't have to help them but there's no reason to yell and berate them.

He finally pulled away after spewing out a few more swears at us, so I was able to give these people directions. The woman hugged me and thanked me profusely for helping them. They may not understand Italian but they understood what had happened and were pretty upset by it. Che brutta figura for Rome. You know, tourism is this city's bread and butter, they really need to start paying more attention to how tourists are treated because stuff like this can come back and bite you in the ass.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Di dove sei?

Contrary to what I'd like to think, I do have an accent when I speak Italian. Mind you, I certainly do not sound like Dan Peterson, but I admit that at times an American twang can be heard... My accent or lack of, usually depends on my mood: if I'm tired, stressed, or overworked, my Italian and my Italian accent suffer. And naturally, if I have to speak about topics I lack vocabulary for (ex: explaining to the washing machine repairman what's wrong with my machine), then you can really tell I'm not from around here!

But in my defense, there have been many occasions where I've been involved in conversations with Italians who did not realize I was American until someone revealed it or until I said a word like "computer" and blew my cover. When I have American friends visiting, I usually act as interpreter between them and the locals, who often ask: "How did you learn to speak English so well?" Oh the joy....

I'd say my Italian has a definite Roman inflection* (as does my vocabulary), after all, this is the place where I officially learned Italian and became fluent. Side note: Italians and Romans get a kick out of hearing an American speaking Roman, let me tell you!

But on those days when my Italian is debilitated, you can bet your money I'll hear this: "Di dove sei? Non sei di qua?". Argh! I find it odd that in such a big city, the locals are still so amazed by the fact that foreigners live amongst them. Yeah, I know they ask out of curiosity and to strike up a conversation, but sometimes it's just downright annoying to have someone point out your accent, especially when I am well aware and self-conscious about the fact that I'm speaking shitty Italian. Would a random stranger in a store in NYC say: "You have an odd accent when you speak English, where are you from?". I've never seen it happen... If anything, that question comes up once you get to know the person and are learning more about them.

Yep, it's a little pet peeve of mine, along with being called "ragazzina" (little girl). Hello!? I'm 30-something and I still get called "ragazzina" in this country. In some ways, it's nice but at times it can be an obstacle. Picture this, I have a meeting with someone for work and the secretary calls up to the boss and says: "C'è una ragazzina qua per te" (There's a little girl here to see you).... Uhh, that doesn't exactly work in my favor now does it?

*Oddly enough, when I first moved to Italy, people kept asking me if I was "Sarda", I'd yet to learn that word for "a female from Sardinia" (at the time I assumed that word would've been "Sardiniana") so I thought they were asking if I was deaf (sorda). I've never set foot on the island of Sardegna but maybe I should!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

5:45

I woke up at 5:45 AM this morning.
Did I want to? No.
Was I planning to? Hell no!
Did I set an alarm? No, and there's was no need to because my neighbor's dog started howling at that ungodly hour and did not stop for over an hour!* I'm not talking about sporadic barking, this dog was yelping non-stop (How do they do that? Don't they get tired or thirsty?)
Here's a little sample:




In order to avoid losing my mind, I decided to go out in search of breakfast... not an easy task. Breakfast in August before 7:00 AM in my neighborhood is near impossible. While on my quest, I saw this at a bar (a bar I never go to because I don't like it and this is one more reason why I'll never go there)
The bar had yet to open but the cornetti had already been delivered and were sitting outside on a crate for over an hour... Gross.

(*After shouting out "shut up" to no avail, I got up, went next door and rang her doorbell but she was not even home. She left the little yapper home alone to annoy and wake up the entire building)

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Oh snap!

"Why are Italian tourists so pushy and rude?"

The Dark (sweaty) Knight

When the summer heat is unbearable and you want to cool off, where do you usually go? To the movies... or so we thought. Last night we went to Warner Moderno (the place I'd previously raved about for their online ticketing system) to see The Dark Knight in English along with more than half of Rome's English-speaking community, apparently.

As soon as we walked into sala #4, we all noticed it wasn't nearly as cool as we wanted it to be or as it should be. It was still early so I strolled downstairs to inform one of the workers who said he'd "take care of it". The theater is packed and the movie starts... but the air conditioning does not. It was a sauna in there, the air was hot, sticky & stale. The AC occasionally let out a spurt of cold air but not strong or long enough to even remotely freshen up the theater.

Half way through, I literally started to feel sick and had to leave the room. A dozen people or so did the same before me. Covered in sweat, I marched downstairs and asked to speak to the manager. She was super nice and tried to bullshit me by saying "Oh, we had a problem with the AC just before opening and couldn't get it fixed". Nice try lady, but that won't cut it with me because as we were suffering in the theater, my friend mentioned to me that her friend had the same exact problem in sala 4 last week... AND I vaguely recalled having the same problem in sala 4 about three years ago! So manager girl was wise enough not to fuck with an annoyed, sweaty American and fessed up: the AC in sala 4 had been broken for about 5 years and despite her constant requests, Warner never bothered to fix it. Why? Because it wasn't worth the money for them to close down that sala for a day or two. Instead they stuff unwitting movie-goers into that sauna because they know only a handful of people (like me) will complain and ask for their money back. So in the end, Warner still makes a killing without having to spend a cent for repairs.
The manager obviously offered to reimburse me & my crew for the tickets, she apologized profusely and said unfortunately there's not much she can personally do to fix the situation. I was seriously tempted to make an announcement in sala 4 after the movie telling everyone to go ask for a reimbursement, that way Warner would realize that it's NOT okay to cram a theater with people when the AC is busted. Unfortunately, I was too worn out by the heat to muster up the energy. Instead we high-tailed it out of there and went out for drinks...
But I just wrote an email to Warner about the incident because I do believe it's actually illegal for them to place all those people in a non-ventilated, crowded room without AC. I'll keep you all posted, in the meantime avoid sala 4 at Warner Moderno!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Greasy hands

It's official: Bertolli olive oil brand has been sold to a Spanish company (as was Carapelli in 2004). Seems like Italy's hands are so greasy, they can't keep hold of anything these days, not even prized possessions like olive oil. Wow, what's Italy going to sell off next, the Colosseo?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Silver lining

My washing machine died the other day... after almost 10 years of trusty service, its motor went kaput. I was hoping it could be repaired easily and cheaply, but this morning the repairman told me otherwise. Even if it would've been more business for him to repair the machine, he highly suggested I just buy a new one. Uffa!

I don't have much spare time or energy to scour the city looking for the best bargain right now, so I went to a nearby appliance shop I've used in the past- Cucciollo (if they had a website I'd link it). It's located in the Jewish ghetto and is probably one of the best appliance/electronic shops in the center. I used to do lots business with these guys when I worked for an American university ages ago, so they know me and treat me well, but in general they are very pleasant and helpful to all their clients. I got me a new washer and I'll be able to do laundry again by Thursday- yay!

As I was walking back home through the ghetto I was overwhelmed by how much that neighborhood has changed in the past 10 years. When I was looking for a home 10 years ago, I considered the ghetto but most of the places I saw there were run-down railroad apartments and the buildings were in total disrepair (which meant eventually I, and the other residents, would have to pay for repairs). At the time, prices there were pretty low compared to other central neighborhoods. As much as I adored the area, it wasn't worth the extra hassle of having to gut and redo an entire apartment.

But now, the neighborhood has undergone a major renovation, they've cleaned it up, made most of the streets pedestrian-only, so there are lots of benches and café tables outside. AND to top it all off, they finally repaired the charming Tempietto del Carmelo in Piazza Costaguti. The area's got a great vibe to it and it's a lovely place to sit and chill out... A few steps away you'll also find a hidden gem called Rialto Sant'Ambrogio. It's a "cultural center" that hosts some cool events and shows. One more ghetto tip: if you haven't eaten at Sora Margherita yet, I highly suggest you check it out. It's an old-school, no frills trattoria with good food and decent prices. Forget about da Giggetto and their pricey artichokes, you can get the same treats at Sora Margherita for less and without the annoying touristy scene.

Anyway- I mentioned a silver lining, didn't I? Well, good thing my washing machine broke now because if it had happened next week or so, I would've been royally screwed since everyone and their mom is closing shop soon. So in some ways, I'm actually glad this happened now.

Cucciollo Elettrodomestici
Via del Tempio 6
00186 Roma
Tel: (06)6865102

Sora Margherita
Piazza delle Cinque Scole 30
00186 Roma
Tel: (06)687 4216

Monday, July 28, 2008

Calgon, take me away!

This morning I had another lovely run-in with the public healthcare system... It's so frustrating it exhausts me, for real. 

I've been trying to see my general practitioner for a week. Come summertime, he always mysteriously changes his office hours and unless you actually go to the office, manage to get buzzed into the building by someone else (because he's hardly ever there), and read the signs posted on the office door- you have no way of knowing what the new hours are. I finally managed to get there at the right time and on the right day, only to discover my doctor was... ON vacation. 
Fortunately there was a substitute doctor, but unfortunately this guy is a quack. I've had the misfortune of dealing with him before and he's incompetent. Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks so because when the 15 people sitting in the waiting room with me (I was third in line, hooray!) found out he was on duty, there was plenty of grumbling.
I show the quack doctor this skin condition that I've had on my fingertips for over a month now. He's flippant and dismissive as always, and says it's nothing. I insist that I'd like to see a dermatologist because my fingertips are bothering me. He says that if I go to Regina Margherita's Guardia Medica, they'll see me without a referral right then and there. Now, I've been around long enough to know that you should always be prepared for the worst when dealing with the public healthcare system, so I politely insist he write out a referral for a dermatological visit, just in case. He does. I leave.
I go to the Guardia Medica at Regina Margherita (like he told me to) and the woman at the desk asks for my referral (See??). She tells me I must first go around the block to the CUP office to pay for the visit, and then come back and go to the dermatology ward on the first floor. I go to the CUP and get a number and wait in line. I wait 15 minutes for my turn, show the lady my referral (without a referral I would've been screwed again) and try to pay for it. She snaps at me and says I need to go back around the block, go up to dermatology and ask if they can see me today. I explain to her that the woman at Guardia Medica said I could just come here and pay. She keeps yelling at me. I refuse to stoop to her level and calmly try to reason with her. Hold on, can't I just pay in the meantime? I'll either been seen today or tomorrow, what's the difference? No such thing and she continues to mutter shit under her breath.

Breathe in breathe out, go back around the block and up to the first floor of the dermatology ward. A lovely nurse assists me and tells me to go back to the CUP and pay for the visit ("If she gives you trouble, tell her Sergio said it's okay"), then come back up and wait my turn. 
Okay, I go back around the block to the CUP, get a fucking number and wait 20 minutes. Pay for the visit (20 euros. Public health care is NOT free) and go back to the dermatology ward. I wait for about 40 minutes for the visit- which was fine by me since they took me at the last minute anyway. And surprisingly enough there was AC in the waiting room.

My turn, the dermatologist barely looks at my hands or listens to me, she's too busy yapping it up with her friend about what she'll be cooking for dinner. She writes out a prescription before I even finish explaining the situation with my fingertips. I politely yet firmly grab her attention and explain my case. She nods her head and slips me the prescription she had already written out and signed and says "It's just some dry skin. You must've touched something that irritated it." No, no, no- I just explained to you that nothing in my routine has changed and my fingertips have been all wrinkled, dry, and painful for almost two months. It's useless, she sends me away with the damn prescription.
I try to stay positive and go to the pharmacy to get said medication. What do I discover? The "medicine" she prescribed is not medicine at all. It costs 23 euro and is nothing but fancy hand cream (which contains the same exact ingredients as the hand cream I regularly use). Fuck it. I decide not to buy it and at this point, I'm going to make an appointment with a private dermatologist and see if I can sort this out. 
Now, I just wasted 3 hours and 20 euros for nothing. And to top it all off, I'm going to have to fork out my own money for a private doctor because the public system sucks.

Hotdogs?

Whenever I see these "Wudy" hotdogs in grocery stores or on TV, I can't help but chuckle. Maybe it's the Beavis & Butt-head in me...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Summer cinema

Although it's sad to see most of the movie theaters in Rome close for the summer, the outdoor movie venues usually make up for it by offering quite a range of films to see. I meant to post about this sooner but got distracted:
In Villa Borghese at the Casa del Cinema they are showing musicals in ENGLISH with Italian subtitles for FREE till the end of the month (hurry!). I'm not a big fan of musicals but there are some classics in the lineup that are worth seeing. Me & my crew went to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show and were rather surprised that 75% of the audience was made up of elderly folks. I guess they just read "free" and wanted to sit outside because they certainly did not enjoy the flick (looking around with horrified faces, getting up and leaving half way through)!
Piazza Vittorio's outdoor cinema venue is very impressive! They've set up 2 screens (with double features) and have a good selections of films and it's on until September 5th. One Italian flick I'd recommend in the July schedule is Tutta la Vita Davanti.
Then there's my all time favorite Isola del Cinema. I just love this venue so much, how can you beat the location- an island in the Tiber River! Great place to see a flick, stroll around, have a drink, or just people watch.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Above and beyond the call of duty

I wonder if any companies in Italy will start doing what Comcast has done? Probably not... this post from "Blog from Italy" does a great job of explaining why Italy & the Internet are not really making strides.
I for one am very impressed that Comcast made such an effort to satisfy their customers- bravi! Fastweb could learn a thing or two (or two hundred) from them.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Just say no

As the bus went bumpety-bump over the cobblestone streets, I saw something that is all too familiar here in Rome but rather disturbing to me nonetheless: a sleazy 70 year old man intensely staring at a scantily clad girl whose body parts were also going bumpety-bump. He then went on to ogle every single female that walked by him, shamelessly staring at tops and bottoms as if it were his God given right to do so.

The male gaze in Italy is something I've never made peace with. And you know what I mean by the male gaze in this context- I'm not talking about glancing at someone briefly or doing a double-take, I'm talking about vulgar, invasive staring, usually accompanied by unsolicited comments and or sounds.

Now, I know this happens all over the world- I've traveled the globe, thank you, and I have seen it in many places. But I must say it's pretty rampant here in Italy and disturbingly enough, most females don't seem bothered by it... or worse, some actually seem to enjoy it! I find it neither charming nor flattering when a male stares or makes comments/sounds. Au contraire, it completely offends me and annoys me. What makes you (man) think that you have the right to visually penetrate a complete stranger who happens to be female? What makes you (man) think that a female is actually interested in your comments about her appearance? What makes you (man) think that you are free to treat a female as if she were an object for sale? Not cool with me. I've seen too many foreign females and even local females being "coaxed" by such tactics and I always find it so immensely difficult to comprehend. What's the kick? What about dignity- why allow a man to reduce you to a mere figure, a facade, a one-dimensional being? You're being judged for nothing but your external shell and instead of contesting you find it flattering?!? The objectification of women in this country is overwhelming: from TV, to ads, to cinema, to the streets- there's no escaping it. I'm not saying pick a fight every time some dude stares or makes a comment (although me and my scrappy self have such tendencies), I'm just saying have some dignity and don't allow yourself to be disrespected.

I had a visitor for the past few days and while strolling around with her, I realized she was one of those females who plays into the whole male gaze game. Picture this: she's blonde, blue eyed, and has ginormous boobs. Needless to say she, or rather "the girls" were being stared at by men of all ages and she actually seemed to enjoy it as if it were a self-esteem booster. Obviously it's not her fault she's well-endowed but she was exchanging glances with the starers and smiling at them. While haggling at the market stands, she would purposely get very close to the vendor (male), smile, and bat her eyelashes. I was aghast! I found it so demeaning and humiliating that a person could reduce herself to tactics like that for a 2 euro discount. If I want a discount I can just ask for it in a nice, simpatico way like any human being would- why flaunt and flash to get favors or to make people take you more seriously, IF anything it has the opposite effect. Why do women feel compelled to do shit like this? Why do women need men's approval in order to feel worthy? Come on ladies, we've come this far, let's not regress!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Fastweb must die


How can a company of this size be SO unbelievable inefficient when it comes to customer service? It's immensely frustrating, annoying, time-consuming, upsetting, mind boggling, etc.
And the worst part is, there's not a damn thing I can do about it, I'm at their mercy. Calling the customer service number is a joke, emailing them is useless, and they have no real office I can go to and speak with an actually person. I am so tempted to cancel both my phone line & Internet and never deal with a phone company again. This time it looks like not even the consumer protection office can help me. I am about to go postal. HELP!!!!

***UPDATE- I wrote a letter to Fastweb and it seems it did the trick! They emailed me about my problem and assured me it's being taken care of. Yay!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Golden oldies

image courtesy of fullundie




Most people know that Italy was the cradle of cinema in the 1960's, but few people know it was also the cradle of music... on an international level.
During the 60s, Italy was considered an interesting market for sales, in fact it was rather lucrative... and to top it all off, it was a beautiful place to visit and do sales promotion! Many American artists came to Italy to record their hits for the Italian market and actually sang in Italian!

Stevie Wonder himself spent some time in Rome (he was romantically involved with the legendary Roman singer, Gabriella Ferri) and he sang some tunes IN Italian!

Stevie doing his thing in Italian:



Stevie & Gabriella at San Remo music festival:


Not to mention my personal favorite, The Supremes singing an Italian version of "You Can't Hurry Love":


If you click on this link you'll see the number 1 hits from 1960-1969. The original title/version of the song is listed in parentheses, you can see how many of them were remakes in Italian and in English!

Needless to say I'm a HUGE fan of 60s music, so I was thrilled to discover this cross-continental collaboration with some of my favorite golden oldies.

Petula Clark sang her tune "Downtown" in Italian. There's a funny story about this song- those of you who watch LOST might recall that the original song "Downtown" was featured in a few scenes with Juliet. The Italian dubbed version of LOST used the Italian version of the song (called "Ciao Ciao") as opposed to the English version of it. I found it rather amusing:

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Adventure in Rome



Today I went out in search of a salon that offers threading. I'd heard about a place through the grapevine and decided to check it out.
It's called Remo’s Hair Style Unisex. It may be a no-frills salon, but it's quite a find, and they do what they do well! They specialize in Afro-Caribbean hair and in threading (it's the only place in Rome to my knowledge that offers threading). The place is run by Remo, an Italian, and his African wife. The woman who does threading is Indian and speaks English very well.
It's located on Via Filippo Turati #19 (near Termini). They gave me a different cell number than what appears on the business card so I assume it's been changed to: 331-357-4218

Friday, July 11, 2008

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The great AC debate

The following is based on real life scenarios that took place at the office the other day:

English co-worker arrives at work drenched in sweat because, thanks to the sciopero, he had to walk to work and was wearing a black synthetic shirt. Female Italian co-worker walks into our office (which is the coldest room in the entire place because we're foreigners and we like AC) and says to him: You'd better shut off the AC immediately or go outside and wait until you dry off or you'll catch your death!
He and I exchange glances and chuckle saying "No, don't worry, we're foreign... we're immune to AC induced illnesses".

Later that day I walk into the secretary's windowless office and it literally feels like a sauna. I look at the AC unit and it's off so I ask why. Her reply: "Yesterday after leaving work my stomach didn't feel well from all the AC, so I decided I'd rather not use it anymore". 
Uh, ok...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Chicken parm??


As far as I'm concerned, it's official: Domenico of "That's Amore" is a fake Italian. 
How do I know? Well, on tonight's episode (Yes I admit it, I watched another episode. I'm a glutton for punishment!) he told his female suitors he was feeling homesick for his Italian mother's cooking, so their challenge was to cook her best dish: chicken parmigiana. 
Sorry buddy, Italians from Italy don't even know what chicken parmigiana is... that's Italian-American cuisine. 
Either he's a fake or the writers need to do more research on "Italian" cuisine!

Cheeks & chokes?

What's this ad for again? Canned artichokes? 
Uh, yeah... not sure I get the connection between butt cheeks and artichokes. Come on people, can't you be a little more creative?!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Has it come to this?


When and why did vandalism become so rampant in Rome that they have to cage in vending machines?
(pics taken at the infamous Stazione Trastevere)

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy 4th

Today I was helping one of my Italian colleagues decipher and translate a documentary about New Orleans and there was one part of the film that shocked him even more than the post-Katrina footage: scenes of man from the lower ninth ward proudly talking about how his mother, a single parent who worked as a maid, managed to send both him & his sister to the best private (parochial) school in the city and put them through college AND bought two homes all by herself.
My Italian colleague found it incredibly difficult to believe that something of this sort could be possible, his reaction was a mixture of disbelief and amazement and he said "It blows my mind how much people can accomplish in the US with hard work".

Happy 4th of July.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Tips for fellow bitchers & moaners


I recently discovered two very useful outlets for my Rome/Italy issues:

One is the Consumer Protection office. Not only do they have a phone number (and they actually answer the phone!) but they also have an office you can visit to file complaints about consumer-related issues!!! They managed to resolve a year long battle with Fastweb for me, and they did it in 2 days. LOVE them.

The second is a hotline you can call to file complaints about all city-related issues. It's the equivalent of 311 in NYC. I've had limited experience with it, but so far so good.

Slowly but surely, Rome is making "progress".

Monday, June 9, 2008

I heart Google

As much as I love Google and Googling everything under the sun, I can't help but feel it has spoiled us:
Having a discussion with a friend on which subway system is the world's oldest? Google it!
Feeling a pain in your stomach but don't need to see a doctor? Google it!
Want the lyrics to your new favorite song? Google it!
I can't help but feel nostalgic for the days when we used to sit and listen to cassette tapes over and over again, trying to decipher the lyrics to our favorite songs. I spent hours doing this as a teen- play, rewind, listen, write, play, rewind, listen, write. It was a serious hobby in my circle of friends, and as frustrating as it could be, it was such an enormous satisfaction when we finally managed to transcribe the entire song! It made our favorite songs all the more special because we'd toiled away for hours to understand the lyrics. Nowadays we just type in the name of the song and Google does the work for us- instant gratification...

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Thursday, June 5, 2008

My dream job

This NYT article talks about the pooper scooper law in Brooklyn and the people who are paid to enforce this law. I'd LOVE to be the pooper scooper enforcer in Rome- anybody have connections at the Comune??

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Crap

I just paid 30 euro for a toilet seat... not one of those fancy, design ones, just a simple toilet seat:


After trying in vain to get toilet seat prices over the phone (Can someone explain to my WHY Italian shopkeepers "can't give out this kind of information"? If you want my business, quote your price, it's as simple as that!), I didn't feel like schlepping around the city to find the best priced toilet seat and then hauling it back home... SO I opted for the neighborhood bathroom accessory store. They had some seats on display for 19.00 euro which seemed fine but my toilet seat is particolare (HATE that word), it's not standard size so I had to fork out 30 freaking euro for a toilet seat cover. Normally I would've stormed out but I really needed a new one. This city is out of control...

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

You win some, you lose some

After raving about my recent discovery (online ticketing at the Warner Village movie theater), I've been slapped in the face with Roman reality again.
Despite the horrible reviews (and the fact that I swore I'd never pay to see it), I gave in last night and decided to go see Be Kind Rewind with my peeps- worse comes to worse, I'd stare at Mos Def for the entire time.
We read it would be playing in English at Alcazar on Monday (note: Alcazar usually shows films in VO on Mondays). We called in the morning to double check and the answering machine confirmed Monday was English day for this flick.
We buy our tickets, popcorn, etc, settle in to our lovely, plush, red velvet seats and the movie starts.... IN ITALIAN. Being the spaz that I am, I jump up and storm out to the lobby. The ticket seller explained that it was supposed to be in English, but the English reels were "taken away" that afternoon. WTF does that mean? Put up a sign if the movie is NOT going to be in English, change your answering machine message so that people don't waste time organizing for nothing. Seeing my crazed state, he offered to refund us our money. And just like that, movie night flopped and we all left... but at least we left with our 7 euros in hand.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Entertainment galore


Saturday night in ENGLISH. Oh yeah!!!!!!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

LOST junkie


I cannot wait for the big season finale of LOST!!!!

***UPDATE: Here are a few great links for fellow Lost junkies. Only click on them if you're up-to-date on the episodes, I wouldn't want to spoil the fun for you.
http://getlostpodcast.com
http://timelooptheory.com
http://www.thelostexperience.com

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Things that go bump, smack, shout in the night

Since I got back from USA, I've been woken up about 3-4 times in the middle of the night. And this time not by a howling dog. There was howling all right, but from a woman... 

Yep, the always awkward topic of loud-sex neighbors. Normally it wouldn't bother me but trust me when I say this is some freaky shit. It starts with banging (not THAT kind of banging!), as if someone or something is being thrown against the wall, accompanied by shrill cries and "No, no, basta!". It then progresses into moans, groans, and some serious ass-smacking which is so loud and painful-sounding (judging by her screams), that I think it's performed with a belt or whip. This goes on for quite some time, and by the end I always wonder if she's dead or alive. Seriously.
I'm not the only one who noticed it- the person who sublet my place while I was gone emailed me asking if she should call the Police because she was convinced the woman was being beaten.

I wasn't sure where the noise was coming from but I suspected it was my neighbor, a lovely lady who doesn't seem like that type. But hey- you never know what goes on behind closed doors, right? After being woken up again at 3:00AM, I decided enough was enough... The next day I wrote a diplomatic yet decisive note and left it in her box. She came by later that day to talk, and guess what? She's not the noise-maker, it's actually coming from the apartment above hers and she's fed up with it too. We had a good laugh over the fact that I thought it was her, luckily she was amused and not offended!

Later that night they were at it again so I got out of bed at 2:00AM and marched downstairs to the portone and rang their buzzer (now that I knew for sure they were the culprits)... by the time I got back to bed, the noise had stopped. I also left a note in their mailbox and since then I haven't heard a peep out of them. 

What I found odd was that everyone in the building was annoyed by this racket but didn't do anything about it. I realize it's an awkward topic for most people, but leaving an anonymous note is a pretty painless solution. Why do Italians feel they have to suffer silently? 

I ran into my neighbor this morning and she smiled at me and said "Thank you so much". 

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Shafted

In November I got a cryptic letter from the Comune di Roma about a new property tax revision law. Since I have a hard time understanding bureaucratic Italian language, I had my accountant look it over... Apparently, the city of Rome decided it was time to review the status of certain buildings that had been classified as low-income housing (case popolari) many, many years ago but were no longer in any way, shape, or form, low-income homes. This inevitably meant the property tax would be increased- which seemed legit to me because many apartments in places like Campo dei Fiori, Monti, Trastevere were once low-incomes homes, but as we all know, nowadays they're inhabited by people who are well-off.
So it seemed fair to me for the city to increase the property tax (which is called ICI here). Plus, property tax in Italy ridiculously low compared to other big cities. I pay something like 200 euro a year in property taxes here, whereas in NYC I'd surely pay about $1,400 for a place like mine.

Being the stickler that I am, I immediately followed the procedures listed in the letter even though there was talk of a possible extension of the deadline from November to March. A law's a law, so I figured I'd get it out of the way instead of waiting. The whole process took about two weeks and cost me 600 euro plus I had to pay the difference between my old tax and my newly revised tax for the past 5 years. As painful as it was, I did it because I strongly believe in obeying the law and paying taxes- if we don't pay our taxes the city can't function, it's as simple as that. Duh!

Enter the new Berlusconi/Allemano government. With promises of abolishing property tax, they manage to sway the people. Now I'm sitting here thinking "Not only did I spend 600 euro to abide by this law, but I also back paid for 5 year's worth of undervalued property tax... and NOW they want to abolish property tax all together?!?!?".

What pisses me off even more is that people fall for this trick. HELLO- if they abolish the property tax, they're just going to have to find another way to get that money from us. The city's already in debt, there's no way they can cut that tax and still function. Property tax is a normal part of life, why don't Italians understand that?? Can you name one city that doesn't have property tax??

I'm amazed that people can be so stupid and easily conned. And I'm also annoyed that those of us who choose to follow the law in this country always end up getting shafted. Maybe I should ask the city to reimburse me for the money I spent to abide by the law?!? Hahhahha, fat chance.

I might have to call Le Iene about this one!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Must see movies

This is a continuation of my list of must-see Italian movies.

Il Divo
I'd recommend seeing anything and everything by Sorrentino, LOVE him.

Tutta la vita davanti
Virzi is another brilliant young Italian director.

Grande, grosso e Verdone
Verdone always delivers...

La ragazza del lago
Worth it.

and lastly Gomorra
I'm not 100% sold on this film, I read the book (most of it) and I'm not sure this was the best approach for the subject matter BUT it's definitely worth seeing. I would also highly suggest seeing some of Garrone's other films, he's got serious talent.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A stroll through Trastevere

Has anybody else seen this?
A couple of homeless people have decided to inhabit the facade of the ancient church of San Cosimato- complete with potted plants and a bookshelf. WTF?!?!
The city just spent millllllllllions renovating the piazza (and don't even get me started on that subject) because they wanted to lower the street level in order to expose the entire facade of this important church and NOW this is what happens?

These people are there day & night, it is literally their home. It's pretty much impossible to go near the church now, also due to the stench of urine- a corner has become a makeshift urinal for all the neighborhood's homeless & junkies. At least these two church residents aren't aggressive or annoying but enough is enough, come on!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The perks of living in Italy

Bet you never thought I'd type out those words!

Despite my bitching & moaning, there are lots of things I do like about living in Italy. One of them is the fact that I'm a foreigner. Yep, being straniera comes with many many perks, my friends. Perks that I became aware of only after I'd settled here and been living here for a few years. Such as:

1) I can wear whatever the fuck I want.
When I starting sporting my red birkis outside of the house, I was getting some intense stares. Not "Those are so cute where'd you get them?" stares. More like "Are you on crack going outside with red plastic clogs on?". Though I do notice the stares, I couldn't care less. I've always been rather immune to these things all my life. The funny thing is, some of my Italian friends justify my quirky choices by saying "Well, you know... she's American" as if that gives me the freedom to walk around wearing a garbage bag if I wanted to. For the record, I also sport Dansko clogs and know they aren't particularly pretty but they're ridiculously comfy- so who cares!
A few years back I was working more or less full time for a subtitling company in their office. I'm allergic to suits and dress-up clothes, so I wore what I'd normally wear: jeans, T-shirts, etc. Not sloppy, but definitely not business attire. I can safely say I was the most under-dressed person there. One day I get a call from the boss lady asking me to come in the next day for a meeting with a BIG client she was trying to snag. I normally didn't deal with securing clients but I agreed to attend. Before she hung up she said "Careful about what you wear tomorrow". I automatically thought- Hell no, I'm not getting dressed up to do something that's not even my duty. But before I had a chance to protest she went on to say "Make sure you dress like you always do, all American with your weird T-shirts and sneakers". Whatchutalkinboutwillis? Apparently she wanted to assure these big clients that she had a real, live American working for her who would translate their films into perfect American English. So not only did I not have to dress up, I was begged to come to work in casual gear- right on!

2) I can say whatever the fuck I want
This perk comes into action once you're fluent. If you're still fumbling with the language, you might not fully enjoy the power of this one. I get away with murder- I can say just about anything to anybody. I'm well aware that I don't have this impunity in my homeland, in fact I rarely (almost never) mouth off to people in NYC because I know better. Here in Italy though, I mouth off with no fear. At times people will snap back, but no bodily harm is inflicted. And lots of times they merely shrug it off saying "Oh well, she's American".
Same holds true in the workplace. Being straniera gives me the liberty to say stuff I probably wouldn't in the American workplace- I protest, complain, curse, criticize their procedures and they actually seem to LOVE it. One of my "employers" (I'm freelance so he's not really my boss), after witnessing one of my tirades, decided it would be beneficial for him to sit down and have occasional meetings with me to pick my brain and get my input on how he can tighten up his business. And I give it to him--- straight up.

3) I can do whatever the fuck I want
Many years ago, when I was the first female to step foot in a testosterone-filled raunchy kickboxing gym, they all stared at me with hostility as if I were an intruder. Once they realized I was American, they were more willing to accept me as one of "the boys". I got a glimpse of that hostile stare again when I showed up at the gym wearing flip flops in the summer... Mind you, this was before flip flops were trendy & acceptable as outside footwear in any place other than the beach in Italy. After they all harassed and mocked me for about 20 minutes, they brushed it off with the usual "that crazy American girl!" and all was well.

4) I'm always "interesting"
Even if I'm feeling sluggish and anti-social at an event, I'm automatically considered "interesting" because I'm a foreigner. It's pretty sweet, I must admit. I can utter 2 words and people will be fascinated with me because I'm a foreigner who's lived in Rome for so long. This also has a downside though- being bombarded with the same ol' questions about America, about why I'm in Italy and what I think of it, even if I'm not in the mood to play that game.

For the most part, being foreign here is fun, for me at least. I know several expats who ended up leaving Rome because they were tired of not fitting in, tired of being seen as an outsider, tired of being foreign... But that doesn't bother me much, maybe because I've always been a bit of an outsider by choice.

There is another side to the coin, of course. There are some VERY annoying disadvantages that come with being a foreigner here too. I'll get into that next time.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Perception

This post by Kataroma reminded me of a post I've been meaning to write, so here goes.
A friend of a friend was visiting from the US and was asking us general questions about Rome. He was very shocked to hear about the high cost of living and the low wages- and who wouldn't be?! I came to the conclusion that Rome, and perhaps Italy in general, is paradise for refugees and the rich. For refugees- even the measly money they make here is better than what they'd make back in their home countries, so they probably consider themselves "lucky". And the rich... well, they don't have to worry about a thing because they can avoid most of the daily hassles we average people deal with here.

I'm neither a refugee nor a rich person. I, like most American college students, went abroad during my junior year (JYA- say it with me!). I opted for a chintzy program in Rome that allowed me to enroll directly at La Sapienza. I had no desire to be in a foreign country while surrounded by hoards of drunken American students (and pub crawls didn't even exist when I came here!), I just wanted to learn the language and really experience life in Rome. I did- it was an amazing experience and after I graduated college, I decided to come back to Rome and "get it out of my system". And here I am, almost 12 years later... I admit I've been very lucky in Rome, I've had some great jobs, I've met amazing people, and I've made a lovely home for myself. But in the past few years, I've also realize that I don't feel as connected to Rome as I used to. I'm now weighing the pros and cons of staying or leaving.

It's interesting for me to meet people who've recently moved to Rome, I love picking their brains to find out what possessed them to do this. I personally don't think Rome still has that charm it used to have, but apparently newcomers have a different perception.
One of my friends moved here from the US at the age of 34, leaving behind a successful career and a six-figure salary. She came here looking for something more to life, hoping for a fresh, new start. She's been here for 4 years, struggling to make ends meet. And even though she has some complaints about Italy, it seems like she's here to stay. She says she likes the lifestyle, she has no desire to have a high-stress, high-salary job again. This reminds me of a fellow blogger I enjoy reading, who is moving to Italy in search of a new & better life. Different strokes for different folks! I guess it all depends what phase of life you are in and what your perception of Italy is.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

More bureaucracy is never a good "solution"


In the Italian workplace, there is an ugly phenomenon known as "licenziamento in bianco", essentially your employer hands you, the employee, a resignation letter and forces you to sign and date it- thus firing yourself. This is a sneaky way for employers to:
  1. get around the fairly strict regulations against firing someone without a valid reason
  2. get rid of anyone who might be a rabble-rouser or a unionist
  3. avoid paying employee benefits & contributions
Needless to say, it is highly illegal, yet it does happen, apparently rather often... because a law has recently been passed to hinder this practice.
What is this magical law, you ask? WELL.... law # 1695 states that if an employee wishes to quit their job, they must first go to the Ministero del Lavoro and request permission to quit. Yeah, they say you can download the necessary "I want to quit" form online (in my experience, very few Italian public office websites actually work!), fill it out, bring it to the Ministero, and then wait for them to contact you and give you authorization to quit. At that point, you can go to your boss with your resignation letter and say "I quit".
Don't get me wrong, I'm happy the government has addressed this hideous practice of forced resignation BUT gimme a break- is adding more bureaucracy to our lives actually a solution??? Or is it just another pain in the ass that will slow down the entire flow of things? Last summer I quit a job and the thought of having to go through all this ridiculous paperwork is almost enough to make me suck it up and stay at a bad job! And we all know how notoriously slow most of the public offices are, so I can't imagine that this "authorization to quit" would actually be processed in 15 days, as they claim.
Argh, there has got to be a better solution, don't you think?