Italian Culture (as seen through an amusing Italian video)

Ciao Readers!

Well, I think I am about done showing you around Paris and Amsterdam (for this trip).  So, it’s back to Italy we go.  I have been trying to find a way to humorously explain how aggravated I felt at coming back into Italy and again having to fight for my life getting on and off the train, breathing in all of the smoke (in Paris there are no smoking signs on the platforms and I saw them being enforced!) and just feeling all around less civilized than I had in Paris and Amsterdam.

At the same time, I have also been trying to find a way to incorporate this very funny video (produced by an Italian) which explores exactly these issues.  So, instead of listening to me being grumpy, I share with you a very funny look at “Italy v. Europe” (and I agree with all of it except the coffee part).  It’s worth the few minutes, really!  Enjoy….

Have a great weekend!

To Everything There is a Season

Ciao Readers! (and Happy [early] Birthday Pop!)

The title of this blog refers not to the 1965 hit by the Byrds (originally done by Pete Seeger in 1962 and taken almost verbatim from the book of Ecclesiastes, later to be quoted by Kevin Bacon in “Footloose”), but to how everything here runs by the calender.  And I mean everything – what you wear, what you eat, whether or not you’re allowed to turn on your radiator and whether or not you can find mosquito repellent in the stores.  Let me explain…

I suppose before moving here I had the vague idea that people in Europe eat more seasonally than most folks in the U.S.  But I don’t think I really appreciated the full extent of that idea.  I always notice here that what I can buy at the market directly relates to what’s being harvested that week – which is actually pretty cool – this August/September was the first time ever I have bought nothing but sweet/ripe cantaloupes – not a dud in the bunch!  However, I had no idea this principle even applied to the available sweets.  When we first got here and would have our “breakfast” pastries in the park, they never seemed to have chocolate-filled ones, just marmalade.  I was really missing the chocolate-filled ones I remembered from my “breakfasts” in Bologna in March.  I have since learned that Italians think chocolate is bad for you in the summer as it is heavy and will make you hot and unhealthy; chocolate is reserved for the fall/winter (and lo and behold – more varieties of chocolate goodies are starting to appear – yay!).

Now, when it comes to food, I think this seasonal perspective makes sense.  But I’m a little less convinced when it comes to other areas of life (less convinced = more spoiled).  For instance, the calender dictates what home supplies you can buy in the stores.  When we first got here in August we bought a trial screen for one of our windows (not knowing if it would fit and serve the purpose of keeping our cat from jumping 4 floors).  We decided we wanted to buy more for the rest of our windows, so when we had the rental car for Greenday the first weekend of September, we drove back to the OBI (Home-Depot “light”).  There were no screens to be found.  As the employee explained to me, it was past August 31 and they were no longer on sale.  Not fully understanding what he meant, I asked when there would be more in, to which he replied “next summer.”  That was the dawning of the realization that you can only buy certain things here at certain times.   I had also been meaning to buy a second oscillating fan for the guest bedroom (should we finally get some guests, hint hint)…

As I surmised at that point, there were no more fans to be had.  It didn’t matter that the temperatures were still reaching into the 90’s – it was September and that was that!   The same held true for mosquito repellent (fyi, mosquitoes are onomatopoeicaly called “zanzare” in Italian – love saying that word).  While all of the mosquito repelling supplies were taken off the store shelves, no one bothered to tell the mosquitoes they don’t exist after October 1st (they’re really bad here, and their calenders are set for sometime in the future).  And then there’s the way people are dressed – it went from mini skirts and 0pen-toed shoes to winter coats and scarves almost overnight – with no transition in between and (from my perspective) a disregard for the actual weather conditions outside.  But I can tell the feeling is mutual – I can’t tell you how many weird looks I get when I go out for my morning run (still in short sleeves – crazy stranieri!).

Today the owners came over to show us how to turn on the gas/water radiator system (it’s amazing how idiot-like we are about some things here).  Lucky for us we don’t really like heat or we may have wanted it turned on before November 1st (which we just learned is the official day the CITY will LET you turn on the heat!).   Oh, no, I forgot to ask the exact date that we need to shut it off….

Until next time!

Someone is happy it’s radiator season:

Sure, Park There! (A photo anthology)

Ciao Readers!

In light of the upcoming election in the U.S., I had two choices – write about the surreal experience of voting and watching the election from abroad (for the second time; in 2008 we were in France), or post a total “fluff” piece.  As any good party host knows, you should always stay away from politics and religion, so I chose the latter!

In Friday’s blog I made the following statement: “…we have learned that street signs, signals, barriers, etc. don’t mean much here (one day I’ll have to post a photo of the cars parked all over the street downstairs).”  Right after I wrote that, I thought “good idea,” and leaned out a window with a camera.   I also shot a few pictures of cars parked in and around Piazza Beccaria (the end of the main street in the neighborhood).  The thing to keep in mind as you see the photos of cars literally parked in the street, behind other cars, and in front of clearly marked “no parking” signs is that it took NO effort to take these photos – I didn’t have to wait for the shots – this is how people park ALL THE TIME.

Happy Election!

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