Ashes to Diamonds, Dust to Dust

17 Jul

Thank you goes out to my dear friend and Italian expat in London, Giulia, of the absolutely MUST-FOLLOW Mondomulia food and photography blog, for sending this one my way for the ol’ blog.

So, if you’ve been hanging around these parts long enough, you know that I love me some tasteless and brilliantly creative Taffo Funeral Services ads.

Witness:

Certified Dead

Don’t Get Stuck With Strange Ashes

Why Cry Twice?

More Fun and Games with Billboards 

This one comes to us via Social Media Epic Fails and my friend Giulia who posted it to my FB wall. I haven’t yet seen it on a billboard around town.

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This one says:

DIAMOND CREMATION

THIS TIME YOUR HUSBAND CAN’T TELL YOU NO

We turn the ashes of your loved ones into diamond.

In collaboration with Algordanza.

[In case you don't quite get the punchline here, the "diamond" this time around is the dead husband. Natch.]

Now, being the savvy Interwebs consumer I am, I figured maybe some clever soul had taken the Taffo creativity bent a little too far, and created this ad as a spoof.

But, no!

It really is a thing, this ashes to diamonds thing.

Seriously. Check out Business Insider’s piece appropriately titled How to Turn Dead People Into Diamonds.

Now, I love making light of Taffo. But all joking aside, complimenti to their ad team, because Lord knows there is not very much exciting creative going on in print advertising in Italy; and believe you me, if I was given an assignment from my creative director to make magic for a funeral services company, you’re damn right I wouldn’t be jumping up and down for joy.

Perhaps people think that Taffo went a *wee* bit too far on this particular ad, because it’s actually making headlines.

Real life, honest-to-God, Il Messaggero headlines, calling it “The Shocking Funeral Service Ad.”

And Corriere della Sera headlines.

Even lil’ tiny Il Gazzettino of Treviso headlines.

I’m not sure if I should be proud or ashamed that in the Messaggero article, Alessandro Taffo cites the fact that this practice has already been going on for a while in the United States.

Well of course it has! Just one more reason for Italians to accuse us of americanate, ie, general ridiculousness in consumer goods, films, and living in general. We love our sparkly ashes on a mantel, yes, indeedy!

Oh, wait. Further investigation reveals that it’s not diamond ashes. It’s like a real, well—diamond.

As in:

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Algordanza/courtesy of Frank Ripka via Business Insider A raw diamond created from human ashes

All I really care about from that article though is that I finally found out who is doing this brilliant creative. Turns out it’s a company called Peyote (which, yes—maybe they even indulge in it for creative inspiration), and two creatives by the names of Alessandro Logrippo and Daniele Campanale, who said, “We wanted to do what we’ve done before, create an ironic and irreverant message.”

Mission accomplished.

Brilliant, boys. I mean it.

I was about to say that they deserve a Clio or an Addy, but come to find out, there’s an Italian advertising awards program called Mediastars, and their certified cremation campaign (a couple of the ones linked above), won three.

Might I add: the untold crappiness of the Mediastars website just goes to show what a dearth of great creative we get over here.

Oh, Taffo. Oh, Peyote. What will you come up with next? I can hardly wait. (I just hope no one dies and/or becomes a diamond in the process.)

About these ads

How to Dress for Summer Court in Sicily

14 Jul

Well, perhaps this isn’t necessarily how to dress, but rather how not to dress.

This gem comes to us this morning from my ex-husband, a lawyer, who had some business this weekend in Sicily.

Posted on the courtroom door of the Tribunale di Marsala:

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It says “DO NOT ENTER IN BERMUDA SHORTS AND FLIP FLOPS”

Oh, Lord. Italy, some days you just make me happy for how silly you are. And, the ubiquity of printed signs from Word will forever remain the hallmark of public offices in Italy. See also: this, which has a delightful plethora of exclamation points to give it that extra stamp of authority.

And don’t try to get away with bikinis in the Marsala court, either. I bet they’d put a Word document up for that too.

 

 

 

Meet my friend Rebecca and Agriturismo Brigolante

29 Jun

I’ve been meaning to share this gorgeous post with y’all for over a month now! But “life” kept getting in the way.

My pal Rebecca, oh she is so wonderful. A true soul sister of mine on so many levels, she is one of the strongest, smartest, and funniest women I know, hands down. And believe me, I’m a tough sell. So it’s with enormous pleasure that I get to share with you today a friend of mine and part of her livelihood.

Rebecca is an American originally from Chicago, and she moved to Assisi in 1993. She’s a talented writer by trade, but also runs an agriturismo (farm stay) in Umbria; specifically, just outside of the undescribably gorgeous town of Assisi, a famous destination for religious pilgrims as it’s the home of St. Francis of—well—Assisi.

The agriturismo property has been in the Italian side of Rebecca’s family, the Bagnoli, for generations and generations. Actually, it was Rebecca and Stefano Bagnoli who restored the land and buildings to convert it into the agriturismo that today is Brigolante.

There is a LOT of history here. The main farmhouses date back to at least the year 1100, and the farm itself is still run by Stefano’s parents Ugo and Emma. This is the quintessential Italian family business, updated for modern times without sacrificing tradition.

A few weeks ago I had the great fortune to go hang out with Rebecca and her family for the weekend. While I (mistakenly) thought I’d be couch surfing, which frankly would have been more than fine by me, I was floored to learn upon arrival that one of the guest apartments was vacant that weekend and so Rebecca was generously “putting me up” in style.

Oh, dear Lord in heaven, I was REBORN, people! Reborn.

You see, when you’re a single, divorced, working mom of three kids (I love to pull this card, I do, but it’s the damn truth), things that previously you would have taken for granted become like gold in your hands.

A hot shower. Until the hot water runs out.

An entire hour of uninterrupted silence.

Being able to use the restroom facilities in your own home, in complete privacy.

These are my guilty pleasures, people.

Therefore, spending a weekend at Brigolante while also enjoying the good company of one of my soul sisters, was utter bliss.

And, because I like to share my bliss, I will now let you in on my weekend. Also because, God knows that Brigolante should not be kept a secret. Should you be visiting Italy, it’s only an hour train ride from Rome.

Wanna come on a tour? Come on!

Up those stairs was my front door. Swoon.

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Now let’s look down from my front door. This property is super photogenic from all angles.

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Oh my gosh! I had a bedroom, a living room, a little kitchen area, a BATHTUB… heaven… the furnishings are gorgeous and hand-restored.

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I got a gin + tonic and/or (ok, it was and) vodka with a twist aperitivo. I’m a special guest, you see. A woman after my own heart. [does happy dance]

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And, the flowers! Rebecca’s 12-year-old son is the gardener responsible for the potted flowers. Amazing.

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And then there were roses that were so … doing their gorgeous rose thing.

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Did I mention that this property is photogenic? Because it is.

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See how photogenic? Look at these here lovelies:

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I told you it was a working farm:

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Paths that lead to places are one of my favorite things to photograph:

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I could have sat on these deck chairs all day:

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Wait, I sort of did, actually:

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Ever wondered what an Umbrian Kenmore dryer looks like? Wonder no more:

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Ever wondered how an American on an Umbrian farm gets her mail? Well, in a U.S. Mail mailbox, of course:

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Rebecca brought this over from the States two decades ago. She says that the local postman does actually use it to deliver her mail. However, since he didn’t know how the flag worked (it’s by now long gone, but it used to still be on the box), he’d actually raise the flag when he put mail in, rather than vice-versa which is how the U.S. mailbox actually works (you put the flag up to let the mailman know that there’s mail to take out). Oh, Italy, I love you, I really do.

Now, you know that Rebecca got into tourist mode to show me why Umbria is known as the green heart of Italy. Umbria has some of the best patchwork quilt views in all of Italy, IMHO:

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Rocca Maggiore, the fortress above Assisi:

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And then, Assisi. Oh, Assisi, you’re so pretty.

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And you know I told Rebecca that I wanted a romantic candlelight dinner for two. And so it was. We drove to the quaint little town of Montefalco, famous for its namesake red wine, and had un tavolo per due at Enoteca L’Alchimista. Oh, so amazing. (I know, I keep saying amazing.)

My date had the cheese plate as a starter. To die for.

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I asked for a plate of torta al testo because this Umbrian flatbread can’t be found in Rome:

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And I kid you not when I tell you that this filet mignon was hands-down one of the best steaks, if not the best steak, I’ve ever eaten in Italy. That’s saying a lot because generally speaking, coming from the US tradition of steak, I’ve found it sort of hard to find good matches here in Italy to what I’m used to back home. This was up to the task. It was accompanied by three different kinds of salt (see the little containers in the upper left):

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There is something so incredibly seductive and inexplicable about a steak that stands on its own without need for any sauces. Yes. Steak can be seductive, and inexplicable. In my world, this is possible.

Before you think that I washed it down with Montefalco Rosso, I decided to employ the poetry of the swerve. The enoteca had a great list of artisanal beers, so I went with this:

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This is Santachiara, one of the lighter beers produced by Birrificio Artigianale di Montefalco (formerly Birra Camiano). My intention was to drink this with my appetizer and then go to a more full-bodied beer with the steak, but I stuck with just this one. It was lovely. Unfiltered and unpasteurized, fermented in the bottle. I can’t find a website for them, but here’s a video from Eurochocolate 2013, the international chocolate festival held in Perugia every year. Perugia is famous for chocolate (natch) but here the owner of the Birrificio Artigianale talks about how Umbria is also becoming a sort of hotbed for artisanal microbreweries, and on the occasion of the Eurochocolate fest, he produced a special chocolate beer in addition to their four regular beers.

And then, of course, I paired all that with more grilled vegetables. Love, love, love.

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But lest I become too healthy in my food choices, I also chose the oozing warm chocolate volcano cake. (They don’t actually call it that. I do.)

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And so, folks, there you have it. The picture-perfect weekend. It was made even more delightful by an entire Sunday spent in the company of the missing link in this trinity of friendship, a family I love to pieces, the Martinez-Brenners, who run The Beehive in Rome and Cross Pollinate.

Kids happily jumping on a trampoline while the moms gab? Yes, heaven exists, trust me on this one: it really does.

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Moral of this story? When in Italy, get thee to Umbria, Brigolante, Enoteca L’Alchimista, and vast emerald green expanses of sheer joy.

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Deca: A writer’s cooperative with one of Rome’s own

18 Jun

I am very, very excited to share this with you. Honored to have as one of my readers and friends the exceptionally great journalist Stephan Faris, who, by way of introduction in his own words: “Since April 2001, I have written from Africa, the Middle East, China and Europe for publications including Bloomberg Businessweek, Time Magazine, and The Atlantic Magazine. I have written about war in Iraq, refugees in Darfur, and Internet censorship in China, and the Eurozone crisis across the continent.” Currently we are lucky to have him based in Rome as a contributor to a variety of world-class publications.

Seriously, folks, Stephan’s reporting and writing is amazing. Literally the only reason I have a subscription to TIME is because I wanted to finish reading one of his pieces there (they only let you get so far without a subscription, just when you’re hooked). And, trust me when I say that I was totally unbiased at the time, because it was even before he and I met through mutual acquaintances and realized that we appreciated each other’s writing. But hell, don’t take my word for it; check out some of my favorites and judge for yourself:

And now, drumroll please…

Stephan and eight of his award-winning journalist colleagues have banded together to form Deca, a global writer’s cooperative, as a vehicle for reporting and writing long-form stories. Long-form, sometimes known as creative nonfiction or narrative journalism, brings forth in-depth stories that are longer than a traditional article but shorter than a full-length book.

Check out their introductory video:

Introducing Deca from Deca on Vimeo.

The exciting news is that in LESS THAN FOUR DAYS, the group reached their initial Kickstarter goal of raising $15,000 to cover the costs of reporting and producing their monthly stories.

The even more exciting news is that they still have over twenty days to continue gathering contributions to fund their project, bringing us examples of what high caliber writers can do when they’re working at the very top of their game from an innovative, collaborative model.

Just $10 gets you a subscription to their first three stories, while a contribution of $350+ is like purchasing a master class in journalism, where you can edit and work side-by-side with the writers. Aspiring journalists and accomplished writers alike should jump at this chance. The campaign is receiving such a warm reception that some of the incentives to work with the writers have “sold out,” which prompted them to add additional spots.

Understandably, Deca is getting a lot of press:

Together with Marc Herman, another Deca co-founder, Stephan spoke at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy, last month. You can view their talk here:

The only question I still have is whether or not long-form is hyphenated? (Clearly, my intuitive choice favors the hyphen. But, you see, personally I’d even hyphenate non-fiction if I could get away with it.)

I should just sign up for an editing gig with the Deca team to get the insider’s guide on journalistic style.

Actually, if we want to use most venerable The New York Times as our guide, we can go with Jonathan Mahler’s style in When Long-Form is Bad Form (hyphen!), where he finishes by saying:

What, then, is the function — the purpose — of “long-form”? To allow a writer to delve into the true complexities of a story, and also to bring readers closer to the experience of other people. Whether a long-form story is published in a magazine or on the web, its goal should be to understand and illuminate its subject, and maybe even use that subject to (subtly) explore some larger, more universal truths. Above all, that requires empathy, the real hallmark of great immersive journalism.

So now, please: run—don’t walk—to subscribe. Incredible, mind-blowing, memorable storytelling awaits. And, as Stephan recently noted, “I defy you to find a cuter editorial process than how we do things at Deca.”

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Knitting Shops in Rome: Vanità di Filati

12 Jun

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That’s one of my baby girls there in purple checking out the yarn.

I made a lovely new discovery yesterday in my on-going catalog of yarn stores here in Rome.

This one is in my very own neighborhood so my joy knows no bounds. I made friends with the owner and I am in LOVE, LOVE, LOVE with this store.

The store is well-stocked, the owners themselves have the projects they’re working on out on the counter (one of my “go-to” checkpoints when deciding whether a knitting store is legit or not—do the owners knit? Will they be able to help me with a thorny question if I need it?), and there is a range of accessories and supplies in addition to the many balls of yarn (i.e., wide wide selection of buttons, needles, etc.) Ah, one-stop-shopping!

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I went on Yelp to do a review of this place and discovered another American girl living in Rome had given it a terrible one-star review. I had an absolutely different experience. So, who knows. Let me say this: if you tell them that “Un’americana a Roma” sent you, I feel fairly confident that they’ll treat you nicely. I mean, they were nothing but spectacularly kind and helpful with me.

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The owners are Patrizia (pictured) and Maria. Both of them alternatively asked me what project I was buying for, and how they could help me find what I needed. They had an excellent range of colors and let me touch all the different yarns without any weirdness which can sometimes occur here in Rome. (Yarn shopping can sometimes feel akin to fruit shopping at the market: look but don’t touch. Which, as any knitter will tell you, is totally counterintuitive and goes against our very grain!) Patrizia has most of her yarn out in cubbies and when I said how awesome that was, because it allows the customer to get up close and examine the yarns, she just smiled. So it wasn’t like “Oh you’re not supposed to touch it.”

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Anyhoo, folks, this place gets my enthusiastic two thumbs up. I already started my project (thank you Ravelry and Audrey Wilson at The Design Studio) and I can’t wait to have another one to go back.

Getting here is a bit out of the way, especially if you’re on holiday and staying in the center. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible, by any means. It’s just not walking distance. You can either take the Metro B Line to Basilica di San Paolo and then walk from there or take bus 769 or 766 to Via Aristide Leonori and walk from there (5 mins). Or, from the center take bus 714 (depot at Termini) to Cristoforo Colombo/Vedana and walk from there (5 mins).

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It’s approved by twin four-year-old Roman American girls. So, you know, that’s an endorsement you can trust.

Vanità di Filati – Il Fiocco di Maria e Patrizia

Via della Badia di Cava 88
00142 Roma

Tel: 06/5409883

Meet Rick Zullo of Rick’s Rome

30 May

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Today I’m pleased to introduce you to a friend and fellow blogger who I’ve been following for more than a year now, and just recently had the pleasure of finally meeting in person.

Rick Zullo is an American expat who moved to Rome in 2010 (more on his love story with a gorgeous Italian goddess in a new post from this week). I became aware of Rick when he began sharing insightful comments on my blog posts. He and I relate on a lot of levels, especially as we both blog generally about life and culture here in Rome as our main topic, and the cultural oddities, delights, and differences we continue to discover through our lives here.

Recently (in March) I was hired as the social media manager for an absolutely amazing walking tour company here in Rome called Through Eternity. They created this position due to the changing economy and the need for keeping up with their clients and prospective clients online. Needless to say, I am LOVING my new job and all the opportunities it’s giving me to connect with people locally and abroad, to share and trade knowledge about Rome and passion for this country.

[Shameless plug alert: I'd be thrilled if you'd visit Through Eternity's Facebook page by clicking here, and "Like" the page. We're also on Twitter @througheternity and I write all the blog posts over at the blog--in fact why not just go all in and subscribe right now? *bowing down in gratitude* <end of promotional message>]

So part of my job with Through Eternity is finding ways to generate online buzz and share information, stories, and experiences regarding our tours. Fun, right? When I thought about someone I’d really like to have review our tours, I immediately thought of Rick. I contacted him to see if he’d be interested in trying out one of our more unique and lesser-known tours, called Love and Death: Scandals Off the Beaten Path. Rick was enthusiastic to participate, and in fact, he wrote about his experience here: Playing Tourist in Rome.

Rick is a real asset to our blogger community here in Rome. So I wanted to share his site with you, and I also asked him a few questions that I’ll share here! Enjoy!

But, before I do that, here’s the requisite selfie from our recent coffee meet-up at the bar in front of the Palladium Theatre in Garbatella:

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Now, before you go all nuts on me about the fact that I cut off his head, allow me to share with you that our friend Rick here is SIX FOOT FOUR INCHES and so — there. I am nearly 5’11” and totally bad at the selfie phenomenon. And, he and I are extremely low maintenance in that this was our first take. So, anyhoo. You just have to imagine the top of his head here, -k-?

Take it away, Mr. Zullo!

SR: You mention on your “about” page that when you made your way to Rome on your extended vacation/sabbatical, you fell in love with the city on the first night. What was it about Rome that captured you so completely, right from the start?

RZ: That first night….it was late June, the weather was perfect, and I was down on the Isola for an aperitivo at sunset, surrounded by all of Rome’s stunning sites, the old stone, the trees lining the Lungotevere, St. Peter’s dome in the distance.  The Romans were all having so much fun, it seemed, with their fancy shoes, Campari cocktails, and animated conversation…I wanted to be part of it. Part of the city, its culture, its history.  Wow, looking back…how naive!  Of course, this was long before my first trip to the post office or transportation strike!!

SR: But it’s true. Rome is so romantic at first. That was my experience as well. I think back on that time and the phrase “Ignorance is bliss” comes to mind. Obviously had I known how difficult the day-to-day life can be in this city, it probably would have scared me away. But then again, who knows; after all, I’m still here! So, let’s talk about Italian. Did you know Italian before you came to Italy? What was your experience of learning Italian like? What advice do you have to those studying Italian?

RZ: I knew a little Italian through a course I took at the university and self-study with a software program.  It helped me order a panino, but was useless for conversation. The only way to become somewhat fluent is full immersion.  And you need several forms of input: magazines, movies, vocabulary lists, flash cards, and of course LOTS of conversation.  But sooner or later, you still have to study the grammar, too.

SR: At least you could order a panino! I touched down in Rome in 2001 after nearly 3 years of classroom study and my first task in “real life” Italian was exactly that, order a panino at a bar. I ended up panicking, I clammed up and just pointed. I felt like an idiot. But that’s part of learning a foreign language; it really forces you to loosen up and you can’t be a perfectionist. What has been the hardest part or the hardest things about living in Rome, and what has been the most enjoyable or rewarding part or things?

RZ: The hardest part for me is the bureaucracy.  Nobody understands it, least of all the people whose job it is to do so.  Months can be wasted spinning around in frustrating bureaucratic circles.  So then maybe, ironically, that’s also been the most rewarding part.  Since it’s so impenetrable, you feel like you’ve defeated Goliath once you finally get your first Permesso.

SR: I totally agree. I often say that life in Rome is like living in a video game. You’re always trying to get to the “next level” and defeat the “big boss,” like some dragon throwing fireballs at you, with regards to bureaucracy! How has living in Rome changed you as a person?

RZ: I think it has “woken me up” and made me more conscious and deliberate in my daily life.  Maybe it’s not Rome specifically, but the expat experience that does that to you.  Back in the US there’s always this sense of just “going through the motions.”  Everything is so easy and predictable.  You can’t do that in Rome, because the situation is always changing and you have to learn the art of  how to arrangiarsi.

SR: Yes, arrangiarsi—that idea of having to “make do” or find a solution where there logically doesn’t seem to be one. That is a good description of life around here. In fact when you look it up in Google there are even definitions like “manage,” and “do the best one can.” So, in closing, where can people follow you online?

RZ: Oh, I’m all over the place, but I prefer to connect through my blog at rickzullo.com, or on Facebook or Twitter.  I’m also on Linked-InGoogle Plus, and recently I started Instagram.

SR: Just curious, with all these online outlets: what do you think is your most important or valuable contribution to the wide world of expat blogs and sites about life in Italy? 

RZ: People seem to appreciate my advice on the Permesso di Soggiorno.  If you ask me though, my most valuable contribution is my explanation of the bidet as a cultural phenomenon in Italy!

SR: Ah yes, the elusive bidet. I had to ask my female flatmates how to use it when I first came here. I have the requisite “bidet post” too. It was inspired by the fact that I saw in the pharmacy that they were selling special bidet soap targeted specifically for 3-12 year olds. That cracked me up. So, what do you have planned for the near future of your blog and for your community of readers? What resources do you already have available for your readers and for people who are just discovering your site?

RZ: In addition to my blog articles, I also have a few eBooks available.  There are two mini-guides that I offer for free on my blog.  One is a semi-serious guide on how to “Dress Like an Italian.”  The other one is an excellent guide for restaurants in Italy.  It’s excellent because I only edited it…the writers are actual foodie experts who offered their suggestions for my little book.  Then I also have a few books available on Amazon, including a guide to help folks who want to teach English in Italy.

For the future, I’d like to keep the blog going, but perhaps add another element such as a podcast.  I’ve still got a lot to say about Italy and the audio format would be a fun way to explore that…perhaps with a partner…Shelley?

SR: Yes! I would love to do that! I’ve been wanting to incorporate audio and video into my content for ages, but I would definitely need a partner in crime. I think we’d make a great team. Thanks, Rick!

So, there you have it folks. As always, I have too many plans and too little time. Stay tuned!

The Fall of Roman Civilization

28 Apr

I’ve been wanting to tackle this issue for quite some time, not really sure how to go about it. Last Wednesday, I took my annual birthday trip to see my best friend in Amsterdam, and as I left my neighborhood, this is what was happening, just a block from my son’s elementary school:

If those scenes of an urban war zone aren’t bad enough on their own, then this video shows the violence that later erupted, when riot police started beating activists with batons.

The police vans, first 5, then upwards of 10, came out on April 16 to remove squatters who had broken into and illegally occupied an empty government building nine days prior. My neighborhood is generally unknown to most, as it is well out of the historic center, and yet it took center stage last week as the violence broke out. By the time I had landed in Amsterdam, I had 56 messages on my phone from the mom’s group on Whatsapp that is usually used for asking questions about what homework pages have been assigned. This time it was filled with anxiety-ridden exchanges from moms deciding whether or not to take their kids out of school early, should the situation escalate. Luckily, it didn’t affect the nearby businesses or schools, other than the road blocks and general commotion. Once the squatters were removed, however, they MOVED IN to the MUNICIPAL building across the street and next door to the elementary school.

I was told that this was a move by the municipal president (Municipio VIII, ex-XI) who was hosting them. I haven’t researched that. It’s irrelevant now, because the squatters then moved to an abandoned building in nearby via di Tor Carbone once the municipal offices had to open back up to the public on April 23. According to this article from La Repubblica Roma online, there were about 200 families in all.

Two days prior to the police raid, I took the photo below and posted it on Twitter. In retrospect, it’s embarrassing to me to think that I sent out a plea to Rome’s mayor via social media. In fact, Marino has been battling with the AMA (waste collection company) problems for a while now, especially brutal during the holidays, when a photo of a pig eating garbage in the Boccea neighborhood (inside the ring road, not in the middle of nowhere) showed unequivocally just how bad the situation had become. But you see, the question is, who in the world can citizens turn to when their city is becoming a toxic waste zone and seems to be quickly sliding more and more into total chaos?

As those of you who follow my blog know, I truly love this city, and in my writing I do my best to try to make light of the difficult situations around here. But lately, even I am reaching my limit. I thought maybe I was just imagining things, or having a particularly difficult “culture shock” coming back after a week in Amsterdam, where things are so civilized, but it’s not just me.

This article by Der Spiegel‘s Walter Mayr is absolutely, positively, a must-read for anyone who cares about Rome at all. It’s excellently written and covers this topic from a number of perspectives.

Mayr’s piece also helped me to understand the person behind one of the sites that I have been wondering about for quite some time now: Roma Fa Schifo, translated loosely as “Rome Sucks.” The blog, founded in 2008, is a hub for sharing everything that is filthy, corrupt, and shameful about daily life in Rome. The corresponding Facebook page has a following of nearly 34,000 at the time of writing.

I’ve had mixed feelings about Roma Fa Schifo for some time, because I thought it was simply another way to collectively complain about this city. But after reading Mr. Mayr’s article, I came away with the understanding that the blogger behind the page, 35-year-old Massimiliano Tonelli, is aiming to create awareness as a catalyst for change. Tonelli manages another blog called Cartellopoli, which documents the illegal sign-posting that goes on and creates untold mountains of litter throughout the city.

A bit more research on Tonelli revealed this recent interview with the free daily Leggo, in which he describes a new type of citizen referred to as “Roman 2.0,” a social activist who documents the problems of the city online. In fact, Mayr’s article says that Mayor Ignazio Marino keeps a file of certain posts from Roma Fa Schifo, so in that sense it certainly is working as a vehicle for awareness.

The Roma Fa Schifo blog inspired a bit of an online movement that’s sprung up in recent years, with a network of sites loosely known as the “Coordination of Anti-Deterioration Blogs.” These sites, such as Degrado Esquilino and Riprendiamoci Roma (Let’s Take Back Rome), document the current deterioration of Rome.

The question Mayr poses in his article: “Can a New Mayor Stop the City’s Decline?” is left unanswered. He mentions that Marino bikes to work, and Marino himself explains that his personal wealth and outsider status (he’s not a Rome native) mean that he can make unpopular decisions.

Perhaps it’s true what Marino, a surgeon by trade, says in the article: “Removing the abscess is the easiest part. After that you need to get everything patched up and then get the organism going again. I was left with a city full of potholes, a school system that is falling apart and poverty that is rising dramatically. Add to that €14 billion in existing debt, some of which is still left over from Rome’s preparations for hosting the Summer Olympic Games in 1960.”

Rome is not in a good way right now. As much as I try to show this city in its most positive light, the fact of the matter is that things are definitely going downhill, as far as I see it, especially when I have to walk my 6-year-old son past riot police to take him to his 1st grade classroom. I’m not complaining or trying to play the victim, but I’m starting to seriously question what kind of activism a citizen of this city can take part in, to try to make a system that is so profoundly broken, get up and working again. We are lucky to have a tourism economy that keeps things moving, and tourists who continue to come and enjoy the open-air museum that is the Eternal City. But for those of us who choose to live here for any length of time, the situation continues to become more trying. As Mayr says in his article, “Seasoned Romans are heroic when it comes to getting through daily life,” and as he quotes 91-year-old Roman novelist Raffaelle La Capria, “We’re all disappointed and a little depressed to see Italy’s decline before our very eyes.”

Indeed.