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Bathing Suit Season in Italy 2016 Edition

14 Jun

Italy is currently in the throes of patriotic passion for the Azzurri, its national soccer team, in the UEFA Euro 2016 championship. How do I know this?

  1. I don’t watch TV. But I can tell you when a match is being played and when a goal is scored by Italy or against Italy just by keeping a silent house, because no one is on the streets during a match and the screams from the fans inside every apartment easily penetrate my building’s foot-thick walls and closed windows.
  2. There are commemorative beer bottles.

Witness Exhibit 1: the current Birra Moretti labels.


Now, before you mistakenly assume, like I did, that this is simply an ill-thought-out tribute to permy-haired soccer stars of the Disco Age, let me first show you what Mr. Moretti of aforementioned beer looks like, and then I’ll show you the necks of these here bottles.

Exhibit 2: Signore Moretti


Exhibit 3: Bottlenecks


Yes, you read that right. It says “Champions with a Mustache.” Special Edition 2016.

Allow me an aside here, will you? I am very much over the mustache trend. I was over it before it even got started. I don’t find it cute or amusing, or even comprehensible, for that matter. You see, once my tattoo artist went off on people who ask for a mustache tattoo “because they have no idea what it really means” and then I forced him to tell me despite his fear of sullying my delicate sensibilities—well folks, that pretty much did it for me on the whole mustache trend.

Babies do not need to be wearing mustachioed onesies. Just trust me on this one.


Look away! Look away! Nothing to see here! Wrong on so many levels.

But as usual, I digress. What do birra and baffi have to do with bathing suit season, you ask?

Nothing, really. Except UEFA 2016 soccer season provides a lead-in to another important season that is already upon us in Italy as well: the season of the prova costume.

The prova costume in Italy is an all-consuming thing. It translates basically to trying on the bathing suit, and whispers of it begin around, say, April or so.

But the real proof that the prova costume is imminent comes from Italian pharmacy windows.

Before we begin, I want to give you my cultural reference baseline. I Googled “Walgreens advertising” to get a taste of what the US’s largest drug retailing chain is trying to hawk to its customers.


A brief perusal gives us Dr. Oz flexing his probably Photoshopped bicep to encourage flu shots, a smiling pair of senior citizens happy for their 20% discount, and a kid nose-blowing into a tissue. Yep, standard-issue pharmacy stuff.

Now, let’s shift our attention to Italian pharmacy windows in recent weeks to help us get ready for the all-important—nay, hallowed—season of exposing bare flesh at the beach.

20160603_103056 (1).jpg

In our first example, from the fine folks at Somatoline (who featured prominently in our 2014 edition) it would appear that technology has come a long way baby. As the box promises, this “Use & Go Slimming Spray” is not only effective and easy to use, but also absorbs quickly. Hence the tagline: Somatoline Cosmetic. It works.

Welp, you won’t catch me spending €39 or the low, low discounted price of €31.20 to test that claim, but enquiring minds want to know: how, pray tell, does a spray slim? And you can bet your bottom dollar, I’m using slim as a verb here.

Further research on the shiny corporate webpage says it works in 4 weeks asterisk.

It also says it’s the first-ever slimming spray double asterisk.

Let’s delve further, shall we?

Ah, yes. The exclusive formula. You knew there was an exclusive formula, right? There’s always an exclusive formula with Latin-y or space-age sounding words sprinkled with hyphens or missing appropriate spaces or that have an X, with a TM or an R tagged at the end. And Somatoline, at least in this regard, doesn’t disappoint!



Let’s skip over what it says it actually does (which when translated into non pseudo-science speak basically comes down to some dubious claims about helping you lose water weight) and get right to the good stuff. What the hell is ReduxExpress-ComplexTM actually made of, anyways?


Don’t be overwhelmed. I’m going to break this down real easy-like for you.

  1. Caffeine. Aww, that’s cute. Because you know, the espresso at the bar only costs 80 cents. Wait! What if I spray the espresso on my cellulite? Are you following me here? (I’m fairly certain this must have been what the inventor of Post-its or Scotch tape felt like.)
  2. Carrier molecule. Um. That’s a bit sketch. It says it helps you absorb the active ingredients.
  3. Decapeptide. Christ. A Google search revealed that this is used to treat vitiligo. You know vitiligo. Sure you do. It’s that skin disease Michael Jackson had. Now, I know you must be thinking the same thing I am thinking here: slimming spray ingredient in reference/link to Michael Jackson can only mean one thing…michael-jackson-plastic-surgery-before-after
  4. Trimethyl what? This ingredient looks like supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. But I looked it up. Yes, indeedy. It is Trimethylcyclohexyl Butylcarbamate and is present in a bunch of fat-loss—ahem, slimming—creams. One advertised that it will help you “loose weight.” So this is promising, yes?
  5. Not even bothering with this. Pink peppercorn extract.
  6. Aescin. An anti-inflammatory. So this spray is as good for your arthritic grammy as it is for your pesky flab.
  7. Ginger. (“Stimulates cutaneous microcirculation.”)
  8. Dermochlorella. Basically an algae extract that they claim has firming properties.
  9. Ethyl Nicotinate and Menthyl Lactate. For that cooling feeling. I’m sure this is how customers know it’s working.

Spray away, my friends.

But wait—there’s more!

The one-month pill to skinny:

20160603_103227 (1).jpg

And the “light leg” creams for “heavy legs”:


Your local Italian pharmacy is a veritable children’s candy store of remedies for fat that don’t involve diet or exercise.

Oh, wait. The asterisks. Just FYI and all. It’s a spray that, during use, provides “cosmetic remodeling”, but not weight loss.

But you knew that already, didn’t you?

And so, until next year’s edition, as I now have to get going on the patent application for my coffee vaporizing mist. Don’t even try to beat me to it. I’ll spray the slimming mist in your eyes.

Rome Mayoral Elections 2016

11 May sondaggi-roma-1


Lest you think only the United States is experiencing electoral fever, allow me to draw your attention to the Eternal City and our local elections set for June.

And yes, spoiler alert: Berlusconi figures here, too. (I agree that he should be wiling away his twilight hours making arts and crafts in a nursing home, but alas, this is Italy, and so…)

You know, folks, I’ve always managed to be blissfully ignorant about politics here in Italy. I come from the land of two political parties, with a few outliers. Italy, on the other hand, at last count had no fewer than 31, in this list from the aptly named “Simple Politics” website. But the venerable financial journal Il Sole 24 Ore named 62 of them here in a list of balance sheets.

So, you know what? Your guess is as good as mine, but, I’m gonna let you in on a little secret I discovered.

Here, come closer. I’ll whisper it in your ear:

only about four of those parties really matter.

I don’t claim to be anywhere near an authority on politics (many Italians will tell you that even they are confounded by their own system), but I will tell you that since the time when I was dragged kicking and screaming out of my political ignorance in my work for Italy’s largest news agency, ANSA, I’ve gotten a slight handle on the situation.

Italy breaks down into left and right, and on those two sides we have two main leaders. Stay with me here.

On the center-left we have Premier Matteo Renzi, who, in addition to being prime minister, is also the head of his own party (I know, the mind boggles).

This will be easy for Americans because that one is called simply the Democratic Party.

I know, right?! A.k.a. PD.


[Permit me an aside, will you? Frankly, I don’t find Matteo Renzi to be an ugly man, but I dare you to find a photo in which he might be considered photogenic. The man never—and I mean never—looks normal. Don’t believe me? I Googled my theory: click here.]

Our PD candidate in Rome is Roberto Giachetti, whose advertising tagline is “Rome goes back to Rome,” which perhaps means it goes back to being Rome, or maybe means it goes back to the people of Rome. If you want my opinion though, and I know you do, someone needs to first off buy this man a damn razor for the love of God.

Honestly. Can I have a mini-rant here? I mean, decide. Either you have a beard, or you don’t, but what you’re doing here is neither one nor the other. If politics is about appearances, it would appear that Giachetti can’t get his shit together enough to even shave, which is concerning in a city where not even the garbage service works.

Exhibit 1:


Exhibit 2:


You get the idea.

Then we have the “anti-establishment” party, which demurs from associating itself as either left or right. They don’t even call themselves a party—they’re a movement. This is all fine and good when you go up against said establishment, but, pause for a moment and ask yourself: What happens when anti-establishment becomes the establishment?

The reason I ask is that the candidate for comedian-slash-movement leader Beppe Grillo’s 5-Star Movement (M5S) is actually leading the pack in the Rome mayoral election, and what’s more, she’s a woman. If elected, Virginia Raggi would be Rome’s first female mayor in history. [Can I get a woot woot in the house?]

I have nothing to say about Raggi. No snide comments, no quippy asides. If I could vote—and I can’t, because it takes years and years to get citizenship paperwork processed and I’m lazy—welp, I’d vote for her. She’s a 38-year-old lawyer and former city councillor who wants to make people pay to ride the bus and who wants to get our garbage picked up. She also opposes hosting the Olympics in Rome (because she feels aforementioned waste management is more important to the city’s residents). What more do you want?


Oh, and by the way? Have you ever wondered why they are five stars, and what they represent? Of course you haven’t. But I have, and I’m here to share a little acronym provided courtesy of a former M5S municipal councillor, Vincenzo Agnusdei, who says you can easily remember the meaning of the five stars with the acronym TASCA, which means pocket in Italian. T=trasporto (transport); A=acqua (water); S=sviluppo (development); C=connettività (connectivity); A=ambiente (environment).

But he was a councillor back in 2011, and from my online stalking it now appears he lives in Berlin, Germany, so, add a grain or two of salt to that recipe.

Meanwhile, I promised you some Berlusconi. Oh, Berlusconi. Sigh. When are you just going to pack it in and ride off into the sunset?

But, not yet.

Berlusconi is no longer the leader of the center-right. That dubious honor now falls on the shoulders of a 43-year-old Milanese named Matteo Salvini, who not only leads the “we invented our own fantasyland in northern Italy called Padania and we want to secede from the rest of Italy” Northern League, but also serves in the European Parliament. And who The Huffington Post reports has a new website called The Populist with a Sex & Trash category that titled one of its posts “Young Pakistani women: Allah doesn’t let us fu..” 


And if you read Italian, read that first comment because it’s a gem. Domenico Di Luzio, TVB.

Salvini backs our far-right Rome mayoral candidate, who also happens to be a woman, with an even further-right party than perhaps even Lega Nord, called Brothers of Italy. (Which begs the question: How can a woman lead a party called Brothers of Italy? Amiright?)

If we want to stay on the Sex & Trash track, as Salvini always does, then let’s just translate his candidate’s name into English and call her Giorgia Melons. Ms. Melons got a lot of press when her former challenger Guido Bertolaso (we’ll get to him and Berlusconi in a moment, I promise) said in March that she shouldn’t run for mayor because she’s pregnant and “it’s obvious to everyone that a mom can’t dedicate herself to a terrible job (as mayor of Rome). Being mayor of Rome means being out and about and in the office for 14 hours a day.”

So there’s that.

But then, you see, Bertolaso was Berlusconi’s choice with “unconditional support” until, well, until he wasn’t anymore. Hmm.

Berlusca first launched former civil protection chief Bertolaso, who is on trial for manslaughter in connection with the 2009 earthquake in L’Aquila–oopsies!–while wearing MIB-style dark glasses. Don’t ask. You can’t handle the truth.


Find the dirty old man in this picture.

But then a bunch of stuff happened and some meetings happened and people were like OHMYGODYOUCAN’TSUPPORTSOMEONEONTRIALFORMANSLAUGHTER and he, Mr. MIB himself, switched his “unconditional support” over to Marchini. At which point Bertolaso poof! like magic disappeared from the race.

Who’s Marchini, you ask? Affectionately known as ARfio to the Romans (because in local dialect sometimes Ls morph into Rs, you know), he’s a non-party-affiliated civic-listing Rome-lover. He just puts hearts all over his campaign posters and says how much he loves Rome and how he’s non-party-affiliated so he is “FREE” to do whatever, which is somehow supposed to be very reassuring to the populace of Rome.

His campaign slogan is: “I love Rome, and you?”


He’s run before. He’s sort of like the Energizer Bunny of Rome mayoral candidates. He just keeps on going, and going, and going.

It’s just good times with Marchini, because he’s our sort of flashy glamour candidate, and he’s been nicknamed “Il Bello” by locals (the good-looking one).

Exhibit 1:


Wait, WTF?

Exhibit 2:


He plays polo! With funky yellow eyeguard/sunglass things!


He water skis! He kicks up waves! Maybe it’s not even him but the flowing mass of hair in the ocean breeze sure makes it look like!

And if by chance you read Italian, then please don’t hesitate to visit his Facebook page: Arfio Marchini.

Ok, ok, that’s a spoof page, and that’s where I found the jet-ski photo, and, it’s brilliant.

Roma Ti Amo.

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.


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.


This one says:



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:


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.)

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:



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.




Christmas Gifts for Your Almost-Dead Loved Ones

5 Jan

All wrapped up, under the tree.

This from a dear reader and friend of mine. Love when my readers send me stuff.


It reads:
For Christmas a gift for your loved ones


Then in the fine print, there’s a list that says, “Offer includes” and tells you all the juicy details about marble, bronze, and other exciting what-not.



Just imagine the look on your loved ones’s faces when you give them the gift that lasts a lifetime.

Um, I mean, well, for all eternity, anyways. Or, the gift that lasts longer than a lifetime.

Yes. I like that one better.

Pushy, Needy Grocery Products

3 Jan

Well folks, Happy New Year! I don’t know about y’all, but I am more than ready for this holiday season to be done and buried. Maybe that has something to do with me being stuck blessed with taking care of my three children ages 5 and 3 and 3, for nearly 15 days straight with no help, while my ex-husband gallavants in Mexico with friends and my mother in law vacations in Ischia? Naw, couldn’t be.

Meanwhile, let’s think of happier things, like one of my favorite go-to topics: grocery items. Lest we forget the fiesta of fun that was found in the discount Booby supermarket in Sardegna this summer, let’s explore a growing trend in supermarket branding: the call to action.

The other day, my son, who is just learning to read, says to me, “Hey mamma! Why does the toilet paper say ‘Comprami’?” That’s “buy me” for anyone who doesn’t speak Italian out there. Naturally, my response was, “Um. I guess because they want you to buy it.”


“But mom,” he persisted, as five-year-olds are wont to do, “You needed to buy ROTOLONI!”

Rotoloni, dear readers, are technically “big rolls” but what my son is really referring to is Regina, the brand I normally buy. But you see, “Buy Me” was on sale and very similar to Regina, so I went for it. Anyways, Regina toilet paper is one you’ll remember fondly because it’s made by the Sofass company, which was no doubt a very strategic move on their part.

Then I realized, not only did we have a bathroom product pleading for us to take him (her?) home with us, we also had bread.

That’s right. From the good folks over at the “Eat Me” company.


Gotta love the wholesome stock photography family. If only they knew that one day they’d be the poster children (and dad) for the EAT ME fine line of grocery products. Mainly bread. But also granola bars and cookies, too.

Anyhoo, that’s about all I’ve got for you. I could think of many more creative imperative verb forms ending in “ME” that could be used for a wide range of items found in your local supermarket. But I’ll spare you of those.

Meanwhile, a book called READ ME? Now there’s an idea.

Beer called DRINK ME? Wasn’t there some sort of magically psychedelic potion in Alice in Wonderland along those lines? (Lewis Carroll was clearly ahead of his time.)

T-shirt for going to Roman public offices that says BE NICE TO ME?

Ok, I lied. I didn’t spare you. Sorry about that.


Why Vanity Fair Chose Peppa Pig as Cover Model

27 Dec

Subtitled: In a country where Berlusconi is defined as a politician, and pharmacies sell syringe-like devices to smooth your skin, it was only a matter of time before a cartoon character was used in an essay about the current state of Italian culture.

Sub-subtitled: Italian parents, but mostly mothers I think, are riddled with irrational anxiety which, personally, drives me batty yet makes me look like the oddball.

You know folks, today when I saw the bright and sparkly gold cover of Italian Vanity Fair, I felt a little bit like Charlie finding the golden ticket in his Wonka Bar.

Ok, not really.

But that’s the first thing that comes to mind, now that I reflect on the somewhat atrocious idea of making an entire magazine cover the paper version of shiny gold lamè. The really jarring aspect, however, comes in the form of a little picture of cartoon character Peppa Pig on the bottom of the cover, with the caption “In a lucky charm issue, good news and beautiful people that make us think positive, starting with the girl of the moment, Peppa Pig.”



No T & A. No Botox lips. No come-hither stare.

I thought I’d get by with just a sarcastic tweet about it, complete with a thinly-veiled reference to flying pigs signifying the sheer ridiculousness and hard-to-believe-ness of seeing even Vanity Fair fall prey to the goddamn cartoon character who is currently ruling my twin 4-year-old daughters’s world, just a smidgen behind the Disney Princesses and Barbie. But then my tweets go to my FB page, and some other FB friends picked up the thread, and I realized, no, the roots of this go deeper than I thought. I must know more.

I suppose I’m just another one of the people that Vanity Fair tsk-tsks in their Shiny Happy People Holding Hands issue, when mentioning those who gave a thumbs down to Peppa on Youtube, acknowledging that she’s not “cynical, conspiratorial, and sarcastic.” [read: like the thumbs-downers clearly are] You see, I went online and checked out their lighthearted justification. Allow me to share my hopefully not too cynical, conspiratorial, and sarcastic comments.

Journalist Massimo Gramellini delves into the world of PP to discover why the hell she’s basically ubiquitous in Italy right now. He doesn’t have kids, so he asks some of his journalist colleagues who are fathers. One of them says: “She’s calming.” With this, Gramellini parallels our need for normality and mirth with the ending of every Peppa episode, in which the entire family inevitably falls on their backs laughing uncontrollably. (Frankly, I see this as a warning sign of unmonitored use of controlled substances; but, that would be for the National Enquirer Peppa exposè, after she’s no longer a child star and has had a mug shot or two).

This was my favorite commentary on the current state of affairs here in Italy vis-a-vis Peppa Pig:

Ma negli ultimi anni, complice la classe politica più ferocemente incapace e corrotta dell’emisfero occidentale, ci siamo ubriacati di schifezze e ne portiamo addosso le tracce: sfiducia, rancore, rassegnazione. Ora, la Peppa non sarà la soluzione del problema. Però.

But in recent years, as an accomplice to the most ferociously incompetent and corrupt political class in the Western hemisphere, we’ve gotten drunk on junk, and we’re wearing the traces of it: mistrust, resentment, resignation. Now, Peppa isn’t the solution to the problem. But still…

See, people? This is how desperate we are over here. Things are so in the shitter that we have to turn to a pink, poorly-drawn cartoon pig to soothe our unbridled sense of desperation.

Another of the Gramellini Peppa Philosophy observations, and it’s a beaut:

Rotolare nelle pozzanghere diventa un gesto liberatorio e addirittura rivoluzionario per i bambini che lo guardano in tv, abituati a vivere sotto una campana di vetro da mamme e papà apprensivi che li vaccinano contro ogni bacillo e trasformano la sbucciatura di un ginocchio in un evento ferale.

Rolling around in mud puddles becomes an act of liberation, even a revolutionary act, for children watching it on TV, used to living under a bell jar by worrisome mothers and fathers who vaccinate them against every bacillus and transform a scraped knee into a fatal event.

Yes, if you’ll indulge me in a moment of blatant cultural generalizing, I will say that I have noticed a stark difference between the parenting approaches of my American and British friends who are mothers, as opposed to my Italian friends who have children. Namely: the Italian moms are like live wires, short circuiting with every cough, sneeze, or bite of food that their child takes. I have literally witnessed an Italian mom friend of mine chase her son around the living room cajoling (Yes! There was honest-to-God cajoling going on) and coaxing him to take one more bite of his food. On the flip side, I often get sideways glances when I’m in short sleeves on an unseasonably warm day in March, and my 5-year-old son has been known to ask me to put a long sleeved shirt on him just because “All the other kids are wearing them still.” HAH! Well. Wear one short sleeve and one long one on the same shirt, bucko, because you’re half AMERICAN! We don’t take our temperatures every 5 seconds, goddamit! We suck it up and go to work! (Inserts tongue in cheek. Don’t send me nasty comments. I do this for free for my own personal amusement and that of my loyal readers who are equally amused, and I am not an ethnocentric, bitter-hearted ice queen. Promise. I just like to poke a little fun is all. But, I do staunchly refuse to succumb to the obsession with “the fever” that runs rampant in this country.)

Yes, Italian parenting style is a post for yet another day. Peppa, however, remains the “girl of the moment” on the cover of an Italian weekly with a readership of 1,381,000.

On the one hand, I’m relieved it’s not a naked sexpot. On the other, I’m a bit worried that our existential quest for happiness apparently now rests in the hands of a family of jolly swine, snorting the day away.


Yes, they do an awful lot of that, come to think of it. And all that ROTFL? There might be a connection here that merits further exploration.

And now, for your viewing pleasure: the episode referenced in the VF article, just now rounding the bend on 8 million views.