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Five Essential Rules of Italian (Roman) Bureaucracy

11 Oct

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These days it takes something quite unusual to get me back on the blog, but this is a post whose time has come.

Over the course of roughly 15 years of life in Rome, I’ve learned and internalized a few precepts for dealing with the notoriously difficult and entrenched bureaucracy.

When I speak of bureaucracy, what I am referring to includes, but is by no means limited to, the following:

  • Getting a driver’s license
  • Getting public health insurance/choosing a family doctor
  • Dealing with city hall for certificates (birth, marriage, residency, civil status)
  • Dealing with the questura, central immigration, and post office for stay permit issues
  • Contesting/rectifying any errors on aforementioned official documents
  • Mailing a letter or actual package at the post office, and God forbid you are crazy enough to open any sort of financial account there
  • Applying for university/enrolling in university
  • Dealing with an Italian consulate or embassy abroad
  • Banking in Italy
  • Returning items to a store in Rome/trying to get your money back for something
  • Taxes and any other dealings with a behemoth known as INPS
  • Paying bills in any shape or form, and generally dealing with any utility company, especially publicly-owned ones such as ACEA, ENI, ATAC, AMA
  • Trying to pay for a low-cost item with a 50-euro bill

Like I said, this is a limited list, but I’ve done all of the above, some multiple times (because I am a masochist, clearly), and so far, I’ve lived to tell the tale. I have the tear stains and gray hairs to prove it.

So patience, young grasshopper, while I now impart my hard-earned knowledge.

1. In Rome, you are not entitled to anything. So please throw away immediately any mentality that allows you to think you can “make it their problem.”

This first dictum is absolutely essential. If you approach anything in Rome with the sort of approach I used to have when I lived in the United States, you will simply and utterly fail.

After telling a horrific bureaucratic tale to an Australian who had never lived in Rome, I was asked: “What happens though, if you just make it their problem?

My two very seasoned American-in-Italy expat friends and I (about 50 years of expat experience in Italy combined between the three of us) laughed with wide-eyed amusement. You know the laugh. That “awwww, how cute” one.

It took at least four times repeating “you can’t make it their problem” to get the message through, adding several more concrete and non-theoretical examples, but the concept was so foreign I still don’t think we made any real impact. I got the impression our dining guest was convinced that had only he been in our shoes, he would have been able to “make it their problem” – read: make them fix the problem for him.

This brings us to dictum 1a:

1a. YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR SOLVING YOUR OWN PROBLEMS.

I put that in ALL CAPS because I cannot stress this principle enough. You are absolutely responsible for finding a way. If someone helps you, be grateful, but consider it an exception to the rule. You must use your own brain, your own resources, your own energy and your own elbow grease to get your problem fixed. That probably means bringing in other people you know, who have experience, for moral support and technical advice. But ultimately this is your problem to solve, not the manager’s—even if the manager created the problem for you. (I fully grasp the absurdity of this concept. You, too, should begin embracing it as soon as you are physically and mentally strong enough to do so.)

Let’s do a little trial exercise to get you warmed up, so you can strengthen those underworked, flabby bureaucratic muscles, and thus begin safely working off that extra layer of entitlement that you carry with you from years of doing business in more civilized places.

Ready? Repeat after me:

I, the client, am not always right.
In fact, I am almost always wrong. At least on the first trip.
This is why my secret weapons are persistence, determination, and patience—and not indignantly demanding to speak to a superior.

(You should probably repeat that one a few more times. Really get your heart rate up a bit.)

Humility will help you with this one. No one is getting paid to be nice to you. So just get the F over it. It never gets nicer or easier.

2. Keep your expectations super low, so that you can be pleasantly surprised when things go right, rather than abysmally depressed when things go wrong.01720_expectationsI realize that this might come as an affront to those of us raised in cultures where we’re encouraged to “raise the bar,” etcetera, etcetera. You must shake off your high standards. They have no place here.

When embarking on any bureaucratic task, get all your ducks in a row (see 3), and then, resign yourself to the fact that you probably won’t accomplish what you’re setting out to do. This way, if and when you succeed, you’ll feel like a million effing dollars and then some. Plus, it gives you a great reason to pop a bottle of bubbly.

See? Now when did a trip to the post office ever merit champagne in your past? Move to Italy. You’ll understand.

3. Start “the file.”

binders

Aw yeah, expats know what I’m talking about here. I learned about “the file” about a year or two into my life in Rome. Let me set the scene for you. It was the umpteenth time I was getting shot down trying to sign up for my family physician and health card: this time, they discovered that my birthplace as printed on my Italian ID card was the right city, but the wrong country. You see, I was born in Portsmouth, Virginia (USA), but the clerk who had produced my ID card years prior unbeknownst to me had mistakenly input Portsmouth, (GB) … and no, the health office people were certainly not going to fix that for me. Down for the count, once again.

Meanwhile, I stepped aside and watched a man from Vietnam attempt something at the window. The clerk tried to shut him down by saying he was missing a particular document. BOOM! He pulls it out of a three-ring binder he was carrying. Then the clerk, with a look of triumph, tells him he is missing the appropriate number of photocopies (and HELL NO they don’t make photocopies FOR YOU! Please see 1 and 1a). BOOM! He pulls out a sheaf of photocopies from his binder.

In short, I learned a valuable lesson that day. Keep every paper. Bring every damn paper with you to every appointment. Keep multiple photocopies of everything on hand at all times and ready to hand over (at least three), especially passport and stay permit. Keep a sheet of ID card photos on hand as well. Why not throw in a tax stamp for €16 while you’re at it, too—couldn’t hurt. Tax returns? Check. Marriage certificate, birth certificate, divorce decree? Who the hell knows! Check! File all this mumbo-jumbo in those plastic A4 sheet protectors, stick it all in a three-ring binder, and before you depart for any bureaucratic mission, you take that damn binder with you. Watch in awe and wonder as it grows through the years. But by all means, don’t like go and forget it in a public restroom or let someone steal that sucker or something equally tragic. Then you’re screwed.

4. Don’t expect there to be one answer to your question, or even a right answer at all, or a conclusive answer, and certainly don’t think that NO is a final answer, although usually it is, except when it isn’t.

hn557

It’s completely normal and acceptable that two employees in the same office, perhaps two who even sit next at windows right next to each other, give different answers to the same question, on the same day, different days, or the same time. No one is guaranteed to know the true answer, or the right answer, generally speaking. Please see rule 1a. Knowing the answer to the question in advance is your job.

Once when I was trying to accomplish something in the ID card office, I looked over to the desk marked “information”. The man employed to provide information was sleeping. Like deep, REM-phase sleep. He slept for the entire hour-plus that I was in the office. So, I suppose we could append to this adage: don’t expect employees to actually be awake on the job. But that is maybe best reserved for our masterclass in bureaucracy. I certainly wouldn’t want to scare off beginners.

5. If you can liken all of your bureaucratic travails to the spiritual metaphor of a video game, you can even have fun while you’re at it. 

kung-fu-master-lvl-1Basically this metaphor always works for me. Just imagine that whatever you’re trying to accomplish is like being in one of those old-school Nintendo video games where each level had some sort of fire-breathing dragon or its equivalent that had to be defeated before you could pass to the next level. That’s basically a microcosm of the entire Roman bureaucratic machine.

In your video game, you will encounter many evil enemies and obstacles blocking your path to the next level, thus preventing your advancement towards fighting and defeating the Big Boss. Let me list some of them for you:

  • Strike (transport or labor union, or both)
  • Office moved but no one told anyone—you get there and there’s a handwritten sign on the door
  • Employee at window 1A isn’t responsible for that—you have to ask the person on the 3rd floor
  • Person on the 3rd floor isn’t responsible for that—you have to ask the person at window 1A
  • The person at window 1A is now on coffee break
  • The deadline for that was last week
  • No there aren’t any exceptions
  • You didn’t keep your receipt
  • You don’t have the right photocopy
  • There’s a mistake on your document (missing letter, wrong number) and it’s not their fault and they can’t fix it. Go Directly to Jail. Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200.

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Here’s the thing, folks: Rome bureaucratic missions will either break you, or build you into a problem-solving superhero who laughs in the face of insult. (And then whips out a photocopy and a tax stamp.)

I raise my glass that your path leads towards Kryptonite-free triumph, paved with smiling impiegati and lots of freshly-inked stamps. Go boldly forth, and achieve greatness!

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Italian Bidets and Detergente Intimo For All Ages

3 Aug

Please note, if you are looking to purchase a bidet or want a real, official how-to guide, look no further: Kyle at Bidet.org has you totally covered! Click here: How to Use a Bidet

***

Wow folks, it’s a double header today! You see, when my kids leave town with their dad and grandma for their beach vacation and I am left with dirty laundry and a house all to myself, I just sit at my computer and write to my heart’s content. My jeans might have holes in them because I hate shopping, but I’ll be damned if I’m never short on words.

So here is something I just HAVE to get off my chest. I saw an ad online yesterday several times (Youtube) and every time I was like, “No, seriously. Really?”

First things first. If you’re Italian, you can skip this part. If you live in Italy, you can skip this part. But if you don’t know what INTIMATE SOAP is, then, yes, this primer is for you.

First time I came to Italy 12 years ago, I was about as “deer in the headlights” as they come. MAN WAS I NAIVE.

So I had no frickin’ clue what the bidet was for. And Lord knows I am not getting into the particulars of that here. I might have some free time on my hands, but not that much free time. Other people have covered that ground already, anyways:

How to Use a Bidet: 7 Steps (with illustrations) Why is the woman on the bidet backwards here?? And I’ve never seen a bidet with “jets” in Italy. It either fills up the basin like a sink, and you splash, or it comes directly out of the faucet and you can adjust the direction.

How to Use a Bidet “Step 1: Use the Toilet. This step is self-explanatory.” Wow. Thanks. I might have forgotten that one.

An Idiot’s Incomplete Guide to the Bidet “Editor’s note: Warning: Inevitable, perhaps obligatory, bathroom humor ahead.”

A video of an Italian demonstrating use  (fully clothed, mind you!) presumably to Spanish tourists.

OH DEAR GOD. If you speak Italian, this is like a train wreck. I have no idea why this dude was verbally explaining the process of taking a shit and what to do subsequently (probably to foreign students studying Italian in Italy), but it is absolutely comic gold and bizarrely compelling. This also makes me happy to be divorced without any men using bathrooms in my house. But seriously, I would so go on a first date with this guy it’s not even funny. If you can give a talk like this, yes, you are the man for me. Love you already.

But, no, no. I don’t need to write a “How To” guide, you see. My precious free time will be spent instead talking about a much more technical and puzzling issue to me: the SPECIAL SOAP you use for the bidet. Yes, that’s right. The intimate soap.

Frankly I think it’s all a bit of a marketing ploy, but I’m not a licensed gynecologist so I have no idea if the actual pH of my soap makes a difference. The dude in the train wreck video simply said the all-purpose Italian phrase they use for any maxim they espouse without exactly knowing why they do it: “Perchè fa male.” (“Because [using the hand soap for the bidet] is bad for you.”)  I’m sure laboratory tests have shown it to be so. Suffice it to say, that in addition to the bidet itself, there is a special soap that you buy for the bidet that is called detergente intimo, so now not only do you have to have hand soap for the bathroom and dish soap for the kitchen but don’t forget the bidet soap too.

Now. That would all be fine and good, if it were to end there. But you see, folks, what I discovered yesterday is that now the marketing geniuses have come up with a special bidet soap for GIRLS AGES 3 to 12.

That’s right. I, proud mother of twin almost-four-year-olds, am apparently the perfect target for Tantum Rosa Detergente Intimo 3-12 anni.

Besides the pink and blue fishies, I really have no clue why I should buy special soap just for my girls. Especially knowing that they’ll just dump it all into the bidet and act like it’s a bathtub for their Barbie dolls. Although I will admit that I’ve taught Paola the joys of using the bidet for the time-honored summer ritual “foot bath” and so sometimes she says “Mamma, mamma, foot bath!” and that’s good times. But let me just translate what the box says:

Rich in natural hydrating, moisturizing and soothing substances – Helps to prevent redness and small intimate discomforts

You know what though? I admit it. I will admit that I buy special bidet soap. I do. Just like I cover my neck if I’m not wearing a scarf when a cold gust blows by, or just like I don’t drink cappuccino after dinner, or just like I don’t cross arms when I toast glasses in a group. I’ve “gone native” a bit.

But I have no real idea if there’s even a point to it. It’s sort of like the bottled water thing here in Italy. Rome has like, the best tap water ever, (ok, high calcium content, I know), and yet there are about a bazillion different brands of bottled water at the stores, all with their own marketing pitch.

That’s all. I just wanted to make you aware of this phenomenon. You can go about your other business now. (Why don’t boys get their own bidet soap? Wait. Don’t answer that.)

Pre-Fabricated Italian Diet

19 Jul

There are plenty of great Rome food blogs, many of which are run by people I am very proud and humbled to call friends and acquaintances.

Alas, this is not one of them.

And so it is, without a shred of indignity, that I give you my latest supermarket discoveries and thus evidence to prove that Italians love convenience just as much as the next guy. No shame in my game. Call me on it, I’ll admit it. I’m your big-box Walmart with endless parking in a sea of Nordstrom blogs about Rome. It’s all good. Hell, I nearly killed myself last night carrying my daughter to bed by tripping over a round pillow strategically left by my son in front of his door when I was carrying her out. I hardly have time to shower, for the love of God! I’m a mess! And yet—yet. I care about my readers enough to be the asshat that takes a picture of this package in the dairy section of my corner supermarket:

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Proudly proclaiming “New,” it’s the folks at Buitoni giving us another reason to abandon the joys of homemade pasta, kneaded on Sunday from scratch. You know the type, where you put the big pile of flour on your counter and crack a few eggs in a welled-out space in the middle and presto-change-o, freshly made pasta! (I do, because my Roman ex-husband used to actually do this for fun, and we loved it. I bought him a little hand-cranked Imperia to make pasta and it was good times, let me tell you. Try it, honestly it’s not that hard.)

You know, you Americans across the pond might have your “Boboli Italian Breadshell,” but hey! Over here we’ve got Buitoni’s ready-to-make ravioli. Hell yeah, people! 16 pre-cut discs just waiting for you to stuff them into delicious oblivion. [Post-script: I get that these aren’t pre-made discs of pasta all’uovo to make in water. An astute reader pointed this out to me. I call them ravioli by mistake, referring to the fact that they’re mini. They are DOUGH to STUFF for cooking in the oven, a pan, or frying in oil. Aka CALZONI or PANZAROTTI. That being said, please put all your food corrections, observations, or upturned noses in the comments, as again, this is not a food blog therefore I am not qualified to debate the merits of different types of pasta).

Now, I’ll be honest with you. My kids wouldn’t touch the things. Preschoolers with a palate, Dio mio. Which means I ate like 10 of them. Threw my diet into a tailspin, yes indeedy! I don’t think Weight Watchers has this in their points system. Let it be said that I don’t recommend you try any of this at home. That’s why I’m here.

I do so love the package. It’s very DIY.

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Here it tells us that we can either make them into mini fried ravioli (like mini calzoni, really) and fry ’em up in a hot pan of oil for 2 minutes, or, perhaps more sensibly, bake them in the oven for 10 minutes. I made mine into those little gift bag-looking shapes. Really, all that was missing was a tomato-red ribbon tied around the top. Maybe that’s why my kids didn’t eat them.

And, who said we don’t have bacon over here? Move over bacon, here’s something leaner more Italian called fette di pancetta affumicata!

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This for me is rather epic. Since when do Italians sizzle some sliced bacon and serve it up on a plate next to a pair of fried eggs? Since, um, never, as far as I know. I found this randomly placed on top of a package of gnocchi. Like, someone had it in their cart and then had a last minute change of heart and just slyly threw it back in the dairy case on top of a random bag of gnocchi. *no one saw that!*

Now, here’s a kind of a weird yet fun thing that Coca-Cola has going on right now. Don’t ask me to explain it. They just think they’re cute by printing something like “Share your Coca-Cola with…” and then a name, or some cutesy phrase like “il tuo tesoro” – your sweetheart, etc.

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Personally, if they think that’s going to make me buy more Coca-Cola (they don’t say “Coke” around here), well then, they’re sorely mistaken. Because I’ll tell you what: I turned around every damn bottle in that there fridge and none—and by that I mean NOT A ONE—had the name “Shelley” on it. Humph! (Does anyone ever really use that word/phrase in real life, or is it just written to show haughty dismay? This is clearly a completely irrelevant side question. Discuss amongst yourselves.)

But folks, let’s be honest here. When it comes to pre-packaged “Mediterranean” foods, no one does convenience—or Italian stereotyping, for that matter—like the U.S. advertising industry.

Witness “hot sexy Italian man-chef” stereotype:

Witness “grown boy-man totally dominated by overbearing Italian mamma” stereotype:

Witness “Italian before the dawn of the P.C. era” advertising strategy: (and might I add here, oh dear God)

So, you know. We Americans love our Italian imports. Then again, let’s be fair. Bet y’all Americans out there didn’t know there’s this overblown Southern good ol’ boy from Chattanooga, Tennessee who became famous in ads over here in the 80s by hawking Lipton iced tea with an unbearably thick American accent in Italian? No, seriously. Italians asking me if I know all about the mythic Dan Peterson and I’m like, WHO THE FUCK is this Dan Peterson guy, and they look at me like I’ve been living under a rock my whole entire LIFE.

Ah, yes. Just stick with me, kids. I’ll teach you everything you need to know.

FE-NO-MI-NALE.

Vacation Time, Italian Style

12 Jul

Found this gem on Diexx88’s Blog, charming, filed under “cazzate” (random BS) and “estate” (summer). “Closed for Vacation, for condoms and Viagra go to the bicycle repairman on Via dei Macci, thanks”

Oh, people. Here we are again, already a year gone by and back to vacation season here in Rome. Let me tell you, the joint is already starting to clear out. Everybody seems to be either at the beach, packing for the beach, on their way to the beach, going to the beach in the next couple of days—you get the idea. I write a post like this at least once every July, I think.

Carlo, why didn’t you come up with a sequel to last year’s summer smash hit that I loved so? GodIloveCarloVerdonesosupermuch. Have you seen La Grande Bellezza? Holy crap, he’s so believable and vulnerable and just plain lovable in his first true non-comic role. Y’all know I love the man. Let’s just put it out there: I want a Carlo Verdone clone who’s closer to my age, just to hang out with, because now there’s a man I could shoot the shit with and never run out of good stuff to talk about. One time, I had this dream, and I met him at this party or art gallery or something, and he liked that I was an American who spoke Italian with Roman slang phrases, and he wanted me to be in one of his movies. Yeah, I was pretty excited about that! Until I woke up, obvs.

Ok, tangent.

Well, since that’s not happening anytime soon, I’ll go back to my daydreaming and instead leave you with my latest real-life anecdote on the Italian concept of vacation. Now in convenient bite-size screenplay format!

“THE SAD STORY OF THE MISSING ITALIAN VACATION”

FADE IN:

INT. FITNESS CLUB/GYM – MEMBERSHIP DESK – DAY

In a small residential neighborhood just outside downtown Rome, ALESSANDRO, a 40-something Italian man with dark hair, a dark mustache, and impossibly and perennially tanned skin, sits with a friendly smile behind the membership desk of his local sports club.

SHELLEY, mid-30s haggard single working mom, approaches the desk and begins small talk leading up to the renewal of her lapsed gym membership.

SHELLEY

Ciao Alessandro, long time no see. Time to sign up again. Gotta hit the weights.

ALESSANDRO

Michelle! So good to see you again! Remind me of how to spell your last name.

SHELLEY

Rimini, Udine, Empoli, Livorno, Livorno, Empoli. I need to get back in. It’s quiet here. Everyone on vacation, I guess. I’ll be here. Not going anywhere this year.

ALESSANDRO

Oh, tell me about it! We don’t take vacation here either. I mean, we’re only closing for just ten days in August!

SHELLEY
(nodding sympathetically)

Yep, I know. Some of us actually have to work.

FADE OUT.

THE END

Italians Explained From The Inside Out

5 Oct

I have a unique post for you today. My post from yesterday touched a nerve with many of my readers. I am happy to report that I had a really generous outpouring of support and helpful thoughts and comments.

One reader in particular, whom I actually know personally quite well (lending credibility to why I’m publishing these thoughts) took the time to email me a detailed personal “explanation” of why Italians behave in some of the ways they often do.

Of course as I always reiterate on my blog, I don’t claim to know everything about any culture, and I don’t claim that any ONE person knows everything about any ONE culture. But I do enjoy putting observations out there, because they are valid, and they represent one person’s experience of their native culture, which can provide insights.

I want to share with you this Italian reader’s insights on their culture. This person has moved abroad now, and often times I find that Italians who have moved abroad have a unique perspective on their home culture. Many times they move away because they can’t tolerate a lot of the things about their country. But at the same time, this has given them a more critical eye of their country and allowed them to analyze it in a way that many who never leave, never do.

I explained it to one of my Italian friends living abroad thus: “You know how it is, for a fish swimming in water? The fish doesn’t know it’s in the water if it’s never left. But those who have left, they see the water from the outside and can see it for what it is.”

So here are some insights that I’ve translated from their original Italian into English, and I’ve tried to preserve the native voice as best as I could. Take it as a 101 primer on Italian ways of viewing the world, and let me know what you think.

Here are my opinions on Italians. I think they are correct. Maybe this can help you to solve some mysteries of the Italian culture …

1) Save face.
Italy is a Catholic country. Although many Italians today aren’t practicing Catholics, the cultural background is still Catholic. It’s so deeply rooted that many Italians don’t even realize they have it.
Basically Italians are moralists, religionists and traditionalists. And hypocrites, of course.
The basic concept is: do whatever you want, just make sure no one knows. Or rather, it ends up that everyone knows, but nobody talks about it openly.
For example, everyone’s parents know (so long as they aren’t totally ignorant) that when their daughter goes to spend the night at her boyfriend’s house, she’s having sex with her boyfriend, but they’ll ignore that part of it just as long as she’s back home in time to be able to say that she didn’t “sleep over”.
The same goes for the concept of “separated in the home,” which was so shocking for you: it goes back to the most important thing—to keep up appearances— so that way at the children’s school, at work, and at home you can say that “we are married, we’re a couple, we’re together.” Even if each of them lives a separate private life.
In short, go ahead and do it, but don’t tell anyone about it, don’t let anyone know. And then, if you do know, pretend not to know. (Do the pedophile priests remind you of anything?! Classic. The Church leads by example).

2) Don’t rock the boat.
The average Italian “gli pesa il culo,” meaning literally, has a heavy ass. Lazy. Tends to choose the easy way out. The separated under the same roof concept/situation would require talking to their children and explaining that mom and dad split up. What? Do that? And then deal with the emotional consequences of such a thing? No. Too strenuous. Better not to say anything.
Because then, after that, you’d have to try to get another apartment, not to mention then going through the laborious procedure of separation and divorce in Italy, which has a 3-year “cooling off” period before a couple can even file for divorce! Legal costs, time, hassle, strain.
Better to leave everything as it is: that’s easier, less effort.
Also because: why should I have to work to build a whole new serious relationship, when I can have one or multiple ones that is/are perhaps less meaningful and less rewarding, but at least easier?

3) Settle.
Apparently there is a saying that goes, “Francia o Spagna purché se magna”. Basically translates to “France or Spain, so long as we can eat.” That, to me, has helped me a lot to understand my country.
Since the time of the ancient Romans onwards, Italy has always been invaded by that, or this, so in the end the concept became simple: who cares who is in power, just as long as there is food for us to eat.
This relates directly to the one above. I don’t want to work hard, so I’ll just make do. It’s good enough.

4) Place the blame on someone else/don’t take responsibility.
It’s never anyone’s fault. And if it is someone’s fault, it surely isn’t mine.
Perfect example is the way that man who was separated in the same house responded to you after you told him you didn’t want to be with a married man. He answered your question about what a woman should do if she were to truly fall in love with him or care about him (above, “settle for less”) and then he followed up with: “In any case, it’s fine, I mean, we were off to a good start, but after this, it’s just fine the way you’ve decided.”
That is: YOU?RE the one who’s missing out here, YOU’RE the one who decided to end something that was “off to a good start,” NOT ME! A.k.a., if you feel like you’re missing out now, it’s all your own doing, it’s your own fault, it’s your own bad decision, you’re passing up a good thing but go for it, if that’s how you feel. (Also seems a bit like saving face, since he wasn’t the one to decide not to move forward, and that might be like being rejected.)

So there you have it folks. Food for thought, no? What are your experiences and reactions? I’m curious to know. Share in the comments. Also, do you have any great Italian bloggers to follow who write in English, either living abroad or in Italy? Include the links in the comments section!

As a parting gift, I leave you with a video you may have seen many times before, but it never gets old for me, about the Italians vs. the rest of Europe. Enjoy!

Quando La Vita E’ Troppa

4 Oct

Oooh everyone loves “La Vita E’ Bella” don’t they?

And doesn’t everyone love “La Dolce Vita”?

What about “La Vita E’ Troppa”? The too-much life?

I just found myself writing this. That’s what I have. The too-much life. I wrote this:

Troppe cose. Troppi pensieri, troppe pretese su me stessa, troppe preoccupazioni, troppe delusioni, troppe speranze, troppo dolore.

E’ tutto troppo. Ecco perchè. Semplicemente.

Too many things. Too many thoughts, too many demands on myself, too many worries, too many disappointments, too many hopes, too much pain.

It’s all too much. That’s why. Simply put.

And yet, this is why I live in Italy. OHMYGOD I didn’t know that this dude had the same philosophy I learned here by instinct and years of experience.

GOD BLESS ITALY.

I wish I could translate this video for you, but I can’t. I can’t. It would be too lost in translation. But if you speak Italian, please, watch this, and understand why I chose to live here, and I choose to live here every day. I will explain it below though, after the video.

How did I find it? Simple. I just typed “sti cazzi” into the Youtube search engine. Perfection.


Just in case you don’t speak Italian and were wondering the premise, I will tell you this: He reads a magazine that lists a survey of the percentage of suicides per country, and discovers that Italy is at the bottom at just 7%. He asks why, and he answers. The reason is “who gives a fuck” a.k.a. “sti cazzi” which he claims, as I always have in my previous posts, that it’s one of the fundamental Italian approaches to life, and in turn, it makes life go on even amidst chaos and despair. It truly is a quite Zen way to live, and I am a wholehearted disciple.

Mamma Roma Addio

25 Sep

So, Renata Polverini resigned under yet another corruption scandal. Quite possibly this latest debauchery, made public with ridiculous photos amidst the ongoing economic crisis, was the last straw. Interesting is her quote that she feels she’s been “betrayed by a system that’s existed for years.” Are we to interpret that to mean that she figured what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, and now she’s being punished for working within a corrupt system? Who knows. Looking to the Storace debacle as an indicator, she most likely has a long road ahead of her.

Oh, and BTW? if you speak Italian, take a look at how pissy la Polverini gets in this video. She was SOOOO vulgar. The crowd is insulting her and she insults them back. It’s crazy. Listen to her at :54. OMG she comes off like some tough, uncultured woman from the periphery: “AHOOOO’ ECCHECAZZO!” It’s like, seriously? Is this who we wanted representing our state to the nation? Cringe.

Anyhoo. All that to say, it’s truer in Rome than nearly anywhere else: the more things change, the more they stay the same. From the poetry of GG Belli in the 1800s, to the modern-day scandals and mass exodus of Italians looking for a brighter future, people continue to complain about Rome and her problems, and yet, those of us who remain seem to muddle through it just the same, eating our supplì and cheering on our soccer teams.

My dear tesoro Alessio, chatting about Rome the other day, suggested this link to me, which turns out to be very apropos. (Love you, Alessiuccio! He’s my beloved Roman pen pal living the life in Africa.)

So, check out the song. I’ll translate the lyrics below. I’ll even insert links to former posts of mine that touch on what he’s talking about. Now, I don’t profess to be an Italian expert, and my blog is free and for fun, so take your urge to tell me I know nothing about Italian or Roman culture elsewhere, unless it’s in the spirit of sharing knowledge for all of us who love Rome and Roman culture. As Polverini would say, “AHHHOOOO ecchecazzzo!” xoxo ♥♥♥, Shelley

A Roma salutavo gli amici. Dove vai? Vado in Perù. Ma che sei matto?

In Rome I said goodbye to my friends. Where are you going? I’m going to Peru. What? You crazy?

Me ne andavo da quella Roma puttanona, borghese, fascistoide, da quella Roma del “volemose bene e annamo avanti”, da quella Roma delle pizzerie, delle latterie, dei “Sali e Tabacchi”, degli “Erbaggi e Frutta”, quella Roma dei castagnacci, dei maritozzi con la panna, senza panna, dei mostaccioli e caramelle, dei supplì, dei lupini, delle mosciarelle…

I was leaving the Rome of the whores, the stuck-up Rome, the fascist Rome, that Rome that always says “let’s just take care of each other and keep moving forward,” Rome with its pizza shops, milk shops, “salt and tobacco” shops, “herb and fruit” shops, Rome with its chestnut cakes, its pastries with cream, without cream, cookies, candies, supplì, lupini, mosciarelle

Me ne andavo da quella Roma dei pizzicaroli, dei portieri, dei casini, delle approssimazioni, degli imbrogli, degli appuntamenti ai quali non si arriva mai puntuali, dei pagamenti che non vengono effettuati, quella Roma degli uffici postali e dell’anagrafe, quella Roma dei funzionari dei ministeri, degli impiegati, dei bancari, quella Roma dove le domande erano sempre già chiuse, dove ci voleva una raccomandazione…

I was leaving the Rome of the salami vendors, the doormen, the chaos, the “approximately”s, the scams, the appointments where no one is ever on time, the payments that never get made, the Rome of the post offices and the city records office, the Rome of the ministerial employees, the civil servants, the bankers, the Rome where the job openings are all already taken, because you have to know the right person

Me ne andavo da quella Roma dei pisciatoi, dei vespasiani, delle fontanelle, degli ex-voto, della Circolare Destra, della Circolare Sinistra, del Vaticano, delle mille chiese, delle cattedrali fuori le mura, dentro le mura, quella Roma delle suore, dei frati, dei preti, dei gatti…

I was leaving the Rome of the outdoor pissers, the Rome of Vespasian’s “public urinals,” the fountains, the thanking of the saints, the political right, the political left, the Vatican, the thousands of churches, the cathedrals outside the walls, inside the walls, the Rome of the nuns, the monks, the priests, the cats…

Me ne andavo da quella Roma degli attici con la vista, la Roma di piazza Bologna, dei Parioli, di via Veneto, di via Gregoriana, quella dannunziana, quella barocca, quella eterna, quella imperiale, quella vecchia, quella stravecchia, quella turistica, quella di giorno, quella di notte, quella dell’orchestrina a piazza Esedra, la Roma fascista di Piacentini…

I was leaving the Rome of the penthouses with a view, the “Piazza Bologna” Rome, the “Parioli” Rome, the Rome of Via Veneto, of Via Gregoriana, the Rome of D’Annunzio’s “art is life,” baroque Rome, Eternal Rome, Imperial Rome, old Rome, really old Rome, tourist Rome, daytime Rome, nighttime Rome, the orchestra in Piazza Esedra Rome, the facist Piacentini Rome…

Me ne andavo da quella Roma che ci invidiano tutti, la Romacaput mundi, del Colosseo, dei Fori Imperiali, di Piazza Venezia, dell’Altare della Patria, dell’Università di Roma, quella Roma sempre con il sole – estate e inverno – quella Roma che è meglio di Milano…

I was leaving the Rome that everyone envies us for, the “caput mundi” Rome, the Rome of the Colosseum, the Forum, Piazza Venzia, the Altar of the Fatherland, the University of Rome, the always-sunny Rome–summer and winter–the Rome that’s better than Milan…

Me ne andavo da quella Roma dove la gente pisciava per le strade, quella Roma fetente, impiegatizia, dei mezzi litri, della coda alla vaccinara, quella Roma dei ricchi bottegai: quella Roma dei Gucci, dei Ianetti, dei Ventrella, dei Bulgari, dei Schostal, delle Sorelle Adamoli, di Carmignani, di Avenia, quella Roma dove non c’è lavoro, dove non c’è una lira, quella Roma del “core de Roma”…

I was leaving the Rome where people take a piss on the streets, the stinking Rome, the middle-class Rome, half-liter Rome, ox-tail stew Rome, the Rome of the rich boutique owners: the Rome of the Guccis, the Ianettis, the Ventrellas, the Bulgaris, the Schostals, the Adamoli, Carmignani and Avenia sisters, the Rome where there’s no jobs, there’s no money, the Rome that’s the “heart of Rome”…

Me ne andavo da quella Roma del Monte di Pietà, della Banca Commerciale Italiana, di Campo de’ Fiori, di piazza Navona, di piazza Farnese, quella Roma dei “che c’hai una sigaretta?”, “imprestami cento lire”, quella Roma del Coni, del Concorso Ippico, quella Roma del Foro che portava e porta ancora il nome di Mussolini, Me ne andavo da quella Roma dimmerda! Mamma Roma: Addio!

I was leaving the “Mountain of Pity” Rome, the Rome of the Italian Commercial Bank, the Rome of Campo de’ Fiori, Piazza Navona, Piazza Farnese, the Rome of “D’ya gotta cigarette?”, “lend me 100 lira”, the Rome of the national Olympic teams, the horse races, the Rome that has the Forum that carried and still caries the name of Mussolini, I was leaving that shitty shitty Rome! Mamma Rome: farewell!