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oBike Bike Sharing in Rome

18 Apr

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Last Saturday I had the ambitious plan to take a long walk from my house to a chapel I had been wanting to visit in San Giovanni. Google said it would take me an hour, but I was fairly certain it would be around 40 minutes or less.

By the time I was about two-thirds done with my walk, I was huffing, puffing, and ready to be done. Out of nowhere, on a random street corner, there was a yellow oBike, just sitting there. Tired of walking, and armed only with my cell phone, I decided I’d try my luck and see if I could sign up on the spot and get the bike to finish my trip.

Signing up for oBike

I was slightly amused by the fact that the oBike instructions on the bicycle itself are in German, thus reminding me of how our northern European counterparts are much more likely to tool around their cities on a bike.

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Let’s face it, folks: Rome has never been known as a cyclist’s dream city. Great cities for cycling are relatively flat, like Amsterdam. And also—north of here. While it’s ambitious to try to “green up” the Eternal City, Romans are notoriously committed to their cars. Not to mention the fact that Rome is also famously known as the City of Seven Hills.

And yet, oBike, a young Singapore startup, launched in Rome last November and has been adding to its local fleet ever since. In an article last December, oBike’s Italy director said, and I quote: “The problems and the complexities of a megalopolis like Rome don’t scare us.” His courage is honorable, but whether the service can actually succeed in Rome where multiple others have come before it and failed, remains to be seen.

In any case, let’s cut to the chase: sign-up is a breeze. With my smartphone’s data connection, in a matter of minutes I was able to download the oBike app, sign in with Facebook, and connect my Paypal account for payment. There is a €5 refundable deposit (shown as a €45 discount off of the normal €50 deposit price) and a minimum account balance of €5 required to start.

Unlocking and locking the oBike

The oBike uses your phone’s app and Bluetooth connection to control the lock, a black and metal ring located around the back tire. The lock opens automatically when you activate the current bike through the app.

When you’re ready to end your trip and park the bike, you have to manually slide the lock back into place. You also need to keep your phone’s Bluetooth connection active at the same time, so the app can register the bike as locked and properly end your trip.

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To locate a bike, the app uses a map to show you where the bikes currently are, and allow you to select one. You can reserve it for 10 minutes before you reach it to unlock it; or, if you see a bike parked in the city you can approach it and use the app to unlock it. You do this by scanning its QR code, which is located on the top of the handlebars.

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The bike starts off with a minimum 50-cent charge, and then costs just 50 cents for each 30-minute period thereafter. You can also get a “VIP Card” through the app, which allows you to pay a set fee to keep the bicycle for an extended period of time (€1.50/24 hours; €2.99/3 days; €4.99/7 days; €9.99/30 days; €19.99/90 days). You can pay using a credit card or a Paypal account.

oBike operating areas in Rome and parking

You can ride the oBike wherever you want throughout the city, but you are only allowed to park it in specific areas of the city. The app marks the non-designated parking zones of the city in red. oBike told me the current parking zones include the I and II municipalities (roughly the entire historic center, Trastevere and the Vatican as well as north Rome up to the Salaria), as well as parts of the V and VIII municipalities. For tourists this is probably sufficient.

Since the bike has its own autonomous locking system, you can basically just leave it wherever you choose. This being Rome, people definitely do just that, hence the random bike I encountered during my walk, which was parked smack-dab in the middle of a traffic island at a busy intersection. The app’s map designates small blue areas where it encourages you to park, and you can earn reward credit points for doing so.

Credit point system

I live just south of the designated parking areas, and so I unknowingly parked in the red zone when I ended my journey back home. I was alerted to this error by the app after I locked the bike. The app told me it was docking my account 10 credits. That’s when I discovered the point penalty system oBike uses to incentivize its users to park appropriately.

When you sign up, you get 100 points to start with. You can earn extra points by doing certain things, such as parking in the blue areas designated on the app’s map, reporting broken bikes or improperly parked bikes, or sharing your ride information on Facebook. oBike said it’s counting on this “community” aspect to deter theft and vandalism.

Losing points makes the service fee incrementally rise. You get docked for things like:

  • parking in the unauthorized city zones (10 points, red zone on the app’s map);
  • forgetting to lock the bike, without it being stolen (20 points);
  • breaking traffic laws, adding your own lock, losing the bike, or illegally transporting the bike (reduces your credit to zero).

Customer service

I hadn’t noticed the red zone on the app, and since I had picked the bike up literally in the middle of an intersection, I hadn’t taken the time to study or learn the system beforehand. I was sort of ticked off that I got points docked, because the authorized and unauthorized zones didn’t seem clear to me or easy to understand. I hadn’t seen any red zone on the map. I wrote to customer service to ask them why I was docked points. I thought this would also be a good test to see how responsive they are.

I wrote on a Saturday and was told I’d get an initial response within 48 hours. I actually didn’t get the response until Tuesday morning, asking for my account number since I had signed up through Facebook, so they could look at my specific trip information. I responded, and less than 24 hours later I received a nice note explaining that I had, in fact, parked in a red zone, but they would re-credit the points to my account, which they did.

Problem resolved, and I finally had information about the specific zones where the bikes can be parked, which I shared above. I do see the red areas on the zone map now, too. I think I probably just hadn’t looked well enough, so it was nice of them to credit me anyways.

Practical considerations and tips

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Bike sharing is an ambitious and idealistic notion here in Rome. I hate to be the typical Roman pessimist, because I’d really like to see this service succeed here, but once again, Rome is not a hospitable place at all for cyclists, unfortunately. Here are some pros and cons to the service, as I see them.

oBike bike sharing in Rome pros:

  • Fun way to get around the city if you don’t want to rent a scooter
  • Cheap
  • Easy to sign up, easy to use
  • No set parking lots; park bike anywhere within designated city zones
  • Bike basket makes it easy to transport small items like a purse or shopping bag
  • Lots of bikes in the city; oBike told me in the email they sent that they recently increased the fleet in Rome, which in December was reported to already be 1,900 bikes in the trial phase
  • App provides lots of fun information such as a map tracking your trip and a count of calories burned and kg of carbon emissions reduced; your trips are saved in a tab in your account profile

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oBike bike sharing in Rome cons:

  • City bikes without gears or electric pedal assist are hard to pedal up Rome’s numerous hilly and sloped areas
  • No helmets, so you have to provide your own, or risk going without (there’s no bicycle helmet law in Rome)
  • Rome has little to no public bike parking, forcing you to park the bike “creatively” on sidewalks or other random areas
  • Bike paths are virtually non-existent in Rome, making the danger of riding a bicycle likely much higher than that of even a motorino scooter

Only time will tell if oBike, whose ambitious motto is “the future of transportation,” is able to break the curse of repeated failures by other bike sharing services in Rome. A similar Hong Kong-based company, GoBee Bike, recently bit the dust after a valiant attempt, citing that “nearly 60% of our European fleet got either damaged, stolen or privatized.” Yikes. (Granted, The Guardian reports that service allowed users to “leave the bike anywhere, unlocked [emphasis added].” Doh.)

In addition to its home country of Singapore, where it launched its first 1,000 bikes in February 2017, oBike is also available in the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Belgium, France, Sweden, and Norway.

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Marcel Duchamp at Galleria Nazionale di Arte Moderna

18 Oct

[Spoiler alert: If you plan to visit this show in Rome, you should go before you read this post. There are lots of pictures that will give away some of the delight and surprise you could experience in person.]

Last Friday I visited a recently opened exhibition at the National Gallery of Modern Art here in Rome, also known as GNAM, which happily means “yum” in Italian.

This was the first time I had ever seen any works by Marcel Duchamp, a French-American artist associated with Cubism, Dadaism and Surrealism. I have recently been introduced to the world of surrealist and conceptual art by the talented poet Enrique Enriquez, a mentor of mine who I am grateful to for the introduction into this marvelous world. This show was assigned to me as “homework.”

I had very superficial awareness of someone, somewhere, at sometime in the past, having signed a urinal and called it artwork. That was pretty much far as my knowledge went. It seemed absurd. And yet therein lies the beauty of surrealism.

I won’t go into educating about Duchamp because I’m certainly not the right person for that. But I do highly encourage you to delve more into his life and work: Wikipedia biography, The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, Marcel Duchamp World Community site, Making Sense of Marcel Duchamp site.

So, without too much preamble, let me take you on a bit of a photo tour of the exhibition. There weren’t any signs saying that photos weren’t allowed, and the employees weren’t stopping anyone. So I had a bit of a fun free-for-all.

First, a few shots of the approach to the GNAM. The weather was barely holding out, as it’s been a bit of a rainy October this year.

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I think EE would appreciate this shot. Not only does it have a Vespa, but the lamppost and the sculpture look like they form a lowercase “b,” or possibly a “p.”

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I never really get tired of the majestic columns around these parts.

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I was totally unaware of Duchamp’s obsession with and talent for the game of chess. Here the text explains that Duchamp found the creative aspect of the game a way to escape the slavery of monotony, because it allowed for endless ways to produce new patterns, and that this aspect of the game was what attracted him the most and is also why chess permeates his artwork. It also says that starting in 1923 and for 12 years thereafter, Duchamp abandoned his artwork completely in order to dedicate himself to chess, playing in many professional tournaments.

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This, then, was the first readymade of the show. I fell in love with it at first sight. This one is Pocket Chess Set. The one on display is the original with wallet from 1943.

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I took this shot just for EE. When I first began studying the optical language of the Marseille Tarot, I would tease EE about the images, just for fun. I told him that the monks on the card “Le Pape” looked like they had donuts on their heads. He promptly emailed me back to correct me by saying “Shelley, those are called tonsures.” Oh, tonsure-shmonsure. Look at MD’s star-shaped tonsure! Fabulous. This one is, in fact, called simply Tonsure, and is from 1919.

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By far, one of my favorite works on display in the show. This is Box in a Valise, and is basically a miniature Duchamp museum, with exact miniature replicas of his various pieces. Totally compelling. I invite you to note the mini-Fountain hanging on the wall.

Before the room where most of the readymades were on display, there was a larger open space with works by Italian artist Luca Maria Patella. It’s difficult to find much in English about Patella, but here’s an interview in Italian by art critic Manuela De Leonardis. I absolutely fell in love with his work.

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This work by Patella is called MUT/TUM, and is described on Patella’s site thus: MUT/TUM , (1965)-1985.
A “para-Duchampian” work that “shows and displays itself” (mostra e di-mostra) as MUTT, turned over “physically” in 1917 (The Fountain), was … turned over “linguistically” in 1918 (Tu m’). (in the perpendicular square in the center: a pair of mirrors – side by side – are perceived as an empty space), graphic design, painting, iron, mirror, 70 x 140 cm.

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I enjoyed this one a lot. In the large open space, you find this disk on the floor, that says “STAND HERE. Look at the bed.” It also gives height markers running from 170 cm on the top to 180 cm on the bottom of the disk, indicating where you should stand depending on your height. So, I did as told, and this is what I saw standing on the dot. (I actually saw them perfectly lined up, but was unable to capture that exactly with my camera.)

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Then, as you walk forward and examine the beds from the other side, this is what happens:

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Oh, Luca Maria Patella! You’re so silly!

And sort of–well, brilliant, too.

Personally, a part of me thinks that he should do some sort of installation at an IKEA store on the showroom floor. It would be awesome to then film people’s reactions, and pretend it was a real IKEA bed.

But hey, that’s just me.

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And, the moment you’ve all been waiting for! The pisser! Funny aside: while standing in front of this display, I was the only one in the room. I had this irresistible urge to look underneath the typewriter cover.

So, I bent down, and sort of moved my head sideways—and all of a sudden that “you’re getting too close!” alarm went off. “WEE-UUU WEE-UUU WEE-UUU! Violator over here!” pretty much blasted through the entire cavernous and church-silent museum space.

HA! I had to laugh. It’s almost as if that was a pre-programmed part of the fun of the show itself. It was like an auditory reminder: “Good for you, Shell! Don’t take yourself so seriously in life!”

Why, thank you for that helpful reminder, Monsieur Duchamp. Much obliged, indeed.

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I loved these sketches. So tender. I want to steal this moment in time for myself. Après l’amour, 1967

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And then, totally random and fun, one of Duchamp’s suitcases that he left behind at a friend’s apartment. The label reads: “Duchamp, 28 West 10th St., New York, U.S.A.”

All in all, a completely delightful experience.

Galleria Nazionale di Arte Moderna
Viale delle Belle Arti 131
Click here for details about the Duchamp: Re-Made in Italy show

Caught My Eye

11 Nov

A few things that captured my attention last week here in the Eternal City:

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Really like these espresso cups and the whole Illy live happilly campaign. Don’t tell the folks at the Illy bar at Eataly where I got this caffè macchiato, but I shamelessly swiped like 8 different packets of sugar from their big sugar packet fishbowl, just because they were so cool. Each one had a different verb in a different color on the non-logo side, like the ones shown in the image below. The packets are now going to a special someone of mine who lives in Amsterdam (who just *might* be reading this post).

I had a fabulous day on Friday as I had the “tough” work assignment of attending the new Caput Mundi exhibit at the Colosseum. It was really interesting and my post about it will soon appear over here. Although I didn’t venture much into viewing the Colosseo itself, because I’ve been there/done that, I did have to snap a shot of this on the way out. Only in Rome. (And oh, by the way? Please don’t tell the people who put that sign there that every tourist and his mom was sitting on top of the broken columns, taking pictures as if they were sphinx (sphinxes?) in ancient Egypt, or a statue. I guess it’s the Rome equivalent of holding up the leaning tower of Pisa. Or something.)

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And, in other news… a priest-like mystery. But before I get to that, it occurs to me to mention to my dear readers that the calendar that sparked so much interest when I first wrote about it back in 2006 (better known as Priest of the Month) is still to be had everywhere in downtown Rome, with the EXACT SAME COVER. Hello, marketing geniuses?! Could you not be bothered to update with newer, hotter priests?

But I digress.

Can any of my astute readers delineate what on God’s (no pun intended) Earth this sticker is supposed to be telling me? It was stuck on the turnstile at the Colosseum metro stop exit. I’m like, is that Dan Ackroyd?

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A cursory Google search didn’t turn up much. Unless you count this website, Why Not Priest, as something. (And let me tell you, that prominent “Want an Answer? Ask a Question” box is waaaay too tempting for a demented and sarcastic mind like that possessed by yours truly…)

Then I remembered that I had once heard about a mysterious thing-a-ma-bob that Google was supposed to have, a sort of “reverse” image search, where you could put in your image, and Google would tell you WTF you were looking at. Nifty, right?

Well, Google, holy effing crapoly, man. What kind of unbelievably big-brotherish algorithm did you invent to do THIS?

THAT’S not Dan Akroyd, people! That there’s JIM JONES!

Now, the whole philosophical/existential meaning behind the “WHY NOT?” is still beyond the scope of any Google search, reverse or forward, it seems.

And you know that now there’s absolutely NO WAY IN HELL (wow, puns are piling up all over the place!) you’re getting away from reading this post without a cleverly injected Kool-Aid reference, right?

Don’t drink it, people.

P.S. In my defense, Dan Ackroyd DID wear sunglasses in The Blues Brothers. Please see Exhibit A below:

Granted, he isn’t wearing a priest’s collar, but hey, nobody’s perfect.

And he DID star in a really crappy-ass TV show called “Soul Man” back in 1996 in which he was a priest, or a preacher, or something. (Don’t ask me how I know this.) Which may or may not have been a really tacky play on words based on his performances of the famous “Soul Man” Blues Brothers song.

OK. You are now free to go about doing something more productive. xoxo

Unless you really don’t want to. In which case maybe YOU will have the honor of being the 2,000th person to view Episode #8 “Public Embarrassment and Todd’s First Sermon,” oh-so-usefully occupying space on the Internets thanks to faithful (pun #3, yes I’m counting) YouTube user “JesusIsLordForever.”

Why, yes. Yes, He is.

(Priest collar appears at 7:01 or thereabouts. And yes, that does appear to be the kid from Home Improvement. Wow. I am raising the bar on useless trivia tonight, folks! Where’s my damn gold star?!)

Roman food and culture in Testaccio

2 Apr

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If you want to rediscover old-fashioned flavors, try our typical and genuine products! at the Testaccio Market in Piazza Testaccio

I haven’t been this excited about a post in a long time.

Let me just start by saying this:

I CAN HONESTLY SAY I HAVE OFFICIALLY EATEN THE BEST TOMATOES I’VE EVER EATEN IN MY ENTIRE LIFE.

When’s the last time you were able to say that? Personally, I’ve never said it. Until now.

Not that I’m some kind of wacko tomato connoisseur (whoa, had to look up that spelling), but folks, just: wow.

I also had an amazing dish of cacio e pepe pasta (among others), a lively chat with a gelataio about the worst possible flavor combinations one could ever request (coffee and lemon together, apparently), and a variation on a supplì that was simply heaven wrapped in crispy fried goodness.

Before I start in on this, let me clearly state: I realize I’m not treading new ground here, and that in the three years I was gone from Rome, the blogging scene exploded and food blogging here became a “thing”– a mix of trendy and competitive, in which unearthing the most amazing undiscovered food finds here in Rome has become akin to some kind of extreme sport.

That, alas, is not my game, folks. (end disclaimer)

What is my game is doing fun things that celebrate Roman culture, food, and lifestyle. Which is exactly what my brilliant friend Kenny is doing in Testaccio, and doing quite well, I might add. (Y’all remember Kenny, right?)

Kenny was generous enough to invite me to tag along recently on one of his Rome tours in Testaccio. Having never really explored Testaccio gastronomy beyond knowing the “big names” and having a only a very general idea of the neighborhood, I was intrigued.

Without giving away too many of Kenny’s secrets, I will now share with you some photos from this not “three hour tour, three hour tour,” but–bonus!–four hour tour. (Thinly veiled Gilligan’s Island reference was clearly irresistable. As is my irrational love for parenthetical notations.)

Kenny lives in Testaccio and as his website states, he is a man who wears many hats. On the day I joined his tour, he was wearing a dapper tweed one.

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Isn’t he adorable? I know!

There were 11 happy and hungry souls visiting Rome and anxiously awaiting to discover Testaccio’s many gastronomical secrets. I can attest to the fact that they went away more than satisfied. You see, I was spying. I was like, embedded, you know? I can report back that I heard a bunch of the participants say how much they were enjoying the tour. And who wouldn’t?

We met Carmelo, the man who proportedly sells the largest selection and variety of tomatoes in all of Rome. His whole stand is JUST TOMATOES. Hence where I ate aforementioned most delicious tomato of life. Thank you Carmelo! You’ll have to take Kenny’s tour to find out why the locals call him the “tomato poet.” It’s a good one.

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In no particular order, I also discovered amazing cheeses:

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a still-functioning whipped cream machine from the 1930’s:

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a stand selling horse meat (no, no worries, this is not on the tasting menu):

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and–drum roll please–CHEESE PACIFIERS:

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Not to mention a pretty bizarre statue that the stand’s owner simply referred to as a “work of art.” I most helpfully commented that, IMHO (or SLMO, if you prefer), the squash was the most artistic part of the work. Don’t you agree?

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What to say? I tip my hat (as I, too, love them) to Kenny and his well-organized, informative, professional, and above all fun and delicious tour. We tasted ELEVEN–count them–eleven different deliciousnesses (yes, trust me, that’s a word) which ranged from savory to sweet, traditional to non, and all perfectly planned to introduce visitors to a side of Rome they’ll never get if they go on your typical “herd ’em through” tours, mindlessly following someone waving a flag. This, in short, was a lovely experience, and after eight years in Rome, I left with a wealth of new knowledge.

Grazie Kenny, and I wish you much continued success!

If you’re planning a trip to Rome, I highly recommend joining one of Kenny’s tours. Clearly I am not journalistically objective here. But that’s not why you read my blog now, is it?? I get you the good stuff. Period.

Eating Italy Food Tours in Rome
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Neon Maria

5 Jul

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I usually find these “madonelle,” small shrines to the Virgin Mary on the side of buildings, in Trastevere. But I saw this one in the Monti neighborhood the other day, and the best part?

NEON!

Of course I was bummed to see that it wasn’t lit up, and I am so curious to know if it does go on at night… Maybe it flashes too. That would be the best.

Here is a link to more “little Madonnas” if you’re so inclined.

Eye on Italy Podcast

23 Jun

I had the pleasure of being on the Eye on Italy podcast this week, so I wanted to share the link with you and encourage you to subscribe to the podcast. It is a weekly podcast that talks about current events in Italy and then has a different guest each week. It was a lot of fun! I talk about Roman neighborhoods and the “lay of the land” here in Rome. Also below you will find links to the restaurants and places that I talk about in the podcast.

Click here to go to the Eye on Italy podcast

Questa settimana sono stata intervistata per il podcast “Eye on Italy.” E’ una trasmissione settimanale in inglese, in cui parlano di attualita’ in Italia e ogni settimana hanno un ospite che ha in qualche modo a che fare con l’Italia. Questa settimana ho parlato dei quartieri romani e un po’ la “geografia” della citta’. E’ stato un piacere chiaccherare con Sara, Michelle e Jessica. Potete cliccare il link sopra per ascoltare la trasmissione.

Trastevere
Da Enzo
Spirito di Vino
Taverna dei Mercanti

Testaccio
Nuovo Mondo Pizzeria, Via Amerigo Vespucci, 15

Jewish Ghetto
Visits to the Synagogue (click the “english” link on the right side of the page)

Prati
Gelarmony

Outside Rome
Rainbow MagicLand

Buying Fake Designer Goods in Rome

8 Oct

One of the things that my study abroad students used to ask me every so often was, “Where can we go to get the fake purses?”

There are a few places that are almost like established stores by now, so well-known are they for selling counterfeit luxury goods like Prada, Chanel and Louis Vuitton bags. I had students who had become experts not only in bartering for the best price (“Don’t ever spend more than €25…”) to knowing exactly how to identify the crappy knock-offs from the more authentic-looking ones (“The Gucci bags where the G’s look like 69’s instead of G’s? Avoid them. Way too fake-looking.”)

Personally, I’ve never bought a fake bag and I never intend to. It’s not some sort of statement or snobbery. It’s just that I think I would feel silly carrying one around, when nearly my entire wardrobe consists of Old Navy clothing and Payless shoes. I mean, come on. I pay $16 for a pair of shoes but then I want to try to make people believe that I spent $600 on a handbag? Who are we kidding here?

But lots of people buy them. This article from the International Herald Tribune says that 20% of Italians buy fake goods. Actually, I don’t think that it’s really accurate to examine how many Italians buy the fake goods. My guess is that the majority of the bags are sold to tourists.

I’ve accepted these street vendors without complaint, because they are as much as part of the city as the people who beg for money or the street performers. But I have to say that despite what the article above (from January 2006) says, just recently I’ve seen a marked increase in street vendors selling fake designer purses, sunglasses, and the like. This summer on the more touristy end of my street in Trastevere, madness truly descended. There were so many street vendors with their blankets spread out on both sides of the street, that there was literally only room for people to walk almost single-file. It was becoming like the Vegas Strip, and I found myself searching for alternate routes to avoid the traffic. Luckily I don’t live near that part of the street so I don’t have to bother with the chaos when I come in and out of my apartment, but I have to wonder how the residents who live on that side of the street must feel when they have to maneuver around all these bags and people just to get to their front doors.

A phenomenon you might see when in Rome is a sudden mass exodus of the street vendors packing everything up and getting the hell out of Dodge. That’s because they’ve heard that police are on the beat and so they need to move. Now, I really question whether these street vendors actually ever get ticketed. I think they more likely just find new spots to set up shop, or come back the next day.

For example, towards the end of the summer I saw a sudden disappearance of the street vendors on that busy end of my street, which directly coincided with a marked increase in police cars patroling that particular area. However, around the exact same time, I saw a huge increase in vendors setting up shop in front of the Pantheon (where the photos for this post were taken). It had gotten to the point where one could barely move in the area surrounding the outside of the Pantheon, for fear of tripping over a handbag or pair of sunglasses displayed on the ground or on makeshift tables fashioned from cardboard boxes.

The last I heard, the law was that the person who purchases the fake goods is the one commiting the crime. In fact, the same IHT article says that a Philippine woman living in Florence was fined €3,333 for buying fake sunglasses for €11. While I think that’s entirely possible, I also have to say that I think the chances of a tourist actually getting fined for purchasing fake goods sold in broad daylight in high-traffic tourist zones is just about as likely as the street vendors getting fined or arrested, which I think probably never happens. In my view, there’s an unacceptably high level of tolerance that goes on.

Of course, counterfeit goods are sold in most of the big cities of the world. For three days on my honeymoon I had the opportunity to be in Hong Kong, a simply fascinating and enchanting city, but on certain streets you couldn’t walk two feet without being asked to buy fake electronics or watches. In New York you hear about mysterious secret back rooms where the goods are sold (such as the one mentioned in this article). So I know it’s a problem that doesn’t just concern Rome.

I personally wouldn’t mind if the street vendors were completely wiped off the Rome landscape … to me their improvised street “shops” are annoying and an eyesore, especially in front of such great cultural landmarks, but I know it’s a complicated issue. I haven’t even touched the points surrounding the street vendors themselves, who are most likely all illegal immigrants who certainly have found refuge and a better life here in Italy, or the arguments from the luxury goods companies, who say that these sales not only lower the overall value of their brand, but cause massive job loss in their industries.

What are your thoughts? Have you ever bought one of the bags? (It’s ok to admit it, I doubt the tax police will come hunt you down.) I’m curious to know if you see these vendors as annoyances or as providing some kind of valuable service, allowing people to purchase fake goods at a fraction of the price they cost when they are real.

It’s come to the point where even if I had the money to buy a real designer bag, I probably wouldn’t do it now… I’d be too embarassed thinking that everyone would look at it and think it was a fake.