Tag Archives: expats

The Food Police and a Cross Pollinating Beehive

1 Jul

I was just telling a friend of mine the other day, actually my former aupair-turned-Rome-expat-herself, that one of the things I love most about living here in Rome is that pretty much every single one of the expat friends I’ve met here has a really amazing and interesting story to tell. It’s one of the fringe benefits of living in a country that’s not your own: you tend to meet other adventurous people who are living in a country that’s not their own, and each and every one of them generally has a story that’s worth writing if not an entire book, at least a little short story about.

Well. One couple of friends could easily fill multiple volumes of expat lore and literature, part of what I consider my Old Guard of Roman expats. These are people who came here just a bit before me, and who I’ve been able to see grow and thrive through the years.

Steve and Linda of The Beehive were “known to me” before I actually knew them personally. That’s how it tends to go around here. The English-speaking expat community is a rather small world and we’re all just a degree or two of separation, often having heard of someone before even meeting them in person. And so it goes in my relationship with the Brenner-Martinez clan.

Back in, oh, probably 2003 or so, a friend of mine whom I had met through the school where I was teaching ESL, lent me a paperback written by a woman who had spent time living in Rome. I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the book, the author, or anything, as these books do tend to pop up like mushrooms, and this was before the big blog explosion (many of us Rome bloggers had our start circa 2005-2006 when blogs were just becoming a bit more prevalent). But one thing I do remember is that whoever-she-was specifically mentioned she had worked for Steve and Linda. The Beehive was just under the surface of my consciousness, as it seemed like a sort of destination/checkpoint for expat travelers and people who wanted something richer than a standard cookie-cutter experience in Rome.

{Post-script: Linda helpfully clued me in to the book I was talking about. Penelope Green, “When in Rome.” Brilliant. Why didn’t Julia Roberts play her in a movie? I don’t know. She wrote two more books about Italy-go here.}

{Whoa. Double post-script. I did a Google search for the When in Rome book and, lo and behold, holy crapoly man, I actually WROTE AN ENTIRE POST ABOUT IT back in 2007. That was when my blog used to be called At Home in Rome, when I was renting out the tourist apartments I mention in the paragraph to follow. Jesus, people. Even the story I told you about how I got the book was wrong. That must have been another book another expat lent me. This one I actually got on my HONEYMOON at the Sydney airport. *shakes head in mock disbelief* Senility sets in at age 36. This is what happens when you try to raise three preschoolers as a single working mom while holding down a blog and moonlighting as a tarot consultant. For the love of God.}

A few years later, I started my own tourist lodging business in Trastevere (I left that business in 2008 when I started a family) and got to know Steve and Linda as local colleagues, but never in person and was just sort of aware of them and of their by-now almost legendary B&B that was pretty much booked solid all the time. I’d always recommend them to my guests if I was booked (I only rented two apartments and my premise around travel was based on the “Slow Travel” movement, so we generally had guests with similar travel “tastes”).

Come full circle to 2011 when I finished my three year odyssey of living back in the States, and serendipity had it that Steve and Linda were just moving back to Italy after having had a sabbatical as well. Linda and I became fast friends through mutual acquaintances, finally met in person, now each of us with three children a piece, and I am happy to say that our friendship has grown over the last couple of years.

Steve and Linda are full of creative ideas, projects, community spirit, and have filled a void in this city by offering wonderfully eco-conscious and stylish accommodations that are still within reach price-wise in this exorbitantly expensive city, as well as providing a dietary-sensitive alternative for travelers, with a cafe’ and vegan buffet three times a week open to guests and non-guests alike.

Gush, gush, I love them, can you tell?

But the whole point of this post wasn’t actually to be an advertorial, if you can believe it. The point was actually just to share something super fun with you. Steve and Linda have three vibrant young daughters who are the stars of a homegrown video series called “The Food Police,” and I love it.

You have to see their lastest episode with Rick Steves. And then go “like” their FB page for Cross Pollinate, their website with hand-picked and inspected cool places to stay across Europe.

Who knows where their adventures will take them next?

The Food Police – The Rick Steves Episode from Cross-Pollinate Travel on Vimeo.


I Need to Join Rome’s Comedy Club

20 Mar

No, seriously. Put this on my bucket list, immediately.

I became aware of Rome’s Comedy Club some time around the point where I started tweeting, maybe mid-last year. The minute I “discovered” them I was like, ohmygod I need to be a part of this comedy troupe. Obviously that’s entirely do-able because I have so much time on my hands that I have no idea what to do with, between raising three preschoolers as a single mom, working a day job, trying to build an online tarot reading practice in my after hours (I KNOW! this is my dirty super clean little secret!), maintaining local and international friendships with THE COOLEST GIRLS IN THE ENTIRE WORLD — just to mention a few of the women in my life who I admire to no end. And on, and on, and on. But let me tell you, there MUST be room in my life SOMEWHERE for me to audition for these guys. HOLY EFFING … seriously? I want to be Ms. Funny Pants in the dressing room in the video below because I HAVE BEEN THERE. Anyone who is 5’11” and lives in Italy has been there. I want to do a skit where the horrified saleslady looks on when I ask for SIZE FORTY ONE shoes. Basically their expressions are a mix of shock and curiosity to know that there are actually women on this planet who wear the equivalent of U.S. size 10.

Two funnies I’ll share before you watch this:

1) When I was 28 I was promoted to be the “youngest director ever” of the Rome center of a prominent study abroad programs provider with 7 centers worldwide. Since I was going to all of a sudden have to be “boss” to my former colleagues, and I was TWENTY EIGHT and looked all of SEVENTEEN, I thought, I should wear suits. It’s like how Power Rangers wear their costumes, I thought, Insta-Boss here would get more credibility by wearing proper business suits. So I go shopping (during January saldi, obvs) and start trying things on. N.B.: I HATE clothes shopping. I hate shopping in general which makes me anathema here in Italy. Whatever.

So the quote I’ll never forget when I was trying on clothes was when I came out wearing these pants with a sheer green tank top, that psuedo-silky material, and the commesse (salesladies) made me stand in front of a three-way mirror, and one looks at me and goes, “Are you wearing a bra?” OMG mortification. Um, yes. WTF. I guess I need to tighten those bra straps or something. To this day I still feel self-conscious when putting my bra on and am always very careful to tighten those straps that clearly I’m sagging in. I think the commesse are in league with Italian psychotherapists, creating complexes that necessitate deep inner work on the psyche.

2) After I gave birth to my twin girls, six months after to be exact, I came back to Italy with my lil’ family for a vacation and for the girls’ baptism. I had to get a dress for the ceremony and, ahem, let’s just say I wasn’t as svelte as I once was. I had gone up at least 2 or 3 sizes in the meantime. When I tried on one dress that I thought was cute, the commessa helpfully added, (once again as I’m standing vulnerably in front of three way mirrors in the middle of the store), “This one is particularly good for you because it easily hides your belly.” OMG. Seriously. Commesse are the masters of the “backhanded compliment.” You honestly don’t know whether to say Go F yourself or a humble, wow, thanks for that, I really appreciate it.

Anyhoo, major complimenti to Rome’s Comedy Club. Their source material is familiar to me and all expats–we spend long dinners and cocktail hours trading our ha-ha stories about life in Rome as a foreigner. OhmyGOD I have tons of ideas for their next video. I totally need to get in touch with them.