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Tag Archives: Roman culture

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.

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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

birramoretti

Exhibit 3: Bottlenecks

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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.

mustache

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.

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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.

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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!

Redux

ReduxExpress-ComplexTM! 

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?

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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:

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

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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.

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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!

Ode to Carlo Verdone

27 Jul

Grande. GRANNNDEEE Carlo!

Of course, with my never-ending love for Rome and Roman culture, it was inevitable that Verdone already held a special place in my heart, for his comic portrayals of Rome, Romans, and his comic gift in bringing slightly (or not-so slightly) exaggerated characters to life.

Last night I had the pleasure of being in the audience at the Piazza Vittorio summer outdoor cinema series (16th year running!) where occasionally they have Q&A sessions with the actors and directors of the various films showing. When it was time for “Posti in Piedi in Paradiso” (“Standing Room Only in Heaven” would be the English equivalent translation), written and directed (and acted!) by Verdone, he was on hand to greet the crowd and answer questions about his film and his long career that’s still going strong after 33 successful years. (Here’s his Wikipedia page.)

Do any of you know him or have met him in person or seen him give a talk? He is splendid. Splendidly Roman, “alla mano,” sincero e genuino. The first words out of his mouth were words of thanks to the people of Rome, who he says he owes his career to, and he says he never takes for granted. He blew kisses to the crowd and gestured to his heart. I honestly do not believe there is a superficial bone in the man’s body. I mean, I could be totally and completely wrong. But after listening to him talk and banter with the crowd for nearly an hour, I was convinced that he walks the talk.

Carlo lives in Monteverde Vecchio, as far as I know. I used to live in Trastevere and my ex-husband would sometimes see him at CeCeRe which was this historically Roman bar close to Piazza S. Cosimato that changed management years and years ago. In any case, the characters who ran that bar were awesomely Roman. The man who served up the cappuccini had the most distinctive barman voice I’ve ever heard, it was almost robotic in a way, but such a pleasure to hear him bark out his unique “Buongiorno” and “grazie” loudly and firmly to literally every single person who walked in or out.

The woman at the cash register was tough as nails and old as the hills. She was such a character that she actually ENDED UP in one of Verdone’s films! I saw it and was like, “Hey! That’s my bar cash register lady!”

Verdone knows how to perfectly capture the Roman spirit and explained how he still keeps his finger on the pulse of the day-to-day life of the city. He said that while others among his colleagues might lead a lifestyle where they sleep until 2 pm and start their day at 10 pm, always seeing the same set of people and the same social scene, he says that the most essential part of his “research” for finding sources for his writing and films and comedy is his Roman neighborhood in the morning. Especially the pharmacy. (Have I told you yet how much I adore this man? He sounds like an older, male, Roman version of ME!) He says he likes to go into the pharmacy to take his blood pressure as an excuse to hear the long life stories that people tell the pharmacists by way of then finally getting around to describing their ailment. He says he kind of hangs out around the blood pressure machine, telling the pharamacists to “take their time” while he soaks up the people and conversations around him, silently and stealthily gathering material. “Mi son bruciato già due o tre farmacie in zona mia così!” he said, laughing, that he’s already gone through 2 or 3 pharmacies that caught on to this act of his and told him not to come back. Ha. Typical Roman joke.

He also said that riding the train is essential for getting great material, because people LOVE to talk in loud voices on their cell phones, telling whoever is on the other end their life dramas and stories, and it’s so true. He said that he was having to take trains often for work reasons from Rome to Milan, and would spend the time just punching away on his cell phone note after note from the conversations he’d hear on the train, and bits and pieces of all these scraps end up in his scripts here and there.

He talked about his passion for Rome and Romans, and his curiosity and the enjoyment he gets from talking to the people at the gas station, the bar, the shops in his neighborhood.

I just loved this, and again I don’t think it’s a put on. He talked about how he’s filmed 13 movies at the Cinecittà film studios, and over the past two years written numerous editorials advocating for the support of this dying historical landmark of Italian cinema. He vaguely referred to colleagues of his who signed petitions to prevent Cinecittà from closing but haven’t ever filmed there, and although he said it’s a topic that has to “be approached delicately” to be diplomatic, by the time he finished up telling about Cinecittà, he was fervent and raised his voice, criticizing those who claim to want to save Cinecittà but haven’t ever done anything more than talk. He passionately talked about the wealth of artisan skill in the workers there, and his hope that no one loses their job, along with it the rich tradition of Italian craftsmanship in film-making.

I love this man. I love his comedy, I love his sincere spirit, and best of all, he completely exuded this energy of being comfortable in his own skin. The entire time I never felt like I was in front of someone who had to prove anything to anyone, or someone who takes pride in being a celebrity, if not a true comic legend, of Italian film. He’s just Carlo.

When the host asked him if it’s hard for him to still quietly observe daily life in Rome due to his fame, he said that he loves his neighborhood, where everyone is just themselves, and the most he gets from most people on the street is “‘A CA’! Ciao!” Romans calling out hi to him in their local dialect slang. He’s just one of the many, and I think it’s kind of commendable. Sure, he’s rich, famous, well-connected, etc., etc. But you have to give a guy credit for staying true to his roots. Rock on Carlo.

He’s going to be appearing in Paolo Sorrentino’s next film which starts shooting next week, called “La Grande Bellezza,” in a dramatic role, which is a change for him. And then after, he says he’s going back to filming another of his own scripted and directed comedies, which he said that his producer DeLaurentiis emailed him yesterday saying will be filmed all digital.

And after this elogy, however, I don’t even want to put a comic clip of Verdone up. I want to put up one of the scenes that honestly left its impression. I love this scene. I love the passion, I love the way he recites this monologue, I just think he’s brilliant. Here he’s talking about a woman that he had an affair with and how he doesn’t regret a thing, and how it was all worth it. I think he has this philosophy on life, going after what he believes in, going for what he’s passionate about, and it’s evident in his work. He’s humble and genius all at once.

La Mandrakata

16 Jul

This post goes out to those of you who are learning Italian in Rome, or know Italian, or know Roman dialect, or any combination of these things.

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, then you’ll know that my main passion is for Roman culture and Roman dialect. Truly, I might be the only American in Rome who has the “Febbre da Cavallo” theme song as their cell phone ring tone. If you even know what that means, then this post is for you.

When I first moved here and started learning Italian, everyone—and I mean EVERYONE and THEIR MAMMA—kept telling me, “For the LOVE OF GOD, though, DON’T learn Italian from the Romans! Dear God NO! It’s so… so… so… VULGAR!” And I swear to you, I didn’t get what that meant.

Did it mean they say lotsa swears?

It did. But that isn’t exactly “it” because it’s not like they swear only in Rome. Although, as an aside, truly the way that Romans creatively swear is another reason to love them. I’ve had Romans ask me lots of times, “Hey Shell, how do you say [insert Italian and/or Roman swear word] in English?” and I’ll be like, “F…” or “Sh…” or what, like the other 2 or 3 four-letter words we use? Then they ask another word, and I say THE SAME EXACT word in English. And so they repeat it as if I didn’t understand correctly. Sample dialogue: No, no, not “fottiti” or “cazzo in culo”, no, it’s different, this time we just want to know simply “vatteneafanculo” and I’m like, ok, still though, it’s pretty much the same ol’ F word for us, more or less. We don’t get so incredibly descriptive, especially when it comes to parts of the male and female anatomy, for goodness sake! I’m like, you guys are just a lot more creative than we are, when it comes to being vulgar.

But my point being… the “vulgarity” of Roman dialect doesn’t quite lie in simple swear words or talking dirty. No; it’s something more, something almost intangible, something hard to articulate. I tried to get Romans who were familiar with the US to compare it for me to some US accent.

“Is it like the Texas accent? Is it like a Southern accent? Like an accent that people use to imply idiocy?” (no offense to Southerners, of course. Think George W. Bush).

“No, that’s not really it, either,” they’d say.

Long story short, the closest I’ve ever come to a comparison is a hard NYC accent or—and more than once I’ve been told this—specifically Brooklyn. I know nothing about NYC or Brooklyn so this doesn’t mean more to me than something remotely akin to The Sopranos.

In any case, once you learn what a Roman accent sounds like, and the peculiarities that make it uniquely Roman, you can finally start to really understand the Roman sense of humor and view on life. (Which I’ve also touched on recently in this post about Roman sonnets). Which brings me to the title of this post: la mandrakata.

I’d already been living here in Rome for years and spoke pretty decent Italian by the time I started wondering what the hell the “mandrakata” really was. I mean, I’d always hear it. They’d always be like, “What a mandrakata!” and I never gave it much thought, just like I didn’t give much thought to why every Roman guy I had met said “cesso” instead of “bagno” for bathroom, and then I came to find out it meant “shitter” after I asked my poor MIL the first time I met her “Excuse me ma’am but where’s your shitter located?” (My friends have heard this one a million times, but it’s a classic.) So the elusive mandrakata would always be nominated when it came to something that was … how can I put this… some context in which something was super cool and kind of a rip off, like when you got away with something or pulled a really cool trick on someone. It’s hard to explain but that’s about as good as I can do.

So if you, too, like me, are a student of Roman culture and dialect and ever wondered where the hell this phrase came from, I’m here to enlighten you. It comes from the movie “Febbre da Cavallo,” which, in and of itself is a study in Roman culture. There are many other movies we could go on about—Alberto Sordi, Carlo Verdone—but today I want to go here: Gigi Proietti. I LOVE THIS MOVIE. I can’t explain to you why, anymore than I can explain to you why I love Roman culture in general.

So here, in all its You Tube glory, is one classic example of the mandrakata. Gigi Proietti, the main character, is called Mandrake (mahn-DRAH-kay), and thus, he gives birth to the so-called “Mandrake maneuver” or the mandrakata, which is basically some kind of scam to either avoid paying for something because you have no money from losing it all on bets, or a scam to get more money for betting on horses, or just a way to pull a practical joke on someone you can’t stand, like the butcher in this clip, who they call Manzotin which is like the Italian version of Spam.

I love this scene. Few movies can make me smile even when I’ve had the shittiest of days, but honestly this scene never fails to make me laugh. Either that makes me completely abnormal, or almost Roman at heart—or perhaps a mixture of both.

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.

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Colorful Parking in Trastevere

29 Mar

This morning I had a blessed “che culo!” moment (see #29) in finding a parking spot in Trastevere in the “strisce blu.”

Want a little parking primer for Rome? Ok, here goes:

Strisce blu = blue lines = need to find a parking meter and pay, usually €1 – €1,20 per hour
Strisce bianche = white lines = free parking. Work it.
Strisce gialle = yellow lines = um, caution. You probably don’t have the right to park here. Unless you have a handicapped permit. Or maybe if you’re a doctor you could get away with it too. And I’m sure if you’re a politician it’s all good as well.

But what the hell should you do if they all intersect? Holy Lord. That might be an issue.

This morning as I was searching for a parcometro i.e., parking meter (and oh, BTW? don’t let a Roman tell you it’s pronounced “parCHImetro” as I promise you, it’s parCOmetro. I promise.), I saw a well-dressed guy in Ray-Bans looking around cluelessly. Poor guy. And he was cute. So I say: “Are you looking for a parcometro, too?”

He looks at me and goes, “No. Actually just trying to figure out what’s going on here. I can’t tell if I’m parked legally or not, because I don’t really know which lines I’m supposed to follow.”

Photographic evidence of said confusion-causer:

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Hmm, that’s kind of odd.

2012-03-29 10.30.04
Really odd.

2012-03-29 10.30.16
Can I get a WTF in the house? Or if you’re Italian shout me out a CC? (Get it? Che cazzo? It’s like my Italian version of WTF? Ha. I’m that good. I know. You can thank me later.)

So, anyways, I turn to cute well-dressed Ray-Ban guy and go, “Wow. That’s a good one. Beats me. Once I got a ticket in this neighborhood for being parked in the blue lines but they said the blue lines were faded, and therefore it wasn’t a legitimate parking spot.”

I mean, what can I say? Take your chances, I guess.

He follows me to the parchimetro parcometro (I’m sure he was using it as an excuse to talk to me more, even though he had to pay for his parking too, but still—humor me here) and we start chatting about how strange things are. He says what I’ve heard many Italians tell me before, so get ready:

“Mah! Quest’è l’Italia.”

Go figure. That’s Italy for you.

I wish I could have had his voice recorded. He says to me: “In Italia succedono delle cose MOOOOOLTO ma MOLTO strane…”

In Italy, really really strange things tend to happen….

It’s true. But that’s why I love it here. I return to the video game metaphor of life in Rome. Because that’s what it’s like. Living in Rome is like being a character in a video game. Each task is like something you have to do to clear the next level. Parking? Oh geez. Double-colored lines. What do you do? If you get back to your car without a ticket, bonus! Level 2! Where you must then confront the evil fire-breathing dragon, a.k.a. mean lady at the ASL office. Or post office. Or just about any public office. (Just make sure you do it quietly, for God’s sake!)

If I haven’t been scared off after eight years, well, I think you can safely say I’ve gone native.

51 Things I Learned in Italy

8 Mar

I’ve been jotting these off on Twitter lately, and thought I’d collect them all together just for fun. A bit of my hard-earned Italian and Roman wisdom on display for you. If you have things you’ve learned in Italy too, add to the list in the comments section! (Numbered for legibility, but in no particular order of importance. All Italian lessons are worthwhile.)

  1. Your wallet is always filled with useless receipts.
  2. You can drink alcoholic beverages at a work lunch. Score!
  3. You can eat potato chips with a glass of white wine. Not considered white trash, considered cheap aperitivo.
  4. Showing boobies in a commercial for bath foam is totally legit in prime time.
  5. Cars officially have the right of way over pedestrians. 
  6. Crossing the street feels like that old video game Frogger.
  7. Milk goes bad after like 3 days.
  8. Run the washing machine and the hairdryer and the dishwasher all at once and you get an instant blackout.
  9. Real people actually drive the old Fiat 500, it’s not just for clowns in a circus.
  10. My landlord thinks it’s ok that the Zoppas oven in my apartment is from 1974. (It still works).
  11. Men drive around in cars with a loudspeaker to sharpen your knives. Or on bikes, just yelling.
  12. Pizza can be served with hot dogs and french fries on top.
  13. Teeny tiny electric cars exist and are basically for rich teenagers.
  14. Sunbathing is good for you, makes you look healthy.
  15. God forbid you sweat and then sit in front of a fan to cool off. (But if your children sweat, there are drying units available for them).
  16. Hell no, don’t throw spaghetti on the wall to see if it’s done! Who does that?
  17. Add salt to the water only AFTER it boils. (Adding it prior just raises the boiling temp).
  18. When getting over the stomach flu, eat white rice with parmesan and olive oil.
  19. Roman taxi drivers have the best stories.
  20. Copying on tests is an acceptable art form.
  21. Cesso means “shitter,” not simply ‘bathroom’. Tried that one out on the MIL when I met her for the first time. Oops.
  22. “Preservatives” (as in for food) does NOT translate to “preservativi.” Use “conservanti” instead.
  23. Smoking two cigarettes a day doesn’t even qualify you as a smoker.
  24. The song “It’s Raining Men” has a strange perennial success. Seriously. It just keeps popping up on TV and the radio for no apparent reason.
  25. Wearing a t-shirt in February in Rome is considered half-naked.
  26. Cookies are breakfast food.
  27. Lane lines are simply road decorations.
  28. Eating horse meat is acceptable. Even in baby food. 
  29. In Rome “what ass!” actually means “what luck!” (che culo!)
  30. There are specific pasta shapes that go with specific sauces.
  31. Kids talk with pacifiers in their mouths at 3 years old.
  32. Men wear red pants.
  33. Getting in line is a concept, not a practice.
  34. If you “break my boxes” it means you’re getting on my nerves.
  35. 17 is bad luck and 13 is good luck.
  36. Don’t ever cross over arms with people when you’re toasting or shaking hands.
  37. American pasta is overcooked.
  38. Pizza comes with toppings pre-arranged, you don’t choose them individually.
  39. Never put parmesan cheese on penne all’arrabbiata.
  40. 99 degrees is considered a fever for which you should stay home from work.
  41. There’s some kind of pain or illness called “cervicale.”
  42. The liver is where all your anger is stored and it’ll hurt if you’re angry.
  43. All American kids carry guns to school.
  44. Don’t ever go out with wet hair.
  45. Butter is the “killer of the kitchen.”
  46. Salad comes at the end of the meal because it “helps you digest.”
  47. Never drink a cappuccino after a meal.
  48. Your earache was caused by a “wind gust.”
  49. Wait, no. Your earache was caused by a spiffero, like a mysterious drafty window somewhere.
  50. Air conditioning is “bad for you.”
  51. Bell peppers are “hard to digest.”

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 Shelley Ruelle is a freelance writer, translator, former study abroad professional, and language teacher from Seattle, WA, and has lived in Rome since 2001. She writes about life in Rome at her blog Un’Americana a Roma (An American Girl in Rome). Follow Shelley on Twitter at @shelleyinrome.