Tag Archives: Romans

Bathing Suit Season in Italy 2016 Edition

14 Jun

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

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

Witness Exhibit 1: the current Birra Moretti labels.


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

Exhibit 2: Signore Moretti


Exhibit 3: Bottlenecks


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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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!



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


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

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

Spray away, my friends.

But wait—there’s more!

The one-month pill to skinny:

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


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

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

But you knew that already, didn’t you?

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


Grassroots Neighborhood Clean-up in Rome

12 Jun

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Rome is suffering a real crisis in public services, and has been for quite some time. News on this city’s problems is abundant, and I’ve even written about it myself (The Fall of Roman Civilization – April 28, 2014; 5 Ways to Be Roman Without Moving to Italy – May 13, 2016).

There are also abundant sites that aggregate Romans’ frustration with the problems they face each day, which, although useful in highlighting the difficulties, don’t necessarily serve as catalysts for positive change.

However, a group called Comitato Parchi Colombo, in collaboration with Retake Rome, is gaining momentum as a grassroots force for citizen activism. In my neighborhood (as evidenced by the picture above), one initiative they take on is the big job of clean-up in our local parks, which can then be frequented safely and enjoyed by all.

I take my children to the park pictured above all the time, and can tell you that the sense of community there on the weekends is tangible. There are often dozens and dozens of people gathered for hours while children rollerblade, play on the park equipment, and parents chat on the benches or picnic on the grass. For those of you who have lived in Rome, you already know that neighborhood parks (as opposed to the city’s big green spaces like Villa Borghese) are often impossible places to have picnics, because of their sheer lack of upkeep and accumulation of broken bottles, cigarette butts, and all manner of trash. As a single mom with no local extended family, having a clean, spacious park to enjoy with my kids and other families is a godsend.

This group is completely voluntary and runs entirely on donations, but they lack bigger equipment to get more work done. They’ve launched a campaign to raise the 500 euros needed to buy a lawnmower. In an appeal to the 500 online members of the Facebook group Retake Roma Montagnola they noted that if each member donated just one euro, they could reach their goal.

But I want to extend the reach of the campaign to my readers as well—to those of you who have a piece of your heart here in Rome, but can’t drop by to give your euro to the doorman Andrea at the building on Via Badia di Cava 62 where he’s collecting donations.

Have a look at this two-minute video to see what this dedicated group of park volunteers did together with their families to make our park beautiful again:

If you’d like to help us reach our goal of buying a lawnmower, you can donate online at the “Good Cause” website (in Italian) – Comitato Parco Colombo “Compriamo il tagliaerba” (Let’s Buy a Lawnmower).

Don’t worry if you don’t speak Italian! I’ll guide you through it.

On the first page, click the green button. It says “Contribuisci” which means “Contribute”.




  1. Choose the amount you want to donate. The default is €25 but you can choose any amount you wish. The last option, “offerta libera”, lets you specify the amount you want to donate. Remember, even one euro—roughly $1.13—makes a difference.
  2. Choose the payment method: credit card or Paypal account. In both cases, the transaction is handled through Paypal’s secure system.
  3. Fill in your first and last name and your email address (or access using Facebook by clicking the blue Facebook button) and click the green button to proceed.


The check-box below the green avatar asks if you want this to be an anonymous donation; if so, check the box, but you still have to enter your name and email to make a donation.

That brings you to a Paypal access screen.

If you have a Paypal account, click the yellow button:


I donated using my US Paypal account, and at that point the language changed to English and my donation went through in one step.

If you don’t have a Paypal account, you can use a credit card by clicking on the link above the credit cards. I don’t have a tutorial for that because I didn’t use that method, but perhaps if you need, you can use Google Translate or Chrome’s page translator.

I’m so pleased to see grassroots civic action in Rome. So many people complain here without taking any real action to change things. Here is just one example of neighbors who want to take collective responsibility for keeping public spaces enjoyable.

For more information, visit Retake Roma’s main website or Comitato Parchi Colombo.

The next park clean-up is scheduled for Sunday, June 18 at 4:30 pm with a pizza dinner all together after the work is done.

Free Roman Dog Poo

7 Nov

Oh, people. Don’t ask me why I love living here.

Just don’t.

Because, frankly, there is really only one answer: Roman culture is rich with sarcastic geniuses. GENIUSES, I tell you. Geniuses of the art of sarcasm, who are more than willing to put their masterly talents on public display.

Yes. Sarcasm is an art. Please, don’t be mistaken into thinking otherwise.

Having come from a family where I was constantly told, “Don’t be sarcastic!!” from the time I was pretty much able to talk, thus being continually shamed and shunned for my own innate grasp of this art—well, let’s just say that living in Rome is for me the equivalent of verbal transgression heaven, a place where I feel I’ve finally found my tribe, a place where I belong. Heaven!

Where else could you find a sign posted to your local corner clothing donation dumpster that says THIS?


For those of you not versed in Italian, allow me to translate:

!!! TAKE NOTE !!!


Given the vast willingness of residents to get involved in providing the merchandise, while supplies last, this product is available totally free to all of those who want to make use of it.

We kindly ask consumers not to be too greedy with this offer, by only taking the quantity that they are able to use. There’s enough to go around for everyone.

For pick up, all you have to do is walk around.


More Words and Phrases They Never Taught You in Italian Class

21 Apr


Not that you’ll ever need them. But, here is some random nonsense for you. Just because I love you *this much* …

1. So the other day I was thinking about the totally useless words you might hear once every couple years. Like spleen. Consider yourself fluent once you know the world “spleen” in Italian, right? Here you go: milza. Say it with me: “MEAL-zah.” Ahhh, now doesn’t that feel good?

I thought it meant gallbladder, to be perfectly honest with you. But no. That’s cistifellea. Which I can assure you, in twelve years in Italy, I have never needed. Not a once. Although, I have also heard it referred to as colecisti. This is my life.

2. Or what about con i controcazzi? Have you ever heard this phrase? Try looking it up in Google translate, I dare you. They won’t give you anything, not even a literal translation. That is what I’m here for. Because this is useless trivia that you need to devote some brain cells to. You could say to someone “Tu sei uno proprio con i controcazzi.” Literally we’d be saying “Wow, you’re really someone with the against-cocks.” I know, right? Makes no sense. But, you see, “cocks” as a colloquial expression has a great significance and contribution to make in the Italian lexicon. We need cazzi like we need to breathe. Just trust me on this one. (Yes my vulgar double entendre humor is entirely intentional. I’m not as ingenua as you thought, now am I?)

Wait. Then again. Don’t take my word on it. Just ask Antonella Clerici, who expressed this concept best on live television.

But frankly, if we really want a native speaker definition, let’s consult Yahoo Answers, oh wise source of all knowledge. Domanda (question): “Cosa sono i controcazzi?” (What are the counter-cocks?)

I controcazzi sono il di più, quello che ingigantisce la definizione di c..azzi. esempio vai a comprare un automobile nuova, il venditore ti descrive gli accessori base come c..azzi e gli optional come controcazzi. Quindi ti sei appena comprato una bella Automobile con i C..azzi e i Controcazzi. Ciao

The counter-cocks are something more, something that enlarges the definition of cazzi. For example, go to buy a new car, the dealer describes the base accessories to you as the cocks, and the optionals are the counter-cocks. Therefore, you’ve just bought yourself a nice car with both the cocks and the counter-cocks. Ciao.

Um, thanks, I think?

Personally, I prefer PaulfromItaly’s definition here. “Cool ass” As in, “he’s a cool ass player.” Yes, I think Paul has captured well the spirit of the counter cocks.

3. Or what about here in Rome, they say this thing when they want you to calm down, they say: Stai manzo! And then, laughingly, if you’re a native English speaker, they sometimes tell you, “Be beef!”

Yes, this is not normal. I agree. But in any case, be beef means the rough equivalent of “chill.”

No! OHMYGOD even Urban Dictionary has caught on to stai manzo. I am truly awed and at the same time humbled by my vast knowledge of international phraseology.

4. Or… hmmm. How about when they tell you Stai in campana! which is literally “Be in bell!” Or they say Devi stare proprio in campana “You really need to be in bell.” It’s like “be careful, watch out, be on your guard.”

5. Then there’s di coccio, as in “Lui è proprio di coccio.” Coccio is like terracotta pottery. Usually this phrase is accompanied by someone knocking on their head, or on the table, to indicate how hard it is. So it means they’re hard-headed or stubborn or even stupid. Not made out of crockery.

6. There’s also the always popular Me sto a tajà (Roman), which is like English “I’m cutting up” in idiomatic terminology, see definition number 5 here.

There you go folks: six for the road.

Now, go forth and talk about your spleen, and the spleens of others. xoxo