Monday, October 31

All Hallows Eve...Whose holiday is it, anyway?

Halloween in Italy picture courtesy of hotel-apartment rental service
Cross-Pollinate / Beehive Rome

Year after year, those of us living in the Bel Paese find that Halloween, with its accompanying ghouls, ghosts, witches and zombies, gets celebrated by kids large and small.  You'll now find bars, pubs and trattorias offering their own holiday festivities, even hilltown trattorie are enticing clients to come in and ghoul around...Stop in an Autogrill and you'll find those January Befane witches now riding brooms atop packages choc full of halloween candy.  Mark my words:  one of these days we're going to see a new sort of orange-flavored pandoro cake in the shape of a ghost at grocery stores for this newest of Italian holidays. [In fact, here's a recipe making a sort of s'more out of one...lathered in nutella and topped in marshmallows...You can't get anymore closer to and Italian Halloween treat if you tried...].    
A friend posted on facebook, "What's all this talk of zombies and vampires all of a sudden?  Could it be because of Halloween?"  Sì, Virginia, there is a Great Pumpkin.
And every year, just like every launch of a new Harry Potter installment, the Catholic Church has to roundly condemn it, as if anyone listened to their dictates anyway.  This year, a Cardinal remarked that Halloween was an entirely pagan holiday celebrating death and the macabre which did not merit any recognition whatsoever.  Furthermore, it took away from the observance of its antithesis, All Saints' Day (ognisanti - 1 November).   He then added for good measure that in case anyone wanted a nice use for pumpkins, they could bake them and use the filling for ravioli instead (a dish that I must admit, is exceptional in every way - click here for recipe).
But I think he's got it all wrong.  Yes, Halloween did start out as a Celtic holiday and a pagan rite.  But the Church, like they did with all those pagan temples and mithraism, appropriated the holiday as one of their own and thus All Saints Day came into being.  Seeing that Halloween was a lot more fun, they ended up moving the day from May 13th to November 1st so as to ride on the witches' to speak.  If the Church, instead of fighting it, went with the flow, they could turn Harry Potter tales of good versus evil into a decisive modern-day parable worthy of attention. 
As for the Catholic Church coming out against Halloween?  There's always the response by Irish-American comedian, Stephen Colbert:  Wasn't Jesus someone who rose from the tomb?  Wouldn't that make him something like the first zombie?  
Maybe this is why there's all this talk about zombies in the cybersphere...

Wednesday, October 26

A shot in the dark

I will never forget the first time I came down with the flu in Italy.  Tucked snuggly under the covers, the family I was living with was of course, concerned.  I was expecting to be plied full of orange-flavored St. Giovanni's aspirin, or cherry flavored syrups of some sort.  Fresh-squeezed orange juice flowing from the blender, and maybe a shot of zucchero to make the medicine go down.
Instead, when the doctor showed up and told me to turn over, I assumed it was so he could check my back with the stethoscope.  But before I could say "Ammazza!" I was given an injection with a very large needle right in my behind.  I fully thought I would fall soundly asleep -- fully sedated -- only to wake up later in a cage at the Milan zoo.  To this day, the slightest sniffle brings on those visions, and any of you who remember the Milan zoo will know what a nightmare that truly is.
Getting sick in Italy usually means picking up a package of tissues from your local street vendor and a huge box of syringes from your pharmacist.  Naturally, having read far too many articles on syringes causing AIDS, or syringe swaps in needle parks and the like, I simply cannot bring myself to buy a box of needles without feeling like my next stop is skid row.  The idea of bringing them home, preparing the liquid concoction to go inside, and giving myself a quick shot in the butt, thigh, or any other part of my anatomy for that matter is enough to shock my system 'scared straight' to good health.
In order to make absolutely sure that I don't succumb to the local customs, I import my favorite fruit-flavored liquids each and every flu season.
The worst part is, I wouldn't even need these, really...but I'd have to get a flu shot first.

Friday, October 21

Garbage in Italy: Not in My Backyard

The posters and talk around town, was the exciting news that Rome would be closing down its garbage dump.  Who knew that it is also the largest garbage dump in all of Europe?  But, any walk through any neighborhood outside the pristine city center, and you find garbage galore strewn near the dumpsters by old ladies and young kids alike.  It's often just too much of an effort for residents to use the handy pedal to open the dumpsters. I realize it's a brain teaser for most to figure out that the plastic recycling (blue) does not go into the paper bin (white) and nor should your plastic recycling contain your chicken bones from last night's dinner, your pizza boxes, nor even your milk containers - touch them as you are wont to do when pouring - you'll discover not only are they not made of plastic but with the special Tetrapak™ coating, they are not recyclable - even as paper.
So, when Rome's dump is closing (and the protests continue in Naples to bar authorities from opening new dumps), one starts to wonder...where are we going to put the 3 million yearly tons of garbage?  A reader pleaded for me to write about their plight...
Europe's largest land fill
Photo courtesy of 
by way of blogger SustainableRome
Admittedly, I am not usually on the side of the protesters.  People want to be able to toss their litter cavalierly out car windows and leave it for 'someone else' to depose of later - preferably as far away as possible, like in Nigeria [It is such a part of life here - and everywhere worldwide - I have dedicated an entire chapter to environmental issues in my forthcoming book].  I will never forget the days gazing at the view out my Amex tower office window and beholding the sight of The Garbage Barge, parading up and down the Hudson river, looking for a place to dump its load.  In any case, Italy is a slim country.  Inevitably, you're gonna end up tossing the crap in someone's backyard.
The Lazio region solution is to thumb their noses at EU rules while telling locals to hold their noses after they open a new toxic dump in a fairly residential area.  Plans are to open it near Riano, a lovely place with rolling hills and speckled with beautiful homes, and, atop of Tiber river tributaries.  Seeing that most of these homes get their fresh water from that very source, cancer rates should be rising to levels seen only by Erin Brockovich.
But is there another solution when land fills are filled to the brim?  I am no expert on this stuff, but I can't understand why the focus is on 'fill 'er up' rather than on breaking her down through the rite of recycling.  Milan placed garbage cans inside each and every building, and residents were fined for flippantly tossing their paper in the plastic bin (we were all forced to share the pain--to the point that some of us (well, most likely just me) fashioned themselves as courtyard Carabinieri -- to the point that I was ready to put CCTV cameras outside my balcony window in order to catch the waste-mixing culprits).  Milan's recycling is over 50%.  In Rome, where dumpsters overflow and residents resist dividing their waste, it's clear to see that reaching 25% is a stretch.
Garbage can also be turned into energy.  Again, why these 'termovalorizzatori' aren't utilized is beyond me.  According to the investigative reporting of Striscia la notizia, in Naples and Bari energy-producing incinerators get built (with EU money no less), and then abandoned as monuments in a sort of museum of what technology could do if someone simply turned on the 'ON' switch.
I'd be quite interested in having you dish your own dirt on the topic--

Wednesday, October 19

Italian Census - My personal household inventory

This week mailboxes were stuffed with large white envelopes, taking the census of our countrymen.  It provoked a stir on the web for people with anxiety asking how to fill it out correctly, and if a coffee stained it was it now invalid, and other sundry items.  As for me, I took my own little census of my household--and, while I usually try to keep my rants to myself, I thought I'd share the pain...
- The heat doesn't go on in the house until November 15th, so I need to start revving up the space heaters from the basement.  Luckily, there is a 'pity clause' and if it truly grows cold here, the heat will go on.  Now if I just changed my 50 yr old windows & doors, well...there would be a minor blip in the global warming statistics.
- My bed is in the wrong place because the outlets on that side of the room don't work.  This, after spending thousands on redoing all the electrical wiring in the apartment to correct that very problem.
- I finally have consistent hot water (happily provided by Vaillant, the only name in water heaters) after years hearing from the plumber that the constant shutting down of the heater was due to the hard water of Rome.  So why is it that my neighbor, purportedly using the same water has never had a day run cold?
- After switching from Wind/Infostrada over to Vodafone Station for my home, I can no longer receive calls, and when I can make them, no one on the other end can hear me.  Calls to Vodafone prove useless, and although we don't have to pay for the customer "service" hotline, you're forced to listen to Iron Maiden covers at ear-shattering decibel levels until they come on the line.  They offered to come out to check the line for $50.  Why I didn't follow the old adage, 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' beyond me.  I've now asked to switch back to Infostrada, costing me over $100 in total switching fees - read the fine print (the govt passed a law to stop this practice, so, like the bank credit card cos., you're not charged a fee for switching, but another for administrative purposes...)
- Some of the shutters don't roll up properly, after having them newly installed.  The guy who installed him said he'd come fix them but I'd have to pay another 70 euro ($100) to have him check out the problem.  
- I moved the refrigerator slightly only to discover that the painters didn't bother to paint the wall behind it, so now I have a two-toned kitchen Luckily, it's now all the rage...
- I have a virtual pigeon coop on my balcony, but when I went to wash it down, a neighbor across the way shouted she would report me to the police for splashing water on the balcony below.  Talk about a ficanaso!  I now have to sponge-bath my balcony...
- A screw came loose in the shower, sending liters of water into the apartment below.  The insurance fortunately will cover it - but only half the cost of repainting. I suppose, I was half-responsible for turning water on in the shower in the first place.
- My top-of-the-line vacuum cleaner kept going on & off.  After bringing it in for repair, it got a new motor and a $225 price tag to go along with it.  And it still keeps going on & off.
- My brand new kitchen stools made from plastic have oxidized inside, leaving them foggy in appearance.  Naturally, it happened after the 30 days had expired.
- My surround sound stereo system has never worked.  Trony refused repeatedly to exchange it, saying it was my fault.  Admittedly, there may be some truth in this (I am electronically challenged), but, in the meantime sounds emanate only from two speakers.
- Visiting Americans, clearly not used to apartment living, ended up spilling wine on my freshly painted wall, breaking an expensive painting, and leaving muddy footprints all on a wall where the stools are.  I've had to ship luggage to two of them who managed to break the key in the tricky door lock  the day of departure.  I'm starting to rethink my 'barefoot at home' position...maybe I should do as the Italians do and force guests to wear slippers...or, not have guests at all.

Friends have suggested that my customer service issues occur because I am a woman...(ignoring that 80% of household purchase decisions are made by my very category), but instead, I think I need to invest in some serious feng shui experts.

And then, of course, there is the flip side: items I had lovingly installed or gifted from good friends, coming from persons with whom I had developed personal relationships, and who were often quite magnanimous in their TLC, has been nothing short of stupendous.  Except my bathroom tiles which never meet at 90 degree angles.  But hey, you can't have tutto!

I just might bring back my Business Weak reports on the disservice of the week - in the hopes that someday, a PR hack will take notice...

Sunday, October 16

Become a Movie Producer & Help Save Italy!

A friend & her troupe is currently making a documentary The Genius of a Place detailing the "development" of a charming Italian town after its been discovered by tourists.  While set in Italy, it's the story of anywhere on earth and asks the question of how we can maintain the charm, the way of life which attracted the tourists to begin with, while facing the inevitable changes that "development" brings.
As someone with a blog (and soon-to-be book) called Burnt by the Tuscan Sun, I was amazed to see that the documentary is being filmed in Cortona, a place still able to charm your socks off, but one that changed dramatically after garnering international attention following the success of Frances Mayes' Under the Tuscan Sun.
The movie will take you down this path and features interviews with locals and famous actors who frequent those out-of-the-way places, precisely for their charm and seeming obscurity...
The documentary needs funding for completion and so now it's your chance to help change the future and create sustainable tourism in Italy, and elsewhere round the world.  Even a small contribution garners you some freebies and a return on your investment (and, you can call yourself an international movie producer!!).  So, check out the IndieGogo website, check out their website and youtube channel for more groovy clips with amazing stars, and, help get this movie into the Oscars!  

And, as a special bonus:  For those of you who contribute $250, you get to spend a half day with me, Francesca Maggi, checking out some of my favorite haunts in Rome, and I'll give you an autographed copy of my book!!

All live links in colored sections on blog

Saturday, October 15

Buon Compleanno, Italo Calvino

I have been enjoying Calvino's works since I received his compendium of Italian Fables from my grandmother for my 7th birthday.  He turned 88 on October 14th - but I wouldn't have known that little piece of trivia if it weren't for Google Italia.  This was their amazing tribute, although admittedly, I thought it was Journey to the Center of the Earth.
You can find many more of these daily pieces of Italian trivia on my new Facebook Page...Just "Like" the Burnt Blog at the top of my page here, and you're good to go! 
Buona Lettura-

Friday, October 14

Even the Statues in Rome are Against Berlusconi

Berlusconi may once again survived a vote of no-confidence, but the rumblings are still going strong.  Here's the latest post from Pasquino, the last 'talking statue' of Rome, whom the government continues to try and silence along with all us bloggers.  You can usually find Pasquino's postings ("Earth's first blogger") with his own page on my blog:  Pasquino:the talking Statue just click on colored area
Popolo Sovrano
I Referendum fatti
han bocciato le cricche
Un governo di monatti
le vuole sempre ricche
ed allor va contro legge?
la corda più non regge

Sovereign People
Referendum's all over
blew the political clic's cover
A government of grim reapers
wants to keep on getting richer
and so, who cares about the laws?
the coalition is made of straw

Wednesday, October 12

Mixed Messages for Mammas

I couldn't help but laugh when reading about the Italian courts having come down hard on a mamma & nonno for over-protecting her bambino.  She got 1 year and 4 months for being "hyperprotective" and lavishing "hyperattentions" on her kid, to the point that he was not allowed to interact with other children.  
I can't imagine how extreme of a head case she was for it to have landed in the courts, but, talk about setting a dangerous precedent!  After all, it's these same courts that have consistently rebutted parents' attempts to stop paying for do-nothing adults living at-home in their 40s, while forcing others to pay child support until said (fully grown) child can live on his own.  If that includes being able to make a bed, iron shirts or cook a plate of pasta like mamma does, Udine - we have a problem.
I'm personally against the courts intervening in private lives this way.  But, clearly, we don't know the whole story.  I know of Americans who ply their offspring with every sort of medication, ushering them in and out of psychotherapists' offices, and rushing them to doctors for CAT Scans at the sign of a first sniffle.  These, too, are cases where the courts could and should intervene.  But rather than toss the do-gooders in jail, perhaps it'd be better to send them to the set of Super Nanny and remove the child from the household.  Psychiatric treatment, not prison time, is needed for the parents.
As for me, parenting courses (worldwide) for the most important job in the world and the only one in which we are left to our own devices would be a nice start.  In the meantime, to counter the hover-parenting, perhaps the courts should set up a hotline for desperate mammonis being smothered to death.  

Monday, October 10

Traveling to Italy? Don't get taken for a Ride

Before the (thankfully) inimitable TrenItalia took hold of Italy's national train company (and shook the Italians down in the process), I practically lived on Italian trains. For over 15 years, I travelled the swathe of the boot on average 6 days per week.  In a country that prides itself on the human contact, I enjoyed every minute of it.  
But then TrenItalia decided that train fares could be hiked up to meet "European levels" even though Italian salaries stayed put precisely at the salary level I had in my second job -- at the age of 23.  
But, every now and again, I am forced to take the trains to one appointment or another, and I will be first to admit that I love going city center to city center, the hassle-free service (except if you're actually carrying luggage), sleek trains and even bustling train stations.  But, every now and again, you must also conduct a quick reality check, and remind yourself that it's not just the illegal and shoddy 'taxi drivers' offering you a ride who wish to separate you from your money: you need to be quite aware of the next sneaky deal that TrenItalia is trying to put past you.
Nowadays, you get much faster service if you simply purchase your train tickets at one of the dozens of automated machines perched throughout nearly every station.  Believe me, it's faster than attempting to purchase over the internet, whereby you will get timed out, have to register, and, if you're a foreigner, not be able to retrieve your tickets...once you've submitted your firstborn child's social security number.
When attempting to take a slow (read: inexpensive) train to Florence or Naples, I kept getting hood-winked.  I'd input the destination and up would pop a number of trains, all coming in at the most expensive price.  Because I had checked the train schedule online, I was certain this could not be the case.  But, thinking that the local and often faulty trains perhaps had been discontinued, I carried on paying the piper.
Until one day, I noticed, at the bottom of my screen, a few choice words:  TUTTE LE SOLUZIONI or, in English, ALL SOLUTIONS (or perhaps, ALL TRAINS).  I clicked.  Suddenly, up popped all those missing cheap trains I had seen on the website.
So, if you're not in a hurry and don't care about having an internet connection, but actually just want to enjoy a comfortable ride in a proper wagon with other passengers where you will almost always have a convivial conversation with those around you, try this.  
You heard it here first.  And, you probably won't hear it anywhere else.  (Except TripAdvisor Forums!)

Friday, October 7

Italy's Women take the Stage

Attending the WINConference all week long in Rome, of course, gets you thinking about working women.  This year, for the first time ever, the WIN Committee set out to honor the all-to-often 'Invisible women of Italy', those courageous women who, through hard work, strong spirit and a whole lot of talent as well, stick to their goals and break a glass ceiling or two.  Out of the many outstanding nominees, here is our selection of Inspirational Women of Italy:
Emma Marcegaglia – President of ConfindustriaItaly’s Business Lobby & sort of industrial Chamber of Commerce – and focal point for businesses throughout the countryOften called the Lady of Steel, as her family’s business is in the metals industry, she is the face of women at the helm, and one who has gained respect by all those around her and shows that women in Italy can break through which is often a steel ceiling.
Paola Muti – Professor, Scientific Director & Researcher at Rome’s esteemed Istituto Nazionale Tumori Regina Elena or National Institute of Tumors.
Paola has had a long career in epidemiology as a researcher & professor, and although having worked in the USA, is an example of someone countering the current trend in their field of ‘brain drain’, and who returned to Italy to continue her research & work. Italy boasts many women graduates of universities and many many more researchers, all pioneers in their field, and Paola and her team serves as a beacon of light in a country currently facing cuts in all aspects of research, universities and science.
Lorella Zanardo – For many of us in Italy, perhaps Lorella needs no introduction. But she threw a small pebble into the pond of women’s portrayal in the media, and it became a tsunami. Now dedicated to educating young women & men about the responsibility of the media to portray women appropriately and with dignity, her documentary, Il Corpo delle Donne – The Body of Women - blog & activities surrounding it have gone global. Lorella, for her work, is the body of proof that in an internet and interconnected age, “one small idea is the birthplace of great accomplishments.”
Barbara Giangravè & Rebecca Spitzmiller feted
at the WINConference VIP event
Rebecca Spitzmiller  Lawyer, law professor and nowadays, community organizer and activist in her adopted city of 25 years, Rome. Put simply, she was sick & tired of the graffiti that plagues the most beautiful city on earth. So, she grabbed her son, took some oven cleaner and started scrubbing. Since then, her initiative, Retake Rome has joined forces with the Fondazione Garibaldi to educate kids in civic pride, convincing Rome’s Mayor and the American Ambassadors in Rome to roll up a sleeve and apply some elbow grease. Even more incredibly, many of her biggest advocates and 'inside teammmates' are former 'writers' themselves. Her initiative caught the attention of Anita Garibaldi, the great-grandaughter of Giuseppe Garibaldi - the man who, with his wife Anita fighting by his side, united Italy 150 years ago - So once again a Garibaldi is literally changing the face of Italy.
And, last, but certainly not least,
Barbara Giangravè Journalist for Siciliaonline, Barbara has chosen to stay and live in Palermo. Barbara was a young girl when the anti-Mafia prosecutors, Giovanni Falcone & Paolo Borsellino were assassinated in Sicily. After spotting a blitz of little posters plastered around town (sorry, Rebecca!) that read, “A people that pays the pizzo – extortion money – is a people without dignity,” Barbara joined this fledgling group, AddioPizzo. Today, Addio Pizzo boasts hundreds of small retailers no longer paying the pizzo, outlets where people can buy pizzo-free products, and now even pizzo-free tourism. And while Barbara is now no longer involved directly, Addio Pizzo has since been recognized by Italy’s President, the law enforcement people, even Bill Clinton for their contribution to their communities...But most of all, it's recognized by the people of Sicily who are taking on the extortionists and no longer letting the criminals take away their dignity.

Tuesday, October 4

Amanda Knox: Did she? Or didn't she?

As pretty much everyone on the planet knows except perhaps a handful of Taliban, Amanda Knox and her ex-boyfriend are not going to spend the better part of 30 years in prison for the senseless slaying of her (ex)roommate, Meredith (Mez) Kircher.  I've been of two minds about this whole fiasco since the start of it.
First off, if we are to believe the press - and, much mud has been slung these 4-odd years since Mez was found with her throat cut - Amanda immediately started telling tales the moment she was brought in for questioning.  Her tales threw an innocent guy in prison - and she fingered the police for abuse.  In both cases she was found guilty of perjury, character assassination and defamation.
But, whether or not she & her boyfriend were actually present the night Mez died was never fully proven, and certainly not beyond the shadow of a doubt.  No weapon was ever retrieved, and seemingly, no motive to be found.
However, the case was being prosecuted by none other than the dubious prosecutor of Florence (don't ask), now infamous for his bizarre deployment of his 'investigative powers' and his spinning a web that ruined many an innocent life - while never truly catching the true culprit.  This man, who reminds me of a character from A Confederacy of Dunces, wove a story of sex cults and dark rituals while trying to finger an illiterate farmer for crimes he probably did not commit.  Crimes perpetrated by the Monster of Florence, who periodically took out young lovers while perched in lover's lane.  
The case has been famously chronicled in an eponymous book by author Daniel Prescott and journalist, Mario Spezi.  
Problem was, our self-styled Lieutenant Colombo then went after these very journalists as the monsters themselves, even though Prescott was never in Italy whenever the crimes were committed.  Both have been under investigation, one tried, and even now one friend is defending himself from the zealous prosecution team.  You can read a short article by Prescott on the case in the Atlantic Monthly.
So, applying what we know about railroad justice, even though the kids seemed to have something to hide, the prosecution needed a bit more than wild sex scenes played out in court to pin them to the murder.  Rudy Guede is already imprisoned for the murder, and so, there was nowhere to go but be set free for these kids.
Sadly, whatever the sequence of events that night, those kids will most likely take to their graves.  And, sadder still, while Amanda garners book deals and goes on speaker circuits, one person, practically ignored in the media, was the one who got more than her character assassinated that night in Perugia. 

As Amanda enjoyed her first days of freedom, reportedly eating pizza & lasagna as during her Italian sojourn, the bartender who she falsely accused of murder had this much to say:  Amanda is quite an actress.  Those tears she shed upon sentencing were nothing but crocodile tears.

Saturday, October 1

Tante Belle Cose - Sept in Italy

After the August lull, September in Italy always comes roaring in even though the hot days still make you want to escape to the beach.  This September there were so many things to be thankful for, it's hard to know where to begin:

No Pork Referendum or, as I like to call it, Stop the Feeding at the Trough
No, this referendum which garnered over 1.2 million signatures above the 500.000 needed doesn't stop pork barrel politics [Italians rely on inside deals and bribes for pet projects so they don't have to actually add extra stuff to the public votes - although Berlusconi & Co. on the latest austerity budget included a little clause serving to gag about it here]. This referendum aims to stop filling the entire Parliament with hand-picked cronies and reform the political process so that officials actually represent the people.
Personally, I don't think it's gone far enough:  While it may cut the number of representatives (Italy has the greatest number in all of Europe), it still allows them all the perks, (including getting their pensions even if serving in office for 48 hours - at any age, while the rest of us must wait 'til 65), and allows the corrupt ones tried & guilty to serve any way, any time.

A foray to one of Rome's main Post Offices proved (almost) delightful:  I discovered that you can now send the insidious-but-necessary registered letters (raccomandata) online - like sending a telegram of days of yore.  While there, I also discovered bands of foreign kids sitting on the floor.  
I figured they were just posting a sit-in for the chronic malfunction of the ticket lines, the lack of personnel, the striking workers, or the hours being shortened for one reason or another.  It was none of that:  The Post Office is now offering free wifi in their very offices.
It was wonderful to see people hanging out in what are often terrific buildings with frescoed ceilings.  If they could add a coffee bar inside, we'd all be all set especially seeing that the day I was there, all the systems were down.

I came across a real cool old car, like a 1950s Cadillac combing the streets of Rome.  Stenciled with the words, HELLO ROMA, it was announcing something I've been waiting for since 1981:  the opening of Rome's first GAP Store (just prior, the GAP & Banana Republic opened in Milan).
Now I know where all the Italian kids will be hanging out...perhaps the GAP should be offering wifi as well...or even better, postal services.

And last but certainly not least, Kraft Co., the best makers of faux cheese, the same company that has given us mac&cheese, philly&salmon spread and even Velveeta, the closest thing to eating rubber sheets, has branched out where no man has tread before. We'll call them delicious duos:  Philly & Ham spread, Philly & Tuna and...(drum roll please...) the awesome joint venture between Milka Chocolate & Philly 
As their jingle sings out...Spread a little love!
It's a bit much, but visit their site & you can even download an app
(does it spread the stuff for you???) & songs to spread by...

Magnifico!  This was my 500th Blog Post!  Grazie Tutti for keeping me going!!!
And...for you new readers, be sure to check out the posts of the early days for more cross-cultural insights.