Sunday, February 21

One of Life's Great Italian Mysteries....Solved!

Well, this is embarrassing. For 20-odd years I have invented every sort of superstition known to man in my head to explain the odd practice I found in every town from top to toe of the Italian Boot: That is, the placing of plastic water bottles - full of water - in front of one's doorway. Aside from the flag it waves reading "We're not home! Come in and make yourself at home!" I couldn't - for the life of me - figure out what those bottles meant. I asked little old ladies, even my own great-aunt who - religiously placing them out the front door - couldn't tell me why and what for. I was flummoxed, to say the least.
Okay...It's usually just a bottle or two, but these guys must seriously mean business
(photo from Tenace Concetto Blog)
And, I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that I never actually thought about asking Siri what she thought about it. I mean, really? She can't even pronounce Giuseppe or Stefano properly - what would she know about it? In any case, while running around Deruta (home of gorgeous Umbrian ceramic works), I was gifted with a personal tour of the Antica Fornace Maioliche & Museo of Giovanni Baiano (The Ancient Kiln of Umbrian pottery - and thru the outrageous museum in his store choc-a-bloc filled to the rim with pieces and sketches of the works since man first found fire and then heated it up to a few thousand degrees...)
Leaving the premises, I happened to ask casually, not truly expecting a real answer, what the bottles were doing there on the doorstep. And Giovanni's wife stated, "I know what they're for!!!".  Incredibly, I discovered a superstition that never made its way into my book (look out for a new print run...!)...Drum Roll, please....

Turns's to ward off kitty cats (or their pee, to be more precise).

As an unbridled cynic, of course, I couldn't just let that simple explanation stand for itself. I mean, really. Twenty-plus years, and that's all there is? [Cue Peggy Lee here]. So off to google I went.

To lighten my dismay at not googling it in the first place, I was heartened to find that the question is debated as vigorously by Italians as what the best cut from a pig is or whether or not you should add oil to your pasta water (you shouldn't). So, not even Italians knew what was up with the cat bottles. But, you can't blame them. After all, plastic water bottles haven't been around all that long (and they gotta compete with the 10 million- plus other superstitions already on file).

In my search I found that many
vets thought it was a silly waste of time. And...I gotta admit, I'm pretty much on their side. I have had cats my whole life, and I have never seen a cat want to pee on a doorway - like never ever. I mean, how would they cover their tracks? But hey, ask anyone who side-steps a ladder or a black cat...What can a few bottles outside the door hurt? Right?

Sunday, February 14

Advertising in Italy - A Course in Cross-Cultural Living

Seeing that it's awards season, I thought I'd bring one of my periodic Advertising Age round-ups on where Italy stands in communicating their special gifts to the masses. I'm afraid to say that if it weren't for plastering posters all over every single surface in town, no one would pay attention to any of it, really - Even moreso now that they're no longer allowed to show T&A just to sell fruit juice and bathroom fittings. So, here are a few of the most recent adverts to catch my eye and tease my brain:

Now, I get this ad, I really do. But that's because I know English. Since I first came to Italy and was old enough to notice these things, Italians putting English script into every ad they make has always behooved and bewildered me. I mean, very few people know all that much English so so well; least of which the now grannies who do most of the food purchasing and cooking. As for guys looking to join the Navy? Maybe. After all, the Italian word, nave - meaning boat - is quite a close match. But I just hope these job applicants aren't thinking they'll be joining a cruise line and get to play laser tag or paint ball in the evenings. 

This ad promoting Pope Frank's special Jubilee Year in Rome definitely did the trick in grabbing my attention. Especially in this season that countries - Italy among them - are  engaged in controversial and often heated debates over gay rights and civil unions and all. So while vatican blowhards, spokesmen run off on the abomination that is homosexuality, while getting caught time and again in a host of scandals from pedophilia to, defacto liaisons, well, this image basically drives the point home -- on  bus tickets and posters on all the buses besides. The two popes, cuddling so joyously in a horizontal frame...leaves very little to the imagination.
Personally, I think the genius who came up with this ad is the same guy who thought up the name Soffass for a toilet paper line and entire personal products company. There simply is no other explanation.

Make Payments, Don't Make War
I love this company. And their brilliant adverts. In fact, around the world funerary companies are making the most sense (or, given the costs of funerals, the most cents, rather) in their witty ads. Taffo is the gift that makes anyone's morning commute come alive, so to speak. Ikea used to have ads like these, and so did the City of Rome - but both now have a serious sense of humor failure - don't ask me why. But, really? How poor can advertising be when the best ones are for no laughing matter? Regardless, this wins the day along with a lot of their other ones. You decide.