Tuesday, May 25

Travel Tuesday Special - Italy May Activities Not to Miss!

With the (sudden and unexpected) onslaught of summer, my thoughts have turned to playtime - and it seems that the Italians can't wait for the insane amount of wonderful summer activities to get underway.  So, here's a sneak preview:

Florence hosts its first-ever Gelato Festival - now that's something icecream about!   may 28-31

Visitors to Florence will find the entire city turned into one big outdoor gelateria, divided democratically into traditional & industrial variations.
My sister says that Florence has the best gelato in the boot, so, anyone who is fortunate enough to be there at this time really lucks (or licks!) out.
Add to this the (real) closing of the streets all around the Duomo (no traffic at all compared to other pedestrian zones) and, you're taken back to the 1950s when the central piazza was filled with people and plants.  The hosts are even planning an open-air ice-cream themed dinner.
Now - how they're going to get this to jive with the city ordinance of 'no loitering' - 'no eating' around those parts is another question...But, Buon Appetito!
check out ItalyMag for details

Not to be outdone in new groovy cultural initiatives, Rome is unearthing their treasures in year 2 of the Roma Nascosta initiative.  If I recall from last year, there was no idea on the posters how to sign up and what monuments you could visit - so the entire thing remained very nascosta (hidden) -- note website and details on said poster, a text book case of publicity in Italy.
This year, they've come up with a calendar and a way to make a reservation (book fast!) and if you dig deeper, you may even find the info in English.

And, to know more about things happening in Rome, we suggest you go to InRomeNow - who publishes a listing of all the happenings in town monthly.

And, in early June, if you're in Milan, you can enjoy all the movies from the Cannes Film Festival - the annual event which makes living in Milan the rest of the year endurable.  Turns out that Rome also does the Cannes film festival redux, so now there's something more to cheer about!

Thursday, May 20

Fly AirBerlin! You'll forget you're in Germany...

Now that I'm happily repatriated to la mia bella casa romana, of course, I couldn't help but notice the ad campaigns.  This time, and I'd seriously like to see the 'concept paper' on this one, I really want to know the rationale behind picking three Latinas or Romanian gypsies or the cast of Pirates of the Caribbean for this ad to visit Germany.

Because, when I think of traveling to Berlin, I certainly don't think of this:

And, as much as I love hip Berlin, the Love Parade, the big ol' State Museums, the clubs, the shopping, I still kinda think of this:

Okay, so I get it that they want to sort of steer you away from all that...but, to take you over to Las Rambas?

Here are scenes from AirBerlin's launch night here in Rome.  Clearly betting on the success of the veline over any 'truth in advertising'.  But, if their ad people hailed from Milan, they'd know that most Italians don't even like that look.  They're all too busy turning into emaciated blond stick figures.

But, let's see how AirBerlin truly pictures itself:

I rest my case.

Reasons for using the gypsy look to Fly to Berlin:
- Sexy blondes are hard to come by - in Italy, all the Eastern-European ones are too busy turning tricks
- Since all the Italians have gone blond, perhaps they could be enticed to 'go back to their roots' in Berlin
- The only people who can afford to fly these days are the illegal workers, or Gypsies, so the ad was conceived to appeal to them
- Disney has just opened a new Caribbean theme park there
- Chancellor Merkel is too much in the news these days, and they sort of wanted to counter that image

Sunday, May 16

Italy's Giro - Off Course

This past week, we saw the start of the famous bicycle race, Italy's Giro di Italia.  According to Wikipedia, the Giro di Italia is:
The Giro d'Italia (Tour of Italy), also simply known as The Giro, is a long distance road bicycle racing stage race for professional cyclists held over three weeks in May/early June in and around Italy. It is one of the three Grand Tours, and is part of the UCI World Ranking calendar.
And so, it came as a bit of a surprise, when we started seeing & hearing the results of the first leg of the race -- around Holland.  I could not, for the life of me, think of why the race was so off course -- visions of Mount Vesuvius erupting to put an ash cloud over the race popped into my head.

picture from http://www.steephill.tv/giro-d-italia/#route-map

Considering the Italians' fame for lack of organization, I got a big kick out of this news.  Perhaps they used their GPS systems, and they ended up 9 hours off course.  Or maybe, they wanted to start on flatter ground, to sort of warm people up.  Or, they wanted to challenge the god Vulcan and have all the athletes land in the thick of the huge ash cloud.  Or maybe, to apply a little conspiracy theory of my own, they decided to use the ash cloud to their advantage and limit the competition who could not arrive to Amsterdam airport on time...

No wonder Wikipedia added their cute little warning: 

This article needs additional citations for verification.
Please help improve this article by adding reliable references

Here's my suggested contribution:

Italy's Giro d'Italia - the bicycle race going around Italy but starting in Amsterdam. Soon to be renamed, the NetherItalialands Giro.

Friday, May 14

Foreign Language Gone Wrong

Here is my entry for the Up Your Bottom! story contest 

Once when working on an ad campaign, I was in a meeting with the makers of detergent for hand washable wools.  We were discussing the shoot, and the company officials said they needed to bring in a knitter - magliaia - to create a beautiful garment to show off the fabric.
I had recently arrived in Italy, and I'm afraid my Italian wasn't so good.
I understood that they wanted to bring in a maiala - the Italian word for pig -- but, since we were clearly discussing a woman, the word is also used crudely to mean a sleeze .

No faux-pas there, until I naturally opened my big mouth and asked if that's what they meant.  The company was not only startled, but totally insulted -- and I thought I would lose my job!

Needless to say, to this day I still cannot hear the difference in the two words...

Monday, May 10

Inter-Milan - Not just between us

I love soccer tremendously, but something I am not very proud of is the fact that I have never once entered into an Italian soccer stadium, nor do I follow the sport.  To think I've been in Italy on the eve of winning many a World Cup is even more distressing.  But, nonetheless, I've always liked the sport for its democracy - with players, you need not look like the Incredible Hulk to play -- all it took was sheer talent.  
But, the democracy of the sport goes further than that.  The Economist once quipped, it's pretty much the only business in which goods (the players) move absolutely freely (I imagine other than the drug trade) -- So much so, you will undoubtedly find a rainbow coalition of teams and players moving round without impediments of needless regulations found in other industries.
So freely, in fact, that I was stunned to read a complaint by someone in Italy who remarked that 
'it's strange to find so many Italians rooting for Inter Milan, when there's not a single Italian in the whole lot.'  
So, I did a bit of investigating, and actually, that statement is not 100% correct, but rather, 75%.
The SkySports roster gives the names of each of the players, but not their nationalities.  But judging by the names, it looks as though if each team member went back to his place of origin as they do in one of their tournaments, Inter Milan for one would be hard-pressed to cobble together 11 players on the field:

Inter Milan Squad List                    
Julio Cesar     
Francesco Toldo 
Paolo Orlandoni
Cristian Chivu 
Davide Santon            
Javier Zanetti   (Argentinian)
Marco Materazzi
Ivan Cordoba  
Walter Samuel            
Giulio Donati
Lucio (Brazilian)

Rene Krhin     
Esteban Cambiasso      
Wesley Sneijder          
Ricardo Quaresma       
Lorenzo Crisetig                                               
Sulley Muntari            
Mancini (Brasil?)
Sebastian Carlsen                                               
Patrick Vieira  
Thiago Motta  
Alen Stevanovic      
Dejan Stankovic        
McDonald Mariga            
Samuel Eto'o  
Diego Milito   
Marko Arnautovic      
Mario Balotelli            
Goran Pandev
Denis Alibec                                       
David Suazo    

But, you're certain that all these guys can in the very least rely upon a bona fide Italian D.O.C. Manager.  Well, check that label again. Manager Josè Mourinho is Portughese.  
So, is it not just the researchers that are fleeing the country in a brain drain?  Do we also have a sprain drain? 

Wednesday, May 5

Hot Burkas / Hot Bods

Yesterday, driving the 10 hours from Rome to Lausanne, the radio was abuzz with the Big News from Italy: after France had passed its “Burka-Free Zone” law, a woman was fined for entering the Italian Post Office draped in a burka.  It was the hot topic even after crossing the border, and at all hours -- and judging by the phone calls I received along the way, the burka was ‘sulla bocca di tutti.” (THE hot topic)

Picture of Italian-designed Burka Barbie launched last November in Florence.   
Was anyone fined for the glamorization of the subjugation of women?

Before I go any further, let me just state for the record, that I think the burka is abhorrent to the nth degree.  But while I have a problem with our governments  interfering with how we dress, a friend in Paris and a few radio callers convinced me that the Burka is, truly a security issue.
[Although to date, one could lodge a convincing argument that it’s white guys in red ties and blue suspenders on Wall Street & elsewhere (think Parmalat, the Mafia, politicians far&wide…) whom have wreaked a bit more havoc on people’s personal security over the years – with their own ‘home-grown terrorism' – I mean, I’ve never had a run-in with a woman in a burka, but hey – it still could happen].

One stated, ‘The burka is a flag and means something much more, and it ruins our democracy.'  Another, that 'These women are not choosing to wear it freely', 'The practice is not writ in stone in the Koran'... 
But, it was another who quipped: ‘If we were to enter a bank or post office with a ski mask and covered head to foot so you could not identify me as even male or female, would we be allowed to conduct our business before being detained?’  Now he got me.  He went on to say the law is not racist, and is equal for everyone.   
And then, with that wonderful touch of things you only can find in Europe…we found out that you’re allowed to appear in a mask and coverings head to toe -- but only at Carnivale (they’ve yet to amend the ruling with a ‘Halloween clause’) -- provided that someone knows your identity and can vouch for you. 

Costumes aside, back to the burka.  So, okay, I can handle the law for the above reasons.  But what I cannot tolerate is hearing some politician – in this case, Sarkozy, claim, “We are giving these women back their dignity.”  
Personally, I believe we are making these women prisoners in their own homes – as they will never be allowed out of them - without their burka - by the overlords they call their husbands.   

But, dignity?  If you really want to do something about women’s dignity, Sarko, then lets get near-naked women off prime time TV (and that includes your model wife), let’s clean up 12 year-olds' clothing choices, lets get the veline (showgirls) out of public office and off magazine covers for starters.  Then, lets get the prostitutes some help, the trafficking of women stopped, and the list goes on from there. 

Watch this incredibly poignant and timely video done by two people I know in Milan, Il Corpo delle donne (with English subtitles).  It’s an unbelievable exposèe on women’s bodies in the media in Italy.  When the vast majority of Italian girls from 5 to 35 state that their dream is to become a show-girl (a TV stripper or pole dancer nowadays), we have a serious problem for all of society and one vastly greater than the estimated 2000 burka-wearing women (in France).

And then, let’s talk about restoring women's dignity.

Saturday, May 1

From Bocce Ball to your URL: Italy's Business Weak

Although I haven't been paying all that much attention to the news these days, being up to my eyeballs in up your bottom! some events, large & small, caught my eye nonetheless.

First, I noticed that the brainiacs over at Italy's web registry, Register.it have started offering .com addresses and lowering their extortionist rates.  You early readers of the blog might recall that these are the bozos who charge you $50+ for a .it address and then make you send in 15 faxes over 75 days to three different offices to make the deal go through (and, to be absolutely sure - because you've declared - that you're not a mafioso...).  Click here for the story or search register.it in the blog finder.
So, once Italians started doing what they do best: skirt around the rules&regulations, and everyone started getting .coms at godaddy (for $4.99 - instantly), they seemed to have wizened up.   
The one place on earth where they actually impeded web growth more is probably Iran. As for me? I'll stick with godaddy.

Even better, the City has started to allow certificates (like aforementioned anti-mafia one) to be sent in online.  Anyone living in Italy will attest that this is nothing short of revolutionary. The only event that comes close would be the advent of the printing press (if you happened to be a belabored monk painstakingly penning miniscule miniatures on parchment in a faraway monastery).
It's probably some nationalistic Lega party ploy to drive business away from the ubiquitous Bangladeshi fax stores, but who cares? I just wonder how many times you'll have to hit resend, or how fast you'll be timed out and have to start over from scratch.

Then, Rome's province announced a studentonline hotline, to report about things falling apart at your school.  They've determined things will be fixed within 72 hours.  It's unclear whether the hotline however means you will be getting a tool kit within 24 hrs. and asked to make the repairs yourself...

Just when you thought that bocce ball was a dying sport, last played by old men in berets, the best news of all is (drum roll please) the building of a spanking new, white & pretty snazzy bocciodromo near EUR.  Just in time to host the national championships, with world championships coming this summer (which I will endeavor to attend).  They're also hoping that all this attention will allow it into Olympic competition.
I for one cannot believe it's not in the Olympics, considering they let in curling???
But, just think: the one sport where you can be a pot-bellied octogenerian with bad teeth and still be an Olympian.  Sign me up.

picture from urloweb