Friday, July 29

Flying your true colors - another internet fail

I have long held that Italians really know how to copy. They dub films flawlessly, they share answers on exams, and the counterfeit bags & shoes are often just as good as the real McCoys (or Guccis, as the case may be).  It's just that in an internet age, it gets harder and harder to get away with it.  People who once thought, "Boy, I've seen that somewhere before" now can find out where - exactly - in about the same amount of time it would take to type out white on risotto.  
So, it came with some amusement when I found Digital Communications agency founder, Marco Massarotto's posting of this find on LinkedIN that he picked up on Twitter.
Check out Italy's Ministry of the Interior home page.  It sports a classy 3-D mockup of the tricolore, Italy's flag which seems folded like a book - or maybe, in a smart attempt to look 'inside' Italy, in what is a visual double entendre.  Click here for link.

In defense of our Italian ministry, who's to say who came first, but...those Londoners are pretty good when it comes to designing logos and whatnot.  So, click here for the French Property Exhibition taking place London's Olympia fairgrounds. 

I guess that when it comes to flags, seeing that you change the colors only, sporting similar shapes means it's fair ground. Or maybe it was a Creative Commons open source logo after all.  Nonetheless, someone in a creative dept somewhere needs to get a pay cut.

Wednesday, July 27

Advertising Age: Don't Abandon Your Dog This Summer

The City of Rome, Roma Capitale, for a few years running has almost always come up with excellent advertisements.  Whoever they have been using has outdone not only themselves but every other city in Italy for the wit & wisdom behind the public service announcements.  That's why I was absolutely stunned to see this ad clearly invented by a  fifth grade classroom posted around town, sweetly promoting the idea that your dog is your buddy.  
This year's advert was more in line with a campaign to adopt one of the thousands of dogs overflowing the dog pounds around town versus that of a guerrilla campaign against the thousands more despicable assholes who this year will leave their little furry friend at the side of the highway to face certain death-by-bumper.
Your best friend for life
[Warning: whose already short life will be cut down when you leave him roadside this August
- too bad it wasn't added]
Instead, Florence took a better approach with signs all over town of a cute dog (too bad he was a cartoon), with the signs reading:
If you abandon your dog, you're the Bastard!                     

Too bad, both get total ad fails by not putting these ads right front & center on the home page of the websites.  You have to dig & dig until you finally find the ads on the web (and in Florence I never did).  Here's a close one done by a group of militants in Perugia.

Whether any of these campaigns make one single bastard think twice is yet to be seen.

For more of my annual reads on this atrocious practice, click below:

Monday, July 25

Changing the face of Italy

Having recently been taken on a mini-tour of the little towns and stupendous sites lining the coastline of Rome's Lazio region, we proceeded past the bedroom communities of Nuova Florida not far from Nuova California.  While I reveled in the concept that New York and New Jersey were once - new, in fact - construction back in the 'old country' was returning the favor.  Except I then asked, why, exactly, Florida & California, per se?  
[This query stemmed from the fact that all the streets were named after towns in Italy.  So, instead of finding via Orlando and via San Diego, I caught via Assisi and via Parma instead -- once again revealing how sign guys in Italy need some serious training in their trade]. 
But then I was told a story of such tragedy, it belongs right up there amongst the great works of Tosca and Romeo & Juliet, which take Italy for its perfect setting.
These towns, like almost all of Southern Italy's cities, parks, coastline and even highways are littered with stunning palm trees (It is said that Rome alone has 20000 or more).  In fact, palms were brought from Africa and the Middle East by the Emperors, and the trade has been steady ever since.  
Until not so long ago, who knows how, when and where it all started, the trees being imported were not placed in quarantine effectively, the palms were sold to developers, towns and private households, and the Rhynchophorus ferrugineus pest (called punteruolo rosso for its red color) took up residence inside the hearts of the palms, killing them off nearly instantly.  You can click on this link and see the bug, which leaves thousands of larvae to infest the palm, feeding on it until its verdant leaves simply droop, turn brown and die. Leaving the trunks a spongy mass of wood that can't even be burnt.  The website shows a map of the areas of contamination, which pretty much covers the entire swathe of the balmy Bel Paese.
Once you start to take notice of the bald-tops of palm trunks, you can't help but be stunned by the sheer extent of the damage. Driving down the highway, you see some slightly healthier palms with rubber tubes coming out of them, as if they were on IV Life Support.  Turns out, they are - but only those lucky enough to be in cities or towns who have made the effort (and spent the money) to save them.  
How this passed by my radar 'til now is beyond me.  This disease and its effect on the entire country of Italy should be something being discussed in the European Parliament, UNESCO and the United Nations all at once.  I don't see how it is any different than the Taliban blowing up those huge Buddhist statues.  This is a crime against humanity of epic proportions.
And the question remains...if this tragedy is not making the headlines on a daily basis, what are the efforts of the customs officials checking the containers coming from foreign lands?  Or ridding the country of the plague in our midst?  
I mean, if I am forced to toss out my tortellini in Arrivals for fear of bringing organisms to the USA, how could this mass extinction be going on without any word from the international community and the local press???  
Heading to Italy's beaches this summer?  Try to spot the missing palms...

Thursday, July 21

Rome's Mayor in need of Sex Ed?

Rome's Mayor is under fire from women in the city offices as well as from women's groups who are growing more and more outspoken against the Business as usual way of Italian male-oriented politics.  When coming into office, he had two women on his twelve member team, despite laws to the contrary decrying "equal representation" of both sexes in city governments.  But this was before women took to the streets - fed up with the Ol' Boys' Clubs.
In January, he dissolved his team, shuffled it around -- and dropped a woman.  As I've mentioned in the past, despite evidence to the contrary, Italians seem to believe that a country on its last leg economically speaking should just go on the way it always has.  For most politicians, women should be seen (as eye candy) and certainly not have their voices heard through equal representation. But in January, women took the case to the courts.  And this week, they won.  The tribunal in fact came down on this gross lack of representation, and asked Alemanno to dissolve his Administration once again.
The Mayor's response?  Add a woman and make her Vice Mayor.  Following this logic, if the Vice Mayor position equals five men, where were we prior to this upset?  As for me, I'm starting to think that Mayor Alemanno simply skipped early elementary Health Ed.  
So, here's a video to set it all straight.  

Perhaps we should install those airport body scanners in City Hall, and maybe, just maybe, the Mayor might get his numbers right.

Tuesday, July 19

When in Rome

I got a big kick out of today's news that an American guy was caught selling fake tickets to tourists so they may 'jump the line' for entrance into the Colosseum.  He basically had printed out a large number of internet print-outs featuring the colosseum (see picture by clicking here).  Once the unwitting tourists went up to the front of the line, they were told that the tickets had already been used.   After a number of complaints, the cops got their man who quickly handed them over.  He will be tried for fraud.
Perhaps he should have just invested in a Centurion costume and posed for tourists at 20 bucks a pop.  He wouldn't need to pay taxes on his earnings, and he'd truly be "doing as the Romans do".

In other news, a recent article grabbing a lot of buzz is how the Mediterraneans are seemingly abandoning their diet.  Click just above, or view it later in my news / NOTIZIE section of the blog.

Friday, July 15

Breakfast is served

While spending time in the spa town of Bibione, in the Veneto area, I came across a charming sign in a bar, touting its breakfast offerings.  Clearly trying to lure in the multi-cultural clientele, they were proffering three types of breakfast options:

Continental Breakfast
Breakfast Italiano
German Breakfast

I stopped in for a quick cappuccino & brioche, and pondered the differences.  Although I was on the continent (albeit a stone's throw from the former Republic of the Serenissima), a truly continental experience includes a croissant (mistakenly called 'brioche' in Italian, which is an altogether different item), coffee or tea (and here, I wonder if you get your tea English-style with milk as well), and a glass of orange juice (which in Italy, there is none better, especially if it's blood-red orange-style).  Hotels have since taken it further, with a whole banquet of breakfast offerings, including yogurt and anything else not salty (like the British eggs & bacon).

According to my most favorite website on earth, : A typical German breakfast (Frühstück) falls somewhere between what we'd call a deli platter and a continental breakfast. Cold meats (including their famous sausages) and cheeses are served alongside a variety of breads and sweet toppings like jam, marmalade and honey. Soft-boiled eggs, cereal and fruit would round out a large breakfast.
[Be sure to click the link above to see the terrific photo he's added there as an indicator, and the recipes, of course, not that I believe he's going to show us how to gut, slice & cure a pig for sausage consumption].

Italians, on the other hand, who win hands down on every culture on earth for eating habits, garner however the worst slot in their breakfast offerings.  In households across the country, kids are served as their daily dose of 'brain food', nothing more than a few dry & tasteless cookies and a cup of warm milk or cocoa.  Daring mammas allow for the bread & nutella spread each morning, adding a dose of protein with their sugar.  Kellogg's has been trying to change this habit for decades, and, judging by supermarket aisles, they're finally succeeding. Nonetheless, breakfast in the Bel Paese usually keeps you hungry and hankering for the fantabulous lunch (pranzo) soon to follow.

As for my little breakfast place?  Although they get an 'A' for effort on the 'catering to the clientele' front, the sign was curiously posted only in Italian.  How many Germans looking for their Frühstück, actually stuck their head in the door each summer day is beyond me.

Tuesday, July 12

Italy--Coming soon to a piazza near you!

Italy's inimitable Ministry of Tourism has done it again.  This time, launching Magic Italy on Tour, a showcase of all things Italian, traveling around the world for all to see.  In their incomparable wisdom (lending credence to the simple truth that decisions should never be made by committee), the English moniker is used even in the Italian section of the site - promotion.  Except they call it Italy In Tour.  
They have since updated the English site, but, you'd think with the millions spent in their black hole of a website (40 million euro given to Berlusconi's childhood buddy Stanca), they'd manage to figure out how to use google translate.  In any case, click on photo caption of David, brow furrowed as he battles the giant rot of political graft & corruption, to see where you can find the Best of Italy - in a piazza near you.

Italy in Tour

Sunday, July 10

Unlocking the Secret to Life in Italy

The next exciting update from my German-Swiss friends who have just embarked on a move to Rome, with kids for one year.  They have moved not far from the Colosseum, and while they express their deep and unbridled love for the Eternal City, I met with my friend -- who then told me that a taxi ride across town cost 28 euro ($41).  Aghast, she went on to say that in actuality, only 15 euro ($21.50) appeared on the meter.  The guy insisted the rate was higher.  Yeah, right.  
She says she's learning, sooner rather than later, to check her Swiss tendencies before leaving the house.
Turns out, she had all the time to leave her old mindset behind, as she and her family were actually unable to leave the house all together.  This was due to the fact that tho' they tried and tried, they couldn't figure out how to unlock their front door once they wanted to get back inside. Instead, their trials & errors opened up the door to Life in Italy, even though they still haven't figured out how to get into the apartment without saying a few Hail Mary's first.
Basically, the old woman renting their place warned them that the key was a bit tricky. She stated that, to get in the house, you simply needed to jiggle the key a bit in the lock, and presto! you were in.  It didn't work.
The upstairs neighbor said instead that the trick to opening was: stick key in door, pull out ever so slightly, and then do the jiggle thing.  It didn't work either.
Someone from another floor said to try jiggling they key, while inserting into lock. And that hasn't worked either.
I told her that my door is the same, and what I do is insert, jiggle left & right, and then do a sort of flick of the wrist.  I assured her, it's all in the wrist.
In her contemplation, she found that the door lock truly represented the key to the Bel Paese:  Same problem, slightly defective door, five different ways to creatively approach the problem, five ways to get around the things that don't work. Success never guaranteed.
As for her husband, I didn't get his side of the story - he was home awaiting her return so he could finally get out of the house.

Click here to read about getting a new phone line (as of this writing, she still has none)
And, click here to read about the creativity behind toilet flushers, as reviewed by my (then) 10 yr. old nephew

Wednesday, July 6

Letter from fair Florence

I recently had the extreme pleasure of visiting the always lovely but overrun with English-speaking tourists mecca, otherwise known as Florence.  I confess, I hate to type that word about as much as typing Turin – Why, oh why, can’t we just use the Italian proper names for places?  It would make finding the correct train track and eventual stop so much easier for first-time visitors.  In any case, I found Florence’s young and remarkably pragmatic Mayor busily turning Florence into one huge gorgeous amusement park (sort of the antithesis of the American dress-down / eat-more versions, although I wouldn’t be surprised to find those gondolas zipping tourists from the rail station to the statue of David and across the Arno before long), making a marvelous Pedestrian Mall out of nearly every place with a piazza attached. 
A new sight to drink in in Florence
As if pissing off the taxi drivers wasn’t enough, in his far-reaching vision, the City also erected in Piazza Signoria a small little black hut that most certainly has city center retailers turning red.  Like the entrèe of the Reach™ toothbrush with its black packaging into the all-white pharmacy marketplace, this little black hut is a game changer indeed.  You can walk up and be handed clear water, still or sparkling, bubbling right up there on the premises – for free.  As the Mayor put it, (and as reported in The Florentine, an excellent English-language newspaper , but I paraphrase)
“It’s high time tourists are no longer regarded as pigs to skin – selling small plastic bottles of water for €3 each ($4.50).  We’ll be saving on plastic, garbage pickup, and finally give tourists back something from the city."  
It’s an excellent start, despite the bickering about the aesthetics, and has by some accounts already saved 60000 bottles in its first week of operation.  I expect the hut to be burned down or reports stating the acqua is tainted to come out shortly, but in the meantime, Publiacqua has planted a shiny new bright yellow hut in nearby Prato.

They can afford to give the water away for free, because Florence is about to follow the footsteps of Rome in shaking down the unwary tourist with its “Tourist Tax.”  Since it was found not to hinder arrivals in Rome, nearly every city across the country is about to employ their own.  Again, our Mayor states, “Better this than taxing the residents.”  Great.  At least I believe that in Florence, unlike in Rome, the monies may actually go to improving some tourist services.  But, when they start to reiterate that, “Tourists are finally contributing to trash collection and other services they use,” I go apoplectic.  This is simply a bald-faced lie, my reasons for which you can read about here (click on grey area).  
Italians are loathe to charge ‘ticket entrances’ to their fair cities, for fear it will turn the country into one big amusement park, but here we are.  Look out Paris Disney.  We already have centurions walking all around Rome, just like Mickey & Pluto, photo opps with Lorenzo De Medici or Leonardo can’t be too far behind.

Friday, July 1

Tante Belle Cose - June in Italy

The month of June kicks off the enormous amount of summer concert series, events, outside cinema, and entire tent cities offering food & drinks, literature, gifts, you name it for all those on summer strolls.  As the Italians like to say, "You have an embarrassment of choice." But there are other lesser known items in the news that give us reason for applause.

  • Mario Draghi was plucked to head the European Central Bank which shows how far Italians could go if they lived in a proper meritocracy (although how he got to the upper echelons of Italy's banking system in the first place remains to be seen).
  • Neopolitan police caught the guys who killed the American cruise ship passenger for his watch - putting yet another nail in the coffin in the tourism coffers of this besieged city
  • Italians formed a committee requesting the return to Florence of Leonardo's Mona Lisa  [and, in a non-related incident, we were told of a quip by Italy's Minister of Culture upon meeting his counterpart in France:   
It is said we possess more art in Italy than in all of France to wit the Frenchman responded, That may be true, but you'd have even more if it weren't for Napoleon (who pillaged Italy by "purchasing" much of the contents of the Louvre)

  • And the Florentines disowned themselves from the gutter cast members of Jersey Shore, filming there for the summer (good to see that the Florentines have good taste - but, how many tune into Big Brother?)

Article here in Life in Italy

  • Vogue Italy showed off gorgeous Italian women in all their curvy splendor...Could it be that the age of Sofia and Anna Magnani is making a comeback? 

click on grey areas for links to full stories