Saturday, September 29

Advertising Age meets WTH?! in Italian Advertising

Quick!  What do you think this image is advertising?
for those who don't know Italian, it reads:  Quality isn't for everyone.



If you answered, 'prosciutto'.  You're half-right.  
Only because, great minds think alike and that's what I thought it meant.

I thought it was a charming message that the CETUS company (reminding me of Parma's popular prosciutto purveyors, Citterio) was serving up to remind us all...Where's the Pork?

But then I read the tagline.  Your home, par excellence.

And I seriously didn't know whether or not to be offended, I mean, were they calling us pigs?
Or, totally amused because they were calling the politicians feeding at the trough pigs?
So, I settled on something much more juvenile:  must be a reference to the three little pigs -- except there weren't three of them sitting on their haunches there, and where were the bricks and mortar?  Despite my lack of visual cues, I was pretty happy with my brain synapses and knew I could make a leap in logic just like the best of 'em.


But then I looked at the logo.  Expecting it to be one of the ubiquitous real estate companies [who hold a singular place in my Hall of Fame for seriously lousy adverts], I knew I'd be satisfied.  Instead it reads,  Ceramics & Home Furnishings.

I kid you not. 

So, if anyone out there can tell me the connection or, in reality, the non-connection between the pig and home furnishings, I'd be absolutely titillated to know...

As for my Advertising Age Ranking?  
Since pigs are so smart, I'm going to give it a healthy 52 years.
After all, the ad is truly working its charm because it 'had me' standing there for well over a minute pondering such issues and now taking their message (note: term used loosely) out to the web.



Thursday, September 27

President Obama on Slavery at Bill Clinton Global Initiative Conference

...and what it means to modern countries like Italy.  
In Obama's words...
"... It ought to concern every nation because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime. I'm talking about the injustice, the outrage of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name, modern slavery.
"Now, I — I do not use that word, 'slavery,' lightly. It evokes, obviously, one of the most painful chapters in our nation's history. But around the world, there's no denying the awful reality. When a man desperate for work finds himself in a factory or on a fishing boat or in a field, working, toiling for little or no pay and beaten if he tries to escape, that is slavery. When a woman is locked in a sweatshop or trapped in a home as a domestic servant, alone and abused and incapable of leaving, that's slavery. When a little boy is kidnapped, turned into a child soldier, forced to kill or be killed, that's slavery. When a little girl is sold by her impoverished family — girls my daughters' age — runs away from home, or is lured by the false promise of a better life and then imprisoned in a brothel and tortured if she resists, that's slavery. It is barbaric and it is evil, and it has no place in a civilized world."
Obama makes his case against the horrific and grotesque practice of human trafficking - something that we all know is going on right under our noses.  He brings that above phrase (in color) to its natural conclusions...that is being sold, beaten, threatened, locked up, forced to kill or be killed makes you a slave.  But I have another view of the part I've highlighted.  It is the plight of millions in Italy, and I imagine in much of Europe, it is the plight of an entire generation, and often their parents' as well.  I have said it before, and I will say it ad nauseum...Italy's economy is wholly dependent upon slave labor.  It is the unspoken secret that no economist looks at, because non-payment doesn't even make the figures.  Besides, economists are so busy looking at the multi-billion dollar underground economic figures, they don't have time to calculate the non-paid work as well.

It starts innocently enough: With kids and moms helping dad out at all hours of the day or after school in the local coffee shop.  It's entire families who shake the trees for weeks on end of olives to make the olive oil that then gets sold.  It's a friend asking you to tutor her child a few evenings a week, or another asking their doctor for free consultations, prescriptions and more.  Another who asks you to edit or translate their website; or produce a conference presentation or pick up their kids after school.  And we won't even think about the millions of grandparents who provide unpaid daycare, with healthy three course meals included.

With immigrants, it becomes 24/7 jobs taking care of granny in which the family conveniently ignores the fact that the help should be paid for night duty; even if they're sleeping (and I've yet to hear of an 80-something sleeping steadfastly through the night).  They are docked pay for time off or forced to swap their salary with a friend who pinch hits in the meantime.  Italy has specific rules governing their in-house COLF labor; the majority of families refusing to abide by them.  The unspoken rule of the day being, 'put up or push off'.  Not willing to lose their job, they endure.  And in a country that has one of the oldest populations on earth, the hours can truly add up.

It turns to the business world, where new graduates or young workers are lured by the false promise of a better life and start working earnestly on that magazine article, that website, that art book, those shoes.  They are asked to work, 'give it a try' in hopes they'll be brought in full time.  It never happens.  Once the project is over, a new line of free labor is signed on and you're out the door.  Or, they're brought in for such little pay, they're forced to live with their parents until well into their 40s, getting out of it only by default; their parents are dead.  Thankfully, in family-oriented Italy, inter-generational cohabitation isn't the torture that Obama describes above...

Professionals are forced to carry a six figure project up for bid by assuming all the costs first, and (hopefully) remaking the money back once the project's launched.  It rarely makes the money back in the end, and employees are let go without any remuneration.  Or, the employees get paid -- but two years in arrears.  Those same employees must first pay taxes on what they were to make, however.  If the Company stops paying, they're left holding the bag.  Or, talk to the people in the hundreds of 'call centers', Italy's sweatshops in a digital age, and Obama's description starts to make sense.
Even companies with the best of intentions might end up in the red (under-funded due to lack of capital and no venture capitalists to come by); employees carry on for months on end, hoping to turn things around.  Newspaper and magazine, one after another folds; with employees turned out without their euros in back pay.  A photographer is asked to do a shoot to 'get their foot in the door', a video producer a new music video, an actor...a few plays, an ad firm a few creative meetings and mockups.  Demos are bid on and delivered at great expense to their creators, only to see the project - should it happen to come to fruition (an unlikely result)  - given to a few unpaid 'interns' (I prefer the term 'slaves') who merely turn out a brutto copy of the original professional proposal.
In 30 years of doing business in italy, I have never - never - seen someone called back for the second round.  Suing is not an option, because you will be in retirement by the time the case is ever heard.

It is not enough that Italy suffers from wage stagnation (wages for workers, excepting for managers, political hacks and their high-paid whores and especially the bankers, have been at a standstill since 1992), there's an even more insipid problem in our midst - and that's an economy based on slave labor.  And as President Obama so accurately stated, "It is barbaric and it is evil, and it has no place in a civilized world."

Nota Bene:
This is not to imply that Italy holds the pole position on these practices.  The USA is choc-a-bloc filled with sweatshops, illegal immigrants toil in the fields, and wages are at a standstill since the early 1990s.  I was screwed by a Tennessee company, Linguality.com that not only regularly fleeces unsuspecting people of their subscriber fees, but jilted me out of $22,000.  Good thing it's run by two lawyers, one of whom (Jim Roberts) also works for their candidates in the GOP - the party espousing 'values'.  The difference is, the U.S. economy does not depend on these practices and, usually (save for my lawsuit) one has recourse - and speedy trials to make up the difference.  

Tuesday, September 25

Letter from America

The Ice Cream Truck - a feature of the American suburbanscape 
Picture from the YOMYOMF network
(You Offend Me You Offend My Family)
Children of friends traveling thru the U.S. this summer were overjoyed at their very first sighting of the Ice Cream Man.  Putting aside images of John Wayne Gacy and other bizarre pedophiles as seen regularly in B movies, it is, indeed a sight to see, at any age.  As the son of my friend remarked, "How great is that?!  The ice cream comes to YOU!"  We all agreed, it was a pretty terrific invention indeed, if you happen to not want a child magnet wantonly roaming your neighborhood.  In safety first America, I'm surprised that they were still in business.
Going to the USA, food (and its results) are everywhere.  As I posted awhile back, first its the fast food stands on takeoffs and landings -- just compare the fried food festivities with the caviar and coffee bars in Europe's airports.  Food eating competitions are now the main attraction of every street festival and gathering; heck while in New York, even the San Gennaro festival had a whole lot more to do with Neapolitan fried specialties over the Patron Saint of Naples himself.  Ask any New Yorker, and I'm sure they'd tell you that San Gennaro was a guy who first started frying up dough in a deep frier.  I remember growing up, an Ice Cream Social was a special occasion.  Now it's a fried ice cream all-you-can-eat extravaganza with a stuff-your-face contest at noon.   And, judging from the newfangled foods our Burger Kings and McDonalds & Co. are introducing in order to expand the girths geometrically of their clientele, you can now have Any size drink for $1 or a scrumptious bacon sundae; just to make sure your arteries get and stay hard and firm (about the only thing hard and firm in our super-sized country).
With the ice cream trucks bringing food to you, I don't think it will be too long before we've reached the excesses portrayed by the comical cruise ship passengers drinking cupcakes from a cup in Wall-E.  With our drive-thru windows, Jumbo cups and extra-long drinking straws, just stop in at any 7-11 and fill up as you go.  Next stop?  Intravenous feedings.
New York's Mayor Bloomberg wants to change all that.  He's already forced trans-fats off city menus, calorie counters on all fast food and coffee shop boards, and now, he wants to ban the Jumbo cups.  People say it's government meddling in their personal affairs.  But isn't it the government's job to see that we don't kill ourselves?  Thus the seatbelt laws, the traffic lights, and warning labels?
Can't ponder this any further.  I hear the familiar ding-a-ling of the ice cream man coming 'round the corner...

...and for a quick look at 10 Reasons why the world might be running out of bacon, click here!

Wednesday, September 19

Coffee, Tea, or Me? A question of cross-cultural relations

Anyone who follows the Dove Sono (Where am I) column in my blog will know that I'm in the USA, taking in some of the cultural differences, and standing agape at the many similarities in political campaigns, and of course, the notable differences (and in both cases, for better or for worse).  On the cultural side, it feels real good to be able to glide into a lane, glide along it for miles upon miles, and not have to worry about staking my claim, vying for position, or being squeezed out at a traffic light -- although in both countries texting and cellphone use is fairly even.  I still feel more safe on Michigan roads, however, due to the fact that: a) they're wider, offering more wiggle room, b) they have shoulders in case you need to make a mad dash somewhere else and c) we're still going at a slightly less speedy clip and there are the men in blue to enforce it.  But, you get my drift.
After numerous trips to the U.S. and with an abundance of coffee bars to hang out in, I found things on that front - you know, picking up a quick coffee with a colleague - was essentially just like in Italy.   Well, okay, albeit for the super-sized drinks and an overabundance of calories contained therein and the Henry Ford approach of ordering and receiving down the line one's potables...
picture from Being Latino
click for a lively debate
on who pays when
I recall when first coming to Italy on business as a (very) young woman, how horrified I was to find that, at coffee breaks and business lunches alike, the guy at the table would very courteously pick up the tab.  I was stunned to think that it might appear as if we had been on a date; In my book it both unleveled the playing field and put the gals into play.  Although it took some time, I did finally get used to the practice, but in extreme situations in which I truly wanted to generously offer a meal, or thank someone for their time over coffee, I took to insisting that my company was owned by men, so...Please don't get offended, a man is ultimately picking up the bill...On many levels, my generosity was most likely an insult to my guest, but for 'working gal' me, it was something that I felt was the right thing to do at the time.
Which brings me to the USA.  I always worked for and with Italians when I was there, and, being quite junior, it was only natural that the guy in the group most often sprung for coffee or lunch or dinner even.  As I gained in seniority, suddenly I realized that I should pay the piper.  But then, Starbucks came into the fore; and a new etiquette seemed to arise that left a lot of women bewildered.  Arranging quick meetings in these cafés, the American man would rush in, grab his very own cappuccino or apple cider, sit down and start in.  Embarrassed that no one asked me what I wanted before heading for the cashier, I would migrate up to the counter, all on my own, and order for my little ol' self.  Not only did I have to pay for my order, I was unable to offer any sort of generosity to my business contact.  I felt like Snow White calling a meeting and all the dwarfs showing up with their lunch pails, leaving her to fetch something out of the woods for herself.
In the U.S., when it comes down to business, I've not come across someone ever even feigning to want to pay for the other (and at $5.27 a cup, I can see why that is).  Time and again, it jars my sense of chivalry, while at the same time, opening up a world of feminist rights and what those struggles now boil down to; each person treated equally--even in a coffee shop.  And yet, after decades in Europe, I now found it a bit disturbing.  I mean, in Japan, your prospects may shower you with gifts, in Turkey they pull out all manner of teas and silver platters lined with cigarettes.  And in the U.S., we can't manage a chai tea with soy?  Maybe it's because I am a woman after all.  With all the options at my disposal, when a guy thinks I may start in ordering a decaf light cream latte, no whipped cream, tall cup with cinnamon sprinkles...men have reached the accurate conclusion that some things are better left alone.

Wednesday, September 12

Italy: Out on a Limb?

Back home in the Midwest, my brother-in-law and his kids were busy sawing, hammering and installing away to create a modern treehouse to suit the tastes of an 11 yr old who wants to host sleepovers inside there.  Naturally, in cool Michigan, that includes installing insulation, a word that can barely be translated into Italian (but that's a whole 'nother blog entry).  Beavering away, their work came to an abrupt halt.  A neighbor, who could not see the fortress from their home, complained to the Board inquiring whether or not they had applied for a building permit.
Because they did not consider a tree fort a building, in reality, they hadn't even looked into it.  Building on their own property, creating only an eyesore for their very own BBQ parties...they're hoping they'll pass the City Board approval with flying colors.
And, although it seems like a bureaucratic piece of nonsense, I still say, it's a good thing the neighbors snitched.
In Italy, each August, new constructions go up right atop of historical buildings, new floors are added that block your view (illegal in Italy), or a neighbor decides to expand right up to your property line.  And the neighbors do complain.  The problem is, like almost every other law in over-burdened by inane & sane laws Italy, it won't get enforced.
A group of people near Santa Maria Maggiore complained about a whole new floor added to a building during the time the building was under wraps for a repaint.  They won in court and the perpetrator was told to knock it down.  That was about six years ago, and the addition is still left standing, used for hosting parties and more on the fabulous terrace with a view of all of Rome.  The owners drag their feet, waiting for an amnesty under a new govt so they can carry on partying it up--up on the roof.
They may feel the pain only should they try to sell (not a very common occurrence since these structures are built for bambini and their future offspring).  Up and down the historical park of the Appian Way, illegal constructions are the order of the day.  You can buy one of these luxury houses with pool too.  The problem is, if you're caught, you've paid for a property that one day might be taken down or fined tremendously.  This practice is rampant throughout the country, with an excellent writeup on the over-cementification of Italy in The Dark Heart of Italy, a book by Tobias Jones [check out my reading list on my blog page as well].
But, let's go back to my American example, above.
What I have never been able to figure out is...why don't the neighbors complain?  I believe it's due to a noxious combination of omertà and a sense of 'sticking it to the authorities'.  Whenever there's a flood, an earthquake, and other such natural disaster that takes with it dozens of homes, we find that the entire country sides with the populace who had built the illegal places to begin with, disregarding the building codes that are in place, precisely to protect them in the case of disaster.  I say, like the losers who build homes on landslides in Beverly Hills, let 'em suffer.  Why should we pay for their illegal edifices?  Just take a look at the thousands of houses nestled in on the foothills of Vesuvius, a live volcano, to see the extent of the cognitive dissonance governing both 'Doing your own thing' and 'Laughing in the Face of Danger.'
What people don't seem to understand is...when 28 new illegal constructions go up in your neighborhood, and left in various states of unbuilding, disrepair, or worse (no garbage collection since they're not on the grid, etc etc), your property value goes down.  When neighbors don't put on paint, or use cheap materials for their window fixtures, your property value goes down.  When garbage piles up and immigrants are sleeping 10 to a room in illegal huts a stone's throw from your bathroom window, your property value goes down.
And yet, the practice persists.  When stores in charming little areas, akin to the Baltimore SeaPort, or New York's Southstreet Seaport go out of business, or, as in many a shopping mall (centro commerciale) or Genoa's Porto Antico, let the plants die in front of their shops or let the paint peel off the storefronts in sheets, it detracts from the rest of the area.  Yet the other property owners don't make a sound.  Other places levy steep fines and tell the storeowners to hit the road.  By doing your best to keep up the area, you're contributing to the value of the surroundings while adding to the experience of the visitors.  Instead, after great fanfare, pristine shops and pedestrian promenades are left to ruin, wooden boardwalks are left in pieces, nails exposed for your kids to tread upon, trash and graffiti pile up..I cannot for the life of me think as to why the shop owners or the visitors or the neighbors still don't complain.
If anyone can offer an explanation, I'm all ears.

Friday, September 7

Italy's color palette - for cars

In my book, Burnt by the Tuscan Sun (naturally), I talk about the choice of color for one's car to achieve the ultimate in Bella Figura status - the art of keeping up appearances.  If a car color comes in, it'll be just moments before everyone in the entire country is showing it off on four wheels.  For years, and since about the time I had moved to grey Milan, the car fleets were a cool silver.  I would love to see the statistics on accidents during the fog-filled winters of these cars that blended into the surroundings better than a chameleon in the Serengeti.
Around the time that the silver cars took hold (on my street alone, on any given day there are about 34 of them out of about 48 spots), the little white FIATs (Pandas and Unos) were suddenly going out of fashion.  In fact, in fashion forward Italy, white cars were going the way of white togas.  Well, everywhere except in the taxi fleets.  Taxi unions were furious when they were forced to transform from shocking (and eye-catching) yellow cabs into Star Trek white vehicles; a paint job that added to the upkeep in car wash fees for keeping them so bright and shiny (and camouflaged -- on sunny days in Rome, they're nearly impossible to see teeming down the city streets).
But after nearly 20 years, white is the new grey.  It may have started a few years back with the onset of the cute little Smart cars, but it looks like white is here to stay.  And the color looks terrific.  I'm personally in love with the oversized Mini Coopers (which I like to call the Maxi -- hey, if Apple can have an iPad...), but white even makes SUVs look less hideous as they're barreling down onto your bumper and driving over the roof of your car...So much so, perhaps they should paint the bottoms of them white as well.
And worried about being mistaken for a taxi?  They're so hard to find, that I guess people realized that that mistaken identity wouldn't occur so often, after all.  
As for the taxis?  I wonder if they'll make a counter move and go back to florescent yellow.  Now that would be a sight to see.
 

Monday, September 3

Tante Belle Cose: Italy Travel Edition

As we wrap up the Italian holiday season, it's hard to say enough good things about spending a summer in Italy.  This summer even came to a perfect close, letting the cool temperatures come in and blessed rainfall to come down only during the last few days of holidays.  It helped ease traffic patterns, and the drought in many a garden and park.  And of course, the win 3-1 of Rome over Inter (Milan) near my old stomping grounds of San Siro, really put me in a good mood (and judging from the uproar from my neighbors, pretty much everyone else as well).
August in Italy may be sweltering but it's also swell:  there are the open air concert series, the gelato, the movies in the parks, the gelato, the dining out on city streets, the gelato...And even though gas prices were beating records at $10/gallon and gas tanks (not to mention wallets) were waving white flags, all the while the Rome metro thermometer readings were in red alert, there were a few sunny spots on this traveler's radar:

- It may just be summer, but I seemed to notice a whole heck of a lot fewer 'blue cars' whizzing along the streets, motorcycle cops escorting them in all their revelry.  What is my hangup for blue cars?  They're the ones with blue flashing lights on top, whisking politicians from one event to another (not always "official" ones at that).   Under Berlusconi, they were buzzing around town more than the tiger mosquitos.  Now, you barely notice them - but that's probably because the politicians are hiding from the proletariat.

Find the blue button (as indicated on top & bottom)
- I found myself in a parking spot on a busy stretch of road (the Lungotevere in Rome) gloriously right in front of the meter.  Sadly for me, it was a place with no shopfronts or newsstands nearby, and I with no spare change in my wallet for the meter.  I looked across the way and noticed a funny looking parcometro machine on the other side.  I wondered if - by some strange hand of fate - over there, I could actually pay by bank card.  Of course, as I dodged in and out of cars roaring by on the busy thoroughfare just to get to the other side, I had to giggle.  I felt like I had finally solved the riddle of the chicken who wanted to cross the road.  Once there, of course, I prayed that a meter maid wouldn't be coming by while I tried my hand at 'thinking like an Italian'; one of my favorite pastimes when it comes to solving any new-fangled technology, or public service.
The meter read, in very easy-to-follow graphics & numbers, 1) Insert card  2) Push blue button (indicating amount of time)  3) push large green button -- and you were good to go.  Except there was no blue button.  A moment later I tried my hand at pushing in repeatedly various amounts on the other keys there, and Ecco fatto!  My first automated parking transaction.  I was delighted.  Of course, I had to make it back across the Lungotevere now to put my little ticket in the dash window, all before the meter maids came a knocking, and before my ticket expired!

- The automated features catching on, in Florence (where they have done away with the bus info & ticket sales handy booth just outside the station), I saw that you can now buy a bus ticket by texting.  Now, I can't vouch for the ease of service, but according to Mayor Renzi's web page, all you have to do is:
1)  Use this handy telephone number:  4880105  
2)  Send a message writing ATAF (Florence Transport Authority)
It acts as your ticket on buses and trams.  This is the first in Italy, and actually, a very brilliant idea.  Let's just hope it works as promised.

-  But the best news yet has to do with the hobgoblin of my existence, Rome's Ostiense Train Station.  Looking to improve its image, it has seen the arrival of Eataly and the new Italo Train Service with both companies going all out to turn around what TrenItalia is steadfast in promoting as the gateway to the underdeveloped world (replete with hordes of immigrants sleeping on the sidewalks out front).  First Eataly disgraced the City into allowing them to open their gorgeous doors to great fanfare (hiring hundreds in the process), and then Italo won the right in court to board people from the flipside of the train station (so you wouldn't have to pass by the Somalian conditions out front).  But now, the Consumer's Unions are suing Trenitalia to get the escalators and elevators working again, after years of being 'temporary closed for repair.'  Maybe in my lifetime there will be an escalator up to the airport train as well, but, let's just say, I won't hold my breath.

- Oh.  Did I forget to mention gelato?  My personal favorite place is Ice Angels in the Garbatella, but it's a bit out of the way for most people.  In a wonderful piazza frequented by locals only, its a great place to stroll around in any season.  This summer, I tried the famous gelateria (I believe Giolitti) on the laghetto of the EUR zone - wonderful - and of course, my favorite small-scooped (read: pricey) place is on the Via Aventina near the Circus Maximus.  But, I'm sure there's a lot more out there worth tasting...Here's a pretty interesting list of Roman Gelaterias for anyone whose interested in conducting their own taste test experience!  http://www.parlafood.com/my-guides-to-gelato-in-rome/

**many live links throughout the post above!

Saturday, September 1

Life in Italy: A Case History

Now, we know that for five years and running (a heartfelt Grazie! to all my readers), all of my blog posts and the excerpts in my book are truly Case Histories of Life in the Bel Paese.  But I have decided to offer up a few slightly more 'practical examples' of the trials & tribulations of life in Italy (like the post on getting your driver's license), above and beyond my casual musings of the buono & the brutto.  I will also be creating a tweet stream most likely to let off steam of the daily inconveniences in the country that does its best at marketing and exporting its unparalleled Quality of Life.   Naturally, I will also tweet and continue posting about the over-the-top wonderfulness that comes part & parcel to Life in Italy as well.
------------------------------


Customer (Dis)Service: The Local Gym

In the Prologue of my book, I wrote that one of the main features of Life in Italy was a lack of recourse.  This is generally the case when dealing with public offices or almost any retail store for that matter.  The unwritten rule (that Eataly - photo above - actually chose to write) is, "The Customer is Never Right" - an entire chapter in my book.  So, I should not have been surprised when WellnessTown, an otherwise superb Roman gym - one of the best on earth (excepting for the fact that they refuse to install drinking fountains) fell short - yet once again - when it came to providing the service I paid for, e.g. use of the facilities.  
WellnessTown, in short, is nothing less than the brick & mortar equivalent of Lucy, holding the ball out for Charlie Brown to punt.  Always holding out that promise, season after season, that 'this time, things will turn out differently.'  And year after year, I fall for the same trick.
When I first joined the Technotown gym years ago, they had building materials in the huge exercise equipment room.  For years, they would tell you when you were signing up (forgetting that you might have heard that old yarn before) that they were "in the process of building a sauna & massage area" as well.  It never happened, and eventually, probably because it was a violation of safety rules & regulations, the props were removed.  That doesn't stop their saleswomen from spinning that line to newcomers even today as they get them to sign on the dotted line.  Another rule from my book:  Caveat Emptor
Technotown finally went belly-up (in the very Italian world of not providing customer services to stay in business, but relying on shaking down the clientele as much as you can before you go out of it) and with it, so did our memberships.  Partly owned by the City of Rome, it was rechristened within months, WellnessTown, and the doors were opened widely.  Drawing from the Italian Manual of Customer Service, however, and in a bid to ingratiate yourselves to the thousands of shafted past members, naturally, after our workover, none of our memberships would be credited to get us to come back in for a workout.  For me, this meant going elsewhere.  A loss to them of about €700 ($885) per year, and I'm sure I wasn't the only one.
I rejoined for the yoga, rolling my eyes when they told me the one about the massage area Coming Soon, since WellnessTown boasts the best instructor on the planet, along with all their other instructors as well.  As usual, the individual Italians are infinitely better than the institutions for whom they toil.
But then came the Pool Membership (aka I've got a bridge to sell you...).  Each year, WellnessTown opens up its gorgeous pool area, removing the overhead tarp so we can all enjoy a few laps in the sweltering sun.  It is seriously the city's coolest diversion in one's otherwise sweaty summer existence.  The process, however, takes a few weeks to open it up and a few weeks more to close it.  Simply put, if you happen to have a 'Swim Only' membership, you can't use the pool.  What's the big deal?  Surely, they'll credit you the days that you can't swim.  NOT.  Years back, I found this out the hard way.  After I protested, I was told 'they couldn't do anything about it,' and once again, I withdrew my membership.
This year, I decided to give it another chance.  I would just make sure to start my membership after the pool opened.  
But before signing the contract, I asked about the pool closing.  I was reassured by Irene, one of the well-trained members of WellnessTown's less-than-honest staff, that in June, the pool had only been closed for a few days.  She said (and I quote, "Our members were upset by this, so now we keep it to a minimum and in any case, you can use other areas of the gym.").  
The contract read that I would not be reimbursed days or allowed to recoup for manutenzione ordinaria (standard maintenance).  I consider 'standard maintenance' a cleaning of the filters, but, suddenly, I found out that for them that also meant a two-week closure of the pool come September.  So was I surprised when coming into the gym one day, to find a sign posted that for 'standard maintenance', the pool would be closed a full three weeks, one quarter of my membership.  An honest employee told me it was so they could restore the entire wooden structure; something that in my handbook is decidedly, 'out of the ordinaria'.  Upon protesting the situation, I was told in short order:
1)  The saleswoman would 'never have said such a thing' (e.g. I was lying - a common rebuttal in any instance, and one that I was told repeatedly by the entire staff)
2)  Go talk to the facilities guy 'cuz it's not their decision
3)  Go talk to head of sales 'cuz it's not his decision
4)  They never lie and the three week closure falls under, naturally, ordinaria manutenzione
5)  They were considering allowing us to recoup the time (a bald-faced lie, since we would have had to have been notified at the moment of closure) 
6)  I'd need to talk to the owner who was unavailable at this time (read: never)
7)  My request to pause my (and everyone else's) swim contract until the pool reopened would cost them €15,000 (Huh?!!  I tried making the case that she might try adding up the years in lost revenues from me and a few others, but that line never works in Italy--there is a huge disconnect between people holding down jobs and customers continuing to give their custom)
And this is what I mean when I penned the fateful words in my book, No recourse for the weary.  Naturally, by not following my own advice and getting hotheaded while laying out the logical reasons why it's simply bad business not to give us the 12 weeks of pool use that we had contracted for, I assured that no graceful solution would ever have been found.  
As a Case Study, to live in Italy, I needed to have: 
a)  Made my case calmly
b)  Moaned and groaned about the inconvenience
c)  Showered them with compliments in what a great gym it was, and how pleased I am with them (which is generally the truth aside from the pool closure & lack of drinking fountains...)
d) Pleaded that they help me out here and e) Allowed them a Bella Figura moment of a face saving repeal.

The Italians have a great expression:  "He who 'loses it' goes from being right to being totally wrong."  It's no wonder Charlie Brown always just lied down on the football field in stark silence.  With Lucy's dark curly hair, she may have been Italian for all we know.