Tuesday, March 30, 2010

suicide mission

Armed with a book, a bottle of water, and a pack of Nutter Butter (YES, I brought them back with me from USA because I love them and they are somewhat nutritious since they contain peanut butter), I headed off this morning on a suicide mission: Anagrafe AND Acea in one day! I know, I know, pure craziness but I figured it was best to dive right in and ruin one day instead of two or more.
I hadn't been to the Anagrafe in years, I must say it hasn't changed one bit. Still chaotic, still plagued with bad signage, still slow as fuck. I waited over TWO hours to get my ID renewed. The actually renewal process took all of 60 seconds, the rest of the time was spent waiting in line. Note for all you legal foreigners- we will never be allowed to have the small, plastic ID cards because we weren't born in Italy. As punishment we'll have to haul around a giant scrap of ragged paper, also known as carta d'identità, until the end of time... or until they change the rule.

After that, I scurried to the Acea office hoping I wouldn't have to wait as long. Luckily, I only spent 30 minutes in line. But I left there feeling less than triumphant. See, a few years ago Acea sent me a refund check because they overcharged me by 300+ euro... Yeah, Acea approximates what they think you're consuming in electricity, charges you for it, then comes around once a year to check the meter and ends up sending beefy refund checks. For all you smartypants out there, YES I know I could check the meter every few months and inform Acea of the actual reading, but I'm not always here, it slips my mind, etc etc. Back to the story: I got a nice phat refund check but due to a series of odd/annoying circumstances that I cannot get into now, the check got lost. I filed a police report and was expecting a new check, but 2 years have gone by and nothing has come of it. A few weeks ago, after I returned from USA, I went to the Carabinieri to check up on my case and they flippantly told me to go to Acea because there was nothing they could do. According to them I had filed the report, so now Acea had to reissue the check. Too good to be true of course! Today, I went to Acea and they told me to go back to the Carabinieri. And so I did. I waited for 25 minutes and finally got to speak to the Maresciallo who was actually pleasant (not in a skanky way like most of the men in that office) and helpful. He pulled out my file and told me what I had been waiting to hear for 2 years: the check was cashed by someone who made a fake ID with my name and their picture, then forged the signature and cashed the check. The Carabinieri tried to trace the ID number but of course they couldn't because it was FAKE. Essentially, I've been robbed of 300+ euro and there isn't a damn thing I can do about it. I'm still confused as to why the Carabinieri never contacted me when the investigation was over (quite some time ago, as I discovered today) AND why, when I went to the Carabinieri a few weeks ago, they shooed me off telling me to take it up with Acea instead of actually looking at my case, which had long since been closed. Worst thing is, there's no recourse. The Maresciallo himself said the only "option" is going to court, but we both chuckled as soon as those words came out of his mouth. I've already had one experience with the Italian judicial system (don't get me started on that!) and it taught me to steer clear of it. I would end up forking out money and never getting back what is rightfully mine.
Say it with me, "ciao ciao 300+ euro".

Monday, March 22, 2010

the downfall of Rome

Ah, a lovely morning stroll through Trastevere.
Every time I walk past this building I sigh... Many years ago, there was no fence in between the columns of this building's entrance. But homeless people started sleeping inside of the arches, by the front door so the building put up a fence. THEN the homeless people started sleeping inside the brick triangular structures (which, for the record, used to be flower beds with real flowers), so they fenced in the flower beds as well. Now they've even put up a net on the fence because people kept throwing trash and needles inside. I feel for the residents of this building, I would be irate if I'd been forced to fence myself in because people are become less and less civilized as time goes on. This is just one of the many examples of the downfall of Rome...

This is another example which makes my blood boil. The entrance to the church of S. Cosimato. It's not the first time I've complained about the fact that the city/neighborhood allows this precious monument to be treated like a dormitory and urinal (the stench coming from that space is unbearable). Only in Italy can something this important be totally neglected.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Gym quest

For several years I've been searching my area for a good gym, and let me tell you, it has not been easy!

A few years back, I discovered Trastevere Fitness and it seemed like a dream come true. For those of you who don't know: the majority of gyms in the historic center of Rome tend to be small, underground, dumpy/dingy, not to mention crazy expensive considering they're poorly equipped and have limited hours (very few are open on Sunday, and if they are it's only for a few hours). But this place was brand new, well-equipped, pretty spacious, and actually had windows! Perfect, or so I thought till I started taking the classes (Don't judge me! Yes, I like aerobics classes, I even used to teach aerobics back in my day). There was one good instructor, the rest sucked, and that's putting it nicely. It was like a mix between the calisthenics we used to do in elementary school gym class and Jane Fonda's 1970s style aerobics. To top it all off, the place was run by a group of business partners, some of whom were total jackasses and had no idea how to deal with or treat clients.
So I stopped going there and gave up on gyms altogether... till now. I really miss exercising and it's high time I admit I'm just not motivated enough to go running regularly- so back to the gym quest and this is what I've found so far.

1) Trastevere Fitness still exists but I won't step foot in there again, unless the management has changed.

2) New discovery, just opened a month ago: JC Welfare (who the fuck came up with that name?). I spotted this place on my way back from Stazione Trastevere. I immediately hopped off the tram and went to check it out. It's small but fairly well-equipped. Strike one: there is no room for aerobics/toning classes, they take place in the middle of the gym, cordoned off by large white exercise balls (I shit you not). They say they plan on expanding soon in order to have a room just for classes, but I've been in Rome long enough to know that "plans" like this could take forever to become a reality. Strike two: the pricing. There's a full-time and part-time membership. For real? Come on! Why must they unnecessarily complicate memberships? Just give me: 1, 3, 6, 12 month options, that's all a person needs. I don't need a membership that only allows me to use the gym between the hours of 8:00- 2:30 OR 2:30- 9:00 pm. Strike three: The price. 80 freaking euro for a tiny gym with limited classes and hours? Puh-lease!

3) Total Body System. This gym is located in a strange place, perched on top of a hill by Stazione Trastevere, a bit out of reach but not too bad. The place is nice, spacious, clean, they have a separate room for classes. The prices seem reasonable too. As of now, this is my first choice. I'll probably sign up for a month (65 euro) just to see if I like the instructors, I'm hoping they'll waive the 25 euro iscrizione (sign-up fee) though. It seems fair to let a person test out a gym for a month without having to pay a sign-up fee, since I'm not sure I'll like the classes and will want to stay with them.

4) Pamphili Fitness Club/ Passion Fitness. This gym is a little further out of the way, but easily reached with the 8 tram or H bus. I found it thanks to a flyer that advertised a free one week trial membership, which is practically unheard of here! So I did it and I loved the classes and instructors. I didn't sign up though because I was leaving for the USA so it was pointless to commit at that point. I went back there last week, hoping to quickly get a new class schedule and a list of prices. It ended up turning into a 25 minute spiel/ordeal. The people who work there are nice but they just overly-complicate things! I asked the guy for a print-out of the membership prices and what ensued was the longest, most complex song & dance evah and a handwritten "personalized offer*"! I don't want a personalized offer, I don't need you to do the division for me on your 1983 Casio calculator, I can do it myself. Just give me the number of months and the euro amount, that's all. Really. I'm a big girl, I can break it down myself. This "personalized offer" expires after a week, which I find amusing because it just means more work for them. I got slammed with work after I paid them a visit, so that one week has come and gone and I may have to go back for updated info. They just try too hard to appear professional and to sell you memberships, I'm not a fan of pushy people. Apart from these slight annoyances, the place is nice, spacious, well-equipped. The only drawback for me is the fact that it takes 25 minutes to get their by tram/bus.

5) Centro Sportivo Aventino. Unless you want to swim, this place is pointless. Talk about complicated schedules and pricing?!? I couldn't make heads or tails of their info.

Know of any other places I should check out before biting the bullet and signing up for "Total Body System"? I'm all ears!

(*image attached for your viewing pleasure)

Saturday, March 13, 2010


It was bound to happen... after precisely 13 days back in Rome I had my first official clash with the locals, or rather a local.

I walk into a bar (sounds like the intro to a bad joke) and order a coffee. Myself and an older woman are at the counter while a family of four, clearly Americans, sits at a table in the corner. The barista is going off on a tirade about how he's sick of these tourists, how they expect everyone to speak their language, how arrogant and rude they are, blah blah blah. Mind you, all of this is being shouted out loud as he prepares my coffee. It's clear that he's bitching about the American family sitting cluelessly in the corner, not knowing they've set him off on this tirade. They're probably thinking "Oh look how passionate these Italians are, how lively their conversations are". Bless their oblivious souls...
The barista keeps going on and on about how foreigners come here thinking they rule the place and if they want service from people who speak 6 languages, then they should go stay at the Grand Hotel. All the while making eye contact with me as if to gain my support (the older woman practically had her head in her cappuccino... wise woman). THEN he goes so far as to say "We Italians know how to adapt when we travel", at that point I could not help but start snickering. I looked straight at him and said "You have got to be kidding?!".
I know, I know, I shouldn't have done it. I tried to resist as long as I could, but enough's enough. I just wanted a fucking coffee but I got stuck listening to a load of bullshit. Thus, a heated yet very polite discussion began. I suggested that perhaps it wasn't the tourists' fault they don't speak the language, it's common to visit a country whose language you don't know and you have to try to get by on the languages you do know (i.e., your own), I also reminded him that Italy, and Rome especially, thrive on tourists and their money so it's in their own interest to treat visitors well. For the record, I was not defending all American tourists because I know firsthand, from working in the tourism industry, how obnoxious they can be but to go as far as generalizing that ALL Italians are great tourists and know how to adapt is just flat out ridiculous. Our discussion took a turn for the worse when I assured him that Italians are not perfect tourists when abroad (between you and me, I have traveled the globe and have seen some hideous Italian tourists. I'm just sayin' is all...) so he should be a little more understanding. Then I got the classic lame comeback: "How dare you come to MY country and insult MY people"... Again, I just snickered and said "I too am one of your people because I am Italian, I've lived here for over 10 years, and I pay taxes here. I'm not insulting anyone (unlike him, calling Americans ignorant, rude, arrogant, etc.) I'm just making an observation based on my experiences."
Buddy, next time don't let your mouth write checks your ass can't cash. If you're going to publicly bitch and moan at the top of your voice about something in front of your customers, then don't be surprised or annoyed when they actually chime in. Keep it to yourself if you're not willing to hear or accept other viewpoints. The discussion ended with us agreeing to disagree and me thinking "Now I can't go back to that bar ever again". Damn, what a pity, I really liked their pastries...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

hugs vs. kisses

I don't know about you all, but I still prefer a good ol' American hug to the Italian-style cheek kissing.