Sunday, July 11, 2010

"No try"

Today I noticed another odd phenomenon that occurs seasonally in Italy. When stores hold their twice a year sales, you suddenly see signs popping up that read: "No try".

What they mean is you're not allowed to try on the clothes that are on sale. Is it just me, or is that the most ineffective way to get rid of merchandise? I really don't understand, all year long you're allowed to try things on and then suddenly when those same items cost 30% less, trying them on is no longer an option. Why? No really, why?

I personally don't buy ANYTHING unless I can try it on (or return it once I take it home and realize it doesn't fit… but returning clothing in Italy is an entirely different horror story that I'll touch on one day), so it's safe to say that stores with "No try" signs don't get a cent from me.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


I've said it before and I'll say it again, I love summers in Rome. Summertime is high season for my line of work so I have to stick around till the bitter end. Yes, it may be unbearably hot & humid BUT the perk is that the Romans abandon the city in hordes. They run off to the sea, the mountains, to Sharm El-Sheikh and leave Rome ALL TO ME! I've already begun to see the first signs of this exodus and I'm giddy with excitement to take over the city.
In the meantime, there are some fantastic outdoor events. One in particular is FREE and in one of Rome's loveliest parks, Villa Borghese. I saw Amreeka (really great film) last night at Casa del Cinema and highly suggest you all go to at least one of their events this summer. If anything, just to enjoy the breeze, the fresh air, and a cold drink.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Lately I've been noticing some very stylish cookie packages around Rome and today I just happened to walk past the HQ of "Il Mondo di Laura". I went berserk and bought 3 different kinds of cookies, the lovely Laura (I'm assuming it was her) gave me some free samples as well. I just devoured a giant chocolate chip cookie and it was delish (and fairly healthy for a cookie). Can't wait to try all the other goodies.
It's nice to see new businesses like this in Rome. Go Laura!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

mysteries of Italian TV

I don't watch much Italian TV, but when I do happen to tune in I can't help but wonder about these oddities:

1) Why do shows start at random times like 3:05 or 9:40?

2) Why do commercials have to be announced/introduced by screen images like the one I posted above? I've never had a hard time differentiating a TV show or movie from a commercial so the need for this escapes me.

3) Why do they have TV guide readers? Some channels (like RAI) have these ladies who come on the air and tell you what the evening's TV schedule will be. I find it amusing yet senseless.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

the joys of travel

(warning: this post does not contain my usual rants about Rome and/or being an expat)

Another year older, another year wiser? Perhaps "wiseass-er", if that were a word. I've been reflecting on my life thus far and do admit I consider myself lucky. I've had so many great experiences, met so many great people, traveled to so many great places. I firmly believe travel should be obligatory for all: you learn so much about yourself, the world, and humankind in general.
Lately I've been thinking about one specific travel incident that happened to me years ago, when I was younger, freer, and didn't work freelance. Yeah, as odd as it may seem, working freelance has halted my travel because I never really know when work will come my way so plans are hard to make.
It was June-July of 1999 and I grabbed a backpack, stuffed a few things in it and flew to Tunisia. That's how I used to roll: me & a guide book… no tours, no guides, no companions. I had a rough idea of what I wanted to see during my 9 days there but played it by ear most of the time.
One day I decided to get on a train to Gabes because I wanted to go to Matmata. For those of you who don't know, Star Wars was filmed in this town and I wanted to see it because… I like Star Wars. Don't judge me, I grew up on those films. Anyway, while on the train I hear an announcement that I can't understand (I speak no French or Arabic) but I suspect they're announcing a delay since the train is running late. A conductor walks by and I stop him to ask more info. I tried in Italian first (although this was pre 9/11, I always traveled to Arab countries on my Italian passport instead of the American one and passed myself off as an Italian... dunno why, but I felt "safer" that way) and then in English, to no avail. Suddenly, an Arab man who was more or less my age, pops up and explains to me in Italian what the situation is. Said Arab man and I strike up a conversation and he confesses his love for Italy and the Italian language. Now mind you, I may have been in my 20s but I always had street smarts and an incredible ability to sniff out a freak from miles away. This guy seemed totally harmless and was not at all trying to mack on me. We chatted for hours and then we reached Gabes later than planned, so it was dark out. I hadn't booked a hotel but knew the general area I was going to stay in. The man, Hichem, tells me he would gladly host me at his home. At this point, I wondered if my freak-radar was out of whack and I just laughed and said "Non credo proprio" (I don't think so). He was smart enough to understand why I'd be hesitant and assured me that his home was his parents', meaning he lived with his mom, dad, and two sisters. I politely declined and said goodbye and started walking away. He kept at it and assured me it was safe. He even went so far as to say, you can walk with me there (which was in the general direction I would've been heading) and if you feel uncomfortable you don't have to come in. I figured there was no harm in that, so I walked with him to the center of town. We reach his home and he goes in to inform his family of the new pet he'd brought home from the train, his sisters rush outside with him to greet me and were incredibly thrilled to see a strange foreign girl traveling alone. They were extremely nice and polite. I agreed to go in. Sounds like insanity, right? My mom would've flipped out had she known (hi mom, even if you don't know I have a blog), but I trusted my gut and felt like this would be a great experience. And indeed it was.
Hichem's family was amazing, they were not wealthy but not dirt-poor either. They were very caring, attentive and even protective of me, they couldn't believe I was traveling alone. I stayed with them for two nights, they made me breakfast, let me shower in their home, offered me the best bed in the house (they all slept on mattresses on the floor). I also spent lots of time with Hichem (settle down, it was TOTALLY platonic). One night we walked to a fancy hotel in town and had beers at the bar, chatting till late at night about life, about our different cultures, about how strange it was that I, a Westerner, could sit at a bar and drink with him, whereas his sisters could not. His father was very strict with the sisters so they were rarely allowed to do anything. Hichem also offered to accompany me to Matmata and Chenini, his presence made it soooo much easier for me- not only because of the language barrier, but also because I had a male guardian to ward off any weirdos.
On day three, I packed up to leave, much to his family's disappointment. They wanted me to stay longer and see more sights in their area but I needed to move on and head back up north. I thanked them profusely, wrote down their address so I could send postcards, gifts, etc., told his sisters (who also loved Italy) that they were welcome to come stay with me in Rome, and headed to the train station with Hichem. We said goodbye and parted ways. Five minutes later he rushes into the train and hands me a paper bag, kisses me on the forehead in a brotherly way (settle down!) and rushes out. I open the bag to find snacks, beverages, and fruit for my long train ride.We kept in touch for many years, I sent packages to his family, his sisters were never allowed to come visit unfortunately and then we lost touch…
Still to this day I have such fond memories of my time with Hichem & his family. It was truly the most amazing experience. I'm eternally grateful to him for his immense generosity and his immense trust in humankind.

This, my friends, is what traveling is all about…