Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Diary of a commuter

The "trenino" that goes from Fara Sabina to Fiumicino (and vice versa) never ceases to amaze. Here's a summary of my week of commuting from Trastevere to Tiburtina:

Day 1
Outbound: on time
Inbound: 8 minutes late, train breaks down at Ostiense, change trains

Day 2
Outbound: 15 minutes late
Inbound: 12 minutes late

Day 3
Outbound: 5 minutes late
Inbound: 20 minutes late

Day 4
Outbound: on time
Inbound: on time

Day 5
Outbound: 25 minutes late
Inbound: on time

Day 6
Outbound: 10 minutes late
Inbound: 5 minutes late

Day 7
Outbound: on time
Inbound: 27 minutes late

and then they wonder why people don't buy tickets...

Friday, August 26, 2011

Get your sh#t together

I'm not in the mood for this, Rome... get your shit together. Today is one of those days when I wish I could smack Rome upside the head.
After weeks of non-stop work, obscene temperatures, and August annoyances, I finally managed to find some time to do something non-work related! I pretty much missed all of the outdoor cinema events this year, but was very eager to go see at least one film that was part of the Unità d'Italia celebrations- not because I'm a patriot but because they were showing some damn good Italian classics.
So I made a point to take a break from work in order to go and pick up the free tickets* by 7:00 PM as it said on the websites that publicized the event:
"L’ingresso alla manifestazione è libero e i biglietti d'ingresso potranno essere ritirati gratuitamente entro le 19 a Palazzo Valentini. In più, il tagliando d’ingresso darà diritto, fino al 12 agosto, a cenare a prezzi ridotti all'Enoteca provinciale prima della proiezione. I film avranno inizio alle 21."

I get there and am told tickets will be available FROM 7:00 PM as opposed to until 7:00 PM. Now, I know my brain may be burnt out after redonkulous hours of work but I am far too OCD to mess up a detail like this so I whip out my beloved iPhone and show the "guard lady" the website with the info. At this point, after giving me attitude as if I were some fool, she finally says: "Oh yes, we know the info online is wrong but there's nobody here to give you the tickets anyway". Blood boiling (also due to the unbearable temperatures), I look at her and say: "This is ridiculous. People take time out of their schedule to come here and you can't even publish the correct info?". She shrugs her shoulders and says: "It happened to a lot of people". Yeah, real reassuring. That just makes you seems like bigger assholes because you knew the info was wrong but didn't bother to adjust it. So now, I will head back there again after 7:00 PM in hopes of finding tickets.

Grrrrrr.... just one of those days.

*someone has to explain to me WHY we have to go pick up tickets ahead of time for free events. If it's on first come-first serve basis anyway, then just do it right then and there instead of making people line up twice. It's such an annoying waste of time.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Cupcakes in the 'hood!

While walking home all sweaty and grumpy after a miserable bus ride (is it just me or has the bus service been horrific for the past few days?) I happened upon this:

Cupcakes? American sweets? Just what I needed to lift my mood. I stepped inside and examined the cases:

They looked damn good to me! At 3 euros a pop, they ain't cheap but I was willing to take my chances. I'm saving them till after dinner, I'll let you know the verdict.
Or else, check it out for yourselves:
Franky & Paul
Via del Moro #8
Trastevere, Roma
you can "like" them on the Facebook (yes, I said "the Facebook", it amuses me).

UPDATE: I tried them all and am sad to report they were disappointing and rather bland. I couldn't tell the difference between the red velvet, carrot cake, and white chocolate. A few of them fell apart as I was taking off the wrapper, and as we all know, a cupcake should not crumble that easily. The frosting was flavorless too, just tasted like sugar. Very unimpressive. They need to tweak their recipes because as they stand now, they're mediocre (hence even more overpriced). Oh well...

Monday, July 25, 2011

brunch at Panella

I've know about Panella for ages, I think their bread products are great but a bit on the pricey side so I rarely go there. But I recently heard they were doing aperitivo and brunch buffets as well so we decided to test it out yesterday.
It started off very well, perfect weather, great location, pleasant waiter, and lovely company. Our waiter gave us the run-down: all-you-can-eat brunch plus a drink for 15 euros till 3:00 PM. Not bad, considering most places charge 25+ for brunch (I still don't understand why brunch is so freaking expensive in this country!). The buffet had several vegetarian-friendly options too. Sweet! We were all excited about this very reasonably priced brunch.

Our first observation: the whole thing is poorly organized. You pay at your table then go inside to the buffet table with your receipt, stand in "line" (those of you who live in Rome know what I mean, it's an inverted pyramidal shaped mass of pushing people), and wait to be served. A stupid system if you ask me, you tell the guy what you want, he puts it on your plate, and if he thinks your plate is too full, he tells you to come back later for whatever else you may want. Waste of time & plates. Give people bigger plates so there'll be less of a pile-up inside, no?

Second observation: as always in Italy, there's a catch. A friend joined us later and just ordered a drink while two of the brunching friends got a second drink- the bill came and they were charged 15 euros each for their drink. I thought there was some kind of mix-up and pointed it out to the waiter, he very casually said "No mistake, extra drinks cost 15 euro even if you don't want to eat or even if you've already paid for the buffet". Ridiculous. I'm willing to pay 15 euros for a drink at Hotel de Russie on occasion, but this is out of line. Needless to say, my friend who had just ordered the drink decided to pounce on the buffet since he was paying for it anyway.

Third observation: they need to get their act together. If you're going to do the aperitivo/brunch scene then do it right. Make sure it's organized and user-friendly, and make sure your staff is prepared. When I went inside for my third round (yes, third... the plates were tiny!), the buffet server examined my receipt and with an accusatory tone declared I hadn't paid for the brunch. I laughed out loud and told him to talk to our waiter.
Him: "What's your waiter's name?"
Me: (in dismay) "I have no idea, I'm not in the habit of asking a waiter's name".
I pointed him out and naturally my waiter defended me, he'd punched in the wrong code hence it looked like I hadn't paid for brunch but of course I had.

We ate like fiends to make up for the excessive extra-drink cost and in all honesty, the food was great. I just can't begin to understand what possessed them to set up that ridiculously exorbitant second-drink price. I mean, don't you want people to stay and drink?? That equals more money, duh! Even if you charged people 7 euros, they'd gladly buy a second and third drink but 15 euros is unheard of. People are going to eat and leave... so maybe that's what they're aiming for? Beats me... I'd go there again but would make sure everyone at the table knows what the policy is ahead of time.
Consider yourself warned.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Price hike?

Apparently, ATAC is planning on raising prices for the public transportation system in Rome. While I understand the need for price hikes, I think ATAC has some nerve raising the price for the substandard service they provide. Before asking us to fork out more money, how about fixing up some of these issues, dear ATAC?
-Making sure all of your buses have AC that works
-Making sure buses run regularly
-Spacing out the buses. How many times have I seen three #3 buses appear within one minute (and manage to miss them all) and then have to wait 25 minutes for the next one?!
-Rethinking the placement of certain bus stops so that riders can easily switch from one line to another without having to sprint 100 meters!
-Improving the night bus schedule
-Making sure your bus tracker app works even past midnight
-Placing ticket machines on every bus
-Improving signage on streets and even in buses so riders know what stop is coming up and what route the bus takes

...shall I go on?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Gym update

Remember how excited I was about finding a new gym that I liked? Well, I do still like it but (you knew that was coming)... initially they said they were open for the month of August, which was a big selling point for me since I stay IN Rome during August. Then they said they would close only for the week of Ferragosto, then they said they would close for 2 weeks, now they say they'll be closed the whole month PLUS they've reduced the number of classes in the month of July (they've cancelled my morning class which is a huge annoyance for me) since "most people are on vacation". Ummm, okay... that's not what I signed up for and that's not what I paid for! I signed up knowing there were morning classes all through the summer, but since this is Italy what you see is not always what you get and they keep changing their story on a daily basis. Needless to say I asked them to add an extra month to my membership since they'll be closed in August plus they threw in a few extra weeks for the July downsizing too. Fair enough I suppose, but I'll still have to find a place/way to work out during August.

Aside from this glitch, the gym is great, I've tried out most of the instructors and have selected my favorite classes, which all happen to be morning classes. I went to an evening class the other night and it was like being inside of the Grande Fratello house: chitchatting nonstop, yelling, complaining, fighting, joking, teasing the instructor= total mayhem. Never again, I'll stick to my morning classes which are much more civilized and more focused on exercising- which is what I'm paying for.

Monday, June 13, 2011

new obsession

Moka Drink from Siladrink! Not too sweet, perfect coffee taste. Where can I order a case of this??

Saturday, May 21, 2011

when it rains it pours

I stepped on flyer today... for another gym... in the Trastevere area!! Whoa, what's with the sudden outbreak of gyms in the 'hood??
This place, Silver Fitness, is offering a crazy low price: 99 euros for a year BUT (there had to be a "but" or two, as in this case) the gym does not open till July and they're only offering a limited number of these 99 euro memberships. So if you want to cash in on the offer, you have to sign up now- sight unseen.
They have pictures and schedules on display on site, but those are all from their Talenti gym, the lady at the desk said this Trastevere gym will "more or less" be the same. Yeah, okay, no... I'm far too skeptical (after living in Rome all these years) to sign up and fork over money for something that is still in the works. For all I know, the place will open 2 months later than planned, will be a hole in the wall, and will have ridiculous hours like 10:30 AM- 1:00 PM/ 3:30 PM- 6:00 PM. Also, I asked if the gym will be open in August and she said "Of course! It'll probably be just be closed for about 10 days". Uhhhh, okay...
Too sketchy for me right now. I'll wait to see what the finished product looks like and then I'll report back to you all.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

we have a winner

After searching high & low, I have found a good gym in my neighborhood. Easy Fit Club on Viale Trastevere #205 has proved to be a winner!
Their website is a bit janky and the schedule online is wrong (check out the correct schedule below) BUT the gym is right in soooo many ways: good classes, good teachers, nice facility. My only complaint: the girls at the front desk need to back off a bit, I'm not a fan of people getting all up in my grill and trying to be overly-friendly. Take it down a notch ladies, we don't need to be BFFs.
For now, I've only signed up for one month (59 euros) because I need to make sure my erratic work schedule will actually allow me to go and take classes. They're also offering a summer special: if you sign up now you'll only pay 159 (or was it 149?) from now till September. Pretty sweet deal. Then the regular monthly rate is 60 euros but they only offer year memberships.

I haven't been to Italian gyms in a while so it's rather amusing to watch the locals: from inappropriate gym attire, to complaining/huffing about the difficulty of certain classes, to ridiculous fears of AC, Italians prove time and time again that they are not gym savvy, at all... This morning I was one of two people in class- the other person was also foreign. As the instructor himself pointed out, most Italians don't like waking up early and exercising so an 8:30 AM class is anything but crowded. All the better for me! It's like having a personal training session. Win-win for me!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

deep thoughts

As I ran my errands the other day, I watched some AMA employees uncomfortably and unsuccessfully try to clean the street in between parked cars/scooters with their hoses... and a thought came to me: why don't they have alternate side parking like in New York City? It would make the street sweeper's job a lot easier and the streets would probably be much cleaner. Then I chuckled and remembered that this Rome- where people park wherever they want, whenever they want. Alternate side parking would be a joke like all of the other parking rules already in effect...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Only in Italy

I couldn't believe my ears when I heard this commercial for Kinder fetta al latte with Fiona May: "Quando fa caldo e' difficile fare colazione, per questo c'e' Kinder fetta al latte*..."
Seriously? Who the fuck came up with this??

(*When it's hot out it's hard to eat breakfast, that's why we have Kinder fetta al latte)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

good flicks

Surprisingly enough, there are some good Italian flicks in the theaters right now. Check them out!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Dr. Pepper

Look what I happened upon today... good ol' Dr. Pepper! I'm not a huge soda drinker but I do love me some sweet bubbles occasionally. I've personally never seen the Pepper in Rome before, but this one bar on Via Roma Libera #13 is selling it for 3.50 euro. Highway robbery if you ask me but if you ever have a craving for it, now you know where to get it!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Finally, Trenitalia realized that having fabric-covered seats in the trenino (such as the Fiumicino Airport-Tiburtina line) was extremely unhygienic and all-around a bad idea.
Looks like pleather will be taking over. No more soiled, stinky, stained seats. Three cheers for pleather!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

could it be??

The other day I stepped on this flyer in my neighborhood:

A new gym? AND they're offering free classes for 3 days (aka "open days" which sounds dumb as hell). Obviously I went this morning and had a kick-ass class with a kick-ass instructor, Paolo.
This place is located in the same spot where JC Welfare was BUT they've expanded and spruced it up. FYI: from what I was told, JC Welfare pretty much closed down after collecting initiation fees from their members. Wow, glad I never signed up there... that name alone was reason enough not to!

I digress, this place seems promising. Prices are more reasonable: 60initiation fee, one-year membership for 60 a month (sadly, they don't do month-to-month), or 3 months for 255 (yikes!). One annoying, senseless thing: if you need/want to freeze your membership, you have to pay 5 extra a month, so essentially the monthly cost becomes 65 if, like me, you are gone for 3 months every year. I may have to contest this because it makes no sense to me. I'm hoping they'll be reasonable and meet me halfway.

AND they say they will be expanding the place as well to add a pilates room and a spinning room! We'll see... but honestly, it's fine as is! They have lots of equipment, two rooms for classes, nice locker rooms, etc. Could it be? Have I finally found a decent gym in Trastevere? Stay tuned...
If you have free time in the next few days, GO try it out EASYFITCLUB. They're pleasant people too.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Famers' market

In the past few years, I kept noticing posters in Rome advertising "Farmer's Market" (ahem: unless it's just one farmer selling his/her goods, you might want to rethink where you placed that apostrophe!) but I never bothered to follow up... until recently. A dear friend of mine went to the farmers' market in Testaccio and raved about the great prices and excellent quality of the produce. So we went together last week. The market is located indoors and has a decent sized selection of only LOCAL goods.

You can get incredibly delicious in-season fruits and vegetables, cheese, bread, homemade pasta, honey, jam, sweets, etc. and the prices are lower than "mercato" or supermarket prices because there's no middle man, it's just a farmer selling goods directly to the consumer.

I couldn't help but chuckle about the newly adopted "farmers' market" term because traditionally, all mercati used to be like this: they were filled with local farmers selling their goods directly to consumers at reasonable prices. But then things went awry and these stands were selling all produce at any time of the year. At my mercato in Trastevere, for example, I managed to find only one real farmer: he and his daughter have a limited selection and quantity of in-season produce. They don't have cases and cases of apples with "Melinda" stickers on them, they only sell fava beans when they're in season, if you go do your shopping late in the morning you'll often find that all the goods have already been snatched by the neighborhood's old women who flock to that stand as if it were Mecca.
It's amusing but sad that Italians had to borrow our term "famers' market" to make the age-old mercato tradition seem like something new and trendy. Italians need to realize that some things are better left unchanged.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Close, but no cigar

I give ATAC props for installing these digital countdown clocks at some of the major bus stops... BUT (you knew that was coming, didn't you?) they still need to tweak the system a bit. I always dread reading "A Capolinea" (at the end of the line) beside a bus number because it gives you no indication at all of when the bus will in fact come by- it could be in 2 minutes, it could be in 20 minutes... I've waiting as long as 25 minutes. Not even my beloved iPhone 4 and its ATAC mobile app can save me because it feeds from the same source as these countdown clocks.
I know, I know, beggars can't be choosers but still, it would make life a tad easier to actually know how long the bus will sit at the end of the line (read: how long of a cigarette/coffee break the driver intends to take) so I can plan accordingly. Maybe I'll write to ATAC about this... cue hysterical laughter.

Saturday, March 5, 2011


I know people are always grumbling about globalization and the demise of mom & pop shops, but I have to say I am thrilled that Rome now has several Sephora stores. For years we've been at the mercy of overly priced & overly rude profumerie where pushy & impatient salespeople were up in your grill the second you set foot in the shop, where you could barely touch a product let alone look its the label, where asking questions about a product or its ingredients was frowned upon (I recall once asking if a product contained parabens, the salesperson basically laughed at my concern saying it was nonsense), where merely mentioning the word "sample" caused jaws to drop and attitudes to flare up (I'm convinced the owners of these profumerie have stockpiles of samples at home though), where prices were never clearly marked so you could get jacked depending on your accent or what the salesperson imagined you could spend. Trips to these profumerie always ended with me leaving empty-handed or me buying a 50 euro product I used once and tossed out.
Enter Sephora.
Pure bliss: tons of products in various price ranges, where you can actually touch the products, look at their labels, and GASP... get samples! Seriously, for all I care all the other profumerie can go out of business. I finally have a place in Italy where I can buy products and not feel annoyed, abused, or ripped off. Hooray for Sephora!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Espresso not expresso

One of my biggest gripes when I'm in the good ol' US of A is the lack of good espresso, even in my beloved NYC (which is where I am now)... mind you there are plenty of decent espresso places in NYC but when I'm being charged $2-$3 for it, I want it to be really good, not just decent. For the past three months I've tried many places and haven't found anything exceptional until I discovered (drum roll please).... KAVA. I strolled by there yesterday and had a very good macchiato, it cost me $3 + change but I enjoyed every sip of it and I enjoyed the decor.
Well done, Kava, well done...