Sunday, 21 October 2012

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Why don't wet dogs get a colpo d'aria?

I went to a nearby lake at the weekend and sat in the sun while A went for a run. I wasn't feeling so chipper. I think I might have caught the legendary colpo d'aria (symptoms include just about anything really), even though common wisdom states English people are immune to it. However I went out without my scarf on Friday and there was a strong breeze which was pretty perilous.

As I sat in the sun I tried to photograph people's dogs playing in the water. It was quite difficult. I didn't want to get too close and invade their space, but I hope it was obvious I wasn't taking photos of them.

I love the water droplets in the second two photos. It was quite hard to capture the dogs shaking as they run about so fast, but I think photo number two is my favourite. The afternoon sun was already coming in at an angle, even if it wasn't quite the golden hour. The one thing I look forward to with the shorter days is better light for photography!

But the question is: if it's considered deadly to leave the house or hairdressers with wet hair, why does nobody worry about their dogs getting a colpo d'aria?

Saturday, 6 October 2012

How Not to Open a Bank Account in Italy

It's taken me a while to finish the tale of bureaucratic headache that started up a few months ago. It was mostly resolved (fingers crossed!) back in June but it has taken me a few months for the shame to die down enough for me to be able to write about it.

Things you should know about opening a bank account in Italy

1) You need an identity card.

2) To get an identity card you need residency.

3) To get residency you need a job with a proper contract and an application process that lasts over six months.

4) You need a piece of paper stamped by your previous bank to prove your identity if you have never opened an account before. (Illogical? Very! And my previous bank wouldn't help me out either).

5) To get the identity card or residency you need to get to the registry office.

6) To get to the registry office you need to use the metro.

7) To use the metro I needed my metro pass to accept my top up.

It wouldn't. It was starting to feel like a "for want of a horse-shoe nail" moment, but fortunately it wasn't, as I was able to get both my identity card and a new metro pass within one week. The unexpected speed of over coming these difficulties probably went to my head because I approached the last hurdle, hurdle number 4, with an uncharacteristic can-do confidence.

I took the metro with my lovely new responsive and modern looking metro pass up to the city centre and quickly found the road and the bank. I went inside.

Odd. Very odd. There was no reception, nobody around. I wondered down a few corridors but saw no workers except a couple of people in suits on telephones. Eventually a found a nice lady who helped me "I need to finish opening my bank account," I told her, "I started it on line, but I couldn't prove my identity, can you help me?"

"Sorry madam, this is the bank for businesses. You need to go to the branch for private banking."

Oops! (or Opps! as they say here) She told me where to go and I very nearly complained that they had the wrong address on their website but it was all a bit awkward so I didn't, because most fools would have spotted that they were in the wrong place before wandering around all the corridors. My morale was still quite high though.

I went around the corner to another square and there sure enough was the bank: big new offices, prime real estate and very orange decor.  I was directed to a ticket machine so I took my number and waited my turn.

It was mega slow. The manager kept shouting to get things moving but it was at least 40 minutes I waited in line. First impressions were not good. I started to seep morale.

Finally my turn came and I sat down and handed my documents over and explained the situation again. She dutifully typed my details into the computer but nothing came up. She looked bewildered and I started to bleed morale more quickly.

We tried different combinations but nothing worked. Morale was gushing out of me like a waterfall. I couldn't bear the idea of starting all over again. She turned over my papers.

"Ahhhhhh," she said, "but this isn't THAT bank. We are THIS bank."

Long and awkward pause.

I appologised and started to feel myself go a bit red for rubbing my not wanting to open a bank account with them in their faces so wantonly.

"Don't worry," she smiled, "it happens all the time."

"It doesn't though, does it?" I hastily tried to stuff  my papers that had exploded all over her desk into my handbag.

"No, it doesn't." She admitted cheerfully.

I got out of there quickly and fifteen minutes later I had a bank account. I went back to the first road and looked right instead of left and saw that there was another very orange bank. They were extremely friendly and efficient and I haven't been back since.

Long may it stay that way.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

The Fortress of Bard

Sleepy Hollow

The Fort

One Dalmation

Wet flagstones

The Shining

7 myths about living in Italy

You may believe these myths because you have read too many expat books about living in Italy like Extra Virgin, or from bumping into an Italian once at university, or because you tasted the Italian experience when on holiday. So if you were thinking about the good life in Italy, and I'm sure it exists somewhere, let me put a few things straight first.

It's better this way.

Myth #1
Italians are sooo superior when it comes to food. Never cook for an Italian. They will hate it because it isn't like their nonna's.

Reality: A lot of Italians eat the same meals week in week out, like pasta and tomato sauce or a exist only on tiny coffees. They will love any attempt at British cooking for the sheer novelty value and appreciate any sweet baked treats because Italian desserts are really limited in range. Whilst the vast majority do not go wild for marmite, some do.

Myth #2
Everyone is very well dressed. You will be made to feel shabby.

Reality: Actually yes, but only in city centres (it is impossible not to feel shabby in Milan). Everywhere else though, people wear practical clothes for doing practical things. Teachers even wear jeans to school!

Myth #3
You will acheive a work-life balance because you will be making a modest but steady income running a B+B, teaching English for a few hours in the afternoons or living off the land.

Reality: Hah! In this economic climate?! Also, I don't think I've ever heard an Italian use the term "work-life balance".

Myth #4
Italians are smiling buffoons full of joie-de-vivre.

Reality: No, but that's what they want you to think if you are a foreign tourist in a touristy restaurant. (Italians don't tip). Little known fact - Berlusconi is in the pay of Italian waiters as they encourage him to promote this adorable national stereotype abroad.*

Myth #5
You will go for a passeggiata every evening with your friends and family.

Reality: Once a week maybe, on a weekend if you aren't retired. Everybody else is too busy. See myth #3.

Myth #6
Italians don't say mmmmmm when  they think something is tasty (Is this from Driving Over Lemons or some such expat book?).

Reality: They do.

Myth #7
Italian men are better looking.

Reality: It's not a myth. However, they are shorter.

Any more myths I should tackle? Or am I mistaken? Leave a comment below by clicking on "comments:"

*I made that up.