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Gia-Gina Across the Pond

So I've decided to follow my husband to his native Italy. Follow our adventures as we eat, drink, travel, adapt to and explore this remarkable country. Part food blog, part photo blog but mostly my rants and raves. After our two years in Italy, we relocated across the Atlantic "pond" and are back in the States.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Things I have noticed about Italy-Turin Part 3 (last installment)

The date in Italy and maybe all of Europe is written differently than in the U.S. Today is March 17th 2005. In the U.S. we write 03/17/05 but here in Italy it is written 17/03/05. The month and the day are switched. This confuses me a bit but I am trying to adapt to the new format.

I have always thought of the 24 hour clock as military time but I now think it is more based of GMT. Long lunch hours are taken by most shops and offices in Turin. I did not notice this so much in Rome since I woke up late everyday and then had lunch and most of our activity in Rome was done at dinner time when everyone is open. Here in Turin, the shops open at 8:00/9:00. and close for lunch at 13:00/13:30 then re-open from 15:00/15:30 to 19:00/20:00. I have a Spanish girlfriend who told me this is how businesses are run in Spain because it is too hot to do business in the summer. I did not expect this in the winter.

No shopping on Sunday! This is something I really have to get used to. In the U.S. stores are packed on the weekends with people going to Home Depot, IKEA, REI, grocery shopping, and running errands. Here the city is dead on Sunday, if there is traffic restriction then no driving is allowed in the city and we go to the countryside or walk and take the bus. All shops, grocery stores etc. are closed. Demetrio tells me it is because of the strong workers unions. If they want employees to work on Sunday, they have to dole out 4 times the wages.

The only place in the U.S. I’ve had to pay toll fees is in California and I think you have to pay them in New York/New Jersey too. Here in Italy, you pay toll fees to use bridges, to enter the freeway, to leave the freeway, to travel from one region to another. There are lots of toll fees. From Rome to Turin, a 5 ½ hour drive, we passed about 6-8 tolls and ended up paying $40-60 in fees. We have a TelePass installed in the car; it is like an electronic credit card mounted on the front windshield. Whenever we pass a toll, we slow down and then after a beep the toll arm lifts. At the end of the month, the fees are deducted from your bank account. It is much faster than lining up and shoving coins in a slot or using your credit/debit card.

Metal and wooden window shutters are used on every window of every house and apartment here in Italy. They are handy for blocking out light but what’s strange is that people have the shutters and curtains too. I think maybe they are used to prevent break-in’s too. The metal ones are not very attractive. They remind me of the typhoon shutters and louvers we used to have on Guam.

I went to the marcelleria=butcher shop the other day to get a few veal chops. The butcher did not speak any English and neither did his wife but they took my order. He grabbed the veal rack from the meat case and proceeded to hack my three chops off with a giant medieval axe! Giant! He was tiny and old and could barely hold it up, the shock and surprise must have been evident on my face because he smiled wholeheartedly when he gave me my order.

Where is your other hand? Deme asks me this inevitable question just about every time we sit down for a meal. When we first met, he asked me this question and we looked in a book he had Etiquette for Dummies for an answer. The book stated that it was acceptable to place your free hand on your lap if you so pleased. Not in Italy, it is unacceptable. Both hands have to be on the table at all times. This is what he tells me, when in Rome right?

People travel to eat all over Italy. There are guide books to cafes, enotecas=wine bars and restaurants. Not skinny Zagat rated guide books, large volumes that list the best coffee, best chocolate drinks, best apperitivos, slow-food restaurants, and the best of all, the GamberRosso guide to restaurants. Because we are new to Turin, we travel and eat according to the various guides that we have. On the weekends, couples, large families complete with babies and grandparents all drive out of the cities, to the suburbs and country to eat. I can’t imagine driving all the way to Blaine, Washington just to eat. But I have driven from Seattle to Vancouver, B.C. for good dim sum before.

I have been watching a lot of TV commercials for exotic destinations. For the Maldives Islands, there is a cute jingle. “Everybody needs a roll in the sand; every body needs a walk hand in hand.” I don’t even know where the Maldives are. For Egypt’s Red Sea Riviera, the slogan is “Where the sun shines every day of every year.” I did not know Egypt had a Riviera. Go to Croatia to “Experience the Mediterranean as it once was.” or visit “Incredible India“, Live your Myth in Greece” and did you know that Cyprus is the “Island for all Seasons?” All these places look amazing. I better get my passport out and start saving up.

Dubbing is king here in Italy. They do not believe in subtitles. I can rent special DVD’s that have the original soundtracks though. When American movies are shown on TV they are all dubbed, ditto for American movies in the theatres too.

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