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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.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Things I've Noticed about Torino/Italy Part IV

I did say sometime back that I would stop writing “Things I’ve Noticed” but realistically I just can’t. There are so many things to take note of, look at, taste, listen to and ponder about that I now feel I may never stop this series of posts. Maybe if I end up going back to the states after an extended stay here in Italy, I’ll begin another series of posts called “Things That Have Changed Since I Last Lived in the U.S.” There is a great book by Bill Bryson on just this topic; he writes about coming back to the U.S. after 20 years in England. I think it’s called “I’m a Stranger Here Myself”, a really great read. Well without further adieu, here are more things I have noticed:

1. The Fast Food Phenomenon?
Kids in America are fat; there is no arguing with that. The kids in Seattle are not as fat as the American average, per my observations, maybe because Seattle is/was listed as one of the 10 healthiest cities during most of the time I was living there, 1992 -2005. I expected the kids in Italy to be thinner but to my surprise, they are not. I took my niece and nephew to an outdoor pool and took a good hard look at all the other kids/teenagers around me. About 30-50% of the general population at this specific pool was a tad bit chunky, if you know what I mean. At the supermarket one can find a snack of Nutella with crackers and a drink that comes attached, all in one neat little package. Now this is junk food at it finest, a snack and a drink combined. I can’t say whose influence this is since I have only been living here for 4 months, but the Italians have lots of “convenience foods” available to them. For example, pizza dough in a bag (all ready to roll and bake), pre-made pie crusts, pre-made puff pastry, frozen everything, pre-cut and pre-packaged meats, (like already cubed and portioned pancetta, which I love), tons of deli items, pre-made salads, I love the pre-shredded carrots (which I mix with lettuce for the kids salads) and lots, lots more. It’s convenience heaven.

2. Saldi, Saldi, Saldi=Sales, Sales, Sales
My girlfriend Linda, who lives here with a Microsoft colleague of Deme’s, is a gal who loves to shop. She was lamenting one day about how in Italy there are only sales 2 times a year. I queried Deme about why this is so and this is what I learned: Now is the season for sales, they start after the first week of July and last about a month. The other time the sales happen is in January (since I was not here, I won‘t comment). I was told that the government regulates the sales, and having them only two times a year is a way the government protects the people from fraudulent practices. Hm…Hmm….Hmmm…..I never thought of it this way and I have to add as an aside that I am going on only the word of my husband. Basically the government does not want shopkeepers to advertise sales too often because if they do, shoppers might be fooled into thinking they are getting a good deal. When in reality, they may only be getting a 10% reduction in the price when “real” sales reduce the price by 30-50%. Instead of having regularly reasonable prices, you have to wait until that 110 Euro pair of jeans drops to 73.40, or that blouse that was 120 Euros drops to 69.90. Clothes in Italy are expensive, most people spend a good amount of time window shopping and looking at what they “might” want to buy. On the weekends, folks flock to the center of town to “look” at merchandise while they have their coffees. I wish that boutiques would just price their goods reasonably instead of dropping the bottom out of prices two times a year.

3. Don’t Lose Your Identity
The men and women who deliver the mail in Italy do so in trucks, vans, mini-vans, cars, bicycles and on foot. A while back I was talking with my tutor Alberto about the use of ATM cards, checks and credit cards versus cash. Here in Italy everyone uses cash, credit cards or ATM cards. Checks are not used that often. In fact if you want to pay your utility bills or parking tickets, you just run to the post office and pay it all there with a debit or credit card. Alberto said that identity theft and fraud with credit cards is a big deal here and people prefer to use cash. I told him back in the U.S. I had no problem debiting a $1.99 single short cappuccino from Starbucks. Back to the post people; the lady I saw today was wearing a pair of jeans and a yellow tank top, no uniform. She rode up to an apartment building in her bicycle with a basket in the front full of mail and rang the bell. When the custode answered, she said “Posta” and was let into the building. She went in, leaving her bike and basketful of mail outside propped up against the building. The children, dog and I walked by casually on our way home from the market. I could use a new couch. I wonder how I could get one? Hm…..Hmm….Hmmm….. (This means I’m thinking a bit of an evil thought.)
Another time in Rome as Demetrio and I went to the civil office to check on the registration of our marriage, we climbed 3 flights on ancient stairs before arriving at the right place. The office was occupied and so we waited in the hall. While waiting I walked up and down the halls a bit and noticed, there I go noticing things again, there were cabinets upon cabinets in the hallways labeled “Divorce” on the outside. One was partway opened and there were divorce files just sitting there in an unlocked cabinet. Deme said they were public records, really public if you ask me. What if someone decided to take a file and run? Would you then be divorced one day and not divorced the next? Just wondering aloud again, it’s a bad habit of mine.


At 3:08 PM, Blogger Gia said...

I recall showing what I thought were cool looking James Bond design check to Paolo when I was in Italy and he laughed. He said no one in their right mind would accept a check from me.

At 12:29 AM, Blogger Gia-Gina said...

Actually the checks here are really big and long, you only get a small book of 25 or so at a time and if you want more you have to go to the bank for them. Not very handy but I end up using cash more and losing track of the cash too. I guess I'm too unorganized.


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