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The Day the Earth Stood Still

July 31, 2017 in Ex-Patriate Games, Italia, politics

In the days since the election, reading my Facebook feed has become a lurid exercise, like picking the edges of a scab. Admittedly, reading Facebook posts and op-ed pieces might not be the best way to come to terms with what happened, but I simply can’t help myself; I’m an American expat who lives in Europe — for better or for worse, Facebook is the closest thing I get to standing in a square and soaking up the vibes of the townspeople.

So I peek through the windows to see what my family and countrymen are doing back home. I scroll through memes and comment wars and sign a petition or two. A theme has emerged: through the heartbroken high-road messages of love, the hypocritical gloating, the pleas to just “give him a chance!”, and the devastation, what I’m seeing is a lot of thinly veiled talk of a series of wars, fought on our own soil. Republican versus Democrat. Red versus blue. Urban versus elite. Christian versus everyone else; everyone else versus Islam. #allwomen against #allmen. Establishment versus newcomer; liberals versus white bigots; the unprivileged versus the privileged. Corrupt liar versus corrupt liar. Us versus Them.

As true as this might have been, I think it would be remiss not to suggest that as much as this election has been about Us against Them, this election has also been about Failure. The utter failure, specifically, of Political Correctness, which will, in the wake of this election, meet its death.

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Ten Italian Songs You Would Love if You Knew They Existed

November 18, 2011 in dialect, Italia, spazarific

You silly Italians with your love of English-language songs even though you have no idea what they mean! You crack me up. I love you. You make me warm inside, even as I chuckle sardonically each time I hear a DJ attempt to translate a song title – half the time, you dorks are wrong. I also laugh when you claim that everything in Italy is better and that nothing America makes is any good – which is why your favorite movies come from Hollywood, your sneakers are Nike, and Nirvana is your favorite band. But I digress.

I’m fascinated by the pervasiveness of English-language music around the world. How did we get the monopoly on far-reaching tunes? Why aren’t English speakers more open to embracing music from other cultures? It’s not as though other countries don’t produce amazing music – yet, at music stores back home, “World Music” is usually banished to a single lonely shelf.

I can’t enjoy a song if I don’t understand the words is a common argument. Certainly, there’s something to be said for being able to “get” all facets of a song: every once in a while, my Italian friends will ask me to translate a song for them and in the 60s and 70s, many chart-topping American songs were covered by Italian singers to make them more accessible to Italian audiences. But – and feel free to argue with me if I’m wrong – in the end, it’s the beat that makes the music, so usually, it goes like this:

My friends: I’m honey, honey, honey, honey.

Me: What the hell are you singing?

My friends: I’m honey?

Me: It’s “I’m horny”, not “I’m honey.”

My friends: Oh. I’m horny, horny, horny, horny.

Me: Do you even know what that means?

My friends: No.

Me: Do you want to know?

My friends: I guess. Sure. Whatever.

You can protest all you want, but I don’t believe for a second that if you heard a fantastic song in another language that you wouldn’t love it. To test my theory, I present you with Ten Italian Songs You Would Love if You Knew They Existed. The older songs are songs my parents raised me on and the more recent ones are songs I’ve come into contact with since I’ve been living in this crazy boot.

The reason you will love these songs is because I love them and you and I – we always agree.

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“Leone” Means Lion in Italian

September 22, 2010 in Ex-Patriate Games, Italia, spazarific

Back in Italy. Twenty-one degrees and beautiful out. My pink oleander tree is dead. The gas man left great big muddy footprints in my kitchen when he replaced the tank. Giada screams through the ceiling. Cricket chirps instead of construction drills; back to speaking Italian instead of English; stores closed from one to four for siesta. The tourists are gone. The beach is empty and cold. Quiet. So much quiet, just as my cousin Flora said. Dublin’s Georgian doors and capital city bustle  – indeed, any of my past lives – couldn’t seem farther away.

Leone: You know, my name ish Leo, too, like you, but they call me Leone. Do you know why?

Leo: No. Why?

Leone: Becaush unce I went to the jungle. And in the jungle, I shaw a liun.

Leo: You went to the jungle? Well, then, why didn’t you bring us back any coconuts?

I really, really, really need to meet some people my own age.

Photo Friday: Cats and Roman Ruins

August 27, 2010 in Italia, Looking

Cat, always to be/

found prowling Rome’s ancient stones/

You and all your ilk.

This post has been brought to you by Delicious Baby Photo Friday.

Shut Up and Drive

August 26, 2010 in Ex-Patriate Games, Italia, Looking, spazarific

I’m sitting on the beach with my mother’s cousin, Flora, and we’re watching the waves rush towards the shore; rush away from the shore; rush towards the shore; rush away from the shore. My toes are in the sand and I smell salt rising from the sea; sunscreen rising from my skin. It’s almost sunset, but the sky is still light and in the distance, a group of young men is fishing at the water’s edge. They cast their reels into the waves. They shake them in anticipation. They draw back empty hooks.

“You know,” says Flora. “Summer season will be over soon.”

“Yes,” I say.

“I’m going back to Rome this week. All the other tourists will be leaving, too.”

“I suppose they will.”

“This part of town will be empty and sad. You’re on the outskirts, you know. It’ll just get worse in the winter – gray and cold and isolated. Only the locals will be left, and they’ll all be in city centre. The centre is far from where you live.”

I fall silent and look out at the waves. We’ve had this discussion before. I don’t like this discussion. It’s a dose of reality that I’ve been avoiding, preferring to bury my feet in the sand and stare down at a public transportation schedule that shows three pick up times; make multiple trips on my bike to the supermarket; dig through websites to find the best way to get from this beach town to any of the larger ones in the region.

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Hungry. Will Stand on Ridiculously Long Line for Seafood.

August 25, 2010 in Italia, Looking, Oishii, spazarific

Walking around City Centre I suddenly realize that, after the 25-minute bike ride into town, I’m feeling too lazy to cook dinner. Well, am I living on the beach or what? Heck yes, I’m living on the beach. That means fresh seafood at bargain price all over the dang place. So I head to a fish restaurant – a Pescheria -  and park my bike against a tree. It’s a large shack, with “take away” written in English underneath the large neon name. A dry/erase sign reads: Fried Calamari 5 euro. Roasted potatoes 3 euro. Mixed antipasto 6 euro. I’m sold.

I look up. A long line is snaking outside of the shack, arching past me. I hear Neapolitan tourists shouting: Do we take a number or what? How do we do this? Children are crying: How much longer do we have to wait, Pappa? Can’t we get a pizza instead?

I check my watch: it’s 9:15pm. It’s the same old death match – laziness versus greed. Greed ftw, every time.

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The Mime & I

August 24, 2010 in Ex-Patriate Games, Italia, Looking, spazarific, writing

I heard him before I saw him: Signorina! You, the one who’s getting wet. It was a mime – painted gold, dressed as Casanova.

This was December 2005. Rome. La Fontana di Trevi. It was pouring, thus, my getting wet. Thus, my chilly reply: Mimes don’t talk.

His name was Marius. He was Polish. I’ll buy you a coffee. C’mon – what else is there to do in the rain? He had a point. He pulled out a duffel bag from behind a tree. We went to a cafe – espresso for him; hot chocolate for me. Passerby gaped through the wet windows.

Q: So what does one talk about with a mime, anyway?

A: SEX. Who knew? The mime took his role as Casanova seriously: Let’s go to my place. But why not? I’m Casanova; no woman can resist! I only need ten minutes. I looked longingly at the door – still raining. Then, an exclamation point zoomed off the top of Casanova’s wig: I’ll change out of costume. You’ll see I’m a regular guy. He grabbed his bag and disappeared into the bathroom.

Some minutes later, Marius emerged – rugged, good-looking, with a shaved head, wearing a black sweater. But he wasn’t so confident without his pantaloons. Now he only sat silently, shredding a napkin. Gone were the come-ons. Gone was the grin.

The cafe clock ticked.

Finally, he said: I guess I’ll go home.

And he disappeared into the rain.

This post has been entered in the GranTourismo and Home Away Holiday Rentals August Travel Blogging Competition.

Knock Knock

August 23, 2010 in Italia, Oishii, spazarific

“Ciao, E.”

“Hi, Zia Malvina. How are you?”

“I saw that you put a lot of plants on your balcony. Why did you do that?”

“What do you mean?”

“They’re all out there. And then the tree you have on the other balcony, you should really put a stick in the pot to make sure the branches don’t break.”

“That’s a good idea.”

“I’m not sure why you put the plants out there. I guess it looks nice.”

“I think so.”

“Flora said you weren’t feeling well.”

“Not really. I have a sore throat and a sinus headache.”

“Aren’t you taking medicine?”

“I already did salt water gargles and I still have some medicine from Ireland.”

“Good, good. Try gargling with vinegar – that also works.”


“Well, look – I wanted to give you this. It’s three frozen pieces of veal.”


“Yes. We’re heading back to Colleferro tomorrow and they were left over. But don’t cook it. You can put it in your freezer. I don’t know how you cook it. But it should feed you for a few days.”

“Thank you, that’s very kind of you.”

“It’s veal.”

“Yes, I see.”

“It’s good.”

“I remember.”

“You go back inside and rest.”

“Thanks, Zia.”


August 19, 2010 in Ex-Patriate Games, Italia

In Italian, you address a man as signor. You address a woman – mature, married – as signora. A younger woman – ostensibly unmarried, unattached to children – as signorina. 1 signorina, 2 or more signorine. Where do I fit in at 30? I’m unmarried. There are no children around my ankles. And yet – 30.  I try not to stress about it; I’ll let others be the judge.

Standing in line at the pane-salumi-formaggi counter at the market:

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August 18, 2010 in Ex-Patriate Games, Italia, Oishii, spazarific

Since I’ve been in Italy, I’ve had to do a little bit of reconciling – that is, reconciling my childhood memories of the country with my adult impressions. Because I’m me, most of the old memories have to do with food. Me, five years old, sitting on a chair, swinging my legs back and forth and biting into a crunchy-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside mozzarella-and-rice filled supplì. Walking into a supermarket at age 10 and seeing piles of oily, rosemary-encrusted pizza bianca on display. Being handed a hot bomba, wrapped in a paper sheath and studded with crunchy sugar; the pastry so delicate, fragranced with the merest whiff of lemon peel.

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