Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Yesterday I had 68 readers from Russia!

I bring you the romantic Italy portrayed in the movies.  I sit in the shade of a big awning while I watch my Coffee Americano, being delivered with a lack of urgency by my charming barist .  She could step right into a movie and play the part of the girl next door.  She has the dark eyes, hidden by the now in-vogue oversized black glasses, and she is all Italian, wearing a rubber band tight pair of pants.  She has a fan club as two old men are standing at the bar, feeling like the room is spinning while oogling and making a feeble attempt to hide their reaquaintence with testosterone by discussing the weather. 
view of bar from the back

Today is the reopening of my usual morning bar.  The name has been changed from Ambaradan to a Frenchy (or is it Frenchie?), Le Jolie.  Now my diddling around place has a fancy name.   This is where most every day I unload my backpack and write the blog.  I slaved here for over a year studying for the driver test.  Now my time is my own, and I renew my romantic view of the world.

These past two weeks a slow walk by the dusty window of my bar  has revealed the halting progression of the construction work.  This kind of work here seems to be accomplished in spurts, alternated with quiet and the absence of workers.  Yet, after two slow weeks of improvements inside, they also cut down a huge tree in front.  This was, to me, an important source of shade in the hot summer. Now, with this tree loss, all is finished.  Total California strip mall.  How progressive!  Total new direction!  

slot machines boost the profits!
There has been some creative  furniture moving,  a huge brown umbrella has been erected and  a new counter of colorful gelato tempts you when you enter.  In the back a new big screen plays music videos non-stop.  People don’t watch them, it is just for atmosphere.  Sad, that music has become so much of just atmosphere.  (Another blog later)   The area inside looks refreshed, but not a whole lot different.  3 women are now in charge.  Two men ran the last bar.  Can three  make a go of it???……  and…..There is NO WIFI!!!!

I explained to the hot barista that having wifi would be appreciated, and her response to my request was a machine gun of Italian,  which I slowly processed…(I am always a sentence behind.)   I hear wifi will soon be here, I will have to wait.  I wonder what they are waiting for.  The bar is already wired and internet ready.  Not wanting to make  a pest of myself,  I sit down and behave myself. 

A plate of small sandwiches were carried by my table and piled in the  center of the plate was a large bowl of chips.  The group of men receiving it were shocked to see how generous it looked.  Usually when people order a prosecco or a spritz in the late morning they get some free munchies like peanuts or chips.  But this is new, baby sandwiches, a mountain of chips and three olives, plated fancy with a few basil leaves.  In comparison to the offerings resembling fur-brearing roadkill at the  “Old Farts Bar”, this is a great improvement.

ketchup or mayo?
In the clean glass counter, one can find  sandwich offerings for lunch (pranzo) and I can see  that they are not skimping on size.  This will be attractive to visitors as they have seen  American food shows which reveal sandwiches bursting with more than just meat.  It is encouraging to me.  I like a slice of tomato and some mayo on my sandwich.   Italian fare is usually as dry as the Arizona desert.  

Facts about Italy   

Small food stores will carry no pharmacy items.  Don’t expect to find over the counter items in a food shop like aspirin.  Larger markets will have a small section dedicated to shampoo, toothpaste etc.  but no drugs.  No cash back!

Drug Stores will not have edible food items, such as candy, milk, and snacks. No Walgreens here.  There is no postcards, souvenir t-shirts or head phones.  You cannot drop of film, get all sizes of batteries or buy cigarettes.   They sell aspirin, but it is behind the counter, you have to ask for it.  One good thing:  I have, as a tourist, asked for medicine that needed a doctor’s prescription and got it from the pharmacist as he saw I was a foreigner without a local doctor. 
Nothing is as convenient here.  More work for you, the buyer. 

You want a local bus ticket, don’t buy it from the driver, there is a surcharge, instead you must to go into a tobacco shop.  Look for a sign “Sale e Tabacchi”.  Tobacco shops used to sell salt (sale), which was taxed by the  government.   Bad news for smokers:  tobacco items are heavily taxed and very expensive.  Tobacco is grown in Italy, in fact, the castle nearest my home has a building where they aged their tobacco.   The smoke from Italian cigarettes is very harsh and disagreeable.  A whole lot less Italians smoke, and interestingly, I have only seen only one customer in the electronic cigarette shop across the street.   

Lose a heel on your pumps?  You will find shoe repair shops in most large villages.  When I was a kid there were more leather shoes worn by everyone and you could find these shops.  Many people working in them were hard of hearing, and I think they were trained by their school.  The people in shoe repair shops here do not seem to be  handicapped in this way.

McDonald’s charges for ketchup!  Yes, Pay up for that tiny plastic covered package!  I have been spoiled by the "all the ketchup you want" in America.  I hope this does not catch on here in my village.  It is already difficult to get ketchup for fries in many Italian restaurants.  Sometimes the waiter acts offended when I ask for ketchup.  My number one choice restaurant does not have any ketchup.  Some Italians, like the French eat mayo with fries.  You can now order a pizza with fries on top.  Teenagers!!!    No, free refills!

Most people drink bottled water sold in super markets at a greatly reduced price  in comparison to America.  My liter and a half bottle costs me 30  cents.  In America a smaller bottle costs over a dollar.  Italy has bottled water trucks that offer home delivery.  This water comes in glass containers which saves the environment.   The bottled water business in America is one of the biggest rip offs shoved onto consumers.  One visit over here and you realize what a bunch of robbers (ladri) these companies are!  Yes, the water from the tap is okay to drink in Italy.

Italians do a lot of talking with their hands just like you have seen in the movies.   Even when they are on the phone they gesture.  Youtube has several videos of people explaining the meanings to all those gestures.  I think that in the south of Italy there is more of this…  but who knows.  This would be a good dinner table subject with my Italian friends.  Take a gander by pasting in these....

or this one:

Movies in Theatres show American movies about two weeks to three weeks after the opening in the United States.  (I am going to see the Michael Moore movie today, and it has taken over two months to get here.)  The language has been dubbed into Italian, and interestingly they try to find a voice  sounding a lot like the original actor.  Prices are about the same for everything right down to the huge glutton bucket of popcorn.  Ten Euros gets you in.   One thing different, however, is that your ticket will have your seat number, row 11, seat 26.  You cannot go sit where you want.  Going to the movie during the day?  Forget it!  Just like getting a wood fired pizza at lunch in a non-tourist town.  Won’t happen.  The first showing of Michael Moore’s new movie on a Tuesday was at 4:30.   When I drive by the big cinema on a Saturday in the early afternoon, the parking lot reveals it is closed.

Drinks are not served with ice.  Want a coke, expect no ice.  You have to ask for it.  I have asked for ice (ghiaccio) and received one cube.  Italians think that cold drinks are bad for you.   Even on the hottest day, they won’t use ice.  We went to a party once at an Italian family’s home, and they told me to bring stuff to make margaritas.  When I got there, they had no ice…none… The lady had to go out  to a bar to get some.  I have only seen one automatic ice dispensing machine in Padova.  Anyone out there want to move here and open a business?

Beer can be found to cost less than Coca Cola.   Red wine is sometimes served cold.  If you order this before lunch you might get chips, peanuts or even taco chips with salza.  (Yes, salza! --Big Change Happening Here!) I think that Coke here has the type of sugar that people protested against  some years ago.  It tastes different to me.  I think most Italian beer is next to  horrible.  But some Americans think it to be good, so what do I know?

Newspapers are taking a hit in America caused by digital news.   In Italy it is a double hit as there is no home delivery of newpapers.  If you want one you have two choices, go to a newspaper shop or to a bar where they are provided for customers free of charge to read.

Italian toilet paper has improved since the 70's.  It is no longer stretchable like crepe paper.  You can even find scented!  Bathrooms in bars for customer use are usually found quite clean. Bathrooms at train stations cost one euro.  (A euro is very close to a dollar, and I keep hoping it will come down, saving me a pile of money every month when I hit the bank machine.) 

Lastly….You can find watch repair shops in most large villages and towns.  My small village has one.  I have made good friends with the lady who runs mine and she waves to me when I walk by in the morning.  Nice to be noticed!………  

And I am waving to you,  thanks for reading my blog. It is nice to be noticed.  Thank you, Stitchers of the World!  …..I also enjoy any comments people make.  My readership is growing every month and I am able to  track the countries in which my readers reside.  Yesterday I had 68 readers from Russia aloneWe think it is because we are applying for visas to Russia.  But….?  I will know on Friday when I go to Verona on the train to pick up our visas.  One of three things will happen, two visas in hand, a refusal, or my sudden disappearance.  I am confident they will want me to bring my tourist dollars, though

Coming soon…..What Italians think about the up-coming election and the candidates, a short trip to a Croatian Beach, and wines of the Veneto region, one prison in Padova makes baking success, Italian beach vacations, and I am considering a short review of the M. Moore movie. 


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