Tuesday, March 30, 2010

iPhone Mecca

If you would like to join the throngs of iPhone lovers, move to New York! The city supposedly has the highest concentration of users in the world. In fact I heard a story about someone who wanted to purchase one this month and the phone dealer informed her that she had to wait a month because of a problem with provider number availability due to city saturation. There are so many people using Sprint, iPhone's service provider, in the City that the service is often overloaded and not very good.

I have noticed some behavioral changes in Americans in this city. Everyone is ALWAYS looking or talking on their phone--mostly because it is a multi-purpose iPhone. If I ask a local where a street or café is, they quickly check on their phone. Anytime on the subway is filled with iPhone consultations or internet use. People are uploading their constant whereabouts via Facebook, using guess what--their iPhone. Yesterday I saw 3 girls walking down Broadway, not interacting with each other in laughter or conversation, but absorbed in their individual phones dressed in the colors white, hot pink and black. The same girls were wearing Ugg boots in beige, hot pink and black.

Italians used to have the Americans beat when it comes to cell phone use when it involved sheer talk-time but the New Yorkers have surpassed the Italians with the new wave of technology. The combinations of phone, texting, internet, Google maps, Facebook and other applications have made the idea of using a phone a seemingly 24/7 affair stateside.

Meanwhile I am using my mother's borrowed cell phone in the USA and can't even access the voice mail because we don't know the phone's password. I'm living old-style in hip iPhone heaven, NYC.

By the way, there are people using the free wi-fi on their iPhones from the bus service I am taking from New York to my home town, as I write this post from a classic laptop.

Friday, March 26, 2010

With Foreign Eyes

After nearly three years of not being in the US, I am approaching the country as if it were somehow new to me. I am rediscovering carpeting, on all the floors and stairs. The building are very high. I am marveling at them flashing bright lights against the sky in downtown Philadelphia. I get excited to hear regional accents. "Water" has a special pronunciation in these parts. The "a" sounds like a sort of "er". There's a better cocktail menu at the bar. I ordered a Sidecar this evening as my aperitivo. The taxi driver strikes up a conversation as he takes me from the train station to my hotel. Coffee is "long" and watery. Donuts and muffins are the prefered breakfast choice. Professionals are young and wearing baggy trousers. Nobody's smoking.

It's time to close my black-out curtains and curl up in bed. The light will be seeping under and around those curtains early tomorrow morning, something that is impossible with Italian windows.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Berlusconi Everywhere

While visiting an art show in Philadelphia yesterday, I found a familiar face from Italy: Mr. Berlusconi. The prime minister of Italy, who is mostly considered a joke abroad, is one of the featured world leader picture shapes to use to assemble a politically-loaded art work currently on display at The Print Center. The image recalls December's assault to his face, using a souvenir of Milano's Duomo. He has the expression of shock and only look of weakness I have seen in Italian media in the over 15 years that I have seen him in power.

Pictured below are the instructions for how the public should help create the art, choosing from various shapes, colors and themes. Then they leave their part of the creation on the table and more come to add on.

Even in the US, I can't get away from Silvio.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

New House Progress

The work is underway on the new house. The kitchen has been gutted. Tiles have been ordered. They will be laid next week. Some light bulbs have been installed to have some sort of temporary illumination for evening visits to the property. We got a quote for changing the locks, and then the fabbro never called back to do the work. In the end, we thought it would be better to change the locks once the workmen have all had their access. A sofa has been ordered which will be custom-made for us and should be ready in a month. The original painter backed out since he was more of a friend who wanted to help and pick up some money than a professional and the walls, full of holes from former tenants, proved complicated. So now we are having the tile men move on to do the paint job next, since they also offer painting services and are doing a good job so far.

The interesting and quirky part to this new house is that we will have hardly anything done by Italians. The kitchen work and painting will be the product of Romanian sweat. The sofa is being made by Albanians. Most of our furniture will probably be Swedish design from IKEA. Only the locks and lights will be done at the hands of Italians. So much for Italian design and quality. Either we can't afford it or don't like it.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Election Gadgets

Another election
Two weeks left
The race is on
The piazzas are full
Campaigning stands
Bold banners.
Election posters
Dot the city
And travel on trucks
Twenty regions vote their fate

Today I was in Piazza della Frutta and found a novel promotion gadget: the tissue packet.

This makes me think of snot.

It's an interesting image since Italian politics is sticky and gross from the inside (of the system), just like snot.
Yet you gotta live with it.

There's another expression that comes to mind about Italian politics: "It blows!"

That is just what I am doing with my new tissues-


Viva le elezioni!

Notice the instructions on the tissue packet and election ballots, in general:
The "x" marks your choice in an election was shocking to me at first. As an American, a check (or the British, tick) marks when you are in favor of something and an "x" is the act of crossing out. Here in Italy, the "x" is what means, "yes". How exactly opposite! My gut reaction each election season still leads me to steer away from that particular mark.

(Ruffato, you are really trying hard with your gadgets but we all know that Luca Zaia is going to win, even though he's from the Lega Nord.)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Mystery Flower at My Front Door

About a month ago, I noticed an odd hole in the ground in front of my door, at the edge where the lawn meets the pavement. I even asked my husband what he thought it was. We had not made it and it was obvious the dog hadn't either because it was too small for his normal "paw"-work.

Then after last week's snow melted, this plant sprouted.

Yesterday, it bloomed!
It turns out to be a lovely, small daffodil.

Buona Primavera!

I still can't figure out what animal decided to plant the flower here. If I were in the US, I would have said a squirrel, but they don't live in Padua. Any guesses?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Fiat: USA

This remodelled classic, the Fiat 500, is hitting US roads.

Almost a year after the merger with Chrysler, the famous and rather humble Italian car company, Fiat, wants to revolutionize American roads which are currenly glutted with BIG cars.

The economic crisis and rising oil prices have affected Americans' wallets. They are ready to calm down when it comes to gas consumption. Out with SUVs and in with economy cars. If this works, it will bolster Fiat's financial situation, which was threatening bankruptcy until recently. (The company plans to close its Termini Imerese factory in Sicily, to the dismay of local workers. For Fiat's general factory closure information, read this International Herald Tribune article.)

I am curious to see if this little "cool" car will truly take off across the ocean. The novelty of a new release will surely help this year but Fiat 500 can't compete with another small car, the MINI. The English model is a knotch higher when considering performance and aesthetic appeal. I think women will like the Fiat for its "cute" appeal and the price tag which is easier to swallow than the MINI. Time will tell. Then there is also the competition that Toyota presents with its excellent hybrid cars. Will Americans really size-down their automobile choices with models like Fiat 500 in the long-run, despite the big open spaces the US land offers and the people's general philosophy that, "bigger is better"?

Fiat 500 has invested good energy and money into some great advertising. Here is the latest commercial:

If you cannot see the video properly from this post, click to this YouTube page.

Let's just flash back in time and remember the days when almost the entire country of Italy was driving a little 500. Still today, many of the roads we are using were designed for this kind of car and not the modern generation of automobiles. Italians can barely fit their new cars into the garages they have, mostly built in the '60s and '70s. These older 500's are now officially historic cars and several still get spotted on Italian roads, for the pleasure of nostalgic Italians and excited foreigners, who are eager to take a picture beside one.

Friday, March 12, 2010

What a Difference a Day or Two Makes

So after the snowstorm subsided, the sun came out yesterday and has continued melting all but a few spots of northern-exposure land and roof tops. At least with a March snow, we can count on its effects not lingering for long. So we are just about ready for Spring!

Here are the updated pictures of Padua's featured areas from Wednesday's entry, coming again from Wecam Padova - Webcam Meteo:

Basilica Sant'Antonio

Note: from this Padova Est photo, you might think we are in America due to the sheer quantity of traffic lanes. This demonstrates how much of a pole Padua is for commerce and industry, not to mention serving the residents. There's some serious traffic here, although the time of day doesn't reveal that here. Yesterday it took me 35 minutes to travel 2 miles within the city at lunchtime.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Snow in March?

I live in Italy which is not a country that is famous for its snowfall, unless you live in the mountains, which I visit very often but have not chosen as my permanent abode.

Northeast Italy and the Pianura Padana is well-known for grey skies and fog, perhaps, during the winter, but not for snow, especially in March! Yet here we are with the calendar telling us that Spring is 11 days away but we are braving a small blizzard: high winds and snow predicted to keep falling for 24 hours straight.

It was warm last week. We had all started to think about la bella stagione, but frigid temps hit on Sunday and have been steadily falling since. Yesterday on my scooter, I thought I was going to lift off and fly away with the wind, it was so strong. My hands were frozen after 15 minutes of driving even though I was wearing the heaviest ski gloves I own.

These recent webcam pics of Basilica Sant'Antonio and the roads at Padova Est should give you a feel of our weather situation. For updated images every 30 seconds of these sites and many others, go to Webcam Padova - Webcam Meteo.

The snow is sticking to everything, including the webcam lenses.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Once Upon a Time in the Dolomites

The old mestieri, or jobs/activities, are the main attraction at La Volpe Ti Guarda (The Fox is Watching You), a snow-covered walk at the foot of the massive Marmolada mountain.

The pleasant stroll of rolling snow paths takes you through the woods, starting at Camping Malga Ciapela. The staff have built mannequins which exemplify the various mountain activites, new and old, from cutting wood to mountain climbing (old-style in artificiale) to sledding, hunting and tending the chickens' newly hatched eggs.

There are surprises like this...

It's a great way to spend an hour with family or friends. The official walking time is 1 hr 45 minutes, but you should be able to finish faster if there aren't too many crowds. It can be walked in boots with the snow conditions like the day I found them, otherwise bring your snowshoes and/or a sled. The kids like to use the latter.

The snow will be melting soon so the exhibition will come down by the end of the month but it should be back next year around December, for a 6th annual event. But honestly, since snow is expected even in Padua the day after tomorrow, I think you still have plenty of time to see this year's trail.

And don't miss the ice church at the beginning/end (depending on when you want to visit it along the loop trail). It's complete with priest and altar.

For more information, you can contact the camping site directly (linked above) or tourist board for Rocca Pietore. Here is the Dolomiti Superski description of the hike.

Cost: free

Available: bar for snacks at camping site and, on the weekends, the malga is open at the half-way point along the trail for a warm lunch

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

First Week with a New House

Here goes this week's list, dedicated to everything my husband and I have to do right now, since we have a "new" old house to make our own:

_change residency to new comune
_update residency for everything: bank, car license, business, permesso di soggiorno, etc.
_open utilities accounts for electricity, water, trash
_print new name tags for mailbox and main door
_buy fire insurance (according to Italian law) linked to mortgage
_change 4 locks
_call the building super and introduce myself
_get quotes for a painter
_get quotes for tile layer (is that how we say it in English?)
_get quotes for cleaning wood flooring in bedrooms
_start doing minor electrical work
_buy tiles
_decide on and order a sofa (since most require 60 days for delivery)
_get some light bulbs attached to the wires since there are absolutely no light sources in the house

So do you get the idea that I am slightly stressed out?

Bear in mind that we are both working full time at the moment and I am planning a big trip to the US that starts in 3 weeks. Also my husband has a rock band album being released in a month, which needs proper promotion, and that is partly done by the band members themselves.

It's fantastic to know that we have our own property. I still can't believe it after over a decade of renting, in my case. I can actually paint the walls the way I like them. However, there is a side effect: too much to do too fast.