Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Unofficial guide to Surviving Italy as a Tourist

Who this guide is for: if you are an older, retired couple, who at the age of 60 or 70 will realize the dream of a lifetime and about to visit Italy, or if you are a young, hip, know-it-all, who thinks they cannot be scammed - this guide is for you.


FUCK ITALY or My Guide to Surviving Your "Dream" Italian Vacation

Disclaimer: I only visited the northern part, Rome, Firenze (Florence), Venezia (Venice), Milano (Milan), Siena and Pisa and Lucca, because after seeing how shambolic the north of the country is, I had no desire to see the south, which the italians themselves say is WORSE than the north.  I have spent 5 weeks in Italy as a tourist/vagabond traveller, so your experience may vary.

My First and Every Other Piazza or First Impressions
The country (the north) was generally very clean.  The people were slim, short but good looking.  italian women are no beauties on the face, yet the shape of the body (slim and svelte) make up for it.  The shape hugging jeans or pants leave very little to the imagination.

Yep, I am a guy.

On each touristy piazza, the first thing you will see (other than the usual horde of tourists) is the Bangladeshi street vendors, with their ever present...well, how do I explain it... they have this toy, which is a jelly like substance, in the shape of a piggy.  Once thrown on a hard surface (these guys usually have a wooden block on the ground) they splash, flatten themselves, and then come back to their original shape.

Whoop dee doo.

No one buys their stuff, I have no idea how they survive in italy.

There are a lot of Bangladesh guys in italy.

Next up, there is a horde of Africans, who usually sell knock off purses, made from actual leather and with marquee signs (Prada, Liu Jo, Valentino, Fendi etc) on them.  In fact, the joke I made to my girlfriend was that the knock offs purses were made from real leather, were better made and with an actual marquee sign than the expensive boutique store purses, which were made from cheap plastic, shoddily made and with no marquee sign (and costing from 600Euros up).

It is well worth it to buy such a knock off purse for your girl, as the African will start the conversation with the usual and ever present "EXCUSE ME! EXCUSE ME! MISS, PURSE!" and then the inevitable "60Euros" or so.

To which you should laugh, as the actual price, once you haggle, will go down to 20 or even 15 Euros.

Of course, it is illegal to buy such knock off purses from these African street vendors, and there is a (slight) possibility of being chased by the police.

In fact, you can observe the African guys on every piazza (yes, even in Venezia, I was amazed, the same shit everywhere) with their knock off purses and their ever present "EXCUSE ME!", slooooooowly packing up and trotting off, carrying their purses, when they spot a police car slooooooolwy and laaaaazily driving toward them and, err, pursuing them, at .001 miles per hour.  Of course, once the cops clear off, the Africans, who have, err, "run" away with their bags the massive distance of 2 metres, will come back and put their wares again on the floor - no biggie.

In fact, only once did an African guy grab his bags and run off, literally run off, but, alas, the Bangladesh lookouts with their ever present maiale (pig) jelly thrown toy failed to give the signal in time and he was caught.

No biggie, though, the African guy gave the italian undercover some Euros and all was well.

So, Bangladesh guys throwing glow-in-the-dark toy helicopters in the night (which do look cool, I admit, but which no one buys) and/or the pig which flattens and then comes back to its original shape (again, no one buys it - ever) , and the horde of Africans peddling their knock off purses.

So, street vendors are the Bangladesh guys and Africans.

Next up on the totem pole are the Chinese and Vietnamese, who have stores in actual buildings, who sell souvenirs, clothing, trinkets, etc. They also have restaurants (Ristorante Cinoise).

Then, everywhere, there are hotels, hotels everywhere, every few steps.

If you feel unhappy with your hotel, walk a few metres, you will find five others to negotiate your better room and price.

Ristorantes, and, even more common, snack bars, which are really coffee bars, which are really social meet up places to go to with your friends (more on which later), and gelato places.

Boutiques, very, very expensive stores with each firm having its own store (so, a Fendi store, a Dolce and Gabbana store, etc etc) with astronomical prices, with no one inside buying stuff (well, perhaps the Japanese, actually buying a Fendi bag for $1100 Euros).

But, strikingly, no offices, no businesses not specifically catering to tourists.

Note that italians are only present in the very high end boutiques, the ordinary stores and street vendor business being dominated by immigrants - Bangladesh and Chinese and Viets.

italians also work in supermercattos (supermarkets), mostly women workers.

Touristy tip - negotiatiate everywhere, and I mean that, everywhere, except supermakets (supermercatto), and high fashion boutiques.  Everything else, including money changing kiosks (fucking ESPECIALLY money changing kiosks) is fair game to haggle.

Trains and Train Stations and the Metro: Ai Traini
The good: trains run on time, with slight delays from 5 to 15 minutes.  There are two types of trains, the regionale (regional) and AV (the frecciarosa, the fast trains).  The fast trains have assigned seats, and are much, much faster than the regional ones (cutting travel time significantly), but you do pay for their benefits.

The metro is relatively modern (speaking of Rome and Milan) and runs on time, and is one of the good things in italy.

The metro is a separate service from the train service, and runs in a given city and its suburbs, while the trains run all across the italian boot.

The good thing is, in Rome, when buying the ticket for either the metro or the train, the ticket is good for both, within the time limit on the ticket.  Also good on the buses.  Keep in mind that a 1.5Euro ticket can be used on a train, on a metro (1 transfer, which is enough to use the metro to get to Termini stazione and your train) and a bus, which is a VERY good thing and a good deal for a tourist (Firenze is cheaper, at 1.20Euros).

Which reminds me - the tickets for the Rome metro and regionale trains must be swiped inside a machine, which is a bulky green box hanging on a wall somewhere or other (sometimes harder to find at different stations than others).  Failure to validazione (validate) your ticket can, if a conductor shows up to check your tickets, result in a fine (because a ticket is only valid only once time stamped and then only for a few hours).

But of course, on a Sunday in the suburbs, the Tabachi are pretty much closed, and there is nowhere to buy your tickets, so you do what the italians do - you ride for free, and if there is a control, you unobtrusively make your way out towards the exit... Just kidding - on a sunday, there are no ticket controls on buses, so feel free to ride for free.  The controls only happen on a normal weekday (if they happen at all), and usually only on a regionale or fast train, very rarely on a bus.  Most italians have a peculiarly stamped ticket with a scratched off, unreadable time stamp for the buses, while using the metro forces you to REALLY buy your ticket because you must put said ticket into the machine to enter the gate (just like in, say, NY or Chicago 'EL' train metro).  Many italians, especially young students, but also saw grandmas doing this, unobtrusively get up and leave a train when they spot a conductor checking tickets (or there is an announcement in italian to this effect on the train speaker system).

The bad: First, the stations are badly organized and planned (imagine that, in Italy - shocking, no?).  For example, in Roma Termini, to get to the Linea B (Metro Line 'B') from the normal regionale/fast train terminal, you must walk for about 25 minutes (no exagerration, try it yourself), in a maze of tunnels and walkways.  In fact, you make it first to a metro train stop which at first glance makes you think you have arrived at your destination, but, check yourself, this is Linea 'A' and to get to Linea 'B' direzione Anagnina you have further to go (and more escalator stairs to use).

In fact, I think it took us more to make our way from the metro to the Linea 'B' than the actual time to ride the damn thing to our destination.

The good thing is, the signs are there (the letter 'M') for you to follow, the bad news is it is not all level - you will use (going from memory) four escalator stairs down and one escalator stairs up.  There are elevators out there to skip the stairs, but they are so cleverly placed that they are hard to find for the ordinary tourist, and even for the Rome italians themselves.

That is, when the elevators work.  Which many times, they do not.

Now, imagine the typical tourist, with one or two carry on/rolling bags to carry along.  Elevator is nowhere to be found, so you use the moving escalator stairs to go up or down five or six times.  Now, imagine for a moment that some of these escalator stairs do not work. That's right, just like the italians next to you, you will lug your heavy bags up and/or down the normal stairs or the broken escalator stairs.

There is no one to ask for directions, and asking italians anything in English is a topic all in itself, which has its own separate section later here.

Buying Tickets.
Buying tickets for the metro is easy - you buy them at the closest Tabachi shop (which carries things like cigarettes and newspapers and such) - there are no official kiosks to buy them, but whatever.

Buying tickets for the fast or regional trains can be accomplished by either buying them from the Bigletteria (ticket office) or by using the modern touch screen machines copiously scattered throughout the train stations, which save you time and provide convenience, versus dealing with a surly, pretending not to speak English public employee.  Using these machines makes perfect sense.

So, of course, this being Italy, if it makes sense, do not do it, it is too suspicious - DO NOT USE THE TICKET MACHINES TO BUY TICKETS!

If you are not a completely clueless older American (an "easy mark" for  the italians and gypsies), but somebody with some urban/city experience, take a moment to just stand away from the machines and just observe.

You will notice a group of 3-7 (or more) "helpers" at each main hub station (am talking Roma Termini or Milano Centrale), who, speaking perfect English, dressed in some semblance of a uniform (or not, just wearing normal street clothes), are ready to help you.

They will apporach  you, smile, be very, very nice, and help you with using the FAST TICKET machines by answering your questions, helping you spell your destination (San Gimignano is S. Gimignano on the machine, not San Gimignano, for example) and being very pleasant.

And they will speak perfect, flawless English.

In fact, this is what alarmed me and made the DANGER! DANGER! signal flash in my head as I was using the machine myself with my girlfriend - our experience with italians in stores and boutiques has been that they were at best surly, at worst abusive and contemptous of us, scum foreigners interfering with their cell phone texting time, and here was a pleasant, smiling (!!! danger !!!) helpful (!!! very VERY suspicious in italy !!!) man helping us.

I thanked him for his help, but told him that we will be buying the tickets at the Bigletteria, at which point the man snarled, turned around and walked off.

How this thievery works is very simple - these "helpers" help you, even to the point of helping you insert your credit card properly, and while doing so they see your credit card number and, of course, your PIN.

In fact, when using the FAST BIGLETTERIA machines to buy your tickets, when pressing the English flag to choose your language, the first thing to come on screen was the warning "Only ask for help from uniformed personnel, and watch out for thieves".

No, for reals, am not kidding.

I have to wryly laugh when reading on internet forums Americans confused as to how in the world their credit card info was stolen.  Wonder no more!

But, in fact, a "helper" DID help us with our train ticket purchase, saving us approximately 90Euros in the process.  In fact, we liked him so much we gave him four Euros in change - he was the ONLY nice, pleasant, helpful and speaking perfect English italian person to us, waiting to listen and explain and answer our questions, in all of our time in Italy (we gave him about 4 Euros in change for "coffee", which made him thank us effusively).

When buying tickets, most tourists are unaware of that there are several options when choosing to pay for them.  The 'BASE' is the base price, the normal price.  But sometimes there are other options for you.

'PROMO', which is short for promozione, is the promotional price, which can mean (in our case) "buy one get one free"... resulting in a fast train costing us less than the very slow regionale train for two people.  Press this one first on the machine, and if a price pops up, you are in luck (if it is empty, try other paying options, hit the 'BACK' button).

There are also (going from memory, so it is a bit fuzzy) the 'Familglia' option with a slight discount, and a third one which eludes me.

But wait, here I am describing how to buy tickets from a machine, while specifically telling you to NOT, EVER buy tickets from a machine. 

That is correct!

You use the machine to check the train time, train number, and the price, especially if there is a PROMO price.

After writing down this information, THEN you go to the Bigletteria, and make sure you tell the surly, unhelphul public employee ticket seller that you want the 'promo' price, as of course the cunt would never deign to inform you of anything that could be helpful to you, the scum foreigner, especially something like a possible lower price to help save you money.

Boarding the Trains
On larger stations (Milano Centrale, Roma Termini, Venezia, ect) there are many binarios (train platforms).  And while showing up at your station ahead of time is a good idea, the thing is, the platform on which the train will roll onto will be unknown until about 5 minutes (or less) before the train is supposed to drive off.

What this results in is this typical for Italy scenario: a large mass of people cluster in front of the electronic sign (make sure it says DEPARTURE/PARTENZA, not ARRIVAL), duly noting their train - time of departure, train number (which you were smart enough to check from the touch screen machine, remember - all trains have specific numbers assigned, make sure you make it to the right one), and of course, the binario - which is blank.

The binario, about 5 minutes or less from the train departure time, is then displayed  with a number of the platform that the train rolls onto, which results in a horde of Japanese, Americans, Europeans and italians all racing to get the best seats and to make it onto the train - which, sometimes, could be problematic, as, for example, the train being placed on binario 1 ost, which is (I think) the farthest platform on Roma Termini, and which means that if you are 60 and/or out of running shape, or a fat American, you are screwed...

Of course, on regionale trains, the one who makes it first gets to choose their seat, so run quick and choose wisely - hint, you want to be away from the WC (the toilet) as sometimes the fumes can be a bit much.  When it gets colder, you might want to sit in a carrozza (wagon) which has a working heater and windows which are not broken/slighly ajar resulting in a draft, in the summer, the one with the working A/C and broken/slighly ajar windows resulting in a pleasant cooling draft (italians hate drafts, and will NOT open a window, even in record heat).

Choose wisely.

Some More Notes on Transportation and Lack of Culture
In Rome, buy your daily ticket for E1.50 one way and feel free to use it to get your transport on - like I said before, if you chose (wisely) to not live in the centre but somewhere cheaper, in the suburbs, get on the train, then the metro, then the bus for that price.

But, chances are, you will only use the metro (and train if located away from city centre) and the stops are right where you want to be (for example, Colloseo is right on the colloseum, which is right there as you exit, which makes an impression even on a jaded, cynical foreign scum like myself).

Italian cities are SMALL - Rome is considered big, but, really, you can hit the main tourist spots in one day, possibly two, and even getting off the tourist spots to discover the 'real rome', you can walk from one end of the city to the other in a few hours.  Firenze (Florence) is much smaller, and Venezia smaller still.

NEVER, EVER TAKE A TAXI.  If you do, you are an idiot (if you call for a taxi, and the taxi has to drive to your location, the timer starts at the moment he starts driving toward you, not when you enter the cab - I never used a taxi, just asked the driver about the service).

Stick with the trains, the metro (if available), and buses, if absolutely necessary (note: on buses, the machine to validate your ticket - time stamp it - is on the bus itself, make sure you do so as soon as you enter and grab a seat).

Regarding grabbing a seat - the rudeness of the italians and the complete lack of culture and respect for others will hit you when using the bus.  What impressed me in London the most was the stoic but cheerful way everybody made a queue to get on the famous English bus - with a new arrival taking their place at the end of the line, and then everybody calmly boarding the bus in the order they joined the queue - with an older English lady being given preference, of course, by a young man.

Italy is exactly the opposite - everybody races in to get a seat first, in the process trampling (or trying to) over my girlfriend, an older signora and myself in the process.

In a normal country - say, USA, England, any country in Eastern Europe (which I recommend you spend your vacation in, as opposed to the 3rd world country which is italy - pick Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, instead of the shithole I am describing), when a woman, especially an older woman, or a woman with heavy baggage, is standing, a man or a boy WILL get up and let the woman sit in their place.

Not so in italy - here, a student will race onto the bus, and the woman with heavy baggage, or a senior lady, will stoically stand there with her bags.  In fact, discovering I am a foreigner, I was asked for 'poste' (seat) by an older lady, who did not, however, ask any italian boy or male on the bus, because, well, they wouldn't let her sit down (I did, making me a sucker in their eyes).

On a bus from Pisa (tourist tip - take the bus to Siena from Firenze/Florence, as the train is somewhat far away from the city, while taking a train to Pisa  from Firenze is OK), a lady got on about 1/4 way into Firenze (about roughly 40 minutes left of bus travel time) and no man, no young man, got up to give her a seat - despite the fact that she had two very heavy bags, which kept flopping and rolling and then slamming first into the driver compartment, then into the exit doors near the driver (note - I did not get up either, because at that time, every other thought in my head was 'Fuck italy and fuck italians').

Buses exit strategy - there are three doors, one near the driver, one in the middle, and one in the back.  The peculiar italian thing is, the back door is only for entering - not exiting.  Which could be a problem if the bus gets so crowded that you just cannot make your way to the middle door (especially with your heavy tourist baggage).

At this point, scream at the driver to open the door, and if it doesn't happen, insert a curse word of your choice and scream until it happens - scream in whatever is your native/chosen language.

Riding a Train or a Bus or Alerta Ladroni!
On every italian bus in Firenze, there is a sign in italian to watch out for thieves.  If you are reasonably observant, you should notice that in italy, when riding a train, metro or a bus, ladies keep their purses in front of them, with one hand over the purse.

Men also keep their purses in front of them, or have their hand on them (yes... italian men have purses also).

The backpack in italy should be called a frontpack... for obvious reasons.

Thievery is a BIG problem in italy, as italians are very much thieves.  Oh, they will tell you that it is the gypsies who do it, but do not kid yourself.

They are thieves.

We had an opportunity to live in a higher class italian private apartment - one that had Air Conditioning (a rarity), and even an insect/bug screen on windows (which even 4 star hotels DO NOT HAVE) on the balcony and windows.

Also, on the balcony, there were 2 gigantic metal gate doors, which to me seemed more appropriate to a maximum security jail than an apartment.

The entry door had a bolt lock - four bolts on top, one on the bottom...

And of course italians do not steal... it is only the foreigners... riiiiiiight...

And that is the north italy - in the south, I have heard reliable stories of guys on scooters snatching purses off of ladies after dark on a street, with my friend describing being pulled on the pavement for a few metres while she was clutching her purse... And on TV, every other story was about yet another woman who died in Napoli (south italy), shot by the mafia.

On every train ride, and I mean on every single one, a gypsy man, woman or child, came on and on every seat near a passenger put a computer printed note (the same one every time) about needing help, please give some money, and God protects at the end (Dia proteggio!).

That's happened on every train in Rome, every single one we took.

Interestingly, no one gives them money, EVER, and so I think the tactic here is to notice who has a purse not on their shoulder, without a hand on top clutching it, and then stealing it - otherwise this begging does not make sense, as, again, no one gives these fuckers any money, ever.

In the metro, in Milano, kids came on and played accordion or a 7 year old, clutching a Casio electronic keyboard in her hand which was blaring pre-recorded music, begged for money.

And one time in Milano, a really, really annoying old woman gypsy accosted passengers and loudly shouted at them for money so that the kid could have "PAR CIOCCOLATE!! CIOCCOLATE!! PARA BAAAAAMBIIINO!!".

Seriously, gypsies are even bigger scum than the italians.

Well, perhaps I went too far - gypsies are scum, on the same level as italians.


Italian People and Some Notes On Various Topics
When perusing fashion catalogues in America, I was always struck by how ridiculous the models looked (especially men) and by the thought of who in the world would wear such ridiculous get ups.

Well, now I wonder no more, as the answer is - the italians.

A scarf is a necessity for a man, women accessorize and wear top notch clothes.  A woman on a motor scooter in high heels, a scarf flying behind her and a helmet on a face with a perfect make up is a common sight.  italians' driving is a very interesting thing - first up, there are no rules to follow on the road, ever - with the one exception that going the wrong way is a no-no - otherwise, anything goes.

Men have their eyebrows plucked and painted over - or at least worked on to make them perfect and trimmed.

Most are extremely metrosexual, and extremely effeminate.

To the italians, fashion is king, and so in Ottobre (October), with temperatures in Rome and Firenze hitting 30 degree Celsius (very, very hot), women were wearing high winter boots - because, you see, it was the Fall season, and so you simply MUST wear high winter boots.

I never saw one italian wear shorts - ever.  Simply not done.

No flip flops, either - only sneakers at worst, or dress shoes.

On the road you will easily see 50 scooters at one time (and motorcycles, but mostly scooters), who happily make their way in between cars, making a one lane street (going one way) into a three lane street.

italian drivers drive to the point of almost touching other vehicles, with a scooter happily staying 10mm away from a giant tourist bus.  Accidents are not that common, despite the insanity of italian drivers.

Some italian streets are very narrow (Trastavere in Rome, the old town in Firenze) and scooters and cars happily drive at a very speedy way along them, by some miracle not hitting any tourists or italians who flatten themselves on the walls.

One time, we saw a Bangladeshi (more on them in a moment) scooter driver get hit by a car (well, we heard the crash first).  Curious, we ran to see what happened and saw this Bangladeshi dude with a twisted (obviously broken) leg writhing on the street.  italian police showed up, marked the accident site with cones, talked to the (french tourist) driver and passanger of the car which hit the scooter, and then proceeded to talk with contempt to the Bangladeshi dude writhing in agony on the ground, telling him to be quiet.  We were curious to note how long it would take for an ambulance to show up, but after 15 minutes we walked off, bored (but it's OK, you see, because the guy writing on the floor was a foreigner, and a Bangladeshi, but mostly because he was a foreigner, and this is italian attitude toward foreigners - they hate non italians).

This happened in Milano, close to the one and only skyscraper building we saw in Italy, so it was not somewhere in the boonies, but a city centre.  Of course, it was a Sunday, so I am now wondering if if the ospedale (hospital) was even open, were the ambulance workers at their posts, or if perhaps it wasn't the siesta time from noon to 2...

Speaking of siesta - italian stores, boutiques and banks have official working hours, with a typical example being work from 9-12, then on the next line 14-18 (which means siesta is really a two hour lunch, officially, but unofficially...).

Asking for help in English is a losing proposition.  In Rome especially, italians will actually turn away from you when you approach them, before you get a chance to ask them a question (they have powerful tourist detection sense, it seems).

If asked and cornered, an italian will answer 'yo no soy' (I don't know) or, in English, 'I don't know'... and walk off away from you.

In fact, during my second (or so) day of my italian experience, we asked a uniformed employee of the national railway company, Trenitalia, on what platform was our train located, and he told us 'Platform 24'.

Which is hilarious, you see, because when we walked down to the tunnel (this was in Odiense if I recall correctly, and we wanted to go to Viterbo direzzione) there was, of course, no platform 24.

Joke's on us, foreign scum!

(Which incident made me instantly suspicious of the super helpful man hovering near the FAST BIGLETTERIA machine a few days later, as italians are NEVER helpful, NEVER smile towards you, and NEVER selflessly try to help you, foreign scum).

In fact, goto http://subway.umka.org/maps/rome.gif and peruse the train and metro map.

Do you see the train going to Viterbo?

That's my train!

But there is a caveat - you see, there are two types of trains going to Viterbo - one is the normal one, which makes all the stops, and one is the   express one, which goes straight to Viterbo without any stops.

Now, you would suspect that an express train to Viterbo and a normal train to Viterbo would have different write ups on the electronic sign board listing all the trains - like the one being marked Viterbo Express and the other just Viterbo.

Nope.

Both just list the train departure time, train number, and destinazione - Viterbo.

But the train itself, it is marked 'EXPRESS', no?

No.

It is marked Viterbo.  Just like the other one.

So how in the world would you know whether you are on the normal train which will stop on your station or the express one, which will go straight to Viterbo?

You don't - you ask.  Or you are a Roma native, and you know that the express train is on this station at a certain time, while the other kind is on another (this is a country where "nobody knows nuttin', and everybody knows everything").

And when asking italians, please peruse my previous sections on the helpfullness, willingness to help and general niceness of italians toward the foreign scum like myself (and yourself).


Asking for Help and italian pride
When asking for help in English - especially in Rome...  Forget about it.  Just don't do it - or if you do, try to catch a young person.

Why?

Because italians in general hate, hate, hate foreigners, even if they are tourists who bring bukou money into the country and without which there would be no economy to speak of.

Better yet, try learning italian - quick.  I had French in high school, and I caught basic italian very quick, and so should you - it is a very simple language.  If you are fluent in Spanish, you should have no problems.  If you are an American with no language skills other than English, you are fucked.

Asking for help in my broken italian resulted in many instances in help, effusive conversation and helpful comments.  Not every time, many italians were still shits, but rougly 40% were not total cunts when speaking to them in italian.

You see, italians are an extremely PROUD people.  They are so proud that they TOLERATE you, foreign scum tourist, amidst them. 


Eating Out in italia or Holy Fuck What Did I Just Get Charged For?
Case in point - we went to a italian restaurant in Firenze, close to the Duomo (cathedral, a touristy area).  While there, my girlfriend was asking about a Calzone, what's in it, etc, which the proprietor answered in pretty decent English then in italian proceeded to order for her!

After clarifying with my broken italian that she was just asking what's in it, not ordering it (this is typical strong arm ristorante tactic, and of course once ordered you have to pay for it), we got a bistecca (steak) and a tourist menu (spaghetti and more spaghetti crap).  We made conversation with the proprietor, which generally consisted of the italian lady stating that her food is the best.

It went something like this:
This steak is good, best in city, EHHHHHHHHH?  EHHHHHHHHH? EHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH?

italians for some reason unknown to me are extremely proud of their shit country and will unequivacally state that whatever is made-in-italy is best.  Especially to foreigners, especially Americans.

We paid, we left, and then a day later we were walking like tourists do in Firenze, and we happened upon the same street and restaurant and we saw the lady proprietor standing outside, doing the typical italian restaurant thing for tourists (i.e. accosting tourists to come inside into their establishment).

My girlfriend, God bless her, effusive and nice chatted up the lady we just saw yesterday: "Hello, how are you!".

To which the italian lady turned her head, pointedly ignoring her (and me) and looked into the distance.

You see, italians are NOT your friends, you foreign scum - again, they merely TOLERATE you in their midst.

While you are paying them, they will make an effort to be somewhat nice to you (it is very, very hard for them, unnatural even, so you should appreciate them trying).  They will talk to you, in English (sometimes even very good English) and try their best manners on you ("You like this steak, very good, yes?  EHHHH? EHHHHHHHHH?  EHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH?").

But after you leave their establishment, after paying, you are a nobody to them.

Personal experience - walking in the suburbs of Rome (Giustiniana area), I saw a lady trying to fuel up her (italian technology, hahahaha) Fiat Punto.  She first asked me for help in italian, and then catching on, in English.

She used a rolled up newspaper as a tube into which I poured gasoline, and she had to hold it in a special way, forcefully putting/jabbing it into the gas tank to open up the hole and keep it open (her explanation).

Of course, no italian car stopped to help a woman in distress on the side of the road - but you guessed this by now, of course.

Having helped her, she thanked me, in PERFECT English, and drove off happy.  The thing is, italians DO speak English, and many do so very well - they just don't want to speak or help you, foreign scum.

In Venezia (Venice), I was standing on a pier, at night, making film and snapping pictures of the boat traffic at night.

A water taxi pulls up, and I notice the passenger and the italian boat driver chatting amicably.  The passenger (a Brazilian, I talked to him after) jumps off, and happily waves to the boat operator and shouts "Good bye, thanks for the..." and...

Notices that the italian totally ignores him, picks up his cellulare (cellular phone) from his pocket, and makes a call, while at the same time driving the boat back, away from the pier, not even looking at the Brazilian dude he was just chatting amicably to a few seconds ago.

You see, the Brazilian dude, while a paying passenger, was a client, and the italian deigned to notice him and even to talk to him (he had a water taxi tour of the grand canal, which I was told runs in the 80Euro range for about 20-30 minute tour).

But after his time was up, he was a nobody, not existing, empty air to be ignored.

In Venezia, there are the famous gondoliers.  How romantic!...

...Not.

These guys look surly and unpleasant, and gruffly inform you that their prices are 60 or 80 Euros (do the math on the dollar cost) for a 20-30 minute ride... the time, of course, depending on the whim of the gondolier himself.

I observed the "romantic" gondola rides, and noticed that the gondolier does not talk to his passengers (my girlfriend exclaimed that she expected them to sing to her, like in the romantic movies, the poor naive girl).  I saw a gondolier call out loudly to his buddy on a bridge and have a loud conversation with him (the guy from the bridge loudly calling down to the gondola) while the Japanese bufuddled pair sat there mutely.

Banco and Tavolo
Now, you did you research and you know that in italy, there are different prices for the same thing in restaurants and bars, right? 

I mean, you know about Banco and Tavolo?

If not (chances are you are an American reading this, an "easy mark"), let me explain.

An espresso coffee (basically a few sips of super strong coffee in a cup made for a Barbie doll) will run you one Euro, but only when standing up.

When sitting down in the establishment, the price changes, from 2, 3 or even more Euro.

This is in EVERY restaruant and snack bar in EVERY italian city - not a regional thing, an italian custom.

In Firenze, on the Santa Maria Novella piazza (near the train station, very touristy area), I went to a restaurant and asked how much for 'uno capucci' (one capuccino).

The lady promptly asked me whether I wanted to sit or stand, and if sitting, where (outside, inside)?.

Then she proceeded to punch the touch screen in front of her furiously, for about a minute.  I asked, exasperrated, that I only wanted to know the price for one cappucino coffee, and she replied that that was what she was finding out for me.

A guy showed up, and after asking me the same questions (Standing or sitting?  Sitting where?), punched the touch screen for another minute or so and then finally told me the answer - 5 Euros, when sitting outside on the piazza (keep in mind, cappucino costs 1.20 to 1.30 Euros when standing up in a snack bar).

What is a snack bar, you ask?

A snack bar is a particularly italian institution, which serves coffee, sometimes gelatto (ice cream) and with coffee serves cornettos and other pastry products.

It is basically a place to go get your coffee and snack and spend some time to meet up and chat with your friends.  A very social place, a meet up place, if you want to sit down and have a good time.

One of the few places where italians feel comfortable to chat up other italians who are not their friends - italians do not feel comfortable nor feel the need to talk to people who are not their friends.  American "Hi!" is extremely alien to them, but I went on a tangent here...

A snack bar is also a place to grab a quick sandwich or a cornetto and your shot of espresso (italians are addicted to coffee) on your 2-3 siesta on a normal "working" day (quotation marks, because italians DO NOT work, with a few exceptions).

That said, once you get a lay of the land, you become more savvy, like the italians around you.

You know which snack bars don't care if you sit down or not, and which do make it a point to stick it to you.  You know how much a coffee should cost, whether you sit down or stand.  For example, in Firenze, next to the Duomo, the Black Bar you pay a low price for your damn coffee and they don't give a shit if you sit or stand or whatever (go to the 3rd floor and watch the piazza and Duomo from the window... the guy in there made little hearts from the milk in our capuccinos, cool beans!)... Same with Cafe Mokarica nearby the Duomo, other side - they don't check when you sit down and don't even order anything.

(Which is actually great for their business, as they are always full and popular and well liked... see italians, it makes sense to not treat your customers like leppers).

You know that you NEVER, EVER, EVER eat in a restaurant in a touristy area, because the prices are outrageous and you will be taken advantage of.  How do you know if it's a touristy area?

In a restaurant, do you hear customers speaking in italian? No? Then fuck off from there, you do not want to be there.

Avoid like the plague the italian tourist restaurants, with their stupid printed menus in English.  Go a bit farther, and find yourself a nice, cozy italian restaurant or pizzeria (note - not a snack bar, those are places for coffee and cornettos, NOT sandwiches which have been there for a year or so in the frozen section).

That said, italian food sucks.  It is so bad, that a pretend-italian chain restaurant in America like Olive Garden is 100 times better than the majority of what you will be able to get in italy.

A real italian meal is divided into sections, premiere piatti (first dish) is spaghetti (and there are multiple types of spaghetti, penne, spaghetti, etc, but it is still the same fucking thing, except to italians).  The second is something more serious, some meat (carne), potatoes, that kind of thing.  And then dessert.

Fish are extremely expensive, and for a country located basically in the Mediterrenean Sea basically very hard to find.  Does not make sense, but, of course, che italia!

(Real italian meals begin at about 8PM, and later, and end late, say, 2AM with a coffee and a cornetto.  Now, you may ask, how can these guys go to work the next day, and, I gotta say, that's you thinking like an American (or a German, Czech, Pole, Bulgarian, Englishman), because you think these guys work!)

Do not get the spaghetti, because basically you will get your supermarket bought spaghetti with some tomato sauce thrown on it for 10 Euros or more.

And for the love of God, do not eat in a snack bar, that's just a coffee meet up place!

I recommend two types of food in italia - pizza and kebab.  Pizza is made in a real oven, and is relatively cheap (Rome and Firenze, with a pizza going for about 5 to 9 Euros for a whole pizza - tutti pizza.  Slim, but actually OK and one pizza will fill up two European people or one American).

Ignore the tourist ristauranti made for idiots (remember - if you don't hear any italian in a restaurant when you sit down, run from there) - go for a kebab.

Run by mostly Turkish guys, for 6.50Euro (or 5.50Euro in different places, depending on a city) you can get a big portion (compared to the italian restaurant for idio.... tourists) of vegetables, fries, shavings of chicken or maialo (pig) carne (meat), which is a VERY good deal in italy.

A kebab is a place where many italians go for a REAL meal (not a snack bar coffee + cornetto social occasion) when they are on the go and want a quick bite (they get the kebab piadme, which is a kebab to go in a bun).

And, best of all, in a kebab place, there is no SERVIZIO nor COPERTO charge.

Now, you have done your research and know all about SERVIZIO and COPERTO, right?  Right?

Servizio is basically a fee for a "service" given to you in a restaurant.  It covers the waiter's tip, the plates, the setup of the table, the napkin - everything.

So, basicallty a tip - so if you, foreign scum, especially talking to my fellow Americans here, see a servizio fee on your bill, DO NOT TIP.

In fact - do not tip in italy, EVER.

A coperto fee is something else - before a meal, in italy, the waiter places a basket of bread on your table.  Of course, like I was told by a cashier in a Conad supermercatto, "Non c'e gratis en italia" - nothing is free in italy), it is not free - hence, the coperto fee.

Now, the way I understand it, the law in italy is such that a servizio fee must be written on a menu to be legal (so when perusing the tourist restaurant's menu, look towards the bottom, where in very, very small letters, there will be written "servizio 20%" - which is outragous, as the highest it should be is 10%, FYI). 

A coperto, or, in full, pane en coperto (bread in a covering, coperto can be a sleeping blanket, a mail envelope or this), does not have to be listed on the menu, so in effect it is a surprise fee tagged at the end of your meal.

Italians many times do not get this fee, but you, foreign scum, will surely see this.

In fact, in a 4 star hotel, I saw the waiter take a bread basket from one table to another - even while the guy at the first table was still finishing his meal!  And this was a 4 star hotel (in Milano, Bischeglie in fact).

So, my standard operating procedure, was to ask first what the servizio and/or coperto was, and if told something unacceptable, to get up and leave without a word... with the italian waiter usually swearing at me, sometimes even in flawless English.

That is why my first choice was kebab places (remember - no servizio nor coperto) and then pizza (cheap and very good, from the over, much better than the restaurant food peddled to the tourist idiots).

Ricivuto Fiscale, or Hello, Gardia di Finanza Nice Person
While in italy, we never, ever, EVER, received a real bona fide receipt for a purchase.  Not in a gelato shop, not in a hostel, not in a 4 star hotel.  Never.

A real receipt for a good or a service should have on it the VAT "value added tax" (EVO in italian, but I am not sure, as, again, I have never received a proper receipt, perhaps it is IVO, I do not know). 

Read up on this on here, a GREAT web page: http://www.walksofitaly.com/blog/travel-tips/how-not-to-get-ripped-off-eating-in-italy

The thing is, there is a special police force in italy, the Guard of the Finances (Gardia di Finanza).  They are supposedly tasked with pursuing italians who do not pay all the taxes they owe (which, in my experience, is 100% of all italians living in italy).  Here's the deal - on a train, I read up an italian newspaper and saw big news - Gardia di Finanza closed 2 kebab shops in Rome!  Huge article on that!

Whoa!

Every hotel, every store, every boutique - none of them gave us a real receipt.  And the scary Gardia closed 2 kebab shops (foreign scum, serves them right, no?).

Our friend (a non italian we met in italy, a very charming lady) told us that the Gardia accosted her as she was leaving a store.  They asked her for the receipt of a purchase she made at a store, and failing to procure it, she was fined, after they went to the store and the store clerk found her purchase on the computer.  She was fined.

So, a tip - KEEP ALL OF YOUR RECEIPTS.  The Gardia may accost you and ask you to present one, some or all of them upon their demand - and the fines are for each purchase you cannot prove.  Happens rarely, true, but remember, you are foreign scum, and are better targets than the italians.


Churches, Pay to Enter, Foreign Scum
If you are a christian, you may be familiar with the story of Jesus chasing off the money changers from the temple.

Peruse http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleansing_of_the_Temple

A church is a holy place, a place for worship or quiet contemplation.  And generally, that is true in most countries - except in italy.

In Rome, it is true, entry to all churches is free (amazing, ain't it).

But in Firenze, or Milan, to enter a cathedral costs you money.  Guess that whole gospel thing about Jesus cleansing the temple went right over the italians' heads.

There are security guards, there are tickets to buy, ticket controls.  All to enter a church.

I was flabbergasted (and I am not the biggest christian out there...), shocked and offended.

But here is another tourist tip - every duomo, every church has an entrance for free (gratis) if you just ask them and tell them that you want to just pray.

Here is the interesting thing - while the tourists crowd into a densely packed mass in the tourist cordoned section, we made our way in the empty, no tourists just us, section.  Which in many instances had better relics and art pieces than the tourist, pay-to-enter section.

Now, it is true, the security guards may choose to not let you enter the pray-only gratis section - it is their call.  That is where learning italian comes in handy - asking the question in italian, knowing how to ask and what words to use, pays dividends.  In fact, while we were let in, I saw italians being escorted out to the pay-to-enter tourist section.



Changing Money in italy and General Shopping
Holy fuck!  Holy fucking shit on a stick!

We went to every bank we could find, in Rome, asking to change money, from American dollars to Euros and asking what the rate is, could you tell us please?  We wanted to avoid the rip-off money changing kiosks.

In every bank (and I mean EVERY bank, in Rome) we were told that they either do not change money, while in one bank,  the employee told me that I would receive 'approximati' such and such sum for my dollars.

Now, in a normal country, a bank employee telling a client that he will receive an "approximate" amount of euros for his set number of dollars would be unacceptable and, frankly, embarassing to a bank.

But this is italy!

Money is changed in a Cambia, a money changing place.  Now, every cambia has an electronic screen with a set number of buy/sell for a particular currency.

Do not pay attention to this number.

The biggest mistake I saw tourists (especially clueless, naive, "easy mark" Americans) make is to go to a first Cambia and change money there (after all, the official rate is always the same, right?).

Talk to the representative.  At first, they will tell you the rate on the electronic board (or worse... two times, we were quoted US$100 that we would get for giving them 115Euros... we were buying dollars back and selling Euros when going back to America... the rate at the time was about 0.76 dollars to 1 Euro... We basically were flabbergasted and then we laughed).

Then, when you talk to the rep, usually a woman, the rate will get better.

When you threaten to walk out, the rate will get a whole lot better.

The rate, of course, has absolutely nothing to do with the electronic sign on the wall listing the establishment's official rate, but you figured that out by now, haven't you?

Basically, think of a Cambia Money Exchange place as another bazaar stall - you can and SHOULD negotiate for the best rate.

What we did was we walked around to each and every Cambia (the ones marked "Fast and Best" were the slowest and worst, typical italia) and found one that gave us the rate very close to the internet rate, which only the banks use.

We got a paper after our first money change which LOCKED THE RATE for us for several days.  Despite protestations by other reps to the contrary, we insisted and gotten the rate we locked for several days, using the piece of paper we have gotten.

Of course, the ladies still tried to fib and cheat and changing the rate or adding to it, but, whatever, we didn't do too badly... unlike the 99.99% of the clueless tourists using the service.

Shopping in italy is an experience, especially for someone from a country which has a philosophy of a business where "our client is our number one priority!".

In italy, the mantra seems to be "our client is a bother and a pest and an enemy".

Buying some silly souvenirs and t-shirts from an italian tourist trap store we were treated to a surly man who glared at us for distrubing him.  Buying gelato, the attitude was "Here you go, fuckers" as we were handed our ice cream.  Surly was the best attitude we could get from italian shop employees, especially when talking in English.

We have gotten a whole lot worse.

Note, that when speaking in my broken italian, the attitudes have gotten a whole lot better.  When asking for a price of sweets in Venezia, insisting on the price being 6 Euros (and the shopkeeper saying 7, checking for us, and they were right). We were joking, laughing and having a good time ("Sei, sete Euros... non che diferido!") and she liked us so much that we got a free cornetto out of it.  Go figure.

In another store, Conad supermercatto, a loud and obnoxious guy accosted us, basically pressing himself upon my girlfriend, shouting that he is security, and where did we get the other bag (actually, in another Conad store, we went to this one to get some bottled water because we forgot to buy it in the other one).

After loudly shouting to "NOT LET THEM OUTSIDE THE ROPA!" and "DO NOT LET THEM OUTSIDE!" and making a huge scene, with everybody looking (it was at the cashier), after us physically pushing him away from us and telling him to "RELAX, BUDDY!" and "Calm down!", and finally, exasperated, telling him that we will deal with him after we make our purchase...

We go in, show the asshole our receipt from the other store, and my girlfriend asks him to apologize, or just say excuse me, or just be nice.

"NO EXCUSE, I AM SECURITY!".

"Fuck you, buddy"!.

"FUCK YOU PARA TI!".

This was the one time in italy I lost my cool and used a swear word.  It was just too much, with us being treated like thieves, and with a huge screaming guy (well... actually a short guy, italian men are very short) yelling at us with everybody looking...

Of course, us being us, we went to that store again, and we had another plastic bag on us.  The sheepishly looking security guy snapped to attention, put a store issue bag over my gf's plastic bag, locked it, and explained that that was typical for italy, see, no need for a "fuck you", etc...

Whatever buddy, enjoy your country, as I will never, willingly, enter it again.

And last, while giving a cashier a 50Euro note, we were screamed at because the cashier wanted a lower denomination.  Screaming at the top of her voice, she stormed off to change our 50Euro banknote.

Glaring at us, and still shouting and gesticulating, she gave us our change.

italians are such lovely people.


Ferbo, Short for Ferbuzzo, Or How to Scam Others and Hotelling in Italia
Perhaps I am spelling it wrong, but 'ferbo' is an italian concept of scamming others, but doing so in a sly way, expending as little effort as possible ("italian style").

Almost every store purchase we made, if we talked loudly in English, the cashier tried to scam us.  This was accomplished by adding items we did not buy onto our receipt.

Tourist tip - always check your receipts, every time you pay, before you leave an establishment.  Every establishment - even supermarkets and high fashion boutiques.

But it is not just us - we saw the cashier at a supermercatto put in QTY 2 Yogurt for a lady ahead of us, while she only had one damn yogurt on the cashier's tray.

So, ferbo for everyone, but foreign tourists make such easy marks, so especially for you.

When reserving a hotel, prepaying the first night, we were told that we will get a room upstairs, which is "the same" like the room we saw on that level, just missing the fridge and safe.

The next night, we show up, and discover that while the room we were shown had carpets, a decent TV, looked nice.

The room at the top floor, well... no carpets, plastic floor, looked somewhat nasty, and, best of all, was not part of the hotel - it was a Soggiorno Touristico (a tourist house, basically worse version of a hotel).

When pointing this out to the hotel keeper, he screamed that "THE ROOM IS SAME!" and "YOU HAVE 10 MINUTES TO PAY ME!".

Which we sheepishly did, because having prepaid the man for first night, we knew we would not get that money back (or majority of it back) due to cancelling reservation or some such... and it was not such a bad room, it had its own bathroom with shower stall (a big thing in italy, as hostels, and one star and sometimes two star hotels, do not have that "luxury"), a working (barely) TV and clean beds.

So, a tip - always know what you are getting, and NEVER pre pay unless you know the hotel is good and the rooms exactly what you want.

Some hostels (for example, Hostel Ciao in Firenze) rival the one and two star hotels in cleanliness and niceness.

After being spoiled by living in America, hotels in italy were a revelation.

In our country, we take things like working A/C, heater, light, having your own bathroom and shower you can fit in, TV, having anti-bug screens on your windows, for granted.

In italia, not so much...

First, no hostel, hotel, even 4 star level, had anti-bug screens on windows.

When it got colder, the hotel turned the heater in each room on, having proudly informed us that they turned the boiler on (I guess the people protested, we didn't bother, our teeth grinding against other teeth from the cold).

But, the heating, like most in italy, is for show... ferbo style.  The heating is turned off at 11PM, and not turned on until roughly 6PM next night.

The thinking is, I guess, that the tourist will fall asleep in the heat and not notice the rapid drop in temperature after 23:00...

Basically, the truth is, the worst kind of motel in America is much, much better than the majority of hotels in italy, with a normal Motel 6 being equivalent to a 4 star hotel in that shithole of a country.

Going back to the concept of ferbo, it is so bad, especially for tourists, that we studied every receipt, looking for extra charges or prices for items not corresponding to the listed price on them.

Basically, we expected to be scammed/cheated everywhere we went, and in many cases were not disappointed.



People In the Know or No One Knows Nuttin' (But Everybody Knows Everythin')

italia is a country for "people in the know".  Even in a stupid gelato store, when buying ice cream in Rome, if you are "in the know", you will ask for "panna" (whip cream) which is delicious, made from real milk, whipcream, which is put on top of your ice cream.

It is gratis (free), but you get it only if you ask for it.

Most tourists don't, and so don't get it.

In fact, when I asked for "panna", I have gotten a nod from a girl gelate server and a "Ahhhhhh, you know about panna".

See, only for those in the know.

All of italy is like that.  It is a country only for "people in the know".  Tourists, foreigners, and even italians travelling to a different city/region are the enemy, to be taken advantage of, to cheat and steal from.

And, of course, the naive, clueless, trusting Americans are a favorite target.

In Firenze, you can buy metro/bus tickets in a quartet (4) saving 10 cents (I know, I know, peanuts, but still).

In a train station, you can buy PROMO tickets saving you 1/2 of the price.

In certain snack bars (coffee bars) spots, you can buy coffee for a stand-up price and then sit down, but again, you as a tourist won't know it and will pay 5Euros for a cappucino or 4 for an Espresso.

You must know whether you are going into an express train or the one that will stop at your station, as they are both marked the same, on the train and the electronic sign.

And on and on and on...



My final Thoughts on Italians and Final Thoughts in General on Italy
How do I say this nicely...

italians are scum.

They are lazy, arrogant, extremely proud of their shitty, 3rd world country (the north of italy is shitty, the south, to which I was afraid to go to, actually IS a 3rd world country).

The complete lack of culture, of respect towards others, especially foreigners and tourists, is appaling.

They are not the "warm", "talkative" people - they are cold, to each other but especially towards foreigners, and rude, to each other, but especially foreigners.

They care much more about the impression they make physically (the marquee clothes they are wearing, the shoes, the jeans, the 1980's style Vanilla Ice hairstyles) than their behavior or attitude.

To be fair, they are clean, non smelling, and dressed in nice clothes (except for the youth, who are dressed sometimes in dreadlocks and smelly rags).  Ladies do not wear jewelry (remember - thieves everywhere), but if they do, they wear metal rings (no bracelets), perhaps a thin gold (or gold like) necklace with a holy symbol.

Many do indeed look like they stepped out of a fashion magazine - that is to say, ridiculous to a normal person.

Physically women and especially men are short, slim (very few fat italians in north italy that I saw), and their diet explains it - the women, trying to keep in shape and be sexy, are on a diet of espresso coffee or two, a cornetto or two and a pack of cigarrettes per day.  The men eat a cornetto and drink an espresso and do not eat too much (speaking of northern italy here).

The laziness beggars description - you must see it to fully appreciate it.

The customer service is nonexistent - again, the mantra here is "our customer is a pest interrupting our cellulare texting time, our enemy".

Like in America, the youth are addicted to their smart phones.

On a train, or a bus, on a street, in a store - italians do not talk to each other.  They try very hard to not get into each other's way, not because they respect the other's privacy, but because they do not want the bother/trouble.

This leads me to another thing I noticed - they are bullies, shouting loudly and want to be offensive, but are basically cowards.

A glare from me was enough to silence any man in italy, a soft word was enough to shut them up.

There are no tall building in italy - none.  There is only one skyscraper in italy, in Milano, that I saw.  The tallest building I saw in Rome was 10 stories high.  I assume it is because the workmen who build them steal a percentage of the building materials, and building structures higher than that may result in yet another "leaning tower of Pisa".

You pay to enter the churches, but you also pay for everything else.  And so, in Pisa, you pay 15Euros to enter the tower (torre) itself, then 10 for entry to the museum, then 10 for something else... Ferbo. The museums are extremely small, and totally, completely, not worth it.  In Paris, I was extremely impressed by my visit to the Louvre, which for a fair price was a life chaging experience, and took all day to explore.  italian museums (if one can call it that) have a few art pieces each, and are scattered all over the country/each city.  Basically, they try to get as much money off of you as they can, with as little effort as possible (that is the "italian style").

We chatted up a pleasant young woman, a student, in a hostel, who reserved a room for the night for 30Euro.  Of course, after coming in, she was told that there were no rooms, but if she wanted to stay, well, the price was 40Euros (or 45, I have trouble remembering).

True "italian style" on display.

Italians run when hearing English, and loathe tourists, especially from America, and make it a point to tout how everything italian is better (EHHHHHH?  EHHHHHHH? EHHHHHHH?) while they wear clothes that have" USA" written on them.

In fact, all kids have backpacks that say "Eastman USA", wear American Nike sneakers (fun fact - went to a Foot Locker, asked for sneakers made from actual leather, they do not have them in italy... the prices for normal plastic shoes are from 80Euro to 130Euro, for a piece of shit pair that in America would run you about US$30-60...).

Went to a store and saw a silly clothing line with a prominent "San Diego" on every piece of clothing.  In fact, most italians wear shirts with an English phrase or marquee firm on them, but, sometimes lacking basic English speaking and reading skills, the results sometimes are comical - as in, the phrase is funny and the cloth would never be worn by an English speaker, as the phrase on the cloth makes no sense or is offensive.

In fact, while the italians wear jeans and clothes with American/English phrases (many ladies have fashionable scarves in the colors of the American flag, for example, a very common thing), only the foreigners wear clothing that have italian flags and/or "ITALIA" written on them.  The boutiques and expensive stores all sell American fashion, or at least fashion with English language writing on them, and only the street vendors sell the "ITALIA" and "Universita di city-you-are-in sweaters and t-shirts for tourists.

So, they hate foreigners, Americans especially, but wear clothes with "USA" on them, and even wear American flags as scarves.  Sweaters with a heart enclosing an American flag are common.  In fact, I made a joke that it is easy to spot an italian versus an American tourist - an American tourist will wear clothing with an italian flag and "italia" on them, while an italian will wear clothing with "I love America" and an American flag or even "San Diego". 

Well, it's not a joke, it's the truth.

(Also, American tourists are easy to spot because, well, they are extremely fat, especially compared to the svelte, slim italians and Japanese tourists).

On TV, there are American shows (CSI, other cop shows, etc) with full italian dubbing.  I even saw Letterman with subtitles (surreal, I know).
Better yet, I saw a fully dubbed Price is Right... with a super fat black woman (you know, the ones they choose for Price is Right, the one who runs to the podium and her ta-ta's are a health hazard to those nearby) fully dubbed into italian, and Drew Carey speaking italian, fully dubbed also.

Fucking surreal.

Comic books are mostly Westerns, with the action taking place - where else - in America.

Pathetic.

These lazy fuckers are so jelaous of America, they all yearn to live here, yet being stuck in the shithole they live in they take it out on American tourists and other foreigners.

The prices in boutiques are surreal and completely nonsensical - for example, in the Ferrari store in Firenze, sunglasses made from plastic with a prominent "Made in China" logo on them (alongside the FERRARI logo) cost a cool 480Euros (this is the same type of sunglasses, made in China, that you can buy in a Dollar Store over here).

After talking to our non-italian friends being forced by circumstance to live in that shithole, the truth is that italians buy their stuff from bazaars, in Rome in Trastavere, for example, every Sunday if I am not mistaken, which have the same plastic shoes that you can buy from a boutique for over 80Euros, in the bazaar for 5Euros...

Factories routinely falsified their production figures, with roughly 10% being siphoned off to the black market, landing in the bazaars and stores, with this "secret sale", but, again, only for "people in the know".

Perfume, costing an arm and a leg (if you buy actual Fendi perfume bottle in America, it is cheaper over here than in italy, which is a theme - italian things are cheaper in America than italy) is bought on the black market, with bottles being marked TESTER (which means they are used by customers in a store to test for the smell, except in this case they are fraudulently marked and sold on the black market - typical italia, this).

Police stop the most expensive cars in Rome near the Colloseo, checking if the drivers paid their taxes.

And of course, you have heard of the italian cruise ship captain who, to impress a waiter, run his ship too close to land, ripping the bottom of the vessel, then promptly abandoning ship first and refusing to come back to supervise the evacuation (of stupid, naive American tourist passengers, after all), despite being commanded to do so by the italian navy.

That is italy in a nutshell - incompetence, bravado, showing off and cowardice.

That about sums it up.

I was watching italian news, and there was a report that italian women are  less employed than other European women - in fact, only women in Pakistan and other 3rd world moslem shit holes are employed less.

Which is surprising, as in a supermercatto in Rome, in Firenze, it is mostly women who are cashiers and employees, while the men only sit in their security cubicle, looking at cameras (I suppose, so that foreigners do not steal, as of course italians are not thieves, of course).

It is women who work in the Fendi, Prada marquee boutiques, not men.

It was a rarity for me to spot men working.

So, if the rate of employment of women is on par with Pakistan, where women, because of moslem culture, are forbidden to work... well...

Of course, perhaps they based the report of women employment rates on the taxes paid by women... that would explain it.

Che italia!



So You Have Decided to Go To Italy After All
First, I want to say, if you have decided to go to italy after reading all this, Fuck You!

Instead of spending your dollars in the Carribean, where you are treated like a king (or a queen), or in a normal European country, like England, or Czech Republic, or Poland, you choose to go to that shithole of a country after all.

So, again, Fuck You.

Having said that, here are a things to do and experience in that human filth scum pond.

If you are visiting Rome, do go to the tourist area, and see all the touristy spots - The Fountain of Trevia, the Colloseum (if you choose, spend Euros to go inside, if you want, not necessary, but cool), the Pantheon (one of the very few buildings from the times of Ancient Rome that survived, and it is free to enter as it is a church, and Rome churches are gratis entry).

In fact, in Rome, go to every church you stumble upon, even ones not listed in your silly tourist guide, as most of them are amazing from an architectural point of view (even to my jaded, cynical American self).

Panteon and Roman Forum are OK to go to, even though they do cost an arm and a leg (as usual, the italians try to get as much money off of you as possible).  But, again, for "people in the know", there are free tours of both, led by an American student, sponsored by a tour agency.  Yes, you read that right - free tours, saving you, oh, 30 Euro per person (and that is just entry fee - a guided tour costs you much, much more).

The funny thing was, as Brad, the American student, was organizing the tour (getting the people to join in), we had people run off, scared, as something for free in italy sounded too much like a scam ( I can't blame them, I was suspicious myself).

So, there are free tours, but again, only for "people in the know".

The Panteon is mostly ruins, with basically walls made of bricks predominating the scenery, and an odd surving column rising up from the ground, and one surviving building from Roman times, alas with a no entry for tourists.

If it is not a free tour, it is your call if you want to enter or not - if you are on a wheelchair, or are old, DO NOT enter, as there are (like in the majority of italy) no provisions for disability or older folk easy access, it is hills and lots of stairs.

The complex of Roman Forum and Panteon is probably worth it to splurge on.

Baths of Caracalla - much less so.

Do avoid the Terme di Caracalla - the old Roman times bath, exercise gym and spa complex is gigantic, but it is just ruins, basically big walls made from bricks - nothing to see there, the entry is again (no surprise) expensive, the audioguide you tote along doubling the price.

Just walls rising out of the ground (whoop dee doo).

Pay attention to all around you - there are palazzos you can visit, with their own charming collection of statues, paintings and painted ceilings in italian cities, and tours of them are many times free, but if you don't know italian, you will miss them.

Do go to the Trastavere section of the city - charming, very narrow streets, old buildings, italian cars and motor scooters driving within 10 mm of your body - good times.  Do go to the Via Scuola, find the pizzeria run by two young guys with Roma soccer team posters - perhaps the best pizza in Roma.

Do drink the water located all over Rome in metal taps rising out of the ground - this is water straight from the mountains, using aqueducts from the Roman times (that it was not improved upon, and is running continously, effectively wasting all this water on the ground, is typically italian).

But watch out - water in Rome has chalk in it, and whether using water in your hotel bathroom or the "aqua potable" (water ready for human consumption), I recommend first filling up a bottle, and then using only the water, being careful to toss the chalky deposit on the bottom, before boiling it or drinking it.

The water in the streets from the water fountains "aqua potable" - you may want to check for chalk by first filling up your water bottle.

The best water we found in Trastevere, which together with the best pizza, the smaller number of clueless tourists, the narrow, charming streets and gelato store (also on Via Scuola, but really they are all over) makes it my favorite place to go to in Rome.

Do go to the non tourist section of Rome - I recommend the Pyramide metro stop.  Do go to the nearby shops and check the prices - compare them to the price for the same items you would pay in a touristy area.

Do walk all over Rome - it is a VERY small city (not counting the suburbs) and in a few days you will be able to walk all over it, from one end to the next.

Feel free to buy the knock off purses from the African guys - hell, they are so well made, they are actually better manufactured than the real, plastic stuff you can buy off of boutiques for a thousand Euros.

Visit the park and Villa Borghese - it is one of the few museums worthy of your money.

Do visit the Citi di Vaticano - I don't care if you are Catholic, the Vatican museum is the best in Rome, and perhaps all of italy.

The basilica is an architecural marvel, like the Firenze or Milano Duomos.

Tourist tip - on every last Sunday of every month, museums in Rome are free (note that Vatican, I think, is excluded), so perhaps visit Villa Borghese and the park, making it a nice, lazy Sunday.

Do visit Firenze (Florence), it is charming with its small, narrow streets - but watch out for the scooters riding out of the next corner at full speed.

Do visit every church, especially the Duomo, to pray only, of course, not to be a tourist, perish the thought.

From Firenze, take the train to Siena, which is a charming city, again, very narrow streets, think Roma Trastavere but the whole medieval city is like that, and then Pisa.

Firenze and Siena are my two favorite cities in italia.

Siena, though, is a hilly place, where you will walk either up or down, but it is well worth it.

Pisa is a tourist trap - go there, snap a few pictures of the stupid tower, avoid the museums (if you must go on top of the torre, do so, but why, really?).

Firenze is in Toscana, which is, I admit, a very nice country from an aesthetic point of view.

In case you have time, after Siena and Pisa, take some train rides to other small towns, like Lucca, or San Gimignano, for example.

Short range train travel is very cheap, running you a measly 6Euros or perhaps 11Euros or so, so take advantage of it.

Do visit Venezia, it is something else, with no motor scooters, no cars, with canals being used for transportation (you won't see a garbage boat in any other place than Venice, will you now, with a working crane and all?).

Shockingly, Bangladeshi and African street vendors are here, also... Go figure.

Venezia can get pricey, so the "people in the know" grab a hotel in Mestre, which is on the other side of Venice, where hotels run much cheaper than in Venezia... and it is just a 5 minute train ride on a bridge which runs from Venice to the mainland.

In every touristy city there are guys in the train stations whose job is to find you a hotel room (from which they get a cut).  Some of them are official, they even have a badge which states (in italian) that they are authorized to work as such in a given station.

Do talk to these guys, and tell them what you want - a super pricey dream hotel, or just a bed and a shower (or just a bed) and they will get you what you want, if possible, gratis for you.

Milan is not a touristy city - the Duomo (cathedral) is bigger than the one in Firenze (and the one in Firenze is gigantic) but that's about it for the touristy stuff there.  Milano is the finance city of italy - think Wall Street, NY - and so is not specifically made for tourists, unlike, say, Rome or Firenze.

Do buy the gelato, in Rome, especially, and do ask for panna on top.  Do not buy gelato in Lucca, because it sucks there for some reason.

Do not buy cornettos in a snack bar, or any sandwiches (how long have they been there?).  Do buy a cake named Baba (pretty decent rum sponge cake) and buy any bakery products with real, actual panna (not crema anything, you want real whipcream made from milk).

All other cakes suck.

Do make your shopping at the supermercatto, especially bottled water, which is cheap (30 cents to 1Euro, with 1.10Euro for the super popular San The, which is San Benedetto water with infusion of tea).

Buy some cheeses, but especially buy some veggies and fruits - in America, we irradiate all our imported fruits and veggies, which makes them lose all taste and most vitamins.

In italia, tomatoes smell naturally, and are fucking delicious, and have actual taste, unlike in America (Wow, I actually said a nice thing about italy!).  Ditto for other veggies and fruits.

Do not buy an italian sausage, like a Toscana Surpressa, or any other sausage surpressa, because a surpressa (a "surprise") means you don't know what kind of meat you are getting in there...

italian macelleria (butcher shop) is gross, disgusting, incredibly gross and disgusting, with chickens and another kind of bird, with orange feet, black meat, over frozen... just ugh... gross. Pigeons also sold there, I believe.  Ugh.

Do not buy prosciutto crudo, it is gross and disgusting.  If you want some kind of a ham, buy prosciutto cotto, it's... OK.

Sometimes, if you are lucky, a store will have a porca something, which is a whole pig cut into one big slab, and a guy ready to cut portions for you.

Do buy supermarket pizza, it is freshly made and not bad and can be eaten cold.

But mostly, italian sausages and ham-like products are full of fat and disgusting.

And last but not least, do buy gelato, it is the one thing I will miss here back in the states - I wish it could be replicated here, as the ice cream in this country does not compare to their gelato.

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8 comments:

DPirate said...

Great read!

Anonymous said...

I used to live in Japan, where they hate foreigners but act friendly (at least, on the surface). And they don't like the fact that we won the war, but have a thing for James Dean and American jeans, and zippo lighters. And the cockroaches climbing the walls, even in the better restaurants, I could write pages about that.

I didn't hate Italy as much, I agree they bellow a lot and are unfriendly to boot, but I'll take a good looking Italian guy (I can handle decent grooming) over the overly fem Asians. Honestly, Italy and Greece were a relief after Asia.

I do understand your frustration, however, I never did expect Italy to be the least bit organized. As for England, I found it to be a country of rude drunks.

Bourgeois Reactionary said...

Quentin Tarantino who wrote the screenplay for the film True Romance, expresses his view of Sicilians here:

True Romance: 'Siclians"


Good observation about people who are obsessed with vanity: the reason they are so focused on external appearance is because there is nothing in their head. They exist in a purely material world where the notion of the transcendant, the concept that there is something beyond the superficial and the banal is inconceivable to them. The immediate gratification of their most basic desires, for sex, for status, and vanity, is all that matters to them.

On a side note, are you familiar with the trendy new Fiat 500? Here is a promotional event, sponsored by Fiat, to show off the sporting nature of their new Fiat 500:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKWsY3GAvq4


What you see here is a woefully under-engineered product that flips and spins out remarkably easily. (I am talking about the late model Fiat 500's here).

This film footage will very likely be Exhibit A at the forthcoming product liability suit when some clueless teen flips her trendy new Fiat 500 rendering her a lifelong paraplegic.

I can't believe that a big company that can afford to hire lawyers would turn out such a product. I can't believe that the marketing people never grasped the irony of how bad their product looks in these promotional sporting events.

This is what happens when you leave product development in the hands of engineers with a "that's good enough" sensibility to their work ethic that one might expect of a hobbyist. I expect this to eventually come back and bite them in the ass.

Anyway, I think your travel reviews are a great deal more candid than those of Rick Steves on PBS. They should make a tv show with a host like you explaining why you would not want to visit a certain country.

AmericanGoy said...

Thanks for the comments.

One of the things I forgot to write about are the infamous italian elevators. Many are literally from the XIX Century, and are very touchy and need a specific way to close the triple doors and a special way on how to press a button.

The old and the modern elevators share one feature - there is a weight limit on them, which to an American would seem incredibly small. Basically, five people cannot get into a modern elevator (and we are talking about slim Euro types, not an all-you-can-eat Old Country Buffet American).

Bourgeois Reactionary, I think you nailed their vanity perfectly.

I will try to never buy a "Made in Italy" anything for as long as I live.

I talked to a friend (we met her while there and became fast friends) and she told us that "furbo" is a way of life, which, ferbuzzoni, means to make as much as possible with as little effort and risk to oneself as possible.

It's their national trait.

So, we heard stories from her and her friends (non-italians working in italy; European Union citizens) about engineers, doctors, highly paid professionals stealing pencils, rubber bands and the like from offices, in amounts that would stagger a gypsy.

BR, I think that the word about italy is getting around, and that people are getting fed up with "furbo".

Bourgeois Reactionary said...

Your discussion of the African street vendors in Italy reminds me of this discussion of Los Angeles by radio talk show host Adam Carolla:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePuHK3cgUdY

Anonymous said...

just a note on your Italian words... ferbo as you spelled it is furbo -cunning


I dont know... is actually .. No Lo So

everything you observed is true Italy is a sack of shit, try living here, for a holiday its bearable.

AmericanGoy said...

For some reason I always turn furbozzoni into ferbo...

I don't know why, it sounds better to my ignorant ear that way.

Italy is corruption central - I am afraid to go to Greece as my gasket would probably pop as the corruption there is probably even WORSE.

Regarding No Lo So... story time.


Train ride and of course the fucking gypsy girl comes in and places these shitty pieces of paper on everybody's seat/lap.

The italian lady next to me was so ticked off, that she took "her" piece of paper and threw it in the trash.

When the gypsy came over (young, 18, sexy dressed but super ugly face) and was agitated about "Where's my paper" the response was, of course, No Lo Sais (So? My italian is bad, I admit it).

Same response when I asked for travel directions in any italian city....

Anonymous said...

"I had no desire to see the south, which the italians themselves say is WORSE than the north."

Peccato! Do you believe them?
Shame on you.
You don't know anything at all about amazing places they have in South!



A bunch of "razzisti"?