Thursday, December 04, 2003


Breakfast is practically unheard of. Well, if you count espresso and a cigaret as breakfast, then maybe. But the basic all-American eggs and bacon just doesn’t happen here. I think part of the reason is because the Italians generally eat dinner later than Americans. Many restaurants don’t even open until 7:30, and many times we have been the only people in the restaurant at 7:30 or 8 o’clock.

Eggs come in cartons of TEN… not twelve, not your basic dozen eggs, but TEN. Or you can get the smaller 6 pack. And they are fairly expensive. The Coop was running a special…10 medium eggs, not large, for 82 cents…which at the current exchange rate is about 98 cents.

Did I mention in an earlier blog how difficult it is to find tomato juice? You can find apple juice, orange juice, grapefruit juice and prune juice. Peach and apricot juices seem to be popular too. In the land of tomatoes, where an entire grocery aisle is dedicated to tomatoes in every shape and form, the tomato juice is always hard to find. I guess they do everything with tomatoes but DRINK them! When I did find tomato juice in the IperCoop, I bought all they had, which was about four six-packs. They haven’t restocked since. I looked at the local Coop, and did find some tomato juice, but I am only going to buy one or two packages at a time, just so they don’t run out. And it comes in tiny little glass bottles…about 6 ounces, I guess.

Lunch is at one o’clock, not noon. I don’t know how they make it with no breakfast for that length of time. I guess a little coffee goes a long way. Maybe this is why there are so few fat Italians. That and the fact that they are not big sweets eaters, or snackers. Although we are seeing a LOT of cakes here for Christmas, Italians seem to prefer bitter tastes to sweet tastes.

Traffic laws are made to be broken, and we haven’t seen a lot of enforcement. Except for the parking ticket WE got, that is! Parking here is a creative sport. Parallel parking is unknown. If you see a parking space, just pull into it, and if the car doesn’t quite fit, or sticks out into the driving lane, don’t worry about it.

Merging is another concept that hasn’t made it to Italy. Granted, there’s not a very long merge lane to start with, but usually the cars just STOP, and wait for an opening, then say a prayer they can accelerate fast enough. Or, just let the guy behind them worry about it, and just slowly ease their way into traffic. And it’s very unusual for a car in the right lane to move over to the left lane to allow cars to merge in. After all, if they did that, the Mercedes that’s doing 140 will mow them down, and they know it.

There is much less “finger food” in Italy... Sandwiches are wrapped in a napkin and eaten. Most people still eat pizza with a knife and fork, although you will see people eating it “American style”.

Dryers are also a rarity. We asked our plumber why the Italian dryers had such small vents…the vent on our dryer is about two inches in diameter…what would take 40 minutes to dry in the US takes TWO HOURS in Italy.. the plumber said he didn’t know…ours was only the third dryer he had ever installed!

And speaking of laundry, the washers only use cold water, and have a heating element in them. When we told our appliance salesman that we were going to hook up both hot AND cold water, he nearly had a heart attack! “OH NO! YOU CAN’T DO THAT!” When we insisted that we COULD and we WOULD, he frantically searched through the instruction manual to find the official warning so that we would be saved. When he couldn’t find any such warning, he started thinking about it, and decided that maybe it’s not such a bad idea. I usually turn the hot water off after the wash cycle, since I rinse with cold only. Using only cold water for a hot water wash can take a very long time if the washing machine has to heat its own water.

As with many European countries, you can pay your utility bills at the Post Office. Since we now have our bank account there, we have set everything up to auto-pay directly form our checking account.

Speaking of the Post Office, since we are both former US Postal employees, we noticed this next situation some time ago. In most of the European countries we have visited, including Italy, the clerks get to sit down. This also applies for cashiers in the grocery stores. In the Post Office, there are glass windows separating the customer from the employees, with just a narrow opening at the bottom to slide your letters and money through. Conversely, we have seen letter carriers on the street, and the mail that is not in their hand is simply left in the bag, strapped to a bicycle or motorcycle. Or it’s sitting in the car with the windows open and the door unlocked! In the US, if the mail was left unlocked, the carrier would be fired immediately!

We haven’t seen canned soup. Or diet drinks. You can find Diet Coke in some restaurants, but not in the grocery store, or in a vending machine. Pickles are hard to find, and what we have found taste very different from what we are used to. I love all types of pickles…sweet, dill, bread and name it. The ones that we have found that are less sour are certainly NOT sweet. No pickle relish either. We saw canned green beans one time, and never again. Canned vegetables in general are hard to find. I guess they cook most of their vegetable fresh. Coffee creamer doesn’t exist. Art hasn’t found cottage cheese. No barbeque sauce.

You can buy beer at McDonald’s. And several different types of salad, including ones with pasta, and with seafood. But no salad bars. And no salad dressings. But when you have this great oil and vinegar, who cares? Dry cleaning takes four or five days, but there are one hour photo places.

None of these are complaints, merely observations. We can certainly live without most of the things that are not available in Italy. We can look forward to barbeque and burritos when we visit the US. We can certainly live without Diet Coke. We can fix whatever we want for breakfast, and eat our lunch and dinner at whatever time suits us. For now, we are still in a period of adjustment. Some things we want to stay the same, some things we accept as they are done in Italy. As time goes by, I suspect that more and more we will start to live as the Italians do. We realize that we are still in the “honeymoon” phase, and that our view will change over the coming years. For now, though, we are “molto contento.”


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