Bullet List Rome: Cultural Differences

20191106_124837 Barberini
Fontana del Tritone in Piazza Barberini

As far as I can tell, Italians are warm, friendly, and open generally speaking. The cultural behaviors that we love so much– the hand gestures, the emotional outbursts– are in evidence daily. Here is my list of differences that were new to me:

  • Fish and steak are charged by the 100 gram — so if you see €20 on the menu, that is not the price you will pay at the end — but rather you will pay €20 per 100 gram — so that piece of fresh fish might cost €40.
  • Toilet seats — or rather the lack thereof. Be prepared with disinfectant wipes and portable toilet seat covers, which are also not available. If you can manage not to sit — even better!
  • Grilled vegetables — listed as Miste Verdue griglia do not arrive at your table hot, or even warm. They come room temperature or even cool. That often goes for the side potatoes too!
  • Espresso is cheaper at the bar and costs around €3 more at Tavola or table. Go ahead, order it, watch it being made, and drink it right there standing up! When in Rome, do as the Romans do,
  • Don’t order a latte, rather order a Caffellatte. Latte just means milk in Italian and you get some funny looks when you order a milk.
  • Buona sera (Bonah Sayrah) happens right about noon and lasts until about the time you leave a late dinner at the restaurant. First thing in the morning is Buongiorno.
  • Old men and their shoe shops. So far, I have seen a few shoe shops that sell only Italian made shoes and each of these has an octogenarian greeting and running the money. These guys are over-the-top charming, one joking with us, flattering us, and kissing my hand even though he knew we didn’t speak Italian. The younger workers, I like to think that they are the great-grandchildren, make apologies, translate, and overall this creates the charming family environment that moviegoers expect.
  • Italian maids are amazing, don’t understand English and have full access to your room to tidy it up; once late morning and once while you are supposed to be out to dinner, plus someone else brings water, someone else checks the minibar, someone else checks to see if the maids did a good job…it’s like grand central station.
  • Roman water is good, unless you have a tendency to kidney stones. It has calcium — not the good bone-building kind, so one drinks a lot of bottled water. Frizzante is the most bubbly–the waiter will ask if you want gas, there is natural slightly sparkling mineral water, and there is still water. You are able to purchase water in glass bottles to avoid single-use plastic.
  • Birkenstocks have a tendency to get “side-eye” from Italian men. Women simply ignore them.
  • Skip the line by purchasing tickets and vouchers in advance from the hotel — you can even purchase from a hotel if you aren’t staying there, making impulse tours easy! There are always folks on the street selling tickets too — they are well marked so you don’t accidentally buy from the wrong guy.
  • Metro ticket machines — look at the pictures of the money it is taking — sometimes it quits taking bills and you can tell that by the picture of coins.
  • Don’t accept roses from the guys on the Spanish Steps — unless you want to donate.
  • Eat the roasted chestnuts. Look for evenly roasted chestnuts, the vendors paying attention to even roasting have the chestnuts arranged in a single layer. Wait until after 6 to ensure enough roasting has happened. Then walk around with 600 other people looking at the luxury shop windows and Roman landmarks.
  • Don’t get into the fountains. These are national treasures and meant to be enjoyed visually by everyone.
  • Be respectful of the churches — turn off your phone notifications and sound, wear pants not shorts, or skirts/dresses that aren’t classified as mini. Talk in a quiet voice, take in the art, make a small donation, and feel free to pray for world peace and contemplate.
  • Buy local. Italians make some of the best shoes — so look for “made in Italy” try them on because some are designed better than others, and in small shops sometimes you can make an offer. Italians have access to wonderful produce, so get as much fresh fruit juice (spremute) and fresh room temperature vegetables as you can get!
  • Learn some Italian — it’s really easy to get the hang of it! Grazie!

Bullet List: Rome Style Decoded

 

What makes women in a particular city, say Paris, look so Parisian? Likewise, what makes women in Rome, look so Italian?! Here are some decoding bullets:

  • Jewelry (big, bold, and lots of it!)
  • Scarves
  • Trendy or beautiful shoes
  • Loose locks of hair
  • One really big statement piece
  • Clear style statements of confidence
  • Hosiery
  • Mani/pedis are a must
  • Fully styled professionals
  • Luxury denim is styled upscale
  • Lips and Mascara

Here are some other style helpers:

  • Umbrella
  • Helmet that coordinates with scooter
  • Leather (Italian) handbag
  • Leather (Italian) jacket

Here’s what I don’t see on the streets of Rome worn by Romans:

  • Pajamas
  • Flip flops
  • Wrinkled clothes
  • Bottom cleavage/muffin tops

So let me describe a few of the beautiful Italian women I have seen so far, but haven’t gotten photos of:

Woman #1: 60s/70s — Black hair — skinny skinny

  • Hosiery with large criss-cross design, flat black suede shoes
  • Black sheath dress trimmed with short fringe
  • Black leather jacket
  • Giant pearl and gold necklace, earrings, multiple rings

Woman #2: 40s/50s — brown hair — average build

  • Wide-legged, over-dyed, oversized denim cropped jeans in a melon color
  • Matching oversized straight cut car length jacket in same melon denim
  • Extra-long print scarf down to her knees in a print of melon/neon green/red
  • Ankle boots, mid-height heel, trendy in light tan (Italian leather, I would bet)

Woman #3: 60s — salt and pepper hair — athletic build

  • Cropped gabardine pants in dark green
  • Open-toed suede shoe in cognac with a chunky stacked heel (Italian leather)
  • Silk print blouse — three shades of green with some purple for good luck
  • Leather jacket in cognac (Italian leather)
  • Cream-colored helmet & matching cream and black scooter
  • Silk chiffon scarf in pale green
  • Leather brief portfolio in cognac (Matchy-matchy I love it!)

Each of these women had a certain striking air of confidence, and of assertiveness. I got the sense that they didn’t put too much focus on matters that didn’t directly involve them. I also sensed that they weren’t looking for style approval, but rather that style was their medium, under their control.

 

Best items to pack: All-star tools

One day before we boarded a plane for Rome, we found out that our apartment was not ready for us to move-in yet. We would be staying at a beautiful and conveniently located hotel for up to 6 weeks. A little bit of a surprise to which we couldn’t prepare since we were already staying in Washington, D.C. for the two weeks leading up to our departure. Meaning, we had already packed for a two-week trip, with about another two weeks in Rome, after which we expected to receive the first batch of our clothes and office equipment, with the second, larger batch coming in about a month after that — or so.

already packed

Anyway, that cut out the packing anxiety completely. We were already packed and committed. Fortunately, I have some on-the-road tools that have become my all-stars for road trips. NOTE: These all-stars must be in checked baggage. I realize that the trend is to take everything in a carry-on, but at my age, I rely on various comforts and for long-term trips, over two weeks, on an abundantly filled suitcase.

Here is my bullet list of All-Stars and how they have made our hotel living work:

  • Scissors: used to cut black electrical tape, stray threads, open pockets on hubby’s new blazers
  • Black electrical tape: used to cover all of the led lights in the room (TV, 10 light switches, thermostat)
  • Foldable sharp knife: open jammed suitcase, open packaging, slice lemon for sick hubby, slice olive focaccia bread, slice cheese
  • Cosmetics organizers: two hanging organizers, one train case, three clear plastic zippered bags (one shown)
  • Samples of Products: shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, lotion, serum, moisturizer, sunscreen (already don’t like the smell of the shower gel–I have an aversion to the smell of lavender, need special shampoo/conditioner, love expensive serums but hate having $100 of product leak out during flight, it’s nice when you can get your special products in travel size–but can’t always find travel size plus samples are usually free, etc.)
all stars
Traveling all-stars.
Light switches
Each switch has blue LED light shining throughout the night to ensure no sleep occurs.
TV
Light from TV shines in eyes all night long.
Thermostat
Dumb light on Thermostat shines directly in eyes when sleeping. Absolutely must cover with black tape.

Travel: Broken Foot Edition

Ace bandage helps!
Waiting on picnic bench while Hubby tours the mine.

One of the annoying little things that can happen on any given expedition out of your front door is an accident. There are all kinds of accidents that happen every day, you get stung by a wasp–swelling up, you eat something that makes you sick, or you step one wrong way, causing some weird injury that impacts your ability to do what you want to do.

This happens while traveling, although usually not to me.

You see I am a bit of a “being safe” nut — full of helpful anxiety about germs, street food, and neighborhoods that are off the beaten track. I walk tall, don’t drink much alcohol (if at all), and am inside of my hotel room at a reasonable hour. I avoid public demonstrations, threatening people (both them threatening me and me threatening them LOL!), and going out without a scarf, a sweater, and a cross-body bag. I pack bandaids, acetaminophen, diarrhea medicine, vitamin C, and sunscreen. All of this so that when I travel I can walk all over the city fearlessly and fun-loving!

But accidents do happen. And one happened to me on Monday of Week 3 of my 5-week vacation. I was at a wild animal park/sanctuary, and I stepped down from a tall step onto some cardboard that had been placed, I had imagined at the time, over a former mud puddle. The dirt was dry, there was no mud, I didn’t even stop to think about taking this large step. My weight landed on my right foot, which then slid over the hidden large rock, and proceeded to hyper-extend, popping as I landed with a thump. My phone flew out of my hand; I managed to land on my knee, then my well padded hind end; shaken up, to say the least. I am not in the habit of falling, tripping, nor stumbling. I think of myself as being quite spry, although not at all athletic.

As you can see below, this did not stop me from petting the baby cheetahs!

3 Cheetah kittens sunning at Rhino and Lion Safari Park, South Africa
Sweet kitty kitty cheetah cheetahs.

I am so grateful that I didn’t know at the time that I had broken a bone in my foot since I have extreme anxiety about visiting hospitals, especially hospitals in Africa. Now, I say this since the local hospital that was pointed out to me in Zimbabwe was built from cinder blocks back in the 1950s–I would guess. (Realize that I do believe in contributing to any and all aid organizations that help third-world countries get medical supplies and other assistance.) We have resistant strains of bacteria and viruses in the U.S. and I am certain that it is no different over here in Africa.

So, grateful. No trip to the doctor [until 6 weeks later when it became apparent that it was more than a bad bruise]. But….with swelling, bruising, and pain that continues every step that I make a full two weeks later, I now have a new understanding of making the most of a trip. [And now, 9 months later, I realize how important it is to avoid injury!]

—–

It is now a full month later and I still have pain in my foot and rely heavily on my hiking shoes — no other shoe feels comfortable. I have a bruise on the bottom of my foot, another one on the side, and the worst bruising on the top of my foot. You know what this means…Dr. Podiatrist here I come!

Broken bone in foot

Also another P.S. regarding healthcare and Africa: Thank you to my nurse practitioner J.S. for not only prescribing  medicine to prevent malaria, but also having the foresight to prescribe a Z-Pack — as it happened, the morning of my 10-hour flight from Johannesburg to Frankfurt, I woke up with a sore throat, coughing, –some sort of bronchial sinus cold that I am prone to–the meds are saving my butt. I am in Frankfurt, showered, napped, and on day 2 of the Z-pack and can function. Even if the flight was rough, thank you Halls Extra strength by the way. I will cover being sick in a foreign city in a hotel layover room in a future post!

 

 

South Africa: Capetown Table Mountain

Table Mountain Gondola
The view from the tip of Africa.

Table Mountain: You want to take the gondola (at least we wanted to take the gondola up the mountain) so keep your eyes on which line you are in — but no matter how long the line is,  it will move quickly and the view is worth the wait. You can pre-purchase tickets using a QR code, so check that out! As you snake your way around and up to the gondola, don’t miss out on the photo op! Plan a fun pose and strike it with your fellow adventurer! Inside the gondola car, the floor slowly turns so that you can get a 365-degree view. Be aware, they pack the car full!

Wrong way little buddy!
Dassie in line on Table Top Mountain, South Africa.

Dassies: part rat, part marmot, all rodent — our driver says beware, they can carry rabies! We noticed a fair number of these critters on top of Table Mountain. Especially near the cafe. No dassies were foaming at the mouth when we were there.

View at the bottom of the earth!
On top of Tabletop Mountain, Capetown, South Africa.

Atlantic Ocean: Beautiful views of the Atlantic ocean, rivaling the views of Diamond Head in the Pacific Ocean on Oahu. Also, when you are looking at the ocean, a simple quarter turn reveals beautiful mountain ranges with fog and clouds. This view reminds me of Kokino in Macedonia. Either way, getting up to the top of Table Mountain is worth the line.

 

Socks: I love you

20180626_093427
Smart Wool socks

I really love good socks. I L-O-V-E socks. Everyone gets socks from me in their Christmas stockings, I look at socks online, in stores, and at booths, and I talk about socks all of the time. I really love quality socks. I know that a lot of people like funky designs on their socks and I like that too, but a well-engineered sock gets me excited!

A well-engineered sock has features–features that solve problems. After all, socks were invented to solve problems, right? Socks were invented to keep your foot from blistering in your shoes, as well as keeping your shoes from dying a pitiful, uncleanly death from foot perspiration.

A poorly-engineered sock is truly irritating, both literally and figuratively. Poorly-engineered socks have caused many toddler meltdowns from my oldest son who is now 34 years old, and I am still suffering PTSD over one of those episodes. They also twist on your feet while you are walking, or they slip down under your heel. They also make your foot uncomfortable because they are too small, or too large. The yarn that they are woven with might suddenly break, creating holes. The type of yarn might not provide breatheability, or warmth. The weight of the yarn as well as the pattern of the sock might be too thin, or too thick.

You can see that we don’t give sock designer-engineers enough thanks. A perfectly engineered sock should come in sizes — Germany does that particularly well. I can get a sock that is just right for my foot, for my husband’s foot, and my giant-of-a-middle son’s foot. I can’t easily do that in the U.S.

The U.S. does have an excellent wool sport sock that is washable and durable. I do absolutely love this brand of socks, and I in no way have been compensated to feature this brand. I love this brand because of how well it is engineered. After I sat on the plane next to a designer for this brand, I really started believing in this brand. It is a pricey sock for the average person, however, these socks are durable, comfortable, and convenient to use. All of those factors reduce the overall cost of this sock. The brand is local to Coloradoans, it is sold at Nordstrom as well as from their own boutiques and online. It is Smart Wool — the perfect name for this product.

I hurt my foot over a week ago here in South Africa, where it is winter, and chilly, and uncomfortable. Part of healing my foot is wearing my comforting Smart Wool socks. They provide support, warmth, and since I purchased them in happy colors and designs, they lift my spirits a little. Also, these socks aren’t the thick wool socks that won’t fit into your shoes. These socks fit, stretch, and launder. I have many other socks that I love, and maybe I will write about them — especially my cotton athletic socks from Germany. But right now, I am grateful for my comfy wool socks.

 

P.S. I will debrief my 5-week packing for this trip when I get home. Lessons learned and successes to celebrate!

 

Travel: One Suitcase – 5 Weeks, Pt. 2

Goal: two cities, five weeks, one suitcase (must weigh less than 50 lbs to win)

So, added to last week’s styles are sturdy clothes for winter in Johannesburg, with excursions to see lions, leopards, Victoria Falls (on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe), and I hope to see some elephants, rhinos, giraffes, and zebras as well as all manner of springbok and other deer. I will still be working and trying to find some great candid photos of some of the life in South Africa.

Fully Packed

It all fits! And I weighed the bag on my digital scale — 24 lbs! Of course, that is before beauty products. This exercise is helping me with my packing anxiety. At least for the short term.

So, for my trip to Frankfurt, and then the next four weeks in Joburg, I have added layers. Here’s the bullet list:

  • Cargo pants, heavy weight and ready to be destroyed
  • Camouflage print pants
  • African wax print skirt
  • Vintage yellow polo sweater
  • Yellow cardigan
  • Olive lightweight wool sweater
  • White T-shirt
  • White thin cotton turtleneck
  • Black T-shirt
  • Mauve T-shirt
  • Metallic tank sweater
  • White rain shell
  • Hiking boots
  • Birkenstocks
  • Black flip flops
  • Olive drab jacket with “flair”
  • Three scarves, one cotton gingham, one rayon, one polyester (all white background, with black and a hint of accent color)

I think that I might be doing at least one more adjustment…