Sunday, September 30, 2012

You are out like the buzzer on your building!

After much sniggering at the very idea of it, two weeks ago I finally sat down to watch episode one of 
The Italian Apprentice. The heavily publicised trailer, with the contestants in designer eyewear bopping around in a Milanese boardroom to BTO's " Takin Care of Business", had left me wondering if the programme would stick to the usual formula.  As the series opened, 15 minutes later than advertised,
the intro by the Apprentice Inventor,  Donald Trump,  led me to believe it just might.

The prize, as ever, a six-figure salary working for one of the nation's billionaires, in this case the colourful, "Billionaire" brand-stretcher Flavio Briatore.  Once the manager of the Renault Formula 1 until he was expelled from the sport for racing fixing, Briatore is now the owner of a big ugly boat where he lives in Italian waters, with his trophy wife and baby, all of whom were recently turfed onto dry land as the Guardia di Finanza ( Italian tax police) sequestered the vessel amidst accusations of tax evasion, namely claiming back houseboat fuel as a business expense.  Possibly as a result of this, Briatore is retracting his "Billionaire" brand from Italy starting with his mega successful Sardinian " Billionaire Club"  which is being relocated in Marbella.

For some strange reason, the programme is being televised two episodes back-to-back on Tuesday evenings, probably to get a series about "work" off the screens as soon as possible.  Having mentioned it to a number of Romans, I now realise they aren't watching because they seriously dislike the arrogant, charmless Milanese Briatore, who may have caused them offence and confusion when he warned the contestants that the winning candidate would  be hired based solely on their own ability and not because a friend of a friend owes your grandmother a favour as is the normal recruitment routine down here in Rome.

Episode one to three were pretty uneventful. The usual casualties, arrogant innumerate person,
 arrogant lawyer, arrogant Phd student, all were fired for their arrogance or maybe their insanity as
 " Sei Fuori" (You're fired!) also means you are crazy." Sei fuori come un citofono", You are out (of
your mind) like the buzzer on your building!  Anyway just as I was beginning to think Italian Apprentice was just a poorly edited version of Lord Sugar's finest hour, in episode four,  Briatore reverted to form and started to run amock. Contestants were given not the usual average 500 Euros but 10,000 to spend, not for a money laundering task but a buying selling one.  Predictably, it all goes badly.  Goats are insulted, the losing project manager changes his glasses, hoping not to be recognised in the boardroom.  Simone di Dio, Simon of God who has been clearly running on "angel favours" up to now, is booted out of the losing team for spending the whole task biro-scrawling the word "gelato" across a clothes shop wall but not before Briatore has another attack of " how dare you be more arrogant than me!" and fires the project leader of the winning team.  She then screams at her fellow teammates as they exit the boardroom, celebrating her big win.

I can't help but wonder if Italian Apprentice will make it to the final episode without a call from Trump, ordering Briatore to stop making a mockery of his business brainchild. Another arrogance war would surely erupt and Briatore would probably end up "fuori" himself, replaced by Italy's other arrogant, dodgy billionaire politician-businessman currently desperate to get back in the limelight.  And then goodness knows where the eventual winner of the series would end up working, hopefully not in
Billionaire prison.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Day Siberia Came to Rome

For those who wonder what a Mediterranean city looks like in the grip of a Siberian winter here are a few pictures taken today. Above is the view from my bedroom window in central Rome this morning.
The Tartaruga Fountain, where Gastrognome's parents fell in love at first sight in the heart of the Jewish Ghetto was extra romantic today with the turtles and nymphs frozen in time.

The bridge leading from the Jewish Ghetto to  Isola Tiberina, an island in the middle of the Tiber where many Romans are born in Fatebenefratelli (Do-Well Brothers) hospital funded by an order of Catholic priests. In the summer Romans and I stand on this bridge around midnight and watch films on the open air screen located behind it.

This is a Roman ruin situated in Largo Argentina but more importantly it is home to Rome's most famous and unofficial cat sanctuary.  Today not a moggy in sight! 

There's a cycle path under the snow but no bikes today, in the summer the trees make this route the coolest, shadiest way of getting from one end of the city centre to the other with a break for a lemon Grattachecca when you start overheating. You could make your own one today!
                                               No queue outside my local gelateria.

                                          No aperitivo on the neighbour's roof terrace then

   No open air piano recitals in the ruins of Teatro Marcello...

Compared to London, parking in the centre of Rome is remarkably fair. Most roads have blue parking bays along one side which function on a pay-and-display basis. Then on the opposite side the bays are white and parking is free, officially three hours so as long as you like.. Today nobody can tell the difference.

Most Romans have been on foot today as the Mayor of Rome announced that apart from taxis, cars could only be used with chains on the wheels. As a Briton, trying to be a Roman I have tried all day not to keep making comparisons between London and Rome but never in my life have I seen cars in central London with chains on their tyres when the tarmac is clearly visable....a slight over reaction...
                                             and then some came out with their skis....
 and much to the delight of all Roman motorists, nobody came out on their bikes, not even me! 
                                                           more snow has been forecast.....