Saturday, February 23, 2013

And the Oscar doesn't go to Oscar...

So which International social secretary of the universe scheduled the Oscars and the Italian Election on
the same day of the year? One with a hilarious sense of humour I believe. Voting will begin here in Rome on Sunday using state schools as voting stations. State schools will then be closed for a week for disinfestation while Romans go skiing until next weekend. In the meantime,  the new Prime Minster will move into his new palazzo and the world will congratulate the creators of Lincoln no doubt.  This is how things are done in Rome.  The Italian election has already had its "Oscar" action this week as one of the many many candidates Oscar Giannino, owner of a handsome handlebar moustache was removed from the race for pretending he had 2 degrees when in fact he had zero. I guess he wishes he hadn't exaggerated now..

Friday, January 25, 2013

Berlie and the Chocolate Factory

Living in Rome makes it impossible to ignore a forthcoming election given that this is where it is 
all happening. As the big day gets closer, more posters of politicians are being pasted on every public vertical surface known to man. My particular favourite is over the bus route maps so I can stand at a bus stop and enjoy the surprise of not knowing which bus will arrive or where it will take me for that matter. Every day the posters increase as the politicians fall out with each other and invent yet more parties. I believe there are more political parties competing for the title this year than varieties of short dried  pasta available in my local supermarket. There's even a woman, I hear she's a fascist but from what I have understood that just means she shaves and doesn't wear long hand-knitted scarves unlike her opponents at the other end of the political jousting pole.  My money is on Bersani, the James Taylor lookalike, but I'm likely to be disappointed when he gets into power and we end up hearing the same old tune, "Shower the rich people you love with money!" 

Last Sunday, to escape the endless political TV debates which Gastrognome sits glued to, I suggested
we visited a chocolate factory. After nearly a year of peace from Berlusconi, now he seems to be 
everywhere again like some performing play-dough garden gnome , tacky and inappropriate but
 still as popular as ever. At least we could finally escape him at the chocolate factory. Anyone with a 
chocolate addiction who visits Rome should hop on a 492 bus at Largo Argentina and head to SAID
in San Lorenzo. When you jump off the bus, the surrounding area is pretty dull and you can bet 
everyone walking around is on their way to SAID because when you get there, you will find it packed, especially late on a Sunday afternoon when you may have to queue for a table. The chocolate and cakes are delicious, the presentation is so beautiful, if I bought a box of chocolates, I would probably never eat them. (Likely!) I hear the white hot chocolate is delicious but we went for a traditional hot chocolate, so thick your spoon can stand up in it and you can scrape messages of love into the chocolate residue left on the cup when you have finished. Divine.  I can't wait to go back and taste more chocolates and next time, I'll see if I can find a nice big chocolate toffee to shut Berlie up with for good.   

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Twinkly Matera and Calabrian Chocolate Truffles

  • If you haven't seen the Nativity in St Peter's Square yet, it's still there for a few more weeks
  • with the Christmas Tree too. The queues might be shorter now and if the snow comes like
  • last year it could be a magical sight. The Nativity lighting changes, taking you from dusk
  • till dawn. The village is based on the town of Matera in Basilicata. As the sun goes down,
  • lights start to twinkle in the windows and a star shoots across the sky.

  • Then after I recommend dinner at Falcone, a pizzeria, restaurant two minutes walk from
  • Cipro metro (not to be confused with Antico Falcone). Pizza is delicious, homemade
  • chocolate tartufo from Calabria, quiet and nice waiters. If you are staying near the
  • Vatican, it's close but you'll never find it so either go to Cipro metro and ask someone or get a
  •  taxi to take you there.  Delicious food, normal prices and no arrogant waiters.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Shaming with the Big Sandwich

A giant sandwich appeared outside the Rome mayor's office in Piazza del Campidoglio on 6 January, designed to reignite the debate around the so-called "anti-panino" law that banned eating on the streets of the city's historic centre.

Police quickly ordered the removal of the enormous rosetta stuffed with mortadella but not before the artwork by Iginio De Luca received applause and was photographed by scores of bemused passersby. It is the latest provocative act by the performance artist who made a name by projecting the film "Ladro lui, ladra lei" (Thief him, thief her) on the fa├žade of the Regione Lazio building in the aftermath of the "Batman affair" involving the misappropriation of funds by regional councillor Franco Fiorito, as well as flying a small plane over the city's ringroad in 2011 with the banner reading "Farsa Italy" (Farce Italy).

The contentious anti-panino legislation was introduced last October, leading to numerous protests including a sandwich-eating flash mob at the Campidoglio which Alemanno dismissed as "hippy". The mayor later clarified that the law was aimed more at people camping out, rather than eating, in areas "of particular historical, artistic, architectural and cultural heritage" within Rome's centro storico.

This is an article printed in Wanted in Rome, not written by Alice

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.....


Saturday, August 13, 2011

It's The Result That Counts!

Eight months in and the ghost of my New Year’s resolution is mocking me yet again as the power shorts out in my apartment. Last New Year’s Eve while savouring a wedge of vegetarian haggis, I resolved to improve my efficiency in 2011. Evidently the gelid Edinburgh wind had brought on an attack of the perverse given that this planned increase in personal productivity was being scheduled to take place in what many conceive to be the most inefficient 580 square miles in our solar system, otherwise known as Rome. Rome, the Eternal city, where one can’t stand in one’s nightie, toasting bread under a grill while simultaneously boiling a kettle to make a cup of tea without turning one’s fusebox into firework display. This could explain why most Romans choose to stand in a bar and eat breakfast. (see above!)

As I flick the power back on and unplug the kettle, I consider more deeply a population which thinks well-run only applies to marathons, and streamline to fast red cars. Multi-tasking is viewed as a suspicious practice involving slight of hand and time-saving devices are more mythical than the Lord of the Rings: it took me years to track down self-raising flour, unaware that as a result of the time saving properties found in the supernatural mixture of flour and yeast it goes by the name of “magic flour” in these parts. I switch off the grill and as I plug in the kettle, I remember enthusiastically buying it then shortly after, back at home, throwing myself deflated onto the shredded packaging when informed I should have also bought a “presa Siemens” adapter as Roman plugs don’t necessarily fit Roman plug sockets. I also remember on the same shopping trip the look on the tobacconist’s face, handing me a tube of glue as I spat out the pieces of a non self-adhesive postage stamp which hadn't responded to licking and I can still hear the inconvenienced tone of the pharmacist’s voice, intermittently recommending cough mixtures whilst balancing on her lover’s knee.

As I finally sit down to my breakfast, it dawns on me that unless I stop exaggerating the importance of reaching a goal without wasting time or getting sidetracked by pleasure, I will always stand out as a Briton. As a new Roman I must focus on glorious results and not foolish timekeeping. It’s doubtful Michelangelo was ever scolded by a Pope for dithering over the Sistine Chapel ceiling, for sure Turner could have wrapped it up in half the time had he been sent up the ladder. But who cares. The result is there for all to marvel over and in the end my toast with Frank Cooper's Fine Cut Oxford marmalade was a triumph and now I’m running hideously behind but perfectly in sync with the rest of Rome. Result!