Inter not yet!

Okay I thought they were kidding – two to six months to get ADSL installed! Impossible! But in Italy it appears the impossible is possible.

We have now been here for six weeks and we still don’t have an internet connection at home – nor will we for at least another two weeks. The process has been worthy of a Goldoni comedy without the masks – though I am now aware that sales and service people here all wear masks of one type or another.

A company called Mercurious has been offering to handle all our telecommunication needs here in Italy. Having been told of the horrors of dealing with Telecom Italia we decided that one stop shopping would be the best solution. Sergio – twentyish, compact, cutish and told by his mother since birth that he was the most wonderful boy in the world – assured us that in his hands we would experience only the finest in service. And would that mother’s son ever lie to us?

Let’s just say that Sergio sometime gets fact and fairy story confused.

Fact 1: There are four companies each offering six or seven plans depending on our needs.

Fairy Story 1: Fastweb (our choice) had a connection to our building and fiber optics was not a problem.

Fact 2: Decision made, unfortunately there was Ferragosto, when as much as he would like to take action our Sergio could not as everything was closed.

Fact 3: First week of September Sergio and the installer show up and thump walls and examine conduits then shake their head sadly.

Fact 4 and Fairy Story 2: The line into the apartment was owned by Telecom Italia and, Scuzi, but they would never allow an intrusion by a company dedicated to the destruction of one of Italy’s most beloved and efficient government services. I’ll let you decide where the fairy story is in that sentence.

Fairy Story 3: It could not be done that day because it would take three men to run the new line into the apartment.

Fact 5: Second week of September Sergio and another installer show up – giving lie to the three men story from the week before. Again much thumping of walls, unscrewing of conduit covers but, Gratia Deo, now some cable has appeared. Then they both disappear for 10 minutes. The installer returns and I desperately try and understand his explanation as to why it is not possible this time.

At this point Facts and Fairy Stories become intertwined and too numerous to count: Sergio returns and explains that there are only 10 connection boxes in the building and they are all in use. And there is no way to introduce fiber optics into the building in any case. And the line is registered to the Embassy and cannot be altered in any way. And, despite their status as a beloved and efficient government service, it will take Telecom Italia at least a year to run in another line. At that point mama’s wonderful boy is extremely lucky that I did not muss up his carefully arranged hair and mention why they say Roman boys drive big, fast cars – a fate almost worst than being forced out of your mother’s house!

At this moment a colleague of Laurent’s is trying to separate fact from fairy story and it looks like there just might be a solution. However I won’t count on anything until I do my first posting from home base – that six month figure looks like it may be a fact not a fairy story.

7 Settembre – Santa Regina

Parlo del pui del meno

  • There are several types of Police roaming around the street of Rome and Italy in general. I’ve already mentioned the Guardia di Finanze but we have at least four other Officers standing on guard for us. The Polizia Municipale (Municipal Police) who handle traffic and minor crimes in town, Commissariato di Pubblico Sicurezza (Commissariat of Public Safety) who investigate the big stuff like murders, robberies, kidnappings, the Carabinieri (National Police) whose duties seem vague but include guarding Embassies and National interests and the Polizia Stradale (Highway Police) who patrol the main highways. And wonder of wonders each department has its own bureaucratic organization to look after its concerns. Imagine my surprise when told that there is a good deal of in-fighting and territorial squabbling.
    29 Agosto – Martirio San Giovanni Battista
  • The North American way of death is generally unknown in Italy. Funeral homes, embalming, the three day laying-out have no part in how death is dealt with by most Italian families. Our friend Linda attended her husband’s cousin’s funeral earlier this week in one of the good-sized towns just outside Rome. The body had been washed and dressed by relatives, placed in a coffin in the main room of the family home, processed to the church for a requiem and interred – all within two days. The few flowers around the coffin were highly fragrant – Linda says for the obvious reason. The women in town, and a few of the men, had cooked for the family and would do so for a day or two after – allowing the family home and hearth to be returned to normal. Laurent’s grandfather was an undertaker in Montreal back between the two Great Wars and he remembers him saying that embalming was only for the rich. From what I recall of the cost of my mother’s funeral I would say today in North America it is for the rich or the well-insured but I’m still not sure I could handle the Italian way of death.
    30 Agosto – Santa Faustina
  • One thing I’ve noticed on the bus in the mornings is that almost no one is attached to an I-Pod or MP3 player. Nor is it a common sight on the street. I asked one of my teachers about it. “It is so anti-social,” Simone stated with a small shudder that summed up her distain for anything so barbaric. And after watching the four women – in three different rows – having an animated discussion on the bus yesterday I think she may have a point. How would they have settled the question about the ugly boots (Gladiator strap black stilettos) the woman who just got off was wearing if they were plugged into the Best of Eros?
    1 Settembre – San Egidio
  • The two gypsy women (see below) have not been at our main intersection the past few days – I figured it just wasn’t a very profitable stretch so they had moved on. But a friend tells me that, starting this week, squeegee people are facing a Euro 900 fine (around 1300.00 Canadian) or three months in jail if arrested. Of course most of them don’t have the 900, so jail it is! Problem is that Italian jails are overcrowded as it is and as year end approaches there is a suspicion that three months free room and board may be better than washing car windows on the damp, chilly winter streets of Rome.
    6 Settembre – San Umberto

Inconsistent Consistencies

Aurelian Walls
Aurelian Walls The Aurelian Walls were built to define the boundries of Ancient Rome.
Porte PiaMichelangelo’s last great work for Pius IV.

Every morning as I head to school through the Aurelian Wall at Porte Pia (and when did I ever think I would write a sentence like that) I am struck by how inconsistently consistent things are in Rome. From day to day things can be very much the same and yet entirely different.

The Number 36 bus at 0845 in the morning can be standing room only or half empty when it reaches my stop. Now that everyone has returned to the city bottle necks are a morning traffic given – but one morning it can be at Via Zara another at Porte Pie and a third at Santa Susanna. I can be almost alone walking down Via Nazionale at 0910 or in the middle of gaggles of tourists and Romans heading to work. My morning Cappuccino at 0920 can be a solitary enjoyment or I can be surrounded by Polizia from the station next door to the school.

Every morning an old beggar man sits on the top step at Santa Maria della Victoria – except once a week it is an old woman and it’s never the same day of the week. The beggars working Via Nazionale are always the same – and not even in the Middle East, have I seen such open displays of severed limbs and diseased bodies – but they change street corners from day to day and sometimes even during the day. And the two gypsy squeegee woman at the intersection of Via Asmara and Via Nomentana (the main intersection nearest the apartment) can be counted on to be there every morning but even they switch corners on a daily basis.

Perhaps I am just noticing these things because I come from a small government town where everything was pretty much the same from morning commute to morning commute – same people on the bus, same beggar on Lyon Street, same bus driver etc. But it does make the time go by on that fifteen or twenty or maybe forty minute stand or sometimes sit on the bus.

4 Settembre – Santa Rosalia

Sicilian Sweets

Last Sunday – Agosto 26 San Italo – we headed down to the Feltrinelli International Bookstore just near Piazza della Repubblica. There are two Feltrinelli shops – the regular, un-air-conditioned branch for hardy Italians who could stand the reportedly 43c heat and the International air-conditioned branch for wimpy foreigners. Being in the later class we did a quick run through of the former and a long visit to the later.

Amongst the treasures we picked up for a mere 135 Euros (books are expensive everywhere): Gambero Rosso’s 1000 page 2007 guide to Italian wines, their 2007 guide to family run osterie and trattorie for Italy, Beppe Severgnini’s La Bella Figura – a very funny take on Italy and Italians, Ancient Rome on Five Dinarii a Day, some maps and a few guide books so we can sound moderately intelligent when giving friends the guided tour. By the time we had finished the store was closing to give the staff a lunch break – 1330-1600 – and we were getting a bit peckish ourselves.

Fortunately just around the corner in an (un-air-conditioned but trendy) arcade is Dagnino, a Sicilian purveyor of foods, wines, sweets and pastries. Two prosciutto-cheese toast, two glasses of real ice tea and two granitas (one almond-one lemon) later we felt up to seeing what goodies where on offer inside.
Marzipan fruit
Marzipan fruit
Marzipan fruit
Marzipan Fruit
Aside from these incredible marzipan fruits, there were Turkish Delight of every possible flavor, mascarpone-filled cannoli, pastries, 35 types of gelato, Almond wine, a goodly supply of very expensive Sicilian wines and various preserves – sweet and savory. It was hard to resist buying, what are reputedly the best, cannoli to take home but in that heat it would have had to be eaten on the spot. Just wait until the car arrives next month – Sicilian cannoli for breakfast, lunch and dinner.


To get into our complex – Villa Nomentana – you have to get past the Portero, have the key for the front gate, the key for the building and two keys for the main entrance to the apartment. Should you make it that far and decide to leave by the service entrance you are faced with this:
Overkill or what?
Is it me or does that just seem a bit like overkill? Or maybe there’s something about the neighbourhood we don’t know!

25 agosto – San Luigi di Franschi