Wednesday, March 16, 2011

il Trucco di Primavera

Spring make-up...  I am seeing a lot of colored eyeshadow in Italy this season.  The look is a bold sweep of color right on the browbone and it is actually pretty.  This is not a look just for evening.  I'm seeing it mostly during the day.  Would you ever be brave enough to try it?  I might but I'm not sure I have the time in the morning to be so artistic.

image credit

Friday, March 11, 2011

Fare la Spesa

This is not a glamorous post, but something I think is brilliant.  Locked shopping carts.  Here, all the shopping carts are locked in the parking lot (much like luggage carts in the airport).  To get a cart, you put in a euro and unlock the cart.  When you return the cart, you get your euro back.  I think it is the best idea because guess what, everyone wants their euro back so everyone returns their cart.  The stores don't have to hire anyone to gather the carts in the parking lot, and there are no loose carts blocking parking spaces or rolling into cars.  Also, if you only need a few things and choose not to get a cart, you can truly only buy a few things because the carts are all the way in the parking lot.  No impulse buys.

While we are talking about the glamorous task of grocery shopping, another Italian way I would love to see in the States is this:  you have to pay for all your grocery bags.  Amazingly, as soon as I am forced to pay 5 or 10 cents for every plasitc bag, all of a sudden I am a great environmentalist.  Now I bring my own bags, or when I forget my bags, I cram everything into just a few bags.  

However, I do really miss baggers.  Here you bag your own groceries which is way more stressful than it sounds.  I must bag my own groceries while trying to have a conversation in Italian and pay for the groceries at the same time, while the people in line behind me get more and more impatient.  I have often come home with produce crushed by the bottles of wine I threw on top of it or shampoo leaking into the pasta.  Perhaps I should have paid for an extra bag for that shampoo...

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

La Bella Figura

La Bella Figura.  The literal translation is "the beautiful figure" but it really means always putting your best foot forward.  In the Italian culture, there is a huge emphasis on looking your best, but it is even more than that. It is really a way of life.  This is a great article that, in my opinion, perfectly describes "La Bella Figura"

I agree with the writer of the article that it is difficult to compete with the perfectly elegant Italians, BUT I think I have figured out part of the secret.  BLATANLY HONEST SALESPEOPLE.  I have found none of the fluff that you experience in the States.  Here, if it looks bad, they tell you.  A few examples...

I received a gorgeous caramel colored leather skirt for Christmas but had nothing to wear with it.  I took it to a shop and picked out a few ivory sweaters to try with it.  When the saleslady asked if I need help, I said in my caveman Italian "yes this was a gift and I need something to go with it.  I am trying ivory."  She amazing understood my Italian and smiled and firmly said, "NO.  BEIGE."  She put away the ivory sweaters pulled out the beige and she was right.  They looked 100% better with the color of the skirt.

At my favorite shoe store, the saleslady is so honest, I won't buy anything without asking her opinion first.  Often, her suggestions are even the lower priced shoes.  She even was bossy to my husband, but his shoes look great.

At the salon, I asked for a shorter cut for my three year old and they refused.  They said because he still has so little hair, it wouldn't look good.  At my salon in America, they would have done whatever I asked and cut it right off.

I could go on and on, but I truly think that part of the reason Italians look so great is that they have help.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Giorno Mio (My Day)

Sorry I've been missing for so long.  Things have been rather regular around here with nothing new to blog about.  After a year and a half here, Italy seems like just normal life.  (Although a great life!)

Here's a day in the life...

8:30:  take kids to school on the bike.  We are late because it is Monday and we couldn't get it together in time.  Luckily, this is Italy and there is no school bell that rings.  When we show up (10 minutes after school starts) I realize everyone else is late too.  Whew.

8:45:  cappuccino and brioshe at my favorite bar (cafe).

9:30: walking and browsing Monday market (outdoor market with vendors selling everything from underwear to fresh vegetables to vintage furs... seriously.)  I bought 2 huge ceramic vases (perhaps for umbrellas) and a huge ceramic pedestal bowl.  Then I realized I couldn't get home with them.  Left them at the vendor and decided to try to bring the car back.

11:00: stop by my favorite antique dealer's store on the way home.  We get a sneak peek at his new location.  He just locks up his store and we walk down the street to check out his new store.  We say something about how his house must be beautiful with all these antiques.  He tells us that in his house he has only art deco furnishings.  Everyone in Italy (even antique restorers) love the modern things.  I can't imagine it, but I guess they are tired of all the old.

11:30:  I squeeze the car out of the parking lot and head back to the market.  We can't get anywhere near my vases.  Cars are prohibited because of the market and polizia are blocking the street.  We end up pleading (and smiling a lot) with one of the police and he lets us through.  I have learned that in Italy, everything is negotiable.  We park kind of close but still have to walk a several blocks carrying these really, really heavy ceramics.  No wonder they were a good deal.

12:30  Back at home to catch up on the mundane things of life.  This afternoon is a meeting in school, mostly in Italian.  It should be great practice for my Italian, but honestly, after 20 minutes of listening I get a headache.  I don't know how my children do it all day long.