Friday, July 1, 2016

How to Drive in Italy

There is a very nice story today from NPR about getting an Italian driver's license. You should read it, especially if you are an American living in Italy or thinking about driving here.

The long and the short of it is this: if you live in Italy more than a year, you MUST have an Italian driver's license. Lots of people used to get away with not doing this, but lately people are getting HUGE FINES for driving here without the proper translated document. To get that international driver's license you have to plan ahead. Here is a website where you can apply for one. 

This is just a translation of your driver's license, but it's more official, because it also has a picture of you, I suppose. By itself it means nothing. It must be accompanied by your VALID US license and a passport. It generally takes 4-6 weeks to get one. I checked with the local police here, and they do not accept any other documents for American drivers, so, if you want to drive, get one or take the bus.

If you are a permanent resident in Italy, on the other hand, I suggest you suck it up and take the course sooner rather than later!

Yes, I know, I know, you have been driving since you were 16, blah blah blah and  I know how BELOW you it is to have to take driver's ed again, I know I know. I feel your pain. I was once where you are now.

Now shake it off, dry off the tears, and sign up.

A couple of things for you to know.

1. You can't do it on your own, even if you *technically* can

You will want to save money, hassle, and embarassment by studying on your own, but it doesn't work that way, my friend.

For one, the test is goddamn hard. Impossible. Crazy. Trick questions, strange language, wacko. You will need the help of a professional to show you the right approach to the written part.

Then there is the fact that driving schools produce drivers, but it often feels as if the whole testing bit is rigged. Meaning, if you are in a school, you WILL pass the exam. If you are not, you probably will not pass. I could write a book on this whole strange and complicated relationship between the instructors and the examiners, but the thought gives me a mild case of the tremors.

2. It is expensive, but you really do learn a lot!

The theory classes are one thing (I urge you to attend them), and they continue all year long, you jump in where you want, do all the lessons and then it starts over like a Merry-go-round. People jump on and off when they need to. It's actually pretty clever.

Then you have to do a minimum of hours behind the wheel with an instructor. I had to do six. It was helpful. My teacher actually explained how to park. I had never thought about it. And his explanation means that I can get into ANY car, not just mine, and park it like a pro (well, maybe that is going a little too far).

Imagine learning how to drive AGAIN NOW knowing everything you know. You may be pretty good, at driving in the States, but, seriously? Even a monkey can drive in the States. Italy is a totally different party, Dears.

For most of us, when we learn to drive at age 16, we are just trying to get the machine to move and stay on course (the car I used for my driving test did not have power steering, by the way!).

Now, you can go all Formula 1 if you want to. I became a better driver the second time around. Really.

3. Drver's Ed in Italy gives you a window into the Italian mind.

Sometimes it is not pretty, but it is interesting anyway.

4. Rules here are different and your eyes look in all the wrong places.

It takes some getting used to. The first time I realized that I would have too look to the side instead of ahead and to the right to see a stoplight, it was a little disconcerting.

5. It can help your Triestino.

I got really good at Triestino by taking driver's ed class in Trieste. It didn't matter that most of the students were foreign. The teacher taught in Triestine the whole time. Fascinating.

6. The first year you get your license you have certain rules you have to follow like:

zero tolerance for alcohol.
you can't go over 100 kph
you can't drive cars that have too much power

In fact, that first year is a real pain.

So yes, I know you are a good driver, but do this ASAP. Get it out of the way. You can even do it at 7:00 in the morning if you want.

That is what I did. Then at 7:30, when I was free and legal, I hit a bus.
No one was hurt.
But, don't do that.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

I do not speak G.O.T.

My family was here visiting; hence my absence. It was an interesting cultural excercise in how illiterate I have become about American culture. I am not keeping up. Even the late arrival of Netflix to my house was not enough to bridge the gap. See, I hate to admit this, but, I do not watch Game of Thrones. This meant that I missed a lot of jokes and references and generally spoke English about halfway and felt like unfrozen cavegirl trying to make it through a day. It wasn't pretty. It was kind of like showing up to a party and seeing how drunk your friends are. You are kind of envious of them, kind of embarassed for them, you realize that under normal circumstances you would be one of them.

But this time you are not. And so instead of having a BLAST, you are bored.

That is what NOT watching Game of Thrones was like for me. There were some who were caught up for the finale, which I guess is today (from the text messages I have been witnessing), others who couldn't wait to get home from Italy to have their G.O.T.-watching marathon.

So I have two questions:

1. Where do they find the time to watch so much t.v.??

I can't be certain, but from my experience over the last couple of weeks, I am guessing that having a car gives you more time to watch t.v.

2. But then how do they get their 10,000 steps in?

Because everyone had some kind of wrist accessory that told them how many steps they were doing and if they did less than 10,000 that meant they were losers. Yet, no one wanted to walk anywhere because it was hot and everything was ten minutes away.

June was a GREAT month for Triestine taxi drivers, I think.

Other than that, there are lots of other things I am behind on, too, and now I have to decide if it is worth trying to get fluent in them.

I will update you on that one.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Rainbow Flags in Trieste

My brother, who is visiting, commented on the support the Italians have been showing for the victims of Orlando. He was particularly surprised by the fact that in Florence there was a rainbow flag flying on a government building to show support. He said "That would never happen in the States."

Last night in Piazza Antonio they held what they call here a "Manifestazione" to mourn the victims of the Orlando shooting. They laid a giant rainbow flag on the ground just in front of the Church of Sant'Antonio and they surrounded it by candles.

It created an interesting effect. It was nighttime, and the feeling was quiet and respectful, but people were meeting together who were happy to see each other, others maybe hadn't seen each other for a while. Once in a while you would see people just staring at the flag and thinking.

The Arcigay group of Trieste put together the event in just a couple of days. It was impressive how they were able to come up with this thoughtful way of showing solidarity. I was proud to be there and to have my American family there with me to see it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Plugs in Trieste

Can we talk about electricity for a minute here? It is important, yes, I understand that. You need to plug in your phone, your computer, etc. No big deal. Adapter on the end will do fine. Easy peasy.

But what is it about Americans and their HAIR DRYERS? People still use those things? Even when it's thousands of degrees outside?? The idea makes my pits sweat.

If you need a hair dryer, please do not bring your own from home. As far as I know, it is the ONE way you can truly blow out the fuses of the entire block of  where you are staying. Don't do it.

By the way, if you need a hair dryer, you probably just have the wrong haircut. I feel the same about ironing. If you need to iron clothes, then you are buying the wrong clothes!!

Here is what the plugs look like here, so you can plan, however.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Gearing up for the Family Reunion

I am so happy that My Family is coming to visit me this week in Trieste. It is the best kind of Birthday Gift a girl could ask for.

By the way, my Birthday is Friday. Don't forget to wish me happy birthday. Don't worry, I will remind you again Thursday.

They are not coming for my birthday, actually. We decided on this weekend because in America it is Father's Day on Sunday, and that is an easy day to remember, and agree on, especially when you decide two years ahead of time.

I will keep you updated on this great event. Especially on our dramatically radical idea NOT to wear the same thing for our family portrait. (Will they take away our American Passports for this transgression? Will the Khaki pants and white button-down shirt Gods strike us down? We will find out on Sunday).

I am off to the Station to Pick up the FIRST ROUND of guests.


Creepy Dude of the Day Says

Let me just get up all in your face for a minute.
Who are YOU calling Creepy?!

I Miss Bare Feet

When school gets out in the States, there is a collective sigh, and then everyone takes their shoes off until September.

Everything feels better with bare feet: grass, sand, even hot pavement is no big deal once your feet are bare for about a week.

Flip flops should be handy just in case, but no shoes is the way to go.

Italians always have something on their feet. Shoes, slippers, sandals. They have good reason. The only country with more dogs per capita is probably France, and I wouldn't go barefoot there either.

Even in places where you would absolutely WANT to go barefoot here, like the Carso, most people will not, because of TICKS. They are gross little guys to be avoided, so even I wear shoes in the Carso.

There is one place with untainted grass. This means there are no dogs and no wild boars or deers or other animals who attract ticks.

The Soccer stadium. We were there yesterday to cheer on the runners of the 66th Annual Giro di San Giacomo. After it was over we played on the grass. We took off our shoes, and we took a selfie.

Welcome, Summer.