Wednesday, July 09, 2008

More Italian advice

Pop quiz. Read the following comment and then choose the correct answer.

"Go! Go! Go! They will never stop for you! You just must take a chance and go!"

A. Advice on how best to live life to the fullest.
B. Boarderline suicidial advice on how to cross a street in Italy.
C. All of the above.

If you answered C, then you win the prize. That advice was given to us the other day when we were on tour and trying to cross a street. Our tour guide practically started shoving people into the middle of the street, hoping that cars would stop for those pediestrians and that the rest of us would be brave enough to follow.

We really are liking Italy, but there are always small complaints. We try very hard not to be ugly tourists, complaining that Italy is not like where we are from. I heard a couple the other day get upset because she was asking for orange soda and the waiter kept saying "Fanta?", which is orange soda, but she kept getting madder with him, thinking Fanta must be some strnage Italian word she never heard of before.

Ye gods...

Anyway, if I have three complaints, it is these.

1. Charging to sit at a table and eat a meal. Rather annoying. I suspect the hospitality industry in North America would fold quickly if you had to pay for the pleasure of sitting down.
2. Many public toilets are pay ones. Anywhere from .50 to 1 euro. Actually saw the most redundent position in all of Italy today. Two security guards standing to protect the machine that takes the money to allow you into a washroom. I wonder if the washroom makes enough money to pay for the guards and the people who clean it? Pay toilets mostly went away in the 70s in Canada. Would not be a bad idea if the same happened here.
3. Charging more than 1 euro for 500ml of water. When caught short and desperate near the Vatican, we actually paid 2.50 euro (about $3.30 Can) for a bottle. I can only hope the pop waved his hand over it at some point. Seriously, charging that much for water should be an act of terrorism or something. If they want to gouge away on soft drinks, no problem. But water?

Funny story...on tour in Tuscany and waiting for the bus, I popped into a supermarket and bought 1.5L of water for .31 euros. I was laughing as I hit the bus stop at how cheap the water was and how badly gouged we had been other times. One lady, after hearing the price yelled "do not let the bus leave!" and bolted for the supermarket, buying three bottles and throwing a euro at the cashier as she ran through the place.

Anyway, off to Venice tomorrow. Cathy has low expectations, figuring it will be like Pisa. I have slightly higher hopes, but we shall see.



Way Way Up said...

I hear you on the "pay to pee" thing here. I learned some important lessons last year that have made a world of difference for this trip.

Jackie S. Quire said...

My observations on your observations.

1.) Agreed. This only happened to us (I think) once in Greece. And I was so annoyed. Uhhh... excuse me? We are paying for food, AND drinks... there is no excuse to have to pay for the table too. I could understand maybe if we were just having water, or a cheap bevvie of some sort... but totally out of line.

2.) I get angsty about pay washrooms too. France/Paris is the absolute WORST for that. Didn't see any in Greece though... to my relief... but then they don't let you flush toilet paper in Greece either, so maybe the nasty experience of having to fold up used toilet paper and stick it in the garbage can is payment enough.

3.) I always marvel at how cheap you can get water for in Europe. When I lived in France I got used to picking up the large bottles for something like .19 Euros (less than 50 cents for you Canucks). At the little street-vendors across Greece you would spend about .50 euros for the small bottle... and then you come up here and spend like 19 bucks for a cooler-bottle?

Grr. Nothing like gouging people for what should ACTUALLY be free. As far as I'm concerned they should be charging for the BOTTLE not the liquid inside.

*step off soapbox*

In Iqaluit said...

OK, this is mt last Bill Bryson excerpt, I promise! From his book Neither Here Nor There:

"For a week, I just walked and walked. And when I tired I sat with a coffee or sunned myself on a bench, until I was ready to walk again.

Having said this, Rome is not an especially good city for walking. For one thing, there is the constant danger that you will be run over. Zebra crossings count for nothing in Rome, which is not unexpected but takes some getting used to. It is a shock to be strolling across some expansive boulevard, lost in an idle fantasy involving Ornella Muti and a vat of Jell-O, when suddenly it dawns on you that the six lanes of cars bearing down on you have no intention of stopping.

It isn't that they want to hit you, as they do in Paris, but they just will hit you. This is partly because Italian drivers pay no attention to anything happening on the road ahead of them. They are too busy tooting their horns, gesticulating wildly, preventing other vehicles from cutting into their lane, making love, smacking the children in the back seat and eating a sandwich the size of a baseball bat, often all at once. So the first time they are likely to notice you is in the rear-view mirror as something lying on the road behind them.

Even if they do see you, they won't stop. There is nothing personal in this. It's just that if something is in the way they must move it, whether it is a telephone pole or a visitor from the Middle West. The only exception to this is nuns. Even Roman drivers won't hit a nun - you see groups of them breezing across eight-lane arteries with the most amazing impunity, like scraps of black and white paper borne along by the wind - so if you wish to cross some busy place like the Piazza Venezia your only hope is to wait for some nuns to come along and stick to them like a sweaty T-shirt."