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‘E’ difficile’

During university I had the great fortune of living right above a Venetian canal. The apartment’s floor was uneven in places and its mosaics rippled as if someone were slowly pulling them from under your feet. There were high gothic windows and the sound of boats knocking together

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‘Una razza morente’

When my up-stairs neighbour finds an article she thinks I can’t live without reading, she tapes it to a packaged merendina snack and throws it at my head as I pass under her window. Not a photocopy, the original. Signora Norma never worries about keeping information for

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‘Compiere gli anni’

If you want to have many birthdays, live in Italy. Together with Japan, Italy boasts the longest life span in the world. Thirty-six paid vacation days a year and the Mediterranean diet are probably partly responsible. Frequent art-filled walks and friendly piazza talks may also have something to

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‘Arriviamo al punto’

English speakers follow a straight line; Italians talk in circles. If you engage in intercultural communication on a daily basis, this is something you probably already know, but possibly have never thought about. So let’s think about it now, shall we?   I’ll start by saying

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Prego

If the Italian language is a locked door that you’re still struggling to open, then I’ve come to bring you the key. No matter how many subjunctive verbs your language teachers want to fill your brains with, all you really need to get by in this

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‘Avere fegato’

I'd been recently hired by a Tuscan regional association whose goal was to provide youth services and career training to young Italians who wanted to become more desirable candidates for the international job market. During a workshop on writing resumes my student, Claudio, raised his hand to adamantly proclaim

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‘La politica cosa sporca’

Sitting on the terrace in Chianti, happy as a clam, I was enjoying my first meal al fresco in eight months. It was my friend Edoardo’s birthday, and the spring air was crisp and the company warm. Then suddenly the winds changed.   “So, the government has

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Foreigners get the vote

The political scene is heating up here in Italy as the countdown begins for the 2006 elections. The convoluted debates, internal factioning, and heavy accusations, have already begun as candidates and their parties begin vying for voter’s support to win the next 5-year run as Prime Minister.

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‘Non si fa’

Italians, as a race, are fairly relaxed. They will not obsess about politically correct word choice or nit-pick about pseudo moral dilemmas. They have great capacity to put things in perspective and avoid unnecessary fuss. But there are some things that you cannot do in Italy. Some things that

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‘Il conto per favore’

“Il conto per favore.” That’s how you ask for the bill in Italian. And now that you know, you might as well forget it. It’s not worth your brain space. ...

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‘Fare lo shopping’

There are many advantages to shopping in Italy. Everyone knows that for high quality and chic designer clothes this is the place to buy. Besides, you will almost always come away with more than you bargained for, at least culturally speaking. One morning of healthy Italian shopping will teach you

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‘Un popolo timido’,

If you really want to make an Italian squirm, politely listen to what he has to say. Sit with your hands in your lap and nod attentively after each of his emphatic affirmations. For an Italian, there is no worse scenario. Why? Because Italians are fundamentally shy. “Siamo un

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‘Gli Azzurri’

W hen gli Azzurri, the Italian National Football team, are together on the field, Italy’s citizens call themselves Italian. Other times they are veneziani, fiorentini, romani, o siciliani. Other times they walk their regional walk and talk their regional talk. But when those blue-shirted fellows step

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The ‘Grassroots Mission’ of the U.S. Consulate

Most people who have spent some time in Florence are aware of the existence of the U.S. Consulate here. Some may have even used it for official reasons; for reporting lost passports, obtaining visas for entry into the U.S., for voting abroad in U.S. elections, etc. Or,

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‘Uno dev’essere sveglio’

Amongst the innumerable laws that crowd the Italian constitution, I’m told there’s one about pedestrians having the right of way. I, however, have never seen it happen in real life. ...

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‘Entrata Libera’

The shoppers who flock to Florence from all over the world come with the strange misconception that shopping in Italy is fun. Armani’s class, Ferragamo’s craftsmanship, a bit of Versace sparkle, and a dash of Valentino red might make you think so. Fun, however, is not

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‘Gli Italiani parlano con le mani’

Elena is twenty-five and has been for the past five years. She was born six years younger than her brother and I but stayed younger only until she learned to talk. We call those the good old days. Elena is what Italians call una pepperina. It means she has

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‘Anche il calcio dev’essere bello’

It was Sunday afternoon and we were sitting around watching soccer. Actually, we were sitting around watching people watch soccer. “Quelli che il calcio, Those Who Soccer” is one of Italy’s best loved programs and an absolute bore. The real matches are only shown on cable

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‘Gente Simpatica’

It’s day five of their education abroad adventure in Florence, and my students are worried. Overseas for the charm of glossy exported Italianness, most are shocked to discover that the Italians they’ve encountered in the bars, banks, and Benettons throughout the city are as expressive as

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June in tuscany

June is a magical month in Tuscany.  The nights are alive with a thousand noises, lights, and scents.  This atmosphere is well caught in the Pfeiffer-Everett film of A Midsummer Night?s Dream, shot in Italy.  June is the month of midsummer, when Tuscan days are

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Everybody outdoors

If you are anything like me you will have taken a look through your Florence guidebook on the flight over. Trying to be ‘good,’ I start with the section about the history of the city, but eventually the temptation to skip straight to the section on shopping or

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‘Raccomandato’,

Some say that to get a good cup of coffee in Italy, you need to be friends with the barman. It is also said that to get hired in this country you have to be friends with the boss. Well, maybe you don’t have to be friends exactly,

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‘La Familiarit’

If you want to be successful in Italy, get yourself a newsagent. Mine is called Matteo. He sells papers, but his news is free because he sees it as his duty to tell you everything you need to know. Should you try the new trattoria in Porta Romana? Should you

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‘La vergogna’,

It was martedì grasso, fat Tuesday, and there we sat, thinking of how good we would have to be over the next forty days. My aunt Donata had made fritelle, deep-fried fritters with pine nuts and candied fruit, that come from two weeks of the old people nagging

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