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The REAL Rules You Need to Know – Driving in Italy

17 Jan

I am very fortunate that I don’t actually need to drive in Italy since I have my own dashing Italian chauffeur boyfriend. However, being a passenger has provided me with a front seat view of what drivers in Italy really need to know.  Sure, maybe that international driver’s permit will give you a sheen of legality — but these are the true moves you need to know to get you from point A to B.

1) The Wedge* – Trying to make a left hand turn onto a busy road?  Forget waiting until there is space for you to enter. What you need to do is slowly wedge your car in front of the oncoming lane on traffic.  Yield to super aggressive drivers, but otherwise keep on creeping  your nose out until you’ve essentially blocked both lanes of traffic and  have clearance to go.  People might give you “stinkeye,” but don’t feel bad – everyone does it all the time, and it’s probably the only way you’ll ever leave a driveway.

*Can also be done in reverse!

2) The Straddle – This move finds you driving for long periods of time, straddling the middle line between 2 lanes.  The purpose of this move is unclear to me, but it must be super important since everyone does it, all the time.

3) The Strategic Double Park – Why bother looking for a parking place when you can just park wherever? This move requires nerves of steel and the ability to analyze a parked car’s owner’s motives.  Are they there for the long haul or could they reappear in a moment?  This also requires an appropriately contrite or righteously indignant response depending on the demeanor and/or hotness of the person whom you’ve blocked in.

4) The Highway Reverse – Take the wrong entrance onto the highway?  No problem.  Just reverse on the shoulder and back out of it.  Italians must have learned this from Minneapolis drivers.

5) The Hands Free – How else are you going to talk on your phone and smoke at the same time?  Or convey your heartfelt feelings to your fellow drivers? Better learn to drive with your hands in the air.

6) The Robert Langdon (aka Symbologist) – So you can figure out where this:

Italian road signs

…and this:

Italy Road sign 1

Courtesy FIA Europe Bureau

…will take you.

7) The Sheep Dodge – Just because you are 15 minutes from a city boundary doesn’t mean you won’t encounter local fauna.  My advice?  Relax and take pictures!

Experiencing Rome through the eyes of an Artist (me!) on a Sketching Tour

7 Jun

You know when you visit a place that is so vivid – so wonderful – that merely being there isn’t enough?  You want to drink it up, breathe it in, become a part of its fabric, internalize it somehow into the core of your DNA…Rome is certainly one of those places.  And no matter how much time you spend here, it’s hard not to feel constantly amazed at the sheer fabulousness of the city.

One sunny morning I found a wonderful new way to immerse myself deeper into the Rome experience; joining painter Kelly Medford on an intimate sketching tour of Rome.  Right from the beginning it was more than I expected.

Now, when I heard the term “sketching tour,” and she told me that she would provide all materials, I though – cool, she’ll bring a paper an pencil for me.   And then Kelly hands me this amazing little kit that literally fits in my purse.   Now, just the other day I was thinking…”when I get a bigger place, I’d really like to get an easel and paint, but our place right now is too small, so I can’t do it now, blah blah blah.”  No more excuses to not create!

It had a water color palette!  A watercolour pen/brush! A sketchbook with different textures of paper for various effect! The woman even MADE the sketchbook herself.  In Kelly’s words, “you need to feel inspired by your materials,” and I was.  Just in case you weren’t sufficiently inspired by the environment.

Over the course of the tour we made our way from Parco Pincio in Villa Borghese, to the top of the Spanish Steps.  The process of sketching makes you pay attention to details that you never would have noticed before.

It could have been easy to feel intimidated on a sketching tour of Rome. First, you are walking in the footsteps some of the greatest masters – and every where you look you are surrounded by stunning design – architecture, gardens, sculpture – even Italian clothes and shoes. Additionally there were some people on the tour who were actual artists.  But for a novice like me it was perfect. Kelly showed me how to work with various techniques, pushing my beyond my “art”  borders in a very gentle and supportive way – using different mediums and styles to different effect, like these:

Little tiny ink sketches

Ink and watercolor

This was a fabulous way to experience Rome through new eyes – and the best thing about it was that with everything I learned from Kelly and my new art studio in a purse, I can keep drawing wherever I am.  Grazie Kelly!  I would definitely recommend her tours to anyone who wants to experience Rome in a new way, get off the beaten track, or nurture a budding creative spark. You can join one of her “Rome Sketch Tours” here: http://kellymedford.com/workshops.

Kelly in action

Stilettoes vs Rome’s cobblestone streets – the battle intensifies….

6 Aug

Over the past 2 months, 2 things got me thinking about Rome’s iconic cobblestone streets and high heel shoes.  The first was this: the result of a daylong walk around centro in my favourite pair of Cole Haan mules.  These were the comfiest -slash – most stylish shoes I’ve ever owned!  And in 1 day, they were destroyed.

Cobblestones: 1, Heels: 0

The second was the counter-balance to a blog that I have been mentally compiling for a while: fashions that Italian men can wear that no one else can pull off.  The topic of this proposed post, (and the photos of Italian men I am compiling), were causing no end of consternation with Alessandro, so I decided to balance coverage of both genders and develop a photo essay on the insanely high shoes that some women wear.

That they wear them to walk on cobblestone streets is just mind-boggling.   Cobblestone streets in Rome possess a very Italian character – like they’ve been thrown down in a carefree flourish, letting cracks and gaps exist as they will.  I long for some Swiss precision in these streets.

So quite honestly it wasn’t surprise to see this article recently: Rome Rethinks Cobblestones to Save High Heels.  I mean, Italy is synonymous with the finest foot fashion – but how could a fine shoe industry ever develop here?  I suppose that constant destruction of your shoes makes for a captive market….

So, for your viewing pleasure, are just a sample of brave women wearing insane shoes…I’ll continue to post pics as I see them….