July 29, 2008

Happy August

I will be back after "ferragosto". In the meantime, visit my new website (the link is to your right) and send the link to five people who should know about my services.

Enjoy your holidays too!

a presto,

July 15, 2008

More on privacy

If you have a look on my links to your right, you will find "wandering italy" -- a website with blog by James Martin. I found him last year as I was googling "starbucks italy". He also had a passion at the time for the question, "Will it or will it not land in Italy". Since then, we have exchanged links and even occasionally chat over email.

The other day he wrote a post on "privacy" Italian style, inspired by my earlier one. It is a great piece with lots of insights into the privacy gap between Americans and Italians, so I am passing it on for you today. Enjoy!

Click Here.

a domani,

July 14, 2008

Style and good taste

I was on a relocation site and found a series of short interviews with people that had recently relocated to various places around the world. Each had to answer a few standard questions. I clicked on "Italy" and found a few answers.

Question 1. What three things do you wish you had brought with you?
The answer common to all five responses: seasoning packets

Question 2: What three things do you wish you had left at home?
The common answer: my clothes (or half at least).

Seasoning packets was a surprise, but then again, I have been here a long time. When I am in the US, those mystery packets confuse my taste buds as they strive to identify what exactly has bombarded them. There is never a distinct flavor -- just a sense of "seasoning" to cover up the flavor of what is being seasoned. I think I'll stick to a few basic herbs e basta. Bring on the basil or rosemary (one at a time).

While I never pick up seasoning packets when in the US, I always come back manned with ziplock snack bags. To each her/his own.

The second question was heartening. All noticed that Italians dress differently and felt a bit awkward and out of place in their baggy sweat suits and cotton turtlenecks.
"More stylish" was the phrase that came through. Putting on one's best is the underlying concept.

Style and good taste -- the Italian way.

a domani,

July 11, 2008


The Maturità has come and gone and holidays are on for all. This year held one big novità. For the first time ever, the maturità results were not posted at the school entrance for all to see. Instead, in the name of "privacy"*, each student had to go to the school office and make an official grade request to receive a printed form. So much for my recent post (here) on this public display of private information.

Of course all this change caused havoc, lines, angry students and parents all complaining about this ridiculous new layer of paperwork. One student was interviewed for the newspaper as saying, "what privacy, we have spent the last five years together in the same classroom day after day, of course we will all know each other's final grade anyway."

Another example of cultural roots fighting change.

* Interesting aside: the Italians say "privacy" in English as there is no true translation of the concept as we know it in Italian. So the new "privacy laws" are called "le leggi sulla privacy". Now try applying those, when your language doesn't even recognize the essence of the concept! In true Italian style the laws are very, very thorough, so exacting in their detail that NO ONE could EVER hope to actually adhere to them properly! I know of someone who has set up a consulting business to help offices adhere to the ever changing privacy laws.

a domani,

July 10, 2008

Free to fail

I happened to have a wander on the US Embassy site while making an appointment for a passport renewal (a new addition to security over on via Veneto) and found Ambassador Spogli's July 4 speech to those lucky hundreds who enjoyed the gardens of Villa Taverna for the occasion. It is in Italian -- I would assume very few of the Italians present could understand English -- but I will share it with you anyway (click here).
because it is a good read. THe theme I liked was that of building on your failures and he opens with the story of the AMerican revolution as beginning with a defeat and becoming a success through perserverance. The lesson is that, Libertà non vuol dire libertà di riuscire, ma libertà di tentare, "Liberty doesn't mean the liberty to succeed but the liberty to try, then try and try again."

In his travels around Italy over the past three years, he has found an archipelago of outstanding centers of excellence in many sectors of the economy, but he also found that these islands have difficulty communicating with each other across the traditional channels available in order to forge synergies. Italy, he understands, is a country that is very tied to its traditions and therefore resources tend to flow through pre-established channels. The rigid system that exists today is due, in part, by the fact that a business failure is punished by a sort of social emargination that leads to the impossibility to access new capital for a new project.

So his parting words to Italy were to give young people the possibility to try, and to fail, and then to try again. Quoting Winston Churchill who said, "Success means passing from one failure to another without losing enthusiasm." Italian young people, he then noted, are too afraid of the consequences of their eventual mistakes. "We have to limit these consequences so that young people can continue to dream and look towards the future with enthusiasm. This is the energy that will take Italy into the future."

An applause from me, mother of two young men poised to enter that rigid, punitive system where fear of failing often stifles the desire to try. Then, of course, all this talk of rigidity is irrelevant if you walk into the family business where you are nurtured and can try and fail and try and fail and then have a huge success. Look at Lapo Agnelli. He will find his way, contribute to FIAT's success, and will be stronger for all his failures.

a domani,

July 8, 2008

Your turn or mine

I spent over an hour at my local ASL (national health office)this morning. How civilized it was compared to the old days. I was received by a woman at an information desk at the door, took a number for the service I required, sat in a reasonably comforable plastic chair with the AC over my head and read the newspaper and then my book for over 50 minutes before being received by desk n. 1. I hadn't received my national health electronic card and I found out why, the computer declared me to be a (wo)man without a country and therefore without a citizenship (although I actually have two.) That settled, my tessera sanitaria should arrive within a month, mailed directly to my home address. In the meantime I have a properly stamped and signed printout as a substitute.

THe wonders of modern Italy. Anyone who complains about how things work now, should have been here 20 years ago! I LOVE those little number dispensers at the door of most offices (except my local recently renovated post office) and even at the alimentari in Sabaudia. It works, usually. THen there are those who conveniently do not "notice" that you entered the shop or office ahead of them but didn't see the machine. In this case, the number stands over common courtesy, for i soliti furbi in any case. An American friend just had it out with another woman in the pool parking lot for the same reason, she had been waiting in her car for someone to leave a spot, and just as one freed up another car zipped in and took the place. She explained that she had been waiting first, but the other woman hadn't "noticed" and that was that.

Oh well, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

a domani,

July 7, 2008

Coffee time

Time has slipped by, but I am here. Finishing off with workers banging around and making dust, lots of traveling about, guests and such.

I have a page from the Repubblica newspaper business and finance section from a couple of weeks ago sitting by my computer just waiting its turn for a blog post. So here it goes.

There is a big portrait design of Howard Schultz in the center, and yes we are going to talk yet again about Starbucks (see here and here for previous discussion).

Seems that things haven't been going so well for Starbucks in the past few years and Howard is back to shape up the company by going abroad -- 43 countries with over 4500 locations to be exact, but not even one in Italy. There is a new deal for over 150 new shops in airports and train stations across England, France and Germany in the next three years, but none in Italy. There are even 71 shops to the South in Greece and another 39 to the north in Switzerland, but none in Italy.

Of course it is easy to say that importing caffè to Italy would be a scary prospect for any company, even Starbucks, and competing with Italian coffee culture, that has its roots back in the 18th century, a futile exercise. But after all we know about the difficulties of doing business in Italy, failed joint ventures, long lead times and such, maybe it is just another Air France story.

Or is Howard just biding his time, closing in from the north and south and waiting for his golden moment, before pouncing on his prey.

Starbuck's success in Italy would certainly crown his successful career!

a domani ( and yes, I am back),