Furbizia. From furbo (“sly”) +‎ -izia (“-ness”) cunning, cleverness, sly, cheat. A barman who can give the wrong change and convince you that €20 minus €6 = €4

This Englishman loves living in Italy, but if Mrs Sensible had her way, we would be on a Ryanair British Airways plane back to the UK. I try not to complain too loudly about Italy, because I am afraid Mrs S will drag me kicking and screaming back home to England.

So why do I dare complain about Italian Furbi? Because over the past couple of weeks the C.O.S.I group have been swapping E-mails about a certain Florence apartment company who asked one of the C.O.S.I bloggers to promote their business and then welched on the deal. Not only didn’t they pay the fees, but they made the mistake of contacting another member of the C.O.S.I group to help promote their business!!!!

COSI Group

So why are Italians Furbi? I would like to blame the Italian taxation system which is pazzo.  Many Italian citizens, find ingenious ways to avoid paying their taxes. As more citizens avoid paying the taxes the higher the state raises the level of  tax. I am not condoning non payment of taxes, (I pay mine because if I didn’t Mrs Sensible would beat me with her wet wooden spoon) but when you look at the way the state uses our taxes and the huge salaries of Italian members of parliament or directors of state owned business, you kind of understand why some people try to avoid paying them.

Honest! You can trust me.

Honest! We don’t earn much.

Unfortunately no one is safe from the Furbi.

Gambrinus in Pisa managed to cheat Mrs S and I, when I took her on a romantic trip to Pisa, well it would have been romantic if I had listened to her advice and booked a hotel before we left home, instead we drove around the ring road for 2 & 1/2 hours looking for a place to stay.

After we found a grotty little B&B we walked hand in hand in pitch darkness to admire the leaning tower of Pisa, on the way back to our B&B we called into a bar to buy a bottle of water. With my much improved Italian I announced “I need bottle of water” the barman handed over a bottle and I turned to Mrs S and said “that has just cost me €4.00”, as I counted my change Mrs S realised the till receipt was illegal. As she started to explode with anger, I pushed her out the door to discuss the little problem on the street. Walking back to the B&B, this time not hand in hand Mrs S took out her mobile and phoned the finance police, which started a hilarious chain of events. (Chapter 27 of my book that I promise will be out this summer)

Mrs Sensible and Pecora Nera

Nearer home one of our local bars mistook me for a tourist after noticing I was wearing flip-flops with jeans and hearing my outrageous Italian accent.  Me a tourist, I have been here 7 years!!!!! The barman decided to take this golden opportunity to short change, even I was almost convinced that a brioche and cappuccino should cost €6.00 (normally €2.20 and the change from a €20.00 note should be €4.00 As I used my fingers and toes to work out how much change I was entitled to, the manager came over and asked me why I was still counting my pennies. Needless to say I don’t use the bar in the Cittadella Casale Monferato anymore.

Pecora Nera

Some Italian businesses try not to issue receipts, in this way the transaction does not appear in their accounts, and they pay less tax. Under Mrs S instruction I requested a receipt from the local garage, who promptly wrote €100 on a grubby post it note!! I refused to go back a second time even with the threats of Mrs Sensible ringing in my ears. Is there a moral to this story?

Yes, I think there is; if the statesmen of Italy acted in a responsible way and treat their citizens as adults instead of naughty children, the citizens might behave as adults.


Berlesconi in office for 9 years

The problem is Furbizia is as ingrained in the Italian culture, as fishing is in England and it is almost a national past time and will take a generations if ever to change the behaviour.

This post is part of the latest topic of our little blogger group, COSItaly, on how to be a good tourist/cool summer tips. Check out facebook page

51 thoughts on “Furbizia

  1. Pingback: The complexity of Italy’s cheating heart | Unwilling Expat

    • The amazing thing is they count the change into your hand and you look at it and think, surely there should be another 10 euro note, maybe I made the mistake. If you try and complain using tourist Italian/English gobbledygook, they just smile at you and pretend not to understand.

      When I get totally frustrated, I shout IO SONO INGLESE, NO STUPIDO!!!! I then threaten to call the finance police.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Hilarious Pete! I like your approach, ‘they mistook me for a tourist because of my flip-flops and jeans’ I have been short-changed on occasion as well and I usually resemble a bat with rabies when it does happen, trust me, it ain’t pretty!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hilarious, as always… can’t wait for the book! Yes, creative math is only one of the many ways that the furbi have for separating a tourist from his money. You need to cultivate a Sicilian accent!


  4. Pingback: Furbizia: The Italian Art Of Being Sly | Living In Italy.Moving To Italy. Loving In Italy. Laughing In Italy.

  5. Pingback: Tourists Beware: Fighting Furbizia in Italy | Sex, Lies, & Nutella

    • It is my favourite picture of him, even better than the one of the duomo falling on his head. I really do believe that the average Furbi, sees the massive corruption that is rife in the politicians and thinks, if they can get away with it, why shouldn’t I.

      I mean how is it possible, that a politician acquires a house and doesn’t know who paid for it!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: What does it mean to be furbo in Italy?

  7. I’m convinced the old witch at the POffice short changed me 30 odd euros when I was still a novice here. She doesn’t work there now?


  8. Actually, I’ve managed to have fairly good luck in my trips to Italy and have not been short changed. Except I did have an experience on my first trip to Venice in 2008 where I used a shuttle to get from the dock to the terminal. It was bad enough that they wanted 20 Euros but when we got to the terminal and handed him a 50 he claimed not to have change. Well, I put my 50 back in my wallet and started counting my Euro change (surely I had 20 in my coin purse)….amazing how fast he came up with the change for the 50! And by the way, while waiting for the plane I did count and had the 20 in one Euro coins….now that would have weighed down his pockets.
    And yes, it was worth the 20 Euros to have someone else haul my bags and my tired butt to the terminal.

    Liked by 1 person

    • He didn’t want 20 Euros in coins in his pockets in case he fell into the water… A similar thing happened here, we asked the local garage to change a 50 and he said he had just started work and didn’t have enough change. 10 mins later when we called by to put some fuel in the tank he opened his wallet and he had more money in his wallet than Berlusconi !!!


  9. Darn, dang, damn you are too funny as per usual. Those toddler pics caused me to laugh out loud. They are perfect for what ever you write about. I could not tolerate all the crazy cheating in Italy. That’s just too way over the top needing to worry about whether you will get cheated by the crooks.

    It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the rudeness of a world leader meeting another world leader’s wife. I see the disdain in President O’s expression. As someone else wrote, “it’s priceless.”

    I hope your book will soon be ready for publication. I want to buy one for sure. You make me laugh with each post and that’s a good thing.

    Pecora “Love. laugh and, write.” On second thought, I reckon you can eat as well- just not too much.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Pingback: Furbizia – a blessing or a burden? | Married to Italy

  11. Ciao!! First of all, I love love your photos and captions here…seriously funny stuff!
    And indeed, your post reminded me of how interesting it was to first learn about the Guardia di Finanza on my first trip to Italy..I remember being told to keep my store receipt at least within a certain distance from each store I bought something in….Very interesting!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Pingback: A Life Lesson in Con-Artistry | The Florence Diaries

  13. Great post 😀
    I feel very sure, that this must be usual behavior in South Europe. Here in Spain you also need to be very much awake, even in the supermarked to be sure to receive the right cash back. Many don’t use to give us receipt for our buying either and if you ask, the bill will grow a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

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