Pecora Nera’s Italian travel tips.

I will try to make this a serious post, I haven’t managed it in the past so please don’t hold your breath; summer is on the way and you will be wondering how you can fit in with the local and not stand out like a tourist.

So let us begin with clothing.

No matter how much you love your own country, it is not a very good idea to go shopping in the local Italian market dressed in an ensemble of your countries flag… Leave the flag at home….. the locals will know you are an american without wearing the stars and stripes on your hat, shirt shorts and probably your knickers!!!

Englishmaninitaly.org

The art of naturally blending in with the locals

I snapped this photo while Mrs Sensible was buying some clothes and I was attempting to look interested in life.

I am adding the following clothing rule, although I fundamentally disagree with it.  FLIP FLOPS are for the beach, I know this because every time I attempt to leave the house in my flip flops the fashion police (aka Mrs Sensible) stops me. It has got so bad I keep a spare set in the boot of my car.

Englishman in Italy

I know, this is just an excuse to feature two girls wearing bikinis

If you scroll down you can read about the Brick Fetish of Vignale Monferrato and here is a wonderful picture of a pair of Brick Flip Flops, probably originating from Vignale.

Brick Flip Flops

Great for improving the calf muscles

Here is an Italian man walking through the shopping area of Casale Monferrato, it was a hot sunny day in May, of course I was wearing jeans, T-shirt and flip flops.

IMG_4371

Note the lack of Flip Flops

He will have paid more for his shoes than I paid for my best suit, pay close attention to his scarf, the scarf is really a medical apparel, its purpose is to prevent Cervicale. So don’t worry about the weather, bring your overcoat and look like an Italian.

Moving swiftly onto food

When you are sat in the pizzeria or restaurant, sipping a glorious glass of wine, please remember not to ask for your favourite Italian food that you normally eat at Toni’s Restaurant, near your house…

Because Spaghetti Bolognese does not exist, bolognese sauce is only ever served with torellini, tagliatelle, or gnocchi, amazingly Heinz Spaghetti Bolognese has not yet reached our supermarkets.

Spaghetti_Bolognese_Image_Prod

The first Italian food I ever tasted came out of a can like this.

And if you ask for Pineapple and Ham pizza, they might just ask you to leave the restaurant.

pineapple and ham pizza

I know, it is delicious! But not in Italy 

Also, if you want to make the restaurant owner laugh, ask for a cappuccino after the meal. Italians only drink cappuccino before 10:30 in the morning, after that you have to grit your teeth and drink an espresso, or if you must have milk in your coffee ask for  a Macchiato, or better still a have a glass of grappa.

Flowers

How can anybody make a mistake with flowers? Just imagine, you meet the love of your life, a very pretty signorina, you remember not to offer her a cappuccino, because it is after 10:30, the evening goes wonderfully and the next day you arrive to meet her with a bunch of flowers in your hand. Unfortunately you chose a bunch of carnations.

Carnations

I know its a can, but I couldn’t find a bunch of flowers

She scowls and tells you, today she has to wash her hair and is too busy. You are left stood on the doorstep with a can of a bunch of white carnations in your hand. Why? Because we give carnations at funerals.

Travelling

I really didn’t want to upset you over the trains in Italy and I don’t want to over complicate the problem because, well it is complicated enough. In fact, I will write a separate post detailing the fun and games of booking a train ticket.

Driving

Remember to drive on the left, or is it the right? I can only remember when I get in the car and notice the steering wheel is not where it should be. In the ten years that I have been here, I have only driven on the wrong side of the road once, erh! and tried to go around a roundabout the wrong way. Mrs S had forgiven me and only occasionally has nightmares about it.

rollercoaster

A quiet Sunday drive

It wasn’t really my fault, the car-park opened up straight onto the roundabout, and I asked which way we needed to go and she said left, she did mean around the roundabout, but I just turned left.

I will try to upload a guide to Italian Trains later this week.

 

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La Bella Chaos.

You know I am normally upbeat and can usually see the funny side of attempting to live a normal life in La Bella Chaos. Today it very nearly beat me, I have spent a couple of hours gnashing my teeth, ripping my sack-cloths and growling at fellow human beings.

I weathered the storm and laughed when it took Snr Cretino eight months to organise my Italian driving licence, but today my insurance agent tried to baffle me with stupidity. Maybe today was just another normal day in Bella Italia and I was tired or maybe I just assumed renewing my car insurance would be easy.

Two years ago we decided to economise and put one of our cars into storage, Mrs Sensible and I tossed a coin and she lost the bet (double headed coins are very useful). Her very sensible and economic Peugeot was abandoned stored and my uneconomical but fun Mini was used by both of us.

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Mrs Sensible’s sensible diesel Peugeot.

 

Last night Mrs Sensible made a very valid case for blowing the dust off her car and bringing it out of storage. First she swapped to her schoolmarm voice and then suggested we should insure and tax her economic car and put my fun and gas guzzling mini in the shed or she would go off in search of her wet wooden spoon. I could not think of a suitable argument and she wasn’t going to fall for the double headed coin a second time.

I phoned my insurance company and told them to reinstate the Peugeot’s insurance and I set off in the Peugeot to find someone who would test the car for me. Now in the UK if a car does not have a MOT certificate it is possible to drive it on the road as long as  1) You have an appointment booked for a vehicle test 2) You are driving to the test center. I have no idea what the rules are in Italy, but I doubt they are so straight forward.

Typical stop and search

Typical Carabinieri  stop and search. IMPORTANT: It is not true that the red stripes on their trousers are so they don’t put them on inside out, nor is it true that they wear wellies because they don’t know how to tie their shoe laces.

In Italy the local Carabinieri are not regarded as the brightest of people,  I hasten to add I think they are really, really nice people and I don’t believe a word of the stories nor do I laugh at the Carabinieri jokes. I know I was a little less than impressed when they investigated the burglary at my house…. and I do think it is impressive that they always choose the same places to set up their ‘stop and search’. After all consistency is a good thing. It also means if you are in a rush and don’t have time to say hello to them it is possible to cut across the countryside.

A little scenic drive

This morning I was in a little rush.

Mrs Sensible’s car passed it’s test first time. I was incredibly relieved and managed to uncross my fingers. When I arrived at the insurance office to pick up the new insurance documents, the man tried to give me the insurance paper for my lovely soon to be stored Mini.

Ciao Snr Pecora Nera.

Ciao! I go here take paper insurance for wife car.

These are the new documents for your Mini.

No! Wrong not Mini, wife car.. Peugeot! 

Ahhh! You want to insure Mrs Sensible’s car. Let me work out a price for you.

Italy runs on paperwork. Households save till receipts and  proof of payments forever. In every house there will be a box with a mass of yellowing receipts going all the way back to the receipt for the wedding dress. My father in law told me, he once had to prove he had paid his car tax, a bill he had paid four years previously!

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Every Italian house needs a Tin of Denial

Snr Pecora Nera, your wife’s car will cost € 460.00 to insure.

What? My 1.6 petrol Mini  € 420.00. Peugeot  1.4 diesel. Look again! 

Pointing at his computer screen he said, But your wife’s car has not been insured for four years. She is now a high insurance risk.

It took me a minute before I understand what he was trying to tell me. I delved into my cardboard box and produced the insurance document for 2013 – 2014. I gave him the paper and explained it could be risky to suggest Mrs Sensible was a high insurance risk. Although paying over the top to insure Mrs Sensible’s Peugeot and explaining to  Mrs S that Italy considers me a better driver might have been fun.  

My insurance agent suggested I should go to the bar for a cappuccino while he sorted out the mistake on his computer. Halfway into a nice brioche and cappuccino. He phoned me.

Snr Pecora Nera, I have sorted it all out.

Grazie, On the way I am.

The agent then explained that the car is owned not only by Mrs Sensible, but her father’s name is also on the car’s documents. This meant because her father lives in Sicily, the car will be at a bigger risk of having an accident and the insurance cost will be €530.

I tried my best to explain that her father wouldn’t be driving the car and can’t we just remove his name from the document….. I have some Tipp-ex here and after all this is Italy

tippex

Tipp-Ex perfect for correcting blog posts

The insurance agent said I would need to either transfer the ownership of the Peugeot to either me or Mrs Sensible’s. This will cost around €400 – €500 euros.

So for the moment Mrs Sensible’s car is still in storage and my little Mini is drinking it’s way through a fortune in petrol.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It has been one of those weeks…

It has been one of those weeks…

Last week Mrs Sensible phoned the local hospital to book me in for a check up, and before you start leaving sarky comments it was not the psychiatric clinic nor was it a follow up appointment with the dietitian. When Mrs S finally got through to the department, they said “we only book appointments in the morning, call between 9 and 11”  which is fabulous because Mrs Sensible is normally in her classroom between 9 and 11 teaching her chilblains how to sit still and not pick their noses.

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Mrs Sensible hates nose picking

 

The following morning she again calling the hospital and was told “Pecora Nera!! nope he is not on the system, we have recently upgraded the computer and he might have been deleted”

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Pecora Nera… let’s delete him mwaha ha ha!

I have been deleted!!!! How is that possible? Mrs Sensible said she would phone the administrators and try to find out. She talked to a woman for three minutes and then hung up. Pecora, you need to go down to the main office and fill out some forms.

Now I know what Italy is like, so on Wednesday I went armed with my passport, identity card, proof of residence and one of Mrs Sensible’s wooden spoons. It only took a 10 minute search to find the correct office.

Me: Hello I English, please excuse my bad Italian.

Admin: Tell me!

Me: I need hospital appointment, but my name has been deleted, here is my identity card.

She turned to her computer and started clicking buttons and occasionally glancing at me.

Admin: è scaduto

Me: I have expired!!! I am still here.

ComputerSaysNo

She looked at my passport and my other documents, and told me to go to the local council offices and ask them for.

  1. Proof that I am an European citizen.
  2. Proof that I am a resident of my little village.
  3. Proof that I have paid my taxes.

She was not convinced that my UK passport proved anything.

Later that evening I went on my facebook page and ranted about the crazy bureaucracy in Italy. A very good friend of mine messaged me and offered to accompany me to the office to see if she could untangle the mess.

Yesterday we both went back to the office with my little bundle of papers and discussed the problem with a different administrator.

Admin 2: You came yesterday didn’t you.

Me: What did she say?

Admin 2:

The Englishman needs to go to the local council office and ask for:-

  1. Proof that he is resident of his village, the document he has is just a copy of his request to be a resident.
  2. A copy of his wife’s identity card
  3. His identity card
  4. His codice fiscale (national insurance number)
  5. Certificate that his company is registered in Italy.

At the moment I am wondering if it is easier to just fly to the UK and see my old doctor. I did however drive to the council offices and managed to get most of the documents, my accountant is sending over the work related documents hopefully I might be back on the system ASP (at some point)

Oh I nearly forgot, I need your advice with something…..

When I arrived home, the postwoman gave me a very sinister brown envelope, inside it contained a speeding fine!!! I must be very unlucky because I don’t know anyone else in Italy who has ever received one.

 

targa-system-auto2

You may remember I changed my UK driving licence to an Italian licence, because it was too difficult to convince the Italian police it was not a Ukranian driving licence.

The speeding fine doesn’t say who was driving, they assume it was me because it is my car. I now have two options.

Option 1

Is to quickly pay the fine and burn all the evidence, before Mrs Sensible finds out. Otherwise I will endure a lifetime of reminders about my speeding ticket.

Option 2

Prove or convince Mrs Sensible that she was driving the car and then never ever mention her mistake again…… except when we are in the company of friends.

Its a difficult one.

Thought process

Typical thought process of Pecora Nera when dealing with Mrs Sensible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s small pink and takes 8 months to arrive?

No Mrs Sensible is not pregnant.

No Mrs Sensible is not pregnant.

After 8 months of waiting, my Italian driving licence has finally arrived, it was a very simple process and only took.

1 medical
10 visits to Mr Cretino at the Italian office (they now have 10 photocopies of my passport, licence etc)
5 Emails to the Italian office
6 phones calls to DVLA
4 nice e mails to DVLA
2 snotty e mails to DVLA
1 letter to the Chief Exec of DVLA

and of course 120 Euros

Small pink and takes 8 months

Small pink and takes 8 months

After 8 months of shouting at Mr Cretino in Italian and the DVLA in English; I now consider myself to be a bit of an expert on converting driving licences, so I have written a book.

My new book, available from all good book shops

My new book, available from all good book shops

If you can’t find my book in your local book shop, have a quick read of the following.

Part one

Part two

Part three

The letter I e mailed to DVLA

I am working on my next book titled How to gain Italian Citizenship. It should be available in 5 years.

An open letter to the Chief Executive DVLA

Dear Sir,

Re case no  XXXXXXXX licence no XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Please will you help me to convert my UK driving licence to an Italian driving licence. I have requested your help because the process is becoming a farce and would be worthy of any Italian opera.

Opera

Opera

During March 2013, I started the process of exchanging my UK driving licence for an Italian licence. I knew this would not be an easy process, because it involves Italians and their wonderful bureaucracy; however I was politely surprised when it only took four or five visits to their office and a medical to get the process started.

In May Dott: Giampierro Allegro from the Italian Ministry for Transport wrote to the DVLA (UK) requesting two pieces of information; he asked if the DVLA would confirm that my driving licence was authentic, and the second question was, is Pecora Nera (original name changed) born in Malta on the 3/11/1961 and Pecora Sensible-Nera (changed again) born in Malta on the 3/11/1961 the same person? The confusion has arisen because I adopted my wife’s surname when I married her and updated my UK driving licence. In Bella Italia changing ones name is unheard of.

Since then the process has halted,  DVLA (UK) denied receiving the letter, this may be true, because Poste Italia is exceptionally unreliable, you have more chance of a letter reaching its destination if you put it in a bottle and throw it from the Naples ferry into the sea.

Quicker than Poste Italia

Quicker than Poste Italia

Since July I have contacted DVLA on several occasions including, one letter, two e mails, made four telephone calls and filled in two DVLA web based complaints form.  Today I phoned Angelina at the DVLA call centre and was told they are still looking at the attachments that I sent during August!!!

Please will you ask someone to write to Dott: Giampierro Allegro at the Italian Ministry for Transport and confirm that my licence is authentic and that Pecora Nera and Pecora Sensible-Nera are the same person.

The ongoing saga

Part one

Part two

Part three

Please…..

Yours faithfully

Pecora Nera

Post updated because Mr Simon Tse is no longer the Chief Executive of DVLA, Oliver Morley becomes the new Chief Executive in November. I wonder if this will be sorted before then?

A black sheep on a motorbike.

Bikers

Bikers


I received a phone call from Franco last week; well to be honest Mrs Sensible received the call, I just stood next to her saying, what does he want? Did he set up the meeting? Is he coming over? Very reminiscent of my childhood. The days when my mum would answer the phone, and then decide if I could go out to play, or stay overnight at a friend’s house.

Franco asked Mrs Sensible if I was allowed to go out to play on Saturday. Franco and four of his friends, were going to the mountains on their motor bikes and I had been invited. Mrs Sensible said I could go. I was told to wear a heavy jacket, big boots and bring some spending money.

Proper bikers boots

Proper bikers boots


I understood the bit about the spending money; but the big boots and heavy coat seemed a bit of an overkill. We had just swapped Italian winter for Italian Summer with 10 days of spring squashed in-between. The temperature was forecast for 27°c.

Saturday arrived and at 6.00 am I jumped out of bed crawled out of bed and threw into the back of my mini two heavy coats and put on a thick pair of walking socks and my big hiking boots. I then set of for Franco’s house.

His bike is a Moto Guzzi California EV 1100cc, a really great looking bike, as I arrived, Franco was cleaning little bits of dust from the gleaming paintwork. Bits of dust that was invisible to the naked eye. The day was already starting to become hot, so I asked Franco, why the big boots and heavy coat? In case you fall off!!!

Franco/s Moto Guzzi

Franco/s Moto Guzzi

So complete with my safety boots, gloves and coat, we climbed aboard his bike and set off Tto meet up with his mates in Torino. Driving Racing down the country roads, I began to notice how every time, I leaned in sync with Franco, or when he braked and then accelerated away, my stomach muscles pulled. I decided this would be excellent exercise and by the time we reached Cresole Reale in the Alps, I would have a stomach like a six pack.

A six pack

A six pack

In Torino we met up with his friends and set off at break neck speed for the mountains. It was great fun, when Franco leaned to the left I leaned with him, when he cornered right I leaned to the right. I have to add I was hanging on for dear life. After 30 mins of chasing through villages and country roads, I managed to relax a little. I was just admiring the river that was running alongside the road when Franco dropped the bike over to his left and went haring around a corner, I was still sat bolt upright and the bike gave a little wobble as Franco tried to control it. I say a little wobble, but we were racing along at 120 kph. I decided not to watch the scenery, but in future to just watch the road.

As we climbed up into the mountings, I developed an itch on my left nostril, just a little itch. But the more I tried to ignore it, the more it itched. In fact the itch started to include part of my cheek. My helmet was a full face helmet that belonged to Franco’s wife, it was a tad too small, and I couldn’t work out how to raise the visor. I was hampered by a thick pair of gloves, ignorance on how to open it and the fear of falling off Franco’s bike.

I tried sticking a finger in between the helmet and my neck, moving the helmet with the hope of catching my nose on the internal padding and as a last resort I tried to see if my tongue was long enough to reach my nose. After all, lizards can lick their own eyeball, surely I could reach my nose. Please bear in mind, I was still whacking along at 120 kph and trying to remember to lean with Franco.

As well as the itchy nose, I discovered the visor would suddenly steam up, and no I didn’t decide to lick it clean. But you will be pleased to know, that even though I had an itch, couldn’t see for toffee, and the helmet that was a bit too small and was giving me brain crush. I didn’t fall off.

Helmets that don't steam up

Helmets that don’t steam up


Climbing up the mountain we came across a sign and barrier that said road closed due to heavy snow. The Italians looked at each other, shrugged and in true Italian fashion, ignored the warning and drove around the barrier.
Finally we had arrived; it had taken two bum numbing hours. My six pack now felt like a crushed coke can, my bum hurt and my arms ached from hanging on.

No chance of a six pack

No chance of a six pack


After a couple of photos and a bit of graffiti, we decided to drive back to the nearest village for a beer.

Pecora Nera

Pecora Nera

The snow plough had cleared the road

The snow plough had cleared the road

While we were sat drinking and discussing how I had nearly ended up as a smudge along the road and the episode of the itch. They asked if I wanted to join them in October, for a little ride to Munich for the Oktoberfest.

Oktoberfest.

Oktoberfest.


If I am a good boy and Mrs Sensible says yes, I will go and buy a helmet and jacket for a bit of serious beer drinking.

The bikes and the bikers, thanks guys.

A great set of Guys

A great set of Guys


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