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

November is Birthday Month

In November, I was supposed to write a foodie post for the C.O.S.I group; unfortunately I have been much too busy celebrating my birthday. I am not sure how I manage to get away with it, but much to Mrs Sensibles dismay, I manage to squeeze 2 or 3 birthday parties into the month and a couple of celebrationary meals with friends.

So to keep everybody happy, I will start with a brief foodie post on traditional Piedmontese food.

Bagna Cauda

November is cold and wet in Piedmonte, so to stay warm and cosy your average Piedmontese sits down to a bowl of Bagna Cauda.

Bagna Caulda

Bagna Caulda; a sauce made from garlic, anchovies, more  garlic a bit of  olive oil and more anchovies.

Bagna Caulda is a hot dip, made from anchovies, lots of garlic and olive oil. It is served with a selection of raw vegetables, peppers, potatoes, carrots etc. The object of the meal is to dip the raw vegetables into your sauce and cook them. The conversation around the table normally goes something like this.

P N: So I dip the potato in here?

Mrs Sensible: yes but be careful the sauce is hot.

PN: Is the potato supposed to stay crunchy?

Mrs S: Tsk! leave it a bit longer.

PN: Can you pass the red wine down this way.

PN: Oww!!!

Miss Sensible: I told you it was hot!!

PN: Quick more wine.

An added bonus of enjoying the delicious  dish of bagna caulda, is you never have to explain to your friends or colleagues what you had for tea the night before…. they will smell the aroma of anchovies and garlic as you walk across the carpark.

OK back to my birthday.

One of my birthday dinners was an impromptu meal with some friends, as usual we started with the swapping of the presents and the opening of a couple of bottles of wine. We then moved onto a fine selection of cheeses and salami.

Our hosts trying to open the bottle of wine I brought

Our hosts trying to open the bottle of wine I brought. (amazing what fun you can have with a bit of superglue)

Mrs S asked me if I would like a little more salami; of course I nodded and said I prefer the darker salami. She promptly added 3 more slices of meat and added “mmm the asino is tasty”

Some of you will know what asino is, for the rest of you let me enlighten you.

Asino is another Piedmontese delicacy.

Sagra d' donkey

Sagra d’ donkey !!

We have sagra’s dedicated to the humble donkey, it is available as meatballs, agnolotti and of course salami. It has taken me 7 years to remove the image of the Blackpool Donkey from my mind when a slice of asino is added to my plate.

Blackpool donkeys, I don't think I know these young ladies

Blackpool donkeys, I don’t think I know these young ladies

For many years I refused to eat Asino, occasionally I would unknowingly eat it, only realising after I was asked “did you enjoy the meat”

To finish with

1) If you want to search for Bagna Caulda on the internet, please spell it correctly, my first attempt was bagno caldo and google provided lots of pictures of women in the bath

2) Where are all my presents and birthday cards?

3) If you are a donkey, Italy is probably not a good holiday destination.

Fancy a holiday in Italy?

Fancy a holiday in Italy?


Normal food posts by the C.O.S.I group