Coffee Branding

Charlie: Each coffee bar serves only one brand of coffee and the brand name is prominently displayed on the outside sign. Often the brand name is on the napkins and cups as well. We didn’t pay too much attention to coffee brands before since they all seemed equally good. Illy is one of the most common brands. They have expanded to the US. We went to an Illy coffee bar in DC. RomaCafe is another and there are many more.

In Spoleto we were talking to the woman who manages the hotel breakfast and she said she had used another brand and it was too strong and she switched, to “Due Mondi”  a reference to Spoleto’s big “Two Worlds” festival in the summer. After that we started noticing that some brands are much stronger. One the Adriatic coast it seems like most of the coffee brands are stronger. Wynette puts two sugars in the strong ones and doesn’t like them as well but I like the stronger coffee better.

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Easter Morning

Charlie: we are in Urbino in Hotel Raffaello which has WiFi in the room so we can post more easily, and maybe get some more pictures up. We have a nice room on the top floor (the fourth, third in their terms) with amazing views of the city and countryside. The large church and bell tower is not far away. The bells ring the quarter hours.

It is Easter and at midnight the bells went crazy. It was enough to wake the dead. (A little Easter joke, or maybe a Jerry Garcia joke) but you go right back to sleep and it is actually kind of nice to hear the bells.

Language

Charlie: I studied some Italian before I went but I have little facility with languages so I am very poor at Italian. I was waiting in the lobby for Wynette to come down for breakfast and they wanted to get my order. I wanted to say I was waiting for my wife but could not remember the Italian word so I used the French word, ma femme, which I did remember. The woman said “Vous attendez (something) femme?” (something like that, as they say, pardon my French) Since the French was rapidly getting beyond my ability too I just said “si” (switching back to Italian). I guess I should stick to English and hope for the best but it seems like you should try.

Fashion

Charlie: Italians are quite fashionable and almost always look good when they are out, at least the younger ones. They have this concepts of “la bella figura”, projecting a good image or something like that, when they go out. They seem to take a lot of care when they dress. The younger women are almost uniformly thin, many model-thin. Jeans are worn tight, skin-tight in many cases.Eyeglasses seem to be in fashion. I see more people wearing glasses. The current glasses are quite flashy and have big bows (the side elements that attach to the ears), very wide and decorated.

When we were in Italy 3-4 years ago, shoes with long pointed toes were in fashion. Some were so long as to be cartoonish, 3-4 inches past where the toes would end. Now all the shoes have square toes. I guess they have to make big changes to get everyone to switch.

Three Star Hotels

Charlie: As you probably know, hotels are graded from one to five stars. We almost always stay in three-star hotels. When we were younger we were more tolerant of two-star hotels but now we expect certain things. There must be a check-list of things they must have, for example, they always have hair dryers whereas two-star hotels usually do not. The three-star hotels range from 80 to 120 euro, cheap back when the dollar and the euro were close in value, more now that the euro is at $1.50. But still not bad. I think prices might be higher to northern europe, a strange thing to me, why would a place with worse weather and worse food be more expensive?

I read in the New York Times that five-star hotels are not fancy enough and do not offer enough services for the new super-rich and there are starting to be six and seven star hotels.

Restaurants

Charlie: Everywhere I have been in Italy before this, the restaurants (or osterias or trattorias, I never got the differences straight) all had menus displayed out front. In Spoleto we went to one that had a menu out front but when you get inside, no menus, they just tell you what is available. Anyway, we get to the east coast of Italy, in San Bennedetto, and most restaurants do not have menus displayed. I was sure it was a law that they had to have menus. Now I don’t know what to think.We’ve had some great meals and a few not-so-good ones but we genernally have excellent food. But we always try to go to places that are recommended by someone. We have a “Slow Food” book that lists restaurants all over Italy that serve local food cooked in traditional ways. We had bad luck with one of them but maybe it was the jet lag, we had great luck with one in Senigallia.

Churches and “Candles”

Charlie: Italy had a lot of churches. I suppose you probably knew that. But when you walk through these little hill towns and find four big churches in an area two blocks square you start to think they might have overbuilt a tad in the church department. It must have been a big drain on their capital. But it is great for tourists, each one is a little different. The big Duomo in Spoleto had a monochrome rose window. I am used to multiolored ones so it seemed a bit disappointing. We stopped in the little mountain town of Norcia and it had a bunch of churches in a small area, as usual, and some nice rose windows.Most churches have a place where you can make an offering and light a candle. My Catholic boyhood fails me here since I don’t remember any more details about it. Anyway, the churches in Norcia had a similar place but the “candles” were electric, made to look like candles with a bulb on the top. There were plugs to put the electric candles. I guess each one had current. I was wondering about curious little fingers but I did not touch one to see if I would get a shock. In Senigallia they went one better, the electric candles were all put in the plugs and there was an array of toggle switches, one to control each candle. You dropped the coin and flipped the switch and you’re done. I suppose Siena might have flat screen with pictures of candles and you touch it with a mouse to “light” it, and, why not, I suppose you could use your credit card to make the offering if you didn’t have a coin. The modern Church.