I am a sucker for lists , you know the top most useless gadgets and top 10 soft top cars all of which turn out to be way out of my price range. However in the spirit of lists 10 things you may or may not know about Italy :
Most UNESCO heritage sites in the world over 40
The thermometer was invented here
The typewriter came from Italy ( whatever happened to them must be warehouses full somewhere)
Most hotel rooms of any country in Europe
Everyday €3,000 gets tossed into the Trevi Fountain ( my god that’s 3,000 tourists who are going to return !)
National flower – the lily
Carabiniere ( police) uniforms all designed by Valentino
Highest point Mont Blanc 15,770 ft ( now I thought that was in France)
Making wine here for 2,800 years
In the Guinness Book of Records – most elevators ( lifts)
So now you know. Yesterday I had to go to The Post Office to send some letters to the USA, so as always here you need to write off a morning to do this seemingly simple task.
I go to Villa Castelli to do this having despaired of ever being served in Martina Franca and I find the smaller offices must hang on to the letters until they have a big pile before forwarding them to a main office as the letters seem to take forever to arrive. Talking of piles I read the other day of a postman here arrested for selling paper to a scrap paper merchant. Turned out they were all intact letters and wrapping from parcels. So you can see some of the problems .
Villa Castelli post office is huge but likes to stay incognito. There is not a single sign indicating it is a post office anywhere on the outside of the building :
However once you get inside you can see why. They don’t want to attract attention as there is barely room inside for the people that do know it’s a Post Office. Okay so you’re in and you must take a ticket from the machine. Hit the button with an envelope image alongside. Then pay attention to the signboard that has various numbers and window positions on it through the sea of humanity trying to do the same thing. Virtually every transaction that you need to do in Italy can be done in the Post Office hence the crowd.
Now the majority of people there are happy waiting their turn. Italians are a very sociable crowd and the conversation level is almost deafening and many seem to entirely miss their number being shown on the screen whilst chatting or indeed just took a number to be part of the scene.
However there lurks always the “little old lady” . The stamp window is always nearest the door and therefore the first window with someone behind it people see. You are there clutching say number 39 and 38 is at the counter. It is forty mins since you got there, your ears are ringing from the noise, your ribs are aching from being nudged out of the way but the end is in sight. Enter the said little old lady. Number 38 vacates the window you step forward, life is looking up, then your progress to the window is stopped by an old dear who says in a pleading voice ” ho una piccola domanda, mi spiace solo un secondo ” or I have a little question just a second.
You give way, the girl behind the window gives an Italian shrug towards you, she has seen the game played so often. The old dear reaches into her bag and pulls out about 40 letters, her pension book, her TV license renewal, her mobile phone bill , her daughter’s eight children’s school lunch payments and her own paying in book for the Post Office bank. You stand defeated knowing by the time she has finished the Post Office will be closed. You roll up your ticket, toss it in the bin and vow never to do that again.
Now if you ever venture back to a Post Office you might want to pay a bill . So a few more words of advice. To pay a bill you need to fill in a paying slip in triplicate. The top copy with be stamped and you are going to send this to the payee to show that company you have paid their bill. I guess this alerts them to maybe expect the payment. The second copy goes into a pile probably to form part of the next shipment to the scrap merchant and the third copy is yours to be kept until long after you, your children and their children are pushing up daisies. All the information is also painstakingly loaded into the computer though I have no idea why. If the company you paid through the post office says you didn’t pay and you have lost the copy you were supposed to keep until it rotted away. The Post Office will tell you they keep no record of the transactions.
Or maybe you want a recorded delivery or Special D as the Americans call it.
I sent one to a gas company we wanted to give notice to, hence the need to know they had received it. Recorded delivery meant more form filling and then a postcard was attached to my letter for the said company to return to me to notify me they had received it. Ten days later the postcard dropped into my mail box .Hurrah I was heard to exclaim the system works. Two days later I got a note in the box asking me to pick a recorded delivery letter up at Martina Franca Post Office. Hurrah I again was heard to exclaim Liquigas have written back.
I shan’t bore you with the details of the hours of waiting at this post office but eventually I got to the counter and the clerk went off for probably his coffee and lunch break combined before returning with….. wait for it …. my original letter which had been returned as undelivered.
But you can forgive a country that has people writing this music can’t you. The music was written by Luis Bacalov who is actually Argentinian/Italian like the new Pope. He wrote lots of scores for the Spaghetti Westerns but this score in 1994 won him an Oscar for Best Music. He is now the Artistic Director for the Orchestra Magna Grecia here in Taranto Puglia.