Friday, October 24, 2008

Art Exhibits in Italy

I am in a hurry, but if in Italy, you may find this info. about art exhibits useful (listed by city):

Arts guide: exhibits in Italy

FERMO - Palazzo dei Priori: leading Marche Renaissance painter Vincenzo Pagani and influences including Raphael, Carlo Crivelli; until November 9.


- Galleria Palatina: Flemish Artists in Florence, 1430-1530; the likes of van Eyck, Memling and Leida compared to contemporaries Raphael, Botticelli, Castagno and Ghirlandaio; until October 26.

- Palazzo Pitti: The Medicis And Science; large collection of scientific writings and tools; until January 11.

ISOLA BELLA (LAKE GARDA) - Borromeo Collection of 130 Renaissance and later masters, reopened after renovation; permanent.

ROME - Palatine Hill: Augustus's House on view for first time in 25 years.

- Shenker Culture Club: 28 large religious works by Mario Schifano inspired by ancient Italian divinity Mater Matuta; marks 10th anniversary of artist's death; until October 15.

SIENA - Piazza del Duomo and other city sites: Mario Ceroli, Forms In Movement; giant works by avant-garde sculptor; until November 7.

STRA - Villa Pisani: 70 paintings and monumental works by sculptor Mimmo Paladino, hand-picked and arranged by the artist in the historic villa's magnificent grounds; until November 2.

TIVOLI - Villa Adriana: Between Light and Darkness; Ancient Roman funerary beds including bone-decorated bed from Aquinum and one found on Rome's Esquiline Hill; until November 2.

TRENTO - Castello del Buonconsiglio; first major show on relatively unknown Renaissance sculptor Andrea Briosco aka Il Riccio; until November 2.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Changing Money in Florence, Italy

Cari Amici (Dear Friends),

If I had not been wasting so much time, I might be only amused by the “efficiencies” of Italian banking -- or at least my current experiences with them.
My rent was due last Wednesday. I have been working very hard as a madonnara (street painter) here in Florence, Italy, because, as I suspect most everyone knows, the US dollar is very weak compared to the euro. While I still have to pay off my credit card debts in US dollars, every euro I can earn for spending here saves me heaps in money conversion rates.

Allora, street painters are mostly paid in spicciolo (coins), although I have received many 5 € bills (the smallest bill available) and the other day I was tipped a 20 € bill by an American architect. Sweet! Anyway, I counted out 700 euros in spiccoli. No way I was going to hand that to Doria and Luca, the older couple that I live with!

Last week, Luca went to the Post Office with me. He said they offer a lot of the same services that banks do. But they would not accept my coins unless they were in rolls and they had no rolls to give me. We went to the bank next door. No rolls. Try a café. Well, the café was overwhelmed at the idea of so much change and would not speak with us. Luca told me that he would buy some tubi for me so I could roll the coins and I went on into the studio to work.

That night he told me that I must visit Buffetti, an office supply store across town. I rode my bike there the next morning only to be told, “Prova una banca.” So, I tried a nearby bank. They gave me a few rolls, not nearly enough. Because I am not a client, they refused to help me more.

But the clear plastic tubi were enough to help minimize how much change I ended up handing over for my rent payment. I asked Doria if her bank would give her some tubi since she is a client of theirs. She returned with some plastic ones and also some paper ones, color-coded.

I rolled a lot of spiccioli this weekend and this Monday morning, I entered a bank near my home. I took a number from the machine, but after waiting and watching for a long time, I asked another potential client if this appearance of inactivity was normal in Italy. He responded that the computer was broken. After another minute, I asked a teller if it was possible to do a straight trade of my coins for paper. No, the computer is broken. “Prova una altra banca.”

So, I went to another bank, only to be told they do not accept spiccioli. I started to lose patience, “Scusimi, ma questa è una banca, si?”

“Si, ma prova una altra banca.”

Maddai . . . I thought to myself with the typical accompanying hand gestures.

I crossed the street, happy to find the banks so close. As I exited the revolving security door into the bank, a young teller actually acknowledged me with a “un momento.” Wow. In America I am used to the courtesy of a customer service representative noticing the presence of other waiting customers in this way. But in Italy, it seems they have a different type of politeness: The full attention is put on the current client. Everyone else does not exist. This is different, but if you happen to be the one being served, it feels good to know that the salesman is going to help you without the distraction of other clients.

Anyway, when it was my turn, the teller first asked me what it is that I do to receive so many coins. Then he told me that he could only accept the clear tubi, not the paper ones, because he could not see into those. Fantastico! (a little sarcasm, you see . . . ) I argued that it was a bank that gave them to me, but to no avail.
However, the exchange we did make lightened my load significantly and he actually talked me into seeing him in the morning to discuss my opening an account with the bank. Let me see how this goes . . .

If you like what you read and would like to save me from Italian banks, please consider supporting this blog a little bit . . .