Getting lost is a sore subject with me. I do it easily and often. It causes me anxiety. So, what do you do when you find yourself someplace unfamiliar? What else — you get lost.
There is this chocolate shop in Rome that I adore. It’s called Moriondo & Gariglio. I try to visit it every time I’m here. “Try” is the operative word. I say that because I cannot find that shop to save my life. I can only happen upon it. I know the neighborhood it is in. It is on a one-block Via called Pie’ di Marmo — marble foot. Named because there is a rather large sandled foot made of marble on the corner. But, like the street, I can’t find that marble foot either.
I don’t know if it’s Rome, or if it’s because I’m directionally-challenged. Maybe while I’m on vacation, I lose my need to know where I am, and am willing to wander and experience not what I intend, but what I happen to find.
The shop is city, no, world-renowned for its hand-crafted chocolates and its jelly fruit, gelatina di frutta. We’re not talking Jujyfruits© here. The gelatina di frutta is the essence of the very fruit itself. The chocolates are beyond heavenly. This may not be a coincidence because the shop lies in the neighborhood where priests and nuns buy their costumes. Even the Pope shops here.
When you order your candies: ah, the ritual. “Scatola, signora? Box, m’am?” You pick the size, and let the dance begin. Out comes the foil, the tissue, the scissors. They not only handmake the chocolates, they craft each box. These are not mass-produced boxes of chocolate.
The ladies cut the paper and rip the tissue to fit. Each chocolate or jellied fruit is gingerly plucked with tongs then delicately wrapped, each one, in foil. Placed oh-so-gently into the box. Covered with more ripped tissue and precisely cut foil. On goes the top. The box is finished off with a ribbon of satin or voile. It is complete. The entire process takes about 15 minutes. You hand them your 20 euros and walk out past the marble foot. You realize you’ve just experienced a little piece of heaven.
Maybe that’s why it’s so difficult to find the shop.
How much heaven can one girl take?
ITALIAN SHOPPING FOLLIES
There are certain hazards in shopping in a foreign country, using unknown currency. Especially when you believe you know what you’re doing. And don’t. You probably then get what you deserve.
I certainly have had my share of shopping gaffes in Italy. Several years ago, I handed over 100-thousand lira for a tiny nugget of antiquity at the famous flea market in Trastevere called the Porta Portese. The vendor had actually asked for 10-thousand. I got the currency mixed up. Ah, the Lira. Those were the days. Or, the time when I saw 45 for a pair of slippers and thought it was the price. To the clerk, I exclaimed: “Mama mia!” (yes, Italians really say that). 45 euros for slippers? Turns out that was the size, not the price. The sad thing is I was really willing to pay over fifty bucks for a pair of slippers. Or, how about my attempt to buy a train ticket from Florence to Bologna. I managed to bungle that so badly that by the time I was finished I had purchased three tickets for the one trip.
Nothing, however, embodies my shopping follies better than the above receipt, the scontrino. It comes from the place in Rome where I took my laundry in the spring of 2006. At the top — my chosen Italian name:Gianna. Below, the list of my clothing to be washed. Pantalone. Pants, two pairs. Maglia. In this case, five cotton shirts. And biancheria. This is actually one of my favorite Italian words, for intimate items. In sum, I took in a couple pair of pants, some t-shirts, socks and underwear. I asked the woman to wash and iron them. Well – to be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure they would be ironed, but when the woman asked “stirata, signora?” and gestured appropriately, I assumed my clothes would be ironed. Why would I want my underwear ironed? The last time I took my clothes to this lavanderia and ignored the gestured query, when I got the clothes back, they were washed, but a wrinkled mess. This time, I went for the ironing.
The sum due for this work: 31.4 euro. About 40 dollars. Yep. 40 bucks to wash my pants, t-shirts and underwear. And, as if this wasn’t bad enough — at the bottom of the receipt, the worst possible insult. Turista. Did this mean that I had dummy emblazoned on my forehead in neon?
It was too late at that point to turn back. They had my clothing. Admittedly, I puzzled why I didn’t just live a few more days with i miei vestititi sporchi — my dirty clothes.
I showed the scontrino to one of my Italian friends and asked if I was being ripped off. She assured me it was a reasonable price for that particular kind of establishment — elaborating that at least my clothes would be meticulously hand-washed and ironed. There are apparently pay-by-weight laundry shops in Rome where, like here, they will be tossed in a washer, dried and stuffed back into the bag.