Saturday, October 27, 2012

Study Abroad Memory: Il Rosso e Il Blu

As previously mentioned, my study abroad classes focused on Italian film.  One class discussed the usage of Rome in classic Italian cinema, and the other class discussed issues and culture in contemporary Italian cinema.  As a part of studying contemporary Italian cinema, my classmates, professors and I were invited to the set of Italian director Giuseppe Piccioni's 2012 film, Il Rosso e Il Blu.  It premiered in Italy last month, and I just found the trailer online.  

Il Rosso e Il Blu is a film about the challenges teachers and students face in the Italian public education system, set in liceo, or an Italian high school.  It stars some of the biggest names in Italian film, Riccardo Scamarcio and Margherita Buy.  Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of information on the film in English, but the trailer is still worth checking out.  

This movie is also special to me because it was the inspiration behind my final project for my two classes.  I created an integrated marketing plan for the film, studying Italian perspectives on film promotion, and integrating it with American marketing tactics. Although I did not have as much training in public relations and marketing communications then as I do now, I am still proud of it! My professor from Italy asked if she could show my plan to Giuseppe, the director, and as a going away gift, she gave everyone in my study abroad group a red and blue pencil, which is the symbol of the Italian school system! 

Red and Blue pencil! Photo Credit:

The image above is what the title Il Rosso e Il Blu means - the standard pencil Italian teachers use to correct students' work.  The red side of the pencil is used for a wrong answer, and the blue side is used for a correct answer.  

I cannot wait until this film comes out with subtitles!  The trailer even includes clips of two scenes for which my classmates and I were present.  Il Rosso e Il Blu is special to me because sometimes I felt confused with film jargon and technicalities in class, but my marketing plan allowed me to show everyone one of my greatest strengths! 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Italian & Italian American: Cultural Differences

One of the first cultural lessons I learned in Italy was regarding the differences of "Italian" and "Italian American." Growing up as an Italian American, I always thought I knew everything there was to know about life in Italy thanks to firsthand accounts from my Nonna, mom (who lived in Marostica for two months), family friends with dual citizenship, and of course, high school Italian class!

Although I definitely had a better grasp of the culture than most American students studying in Italy, I was surprised to learn that "Italian" customs I was used to from home were not truly Italian. From food to restaurant etiquette, I compiled a list of "Italian" practices that are seen as "American."

"Italian" dishes that are not actually from Italy:
Photo credit:

  • Fettuccine Alfredo - Alfredo sauce is an American concoction! When Italian immigrants first arrived in the United States, many of them needed an affordable way to incorporate more fat into daily meals, so they began to add cream to pasta. Have a craving for a creamier pasta meal while in Italy? Try gnocchi with four cheese sauce, also known as gnocchi ai quattro formaggi! 
  • Spaghetti and Meatballs - Shocking, right!? For many people, this is the quintessential Italian meal, complete with garlic bread and red wine.  However, it is another American creation! Italian immigrants needed a way to quickly cook both meat and pasta, so they cooked meat on top of pasta. Want to incorporate more protein in your authentic Italian meal? Try a bolognese sauce or add a secondo piatto, which is traditionally a meat dish.
"Italian" restaurant customs viewed as "American" while abroad:
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  • Olive oil and bread - At the beginning of most Italian American meals, olive oil and bread is served. However, that is not the case when out to eat in Italy! Native Italians view this practice as something reserved for the home - dipping bread in olive oil and cheese before your meal is not seen as "mature."
  • Family style everything - While family style is definitely present when eating in an Italian home, one does not simply go out to eat and order a pizza for five people.  Portion sizes abroad are smaller   than in the United States, so each person orders   their own dish. I did not think I would be able to finish my food while abroad, but most of the time I did! It is just that good. Plus, walking everywhere is great excercise! 

Additionally, customs viewed as "Italian" in the United States are not necessarily exactly the current custom in Italy.  For example, my family in America goes to church every Sunday.  However, my family in Italy does not go every Sunday, however they do participate in church festivals celebrating different saints. Due to the fact that culture is dynamic, the Italy my Nonna grew up in is not the Italy I visited.

Although there are vast differences in many facets of "Italian" and "Italian American" lifestyles, there are obviously commonalities between the two as well. Going a little deeper than food, both groups of people cherish their family, heritage, and are just striving to live la dolce vita. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

National Pasta Day

Today a PR related Twitter account that I follow informed me that it is National Pasta Day! Of course for Italians, every day is National Pasta Day, but I still think it is a fun way to celebrate a staple food that is known and loved around the world.

To celebrate National Pasta Day, here are some interesting facts about pasta, courtesy of the website Life In Italy:

  • Although it is believed that Marco Polo brought pasta back to Italy from a journey to China, it is also believed that Arab invasions of the 8th Century had an influence on modern dried pasta. 
  • Italians eat over 60 pounds of pasta per year, per person!
  • There are around 350 shapes of dried pasta. 

Photo Credit:

From the perspective of a college student, pasta is cheap and easy to cook, with tons of varieties from which to choose! For example, I recently found "vegetable pasta" at Dominick's, pasta claimed to be made from vegetables such as carrots and beets. It was delicious. I also discovered a recipe for squash-based spaghetti via Pinterest from the food blog, - definitely something I would like to investigate! 

Personally, pasta has always been a staple in my diet due to my Italian heritage. Nonna makes homemade ravioli every Christmas, and my mom makes a delicious penne, chicken, and vegetable dish.     I have countless memories based around it.  Many of my favorite meals during my study abroad experience in Rome consisted of some sort of pasta, specifically gnocchi quattro formaggi - gnocchi with four cheese sauce. Pasta dinners was also one of the ways my little sister in my sorority and I bonded during Chicago's 2011 "Snowpacolypse!" My mom and Nonna's pasta dishes are always welcome comfort food when I am stressed out about work or finals.  

Pasta is perfetto!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Italy in the news

As I was perusing the social media and tech news website, Mashable, this afternoon, I came across the headline "Massive 'Gangnam Style Flash Mob Rides Through Italy [VIDEO]." I immediately clicked the link.  Two of my favorite things - marketing and Italy - in one article! It made my day.

According to the Mashable article by Lorenzo Franceschi-Biccherai, about 9,000 people gathered in Piazza Verdi in Palermo, Sicily last month to dance to South Korean artist Psy's hit song, "Gangnam Style."

As a PR major, I try to stay tuned into the happenings in the public relations, advertising, and media industries, so seeing something related to Italy in the headlines was fantastic!

View the video below:

And you can read the Mashable article here:

Maybe an Italian pop star will record a viral hit someday!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

La Bella Vita, Italian Style!

My recent Italian outfit creation on Polyvore made me reminisce about Italian style.  Learning the style rules and going on shopping trips in Rome were some of the most entertaining memories I have from my study abroad experience.  Prior to leaving, I had a field day packing.  My mother reminded me that Italians were very style conscious, and my sorority sister and I read up on "style rules" or the "Italian dress code." Packing my two suitcases for five weeks was quite the event.

The article "Italian Dress Code?" from provided a nice overview of what Italians typically wear, if you are looking to blend in with the locals.  As a result of these tips, my packing consisted mostly of dresses, skirts, tops, and two pairs of jeans. I brought shorts, but only wore them to class or during the day. In regards to footwear, I packed Sperrys, some sandals, and a pair of wedges.  Lots of walking, combined with cobblestone meant that I usually wore my Sperrys or Reef flip flops - the more comfortable footwear options.  Packing a sweater is also important - many Italian churches require women to cover their knees and shoulders before entering!

A view of the Via Condotti, the Rodeo Drive of Italy.*

On our first day of classes in Rome, we had an Italian culture class, in which we discussed proper verbal and nonverbal communication, as well as the unspoken dress code.  If you are striving to blend in with the locals, no shorts in the evening, and athletic wear is only worn when exercising. Additionally, Dr. Scholl and Birkenstock sandals (in fun colors or metallics, of course), as well as all white outfits are some of the local trends. I strongly recommend rocking an all-white or mostly white outfit at least ONCE when visiting Italy!

Looking put together at all times is important in maintaining the Italian ideal of la bella figura. 

Shopping in Italy was also quite the experience.  Aside from large stores, most vendors, whether it be food, souvenirs, or small businesses, only accept cash.  A lot of commerce takes place outside in markets, although in Rome (and most major cities), there is at least one galleria, or shopping mall.

Popular stores range from global chains such as H&M, Benetton, and Zara to Italian/European brands such as Massimo Dutti, Oysho, Class, Oviesse, and Intimissimi.  For fashion lovers, one perk of visiting Italy in the summer is that June and July are the time for MAJOR sales. Discounts usually start between 25 & 50 percent off!

Although the dollar to Euro conversion is still in Europe's favor, there are some perks to be aware of when shopping in Italy. VAT tax means that you pay sticker price for all items - tax is already added into the value! Additionally, if non-European Union citizens purchase luxury items upwards of 150 euros (this amount usually varies by country), they are elegible for a VAT tax refund.  Rick Steves' website provides great info on VAT tax refunds.

(Top left photo: galleria in the heart of Rome*)

Even with a stronger Euro, sometimes it is more economical to purchase luxury items in Europe than in the U.S. due to import taxes.  For example, items at global stores such as Zara, Benetton, and H&M don't pay import tax in the European Union, and will be less expensive in Italy.  Additionally, I found that it is possible to save at least $50 on Longchamp totes when purchasing in Europe due to no import tax!

A child size Vespa in an Italian toy store!*

Since travel to Europe is pricey, it is important to be economical in purchasing and packing - hopefully these tips will be helpful when planning a trip to the boot!

*All photos are my own