Still learning the Italian ropes: the ATM

Even after almost 3 years of full-time life in Italy, I am still learning.  I recently was able to open a kind of bank account here. This means that after 3 years, I can pay my rent online for the first time!  What an accomplishment!  It’s a long story about why it took this long, but most of it is that no Italian friend can truly understand how confusing it is to do something as simple as opening a bank account here for a foreigner.  And, btw, bank accounts are expensive in Italy.  They charge you a lot for holding your money.

Screen Shot 2019-10-11 at 09.45.08

Be all of that as it may, I now have an Italian account that comes with a debit card and the ability to withdraw cash from certain ATMs across the country.

What I didn’t know was the etiquette involved.  Yesterday I went into the small room off a major street, within which I had spotted the correct ATM.  Someone was in the small room (it’s the size of a small walk-in closet), but there was no line, so I entered the room. The man who was already at the machine turned to stare at me, and for a split second, I thought he was offering to let me go in front of him to use the machine.

Then, I realized that he was not happy because I was in the room at all with him.  I found out that entering the closet with another person is not acceptable, even though I was nowhere near him and the machine.  But, at that moment, before the gravity of this sunk it, I just waved at him and said, “go ahead.”  Then I turned completely around and looked out the window so he wouldn’t think I was after his PIN. Ha ha…little did he know that I could watch him from close up and never remember the digits if my life depended on it. Numbers don’t compute in my brain.

The comedy of this situation is that I was lugging 3 large plastic bags full of wet laundry to a nearby laundromat.  I have a washer in my apartment, but nobody has a drier. I was on my way to dry towels and blankets–since fall is setting in–at the laundromat.  I specifically entered the glass bank ATM closet so I could set down these heavy bags.

The man finished his top secret transaction and left. I took my turn at the machine and tried 4 times to withdraw cash and, of course, I couldn’t get the machine to work for me. When I finally accepted defeat (as I have become adept at doing here in fair Italia), I turned to leave, and picked up my 3 heavy laundry bags.  I noted that there were about 4 or 5 relatively patient people waiting just outside the glass door to use the ATM when I finished.  As I left, I wanted to tell them thank you for waiting outside the glass closet, but of course I don’t know the Italian words for any of this.  My baby Italian would not deliver the sarcasm I would have wanted to portray.

Lesson learned: in Italy, where the concept of personal space doesn’t exist in lines at the supermarket, the pharmacy, the airport, the train station…that concept is alive and well at the ATM glass closet.  Silly me.

Celebrating women art patrons: Tōfukumon’in, Empress Consort of Japan

Tōfukumon’in (1607–1678)
Empress Consort of Japan

Screen Shot 2019-09-14 at 11.06.27
Following more than a century of civil war in Japan, Empress Tōfukumon’in played a pivotal role in shaping culture and aesthetic tastes in the peaceful Edo period. Tōfukumon’in used her endowment from Tokugawa leadership to rebuild prominent Kyoto temples and collect art by her era’s leading artisans. She dabbled in creative endeavors herself, writing poetry and experimenting with calligraphy, and she was particularly interested in fashion and textiles.

Together with her husband, Gomizunoo, Tōfukumon’in fostered more direct relationships between the imperial family and artisans. The empress collected pottery by famed ceramicist Nonomura Ninsei, paintings by Tosa Mitsunobu, and works by other prominent artists and workshops of the day, like Tawaraya Sōtsatu and the Kano and Tosa schools. Her chambers featured artworks that mingled classical styles with contemporary scenes featuring warrior figures and commoners.

Screen Shot 2019-09-14 at 11.06.41

Among her most notable commissions are six painted screens by court painter Tosa Mitsuoki that together comprise Flowering Cherry and Autumn Maples with Poem Slips (1654–81). Against the golden silk backdrop, the artist rendered slips of medieval poetry dangling from finely wrought leaves. The work merges Tōfukumon’in’s interests in literature and painting, and also represents the royal couple’s quest for cultural influence in an era when the feudal shogunate increasingly wrestled control from the imperial family.

Celebrating women art patrons: Hürrem Sultan, a.k.a. Roxelana

Hürrem Sultan, a.k.a. Roxelana (1505–1558)
Empress of the Ottoman Empire

Screen Shot 2019-09-14 at 11.00.31

Titian, La Sultana Rossa c. 1500. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Through her coquetry and mastery of palace intrigue, Roxelana (meaning “the maiden from Ruthenia,” a region in what is today Belarus and Ukraine) rose from sex slavery as a concubine in Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent’s harem, eventually becoming his first (or most preferred) wife. In the harem, Roxelana learned Turkish, the principles of Islam, and the art of seduction, and she earned a new name, Hürrem—“the joyful one.” Roxelana so enchanted the sultan that he broke with tradition and had multiple children with her. A few years later, he married her—an act that granted Roxelana her freedom.

At the side of one of the most powerful rulers in Ottoman history, Roxelana wielded extraordinary influence over the empire through her philanthropy and prominent public building projects. Her Haseki complex in Constantinople featured a mosque, school, hospital, and soup kitchen. When a fire partially destroyed Suleiman’s harem, Roxelana used the opportunity to move in with her husband at the Topkapi Palace—an unprecedented move among sultanic wives that ushered in an era called “the Reign of Women.” Instead of rebuilding the harem, she encouraged Suleiman to construct a mosque.

Screen Shot 2019-09-14 at 11.03.36

The Mosque of Suleiman the Magnificent still stands as a landmark in Istanbul today. In The Women Who Built the Ottoman World (2017), Muzaffer Özgüles suggests that Roxelana “reshaped the patronage of all Ottoman women builders who came after her.”

The birth of Coty perfumes; how an up-start Corsican invented a bran

One of the many visitors to the Paris exposition was twenty-five-year-old François Spoturno (known to history as the more gentrified François Coty), a native of Corsica who had come to Paris to make his fortune. A born charmer, he already had proved his skills as a salesman in Marseilles. Now, using a connection he had cultivated during his military service, he found a position as attaché to the senator and playwright Emmanuel Arène. It was a tremendous coup.

Screen Shot 2019-09-11 at 11.50.20

Spoturno was born on 3 May 1874 in Ajaccio, Corsica. He was a descendant of Isabelle Bonaparte, an aunt of Napoleon Bonaparte. His parents were Jean-Baptiste Spoturno and Marie-Adolphine-Françoise Coti, both descendants of Genoese settlers who founded Ajaccio in the 15th century. His parents died when he was a child and the young François was raised by his great-grandmother, Marie Josephe Spoturno, and. after her death, by his grandmother, Anna Maria Belone Spoturno. Grandmother and grandson lived in Marseille.

Screen Shot 2019-09-11 at 11.53.44

Coty and his wife.

Young Spoturno may not have had money, but he now had access to the glittering upper reaches of 1900 Paris, with its salons, clubs, and fashionable gatherings. As he quickly realized, it was a world in which women played a key role, from the most elegant aristocrats to the grandest courtesans—a fact of great importance, as it turned out, since women would soon make Spoturno’s fortune.

Spoturno’s interest was not in clothing but in perfume. At the opening of the new century, the perfect perfume was as essential to the well-dressed Parisian woman as was the latest fashion in dresses, and the French perfume industry was booming, with nearly three hundred manufacturers, twenty thousand employees, and a profitable domestic as well as export business.4 Naturally, perfume makers took the opportunity to display their wares at the 1900 Paris exposition, and Spoturno took the time to wander among their displays, including those of leading names such as Houbigant and Guerlain.

Spoturno was not yet sufficiently knowledgeable to judge a perfume’s quality, but he did note that the bottles containing these perfumes were old-fashioned and uninspired. It would not be long before it would occur to him that perhaps their contents were also a trifle outdated.

But first he had to find his way into the perfume business. After getting a job as a fashion accessories salesman and marrying a sophisticated young Parisian, Spoturno became acquainted with a pharmacist who, like other chemists at the time, made his own eau de cologne, which he sold in plain glass bottles. He also met Raymond Goery, a pharmacist who made and sold perfume at his Paris shop. Coty began to learn about perfumery from Goery and created his first fragrance, Cologne Coty.

One memorable evening, Spoturno sniffed a sample of his friend’s wares and turned up his nose. The friend then dared him to make something better, and Spoturno went to work.

He hadn’t the slightest idea of how to proceed, but in the end he managed so well that his friend had to admit that he was gifted. Yet natural gifts were not enough in the perfume business, and soon Spoturno decided to go to Grasse, the center of France’s perfume industry, to learn perfume-making from the experts. Along the way he would change his name to his mother’s maiden name. Only he would spell it “Coty.”

The brand’s first fragrance, La Rose Jacqueminot, was launched the same year and was packaged in a bottle designed by Baccarat.

L’Origan was launched in 1905; according to The Week, the perfume “started a sweeping trend throughout Paris” and was the first example of “a fine but affordable fragrance that would appeal both to the upper classes and to the less affluent, changing the way scents were sold forever.”

Screen Shot 2019-09-11 at 11.51.20

Following its early successes, Coty was able to open its first store in 1908 in Paris’ Place Vendôme. Soon after, Coty began collaborating with French glass designer René Lalique to create custom fragrance bottles, labels, and other packaging materials, launching a new trend in mass-produced fragrance packaging.

Screen Shot 2019-09-11 at 11.49.34

Coty also established a “Perfume City” in the suburbs of Paris during the early 1910s to handle administration and fragrance production; the site was an early business supporter of female employees and offered benefits including child care.

Screen Shot 2019-09-11 at 11.52.39

The year was 1904, and François Coty was about to engage in his own act of rebellion. Or was it simply a superb marketing tactic? We do not know. What we do know is that on one fateful day, on the ground floor of the Louvre department store, Coty smashed a bottle of perfume on the counter—with momentous results. Following his decision to learn more about the perfume business, Coty had indeed gone to Grasse, which was the long-established center for cultivating the flowers essential for making perfume. It was also the research center for the entire perfume industry. There, he applied for training at the esteemed Chiris company, which represented the cutting edge of current perfume technology. Fortunately, the head of the firm, now a senator, was a friend of Coty’s patron, Senator Arène, which eased Coty’s way. Coty then worked diligently for a year to learn all that he could, from flower cultivation to essential oils, spending much of his time in the laboratory. He analyzed, he synthesized, and he learned how to blend. During his apprenticeship, Coty learned about two new tools that the established perfumers had for the most part neglected in favor of more traditional methods. The first of these was the discovery of extraction by volatile solvents, a technique that made extraction of large quantities of fragrance possible and could even be used with nonfloral substances such as leaves, mosses, and resins. Shortly before the turn of the century, Louis Chiris secured a patent on this technique and set up the first workshop based on solvent extraction. Coty was an early student of this pioneering work.

The second and even more revolutionary discovery was that of synthetic fragrances. Earlier in the nineteenth century, French and German scientists had discovered synthetic fragrance molecules in organic compounds such as coal and petroleum that allowed perfumers to approximate scents that could not otherwise be easily extracted. It was an amazing breakthrough, and a few perfumers experimented briefly with the artificial scents of sweet grass, vanilla (from conifer sap), violet, heliotrope, and musk. A few also explored the possibilities of the first aldehydes, which gave perfumes a far greater strength than ever before. Yet with only a few exceptions, established perfumers in the early 1900s avoided these synthetic molecules. In studying the successful perfumes of the day, Coty

concluded that most were limited in range and old-fashioned, pandering to conservative tastes with heavy, overly complex floral scents that were almost interchangeable. He had educated his nose and learned his trade, and although he never would become a perfumer per se, he had an extraordinary imagination and a gift for using it to explore new realms. It was with this gift, newly honed, that he returned to Paris, and with ten thousand borrowed francs set up a makeshift laboratory in the small apartment where he and his wife lived. He was willing—even eager—to break with convention, aiming to create a perfume that combined subtlety with simplicity. Even at the beginning, his formulas were simple but brilliant, using synthetics to enhance natural scents. Coty also revolutionized the

bottles containing his perfumes. Remembering the beauty of the antique perfume bottles at the 1900 Paris exposition, which made the virtually standardized perfume bottles of the day look boring, Coty unhesitatingly went to the top and hired Baccarat to produce the lovely, slim bottle for La Rose Jacqueminot, his first perfume. As he later remarked, “A perfume needs to attract the eye as much as the nose.”16 Coty’s wife sewed and embroidered the silk pouches with velvet ribbons and satin trim that contained the bottles, and Coty now drew on his sales skills—this time selling his own rather than someone else’s product. Much to his dismay, it proved almost impossible to break through the established perfumers’ stranglehold on the market. Coty went from rejection to rejection, until one day he lost his composure. He was on the

ground floor of the Louvre department store trying to sell La Rose Jacqueminot, and the buyer was about to show him the door. In anger—or in what perhaps was a supreme act of showmanship—Coty smashed one of the beautiful Baccarat bottles on the counter, and a revolution began. According to legend, women shoppers smelled the perfume and flocked to the source, buying up Coty’s entire supply. The buyer took note, became suddenly cooperative, and Coty was on his way. After the fact, some groused that Coty had staged the entire stunt, including hiring actresses to play the part of shoppers entranced by his perfume. Yet by this time it didn’t matter. Coty had made his first publicity coup, whether or not it was intentional, and he and his perfumes were launched.

 

François Coty was also doing well in new quarters, which he had shrewdly taken in an affluent part of town, just north of the Champs-Elysées. Space there was limited, but the address (on Rue La Boétie) was a good one and worth the effort to cram showroom, shop, laboratory, and packaging department under one small roof. Much as Coty expected and desired, his perfume business continued to surge. The year 1905 was a big one for him, during which he presented two new hits: Ambre Antique and, especially, L’Origan, which according to perfume aficionados was an exceptionally daring blend, suitable for those daring Fauvist times. It was while Coty was launching his seductive new perfumes that an ambitious young woman by the name of Helena Rubinstein was studying dermatology

McAuliffe PhD, Mary. Twilight of the Belle Epoque . Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.

McAuliffe PhD, Mary. Twilight of the Belle Epoque . Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.

McAuliffe PhD, Mary. Twilight of the Belle Epoque . Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.

McAuliffe PhD, Mary. Twilight of the Belle Epoque . Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.

McAuliffe PhD, Mary. Twilight of the Belle Epoque . Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

McAuliffe PhD, Mary. Twilight of the Belle Epoque . Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.

McAuliffe PhD, Mary. Twilight of the Belle Epoque. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/François_Coty

Charting my progress, for the record

How’s my goal of living in Italy working out?  Pretty well.  It hasn’t been easy or fast, but it has been steady.

I came to Florence at the end of November in 2016.  I arrived with a student Visa, which let me live in Italy beyond the 90 days any American can stay in Europe as a tourist.  I stayed in Florence for 11 months and successfully obtained the all important Permesso di Soggiorno with that Visa.  The Permesso expired after 8 months, regardless of the fact that I had already paid for Italian language school for 12 months.  Lesson 1: there is no logic.

I returned to the states in October of 2017, going from Florence to Chicago where it was necessary for me to go to the Italian Consulate to apply for an elective residency Visa.  Such a Visa allows Americans like me, if we are fortunate enough to receive the Visa, to live in Italy under certain circumstances.  Chicago was necessary for me because my home is in Denver and that’s the way that cookie is divided.  I filed the myriad documents needed to show my eligibility for the elective residency Visa, and then went to Denver to wait its hoped-for arrival.

Fortunately, I received the Visa.  But, it has certain conditions. I won’t enumerate them all, but one of the most important ones is that I am not allowed to have gainful employment in Italy.  I cannot receive any payment from anyone in Italy.  Doing so could result not only in my Visa being revoked, but the Italian government could prohibit me from ever setting foot in Italy again.  It’s a powerful rule.

I returned to Florence in December of 2017, armed with my new elective residency Visa. The first step, then, once within the country, is that within 8 days, one must apply for the Permesso di Soggiorno.  I applied for this before Christmas in 2017 and then began to wait for its arrival.

Some people will receive their Permesso within a month, or so they say.  Others, like me, are not so lucky.  I waited for 8 months to receive word that my new Permesso was ready for me to pick up at the police station, or the dreaded Questura.

In July of 2018, I received a text message telling me to appear at the Questura on a certain date in early August, at a certain time.  I did as I was asked.  I turned in my old, expired, student-based Permesso, and received my new one.  Unfortunately, my new Permesso was already expired when I received it.  You read that right.  Welcome to Italy.

The true impact of this situation on my daily life was nil.  As long as one re-applies for a new Permesso within a short period, and keeps the receipt of that application with them at all times, typically no problems will result.  Fortunately, I have never been stopped by the police in Italy and asked to show my documents.  Theoretically, even if the police did stop me and ask for my documents, the receipt of the new Permesso application would suffice.

I filed my new application for a new Permesso in late September of 2018.  Of course I kept a copy of the receipt for fees paid for that application with me at all times.

And then I began the wait for my new Permesso.

So, what is the importance of this waiting period on my life?  Again, on a daily basis it is unnoticeable.  However, there are other steps that one needs to do to truly function in present day Italy after one receives the Permesso.

For example, I tried to open a bank account in Italy in the winter of 2017, while I had my student Visa and my related Permesso.  With the assistance of an Italian friend, we could not find a bank that was willing to open an account for me.  I suppose I was considered to be too transient to bother with.

At that time, I was warned about opening an Italian bank account in any case.  Still not having one, I cannot tell you exactly why people recommended I NOT open an account, should I ever find a bank that was willing to let me.  Why? As I understand it, bank accounts here are very different from what I’m used to in the USA.  For starters, it is quite costly to maintain an account here.  In any case, no bank would open an account for me if I didn’t have a current Permesso di Soggiorno.  Although I never tried to open an account with just my receipt, perhaps I could have done so.  It just didn’t seem worthwhile to try, so I didn’t.  For months I expected to receive my new Permesso and then I would try. That was my plan

Once I received my elective residency Visa and had an actual, unexpired Permesso di Soggiorno, I could follow other steps. First among these is applying for a Certificato di Residenza.  I still don’t understand why this is important to have, but it is.  There are certain things I just accept here and just accept that it makes no sense to me.  The Serenity Prayer comes in handy.

After obtaining the Certificato di Residenza, one can apply for the Carta d’ Identita, which is necessary to have before applying for an Italian health care card which would allow me to seek medical treatment in Italy should the need arise. Up until such time, it is incumbent upon me to maintain a private traveler’s health insurance policy to cover unforseen events.  As a matter of fact, proof of such a policy is a necessary document needed to apply for both the elective residency Visa and also for the Permesso di Soggiorno.

So, I’ve been waiting since last September (2018), for my new Permesso di Soggiorno.  Six months went by, 7 months, 8 months, 9 months, 10 months and then, finally, I received a text message telling me my new Permesso would be ready for me to pick up at the Questura last week.  I went with baited breath, wondering if it would already be expired again.

This time, I got lucky.  True, I had to wait 11.5 months for the thing, but at least I got one that does not expire for 12 months!  I’m suddenly completely legal, not needing any receipts for anything, at least for a year!  Then I get to do the whole thing over again.

So, how did I celebrate?  I did so by immediately (the next week) applying for my Certificato di Residenza.  I was informed by knowledgeable people and blogs that this would arrive 45 days after I applied for it.  Then I could apply for the Carta d’ Identita.

Imagine my surprise, after going to the correct government office in Florence, when the clerk told me she could produce and give it to me that same day!  She asked me if I wanted to apply for the Carta d’ Identita and I mostly certainly did.  She gave me the forms to sign and submitted them.  She said I should receive it within a week (I’ll expect it within a month, if I’m lucky).

Once I have that in hand, I intend to apply for the Italian health care card which, if I understand things correctly, will allow me to seek medical assistance if the need were to arise, which I obviously hope it will not!

And, bonus, in the meantime I met an Italian who works with a lot of English speakers, and she told me that she thought I could apply for a “bank account” with the Italian postal system.  Say what?

It turned out, she was correct.  I went into the Post Office in Florence last week and opened an account that seems to be something like a bank account…even if it is with the postal system.  I have a new debit card and the ability to wire money into this account from the US.  For the first time since I arrived in Italy in November of 2016, I will be able to pay my rent to my landlord’s bank account.  Up until now, I’ve had to take cash out of the ATM over the period of a few days to get enough money together to pay my rent.

All of a sudden, I feel like I’m living in the 21st century again.  However, I’ve been in Italy long enough to know that any number of things could and may still go wrong.  I’ll check in again once money has successfully been wired from the states to my post office bank account and I’ve paid my rent.  Fingers crossed.

And, next week, I’ll apply for a health insurance card.  Step by slow step, my life in Italy is becoming complete.

Arrividerla, L

 

 

 

 

Mary Quant

fullsizeoutput_1716

Last month I got to see the Mary Quant exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.  It was a childhood dream to wear Mary Quant fashion.  Her work was not for sale in the small interior West American town where I grew up.  But, my mother could sew anything and she fashioned some Quant designs for me.  It breaks my heart that we didn’t keep all of those great things my mom sewed. But, they are stored in my memory and I remember how I felt when I wore them.  That suffices in a pretty big way.  Thanks mom!

IMG_0522

But Mary Quant’s fashions, along with Twiggy and the Beatles, were a big part of my burgeoning (teenage) identity.  Well, I mean that’s obvious.  The name of my blog is from the Beatles: “Get back!”

fullsizeoutput_1719

 

The photo above of legs and the next 3 of hair were the kind of thing that fired my imagination.  I couldn’t buy her fashions in South Dakota in the 1960s, but I could wear the tights and haircuts she inspired!  And I did!

 

fullsizeoutput_1718

 

fullsizeoutput_1715

 

IMG_0548

 

The rest of my pictures of the V & A exhibition are in no particular order.  It was a great and very fun show, and I loved seeing and snapping pix of it.

 

IMG_0519

 

 

IMG_0521

IMG_0523

 

IMG_0525

IMG_0520

IMG_0526

 

IMG_0530

 

IMG_0531

 

IMG_0543

 

IMG_0541

IMG_0542

IMG_0540

IMG_0539

 

IMG_0537

 

IMG_0538

 

 

 

IMG_0544

 

 

IMG_0546

 

IMG_0549

 

fullsizeoutput_171a

 

The next photo was completely my scene.  I wore these styles, these colors, and this vibe.

 

fullsizeoutput_1717

 

IMG_0560

IMG_0561

IMG_0562

I didn’t know about Mary Quant’s paper dolls, or sticker books, or I would have been seeking them out.  We didn’t have the internet back then, but I bet I could have figured it out, long-hand, so to speak.  I guarantee you that I would have placed an international order with my babysitting money and waited for months to receive my treasures.  This is how I honed my long game, which I still use with great results.

IMG_0563

IMG_0564IMG_0565IMG_0570

 

The jersey dress changed fashion.  I’m a big fan and I still wear it.

IMG_0571IMG_0574IMG_0575IMG_0576IMG_0577IMG_0578IMG_0579IMG_0580

 

IMG_0581IMG_0582IMG_0584IMG_0585IMG_0586IMG_0588

IMG_0589IMG_0590IMG_0592