Sorprese Italiane!

Italian Surprises!

Venice is magical.

The narrow alley ways, the canals, the art and the buildings, the food and wine and coffee, but mostly the people. I’d expected to find a dirty, kind of smelly city packed with tourists. Instead I fell in love with Venice and hope to visit again and stay longer.

Flushing a toilet in Italy is some kind of puzzle.

The biggest variation in American toilets is whether the handle is on the left or right. Italians seem to have a competition for hiding the flusher.

Even though this is the most common and obvious toilet system, the flusher in this photo is on the wall 3 feet from the toilet. It’s close enough to the hairdryer to be confusing and, best of all, it’s hidden behind the towels hanging from the towel rack above it.

Others interesting flusher puzzles included cryptic symbols on a wall plate off to the side of the bathroom, a bump in the floor you pushed with your foot, and, in the most amazing bathroom in Venice, a tiny touch point on a chrome bar. Thankfully, someone stuck a piece of tape with an arrow pointing to the right spot.

Hot Air Hand Dryers in Italy Miss the Point
They don’t ever get hot!

I did find one Dyson Blade that did the job. But every other hot air hand dryer in an Italian bathroom only blew cold air, if it blew any air at all.

I guess I should consider myself lucky based on this research report about air hand dryers from Harvard Medical School. Maybe next trip I’ll carry my own supply of paper towels.

Electrical sockets in Italy

I’d purchased an amazingly small, light-weight 110/220 AC/USB power strip with 8 adapters for the trip. My research showed that Italy mostly used the two prong plug with occasional three prong plugs. I only brought the two prong adapter (on the right in this photo) and immediately found most of the wall sockets were three prong (on the left, sitting at home on my desk). I also found that about half of the free USB chargers in airports were broken but all of them had three prong sockets that worked. Lesson learned – bring all the adapters and pick up a three-prong USB power source.

Everyone knows tipping is not necessary in Europe.

It’s included in the bill at restaurants, right? That’s not what we found.

Some restuarants had a “service charge” included but many did not. And there was no “tip” line on the credit card receipt because they only allow tips to be in cash. So, we started asking each checker if tips were included. We also discovered that a 10% tip is considered perfect, maybe because their service staff earns a reasonable wage for their time.

Euro Exit Signs Are Confusing

This photo shows one in Frankfurt airport. Our confusion was made worse by the fact that many people were running to their departure gates. They’d pause by one of these signs, look around, then run again. After seeing the same signs in Italy by doors in restaurants we figured out they were simply exit signs but we still don’t know why the guy is running.

Compari spritz, and it’s sweeter cousin Aperol spritz, are everywhere.

For good reason – they are delicious! We sampled them almost every afternoon served with a variety of tasty treats. We liked them so much we bought Compari and prosecco to make them at home.

American Music is Everywhere

Almost all the music playing in restuarants and bars is American music from the 50’s right up to current time, though most of it was kind of a greatest hits of every decade. On our gondola ride through Venice we heard the haunting sounds of an accordion drifting down the canal. Soon a gondola rounded a corner with a grey-haired man playing to a couple in the boat – awwwwww… But then we realized he wasn’t playing a traditional Italian melody. He was playing “Sounds of Silence“.

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