Category Archives: bureaucracy

Help Me Get to Italy Quicker!!

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I was so excited to see this petition floating around the internet to bring back the direct flight from San Francisco to Italy!

Petition for SFO – Italy Non-Stop Flights (click to sign)

It used to be so convenient, but after the disaster called 9/11, this flight was discontinued. I’m not really sure why this tragedy affected this particular flight, but, sadly, it did and we, in Northern California, now have to make pit stops along the way to get to Italy. This results in us arriving tired and cranky in Il Bel Paese!
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Now, no one really wants to see that, right? So help me, and all the rest of us Northern California weary travelers, get to Italy fresh and ready to go! FYI – this also goes for those Italians traveling to see us here in San Francisco! Our beautiful City by the Bay is waiting for you!

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Will There Be Ghosts…Or Not?

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Italy is in great need of funds and so they are looking for creative ways to raise that revenue.  Part of their plan includes allowing large corporations to sponsor the renovation and upkeep of Italy’s monuments, roads, etc. (like Tod’s contribution to the renovation of Rome’s great Colosseum).  Another aspect of this plan is to offer up properties for “sale” throughout Italy.  These “sales” are actually 99 year leases…not quite forever, but enough time to do something new with it.  These sales will not only raise revenue but help to promote the development of the regions as well.  One of these 5 Italian properties for “sale” is the tiny island of Poveglia in the Venetian lagoon.

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Poveglia has a sinister past which has given it quite a reputation.   It began as a battleground over power between the Venetians and the Genoese back in the 14th century, and ended up as a hospital for the elderly during the 20th century.  During the 18th century, when the plague was discovered on two ships entering into Venice, it became that ominous place where Venetians stricken with the plague and other infectious diseases went to die.  When it was used as a hospital for the elderly from 1922 to 1968, it is rumored that experiments on the mentally ill were performed here.  One of the directors that performed these crude operations ended up throwing himself from the hospital’s tower because he claimed to have been driven mad by ghosts!  The reputation of being haunted has stuck with the island…it is currently uninhabited, with eerie reminders of days gone by.  There are rusted beds, crumbling walls, vines encroaching on building interiors – all the elements of a horror film.  Many brave souls that have ventured to spend some time there have reported ghostly presences.

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Even though Italy wants to try to lease the island to make some money, local Venetians are forming a group to try to save the island for them!  They want to make it into a refuge from the overly touristic Venice where people can run away to enjoy a quiet picnic, stroll peaceful gardens, and learn to sail.   They obviously don’t believe the haunted claim as many of them said they used to spend weekends there as children.

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The citizen group known as Friends of Poveglia has so far raised about 160,000 Euros to buy and restore the island for the locals.  Meanwhile a corporate investor has offered 513,000 to “lease” the island and build a mega-resort.  Who will win out?  Maybe the ghosts will decide it’s ultimate fate….

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The New Roman Colosseum

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A few years ago, I wrote a post on the search for someone to hand over 25 million Euros for the restoration of the famous Colosseum in Rome.  Luckily someone has come forward with the capital:  Diego della Valle, CEO of Tod’s, the luxury shoe manufacturer.

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Della Valle is a native Italian with lots of pride for his homeland.  “I’m someone who has had enormous luck in life and when I could give back, I did,” says Della Valle. “This is a monument that not only belongs to Italy’s patrimony but the entire world.” The project began last December and will take about 5 years to complete.  So far, they have begun by removing the soot caused by dust and smog almost 2000 years old.  The travertine stone has been blasted with water at low pressure to reveal the true ochre and red colors of the original Roman stone.  So far, they have cleaned 14 of the 80 or so pillars.  Once this first phase is done, they will continue by reattaching broken fragments and fortifying them with mortar.  The iron bars that dot the surface will be repaired and the metal rails will be replaced with newly forged iron gates.  A tourist center and café will be built underground in front of the Colosseum’s entrance and lastly, in the Colosseum’s cellar, where roaring animals and sword-wielding gladiators were once detained, the brick walls will be restored.

The bidding for the project began in 2010 and the two final contenders were Tod’s and Ryanair!  It’s a good thing that Ryanair did not win the bid because it intended to wrap the monument in advertising banners!  Now that would have been a sight for sore eyes!

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Surprisingly enough, this seemingly generous donation elicited a huge controversy headed by the Italian consumer protection organization, Codacons because they disagreed with Tod’s having use of the Colosseum for preapproved corporate events.  Seems to me that if someone is being generous enough to hand over 25 million Euros they should be allowed a little bit of appreciation – a few private corporate events doesn’t seem like much to ask for!  Much better than advertising banners everywhere! This stupid controversy delayed the project for over 2 years, with all those millions just sitting unused, until the courts dismissed the case due to a technicality.  Della Valle wasn’t phased by this, but he did state “…I do believe that something as simple as, ‘I want to give you money, let’s spend it’ shouldn’t be so difficult.  My idea was always to use this [donation] as a restart.  The country is having problems right now. But there is a lot of will and desire to do things. All that’s needed is to show people that things can happen and how to do it.  I see it as an obligation.  Italians who have had success and luck in life should give back to their country.”

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This philosophy has elicited a positive response from several other notable Italian companies:  Fendi will be restoring the Trevi Fountain and Diesel will take on Venice’s Rialto Bridge.  Thankfully, there are these very generous patrons who value the rich historical significance of these extraordinary masterpieces and are willing to come to their rescue.

 

 

 

The World Has One More Italian Citizen

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After 2 1/2 years of waiting patiently for my husband to get his Italian citizenship through marriage, the wait is finally over!  He received his decree from the Ministero dell’Interno announcing that he was granted Italian citizenship!

We were invited to participate in the swearing in ceremony this past Friday, along with 5 other lucky and worthy new citizens at the Italian Consulate in San Francisco,  We were ushered upstairs after hours to a beautiful room in the magnificent mansion in Pacific Heights which houses the Consulate.

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There we were greeted by the Consul General himself, Mr. Mauro Battochi.  He welcomed all the new citizens and read an official decree conferring Italian citizenship to them.  He indicated that Italy now had about 60,000,000 citizens worldwide!  After that, they all had to swear their allegiance with this oath:

Giuro di essere fedele alla Repubblica Italiana ed al suo capo e di osservare lealmente le leggi dello stato.

I swear to be faithful to the Italian Republic and it’s head and to faithfully observe the laws of the State.

Luckily for all of them, they read it as a group and no one was singled out for trying to say and pronounce it solo!

Following this little official swearing in, each new citizen signed some more official papers and then we all celebrated with a prosecco toast!  Everyone we met was so nice and happy to be new citizens of beautiful Italy!

My husband’s citizenship has now completed my little family’s dual citizenship status, and I couldn’t be more proud of the two great nations that we are now part of!

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Waiting….waiting….and still waiting

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June 10, 2011…the day my husband presented all his required documentation to the young gentleman at the San Francisco Italian Consulate for his request to become an Italian citizen through marriage.  He had with him all the police and FBI records indicating that he wasn’t a hardened criminal and he was definitely worthy of Italian citizenship.  “Your request will be processed and you will receive your citizenship within 2 years of this meeting” is what we were told.  Gosh, 2 years?  Ok, well it is what it is so we knew we had to be patient.

Patiently waiting....

Patiently waiting….

Fast forward to November 20, 2013…and guess what?  We have not heard a peep from anyone….niente, nulla, zip!  If my calculations are correct, we are now at almost 2 1/2 years since our meeting.  Hmm…what’s the holdup?   Is his paperwork sitting on someone’s desk at some Ministry office in Italy, or worse yet, it is still sitting on that gentleman’s desk at the consulate’s office in San Francisco, never having begun its journey?

Hopefully his paperwork isn't it this stack?

Hopefully his paperwork isn’t in this stack?

So, silly me decides to try to see if I can find out,  even though I have very little hope of getting a satisfactory answer since San Francisco’s Italian Consulate is not exactly user-friendly.  But, maybe, since they have a new Consul General and they seem to be doing more within the Italian community, things have taken a change for the better?  There’s always a chance and you don’t know until you try, right?

My first attempt (and the least obtrusive) is to try by sending an email (since this seems to be their preferred method of communication).  One email goes unanswered.  Then the second…  Maybe the third time will be the charm, I hope.  But nope, once again, nothing.

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OK,  time to take the 2nd line of attack – the phone call.

So I looked up the direct line for the citizenship office and I dialed the number, just to get a recording which very bluntly stated:  “That mailbox is full  and is not accepting any messages!”  Hmm….ok….so I decided to give them a few days to empty out their messages.  When I tried again a week later, guess what?  I got the same message.

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So at this point I decided to try the Consulate’s main line.  And big surprise,  I struck out there as well.  It started off promising when I actually got a person on the other end, but as soon as I began speaking and she heard the word “citizenship” (and, mind you, she didn’t even give me the opportunity to finish saying the word), she transferred me to that darn mailbox that was full!  Really?

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At this point, my blood is starting to boil (something that happens every time I have to deal with them) because I feel totally helpless and completely at their mercy.  They have an attitude that they can do whatever they want and no one can touch them… and I’m sure they enjoy this feeling of power.  I’m just thankful that I don’t have to deal with them for something REALLY important.  Consul Generals seem to come and go, hopes rise that things will be different, but in reality, nothing changes and the service to their citizens seems to get more and more lacking.  Why does such a beautiful country like Italy have such dark places within their bureaucracy?  It makes me sad to think that the country of my heart is so cold when it comes to taking care of their own.

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I may be sabatoging my husband’s chances of ever getting his citizenship with my ramblings here but sometimes it feels good to vent….and hopefully, one day soon, we will hear some good news from them.

The Monster of Florence – A Book (and Audio) Review

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monster of florence[1]Last month, my friend gave me the audio version of The Monster of Florence, a true story about a serial killer who brutally murdered seven young couples as they made love in their cars outside of Florence.

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The author of this book, Douglas Preston, had moved his family to Italy while he was doing research for a crime novel he was planning on writing.  When he discovered that a brutal murder had occured in the olive grove right by his idyllic country home, he became interested in the tale of these horrific murders.  He teamed up with Mario Spezi, a journalist who had chronicled the murders.  Together they took it upon themselves to see if they could figure out the mysteries that surrounded the case, and to discover who this Monster could be.  They pieced together lots of evidence and met and interviewed a multitude of people, including those they thought might be the Monster himself.  In the end, they were even indicted as being involved with the Monster killings.  This is a tale not only of murder, but of corruption within the Italian judicial system. Oddly enough, the same judge from Perugia that tried to pin these murders on Mario Spezi, the journalist (just because he “knew too much”) was also the same judge involved with the Amanda Knox trial.  An interesting similarity of finding an easy “victim” to be the culprit!  There was never a real  Monster of Florence conviction, even though the real culprit was probably involved in the investigan at some point.  Many were arrested and many people’s lives were tainted and ruined from the speculations against them.  The interesting thing to me was that these horrible murders did not make  many headlines outside of Italy – why not?

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Victims and accused

The story was well written, but I cannot say the same as to the quality of the narration of the audio verson by Dennis Boutstkaris.  He has a great voice to do these audio books, but his imitation of the Italians in the story speaking is pitiful.  He does that horrible pseudo-Italian accent which sounds like he is joking ( and in the context of this book, there are no joking matters.)   His pronunciation of Italian words is even worse!  His accents are always on the wrong syllables, to the point where you cannot even understand the word he is trying to say.  In my opinion, it would have been better if he just read the words spoken by the Italians in plain English like the rest of the text, and he brushed up on the Italian words before attempting to pronounce them.

Sometimes the Legal System is CRAZY!!!

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On Monday, seven seismic experts were convicted of multiple manslaughter and sentenced to six years in prison because they did not give fair warning to the residents of L’Aquila that a large earthquake was going to occur on April 6, 2009.  Say what?  Since when have earthquakes become predictable?  This was probably the dumbest verdict I have ever about!  And it seems I’m not the only one to think so!  Italy’s disaster head, Luciano Maiani, has resigned his post in protest to the verdict, as well as the commission’s vice president and emeritus president.  Prof. Maiani stated, “These are professionals who spoke in good faith and were by no means motivated by personal interests, they had always said that it is not possible to predict an earthquake!  This is the end of scientists giving consultations to the State.”  The prestigious science journal, Nature, also came out to say that “the verdict is perverse and the sentence ludicrous.”  Well put, Nature!  I couldn’t have said it better myself!

This verdict enraged the scientific community all over the world, especially since the defendents are some of the most prominent geological scientists and seismologists in the field.  They were accused of giving “inexact, incomplete and contradictory information” about whether the small tremors felt in L’Aquila prior to the large one were a warning for the large one that ended up destroying the old town center and killing more than 300 residents.  The situation of the quake and it’s devastation were, no doubt, horrific and sad, but to put blame on those doing geological research to learn about earthquakes and to perhaps, one day, be able to make predictions, is ridiculous!  This verdict angers me and makes me feel sorry for those scientists that were so wrongly accused – with situations like these, anyone inclined to pursue studies and research in this very important field is going to think twice about it if there is a chance that they could be blamed for something which they have absolutely no way of predicting!    As the Interior Minister, Anna Maria Cancellieri, said:  “There is the risk that doubt will no longer be allowed to form part of scientific judgement.”  This is science, after all.  Researching of hypotheses is key in discovery – sometimes the hypothesis will be proved and at other times, it is disproved, thus furthering the scientific experimentation to find the answer.

Here is a list of the convicted – don’t they strike you as serial criminals?

  • Franco Barberi, head of Serious Risks Commission
  • Enzo Boschi, former president of the National Institute of Geophysics
  • Giulio Selvaggi, director of National Earthquake Centre
  • Gian Michele Calvi, director of European Centre for Earthquake Engineering
  • Claudio Eva, physicist
  • Mauro Dolce, director of the the Civil Protection Agency’s earthquake risk office
  • Bernardo De Bernardinis (pictured), former vice-president of Civil Protection Agency’s technical department

Viva L’Italia!

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The war years in Italy were difficult – innocent people were killed by the Germans because they were believed to be helping the Partisans (see my post about this at  An Italian Tragedy), people were hungry and not sure if they would get food, and idlyllic and peaceful places full of history, art, and beauty were being destroyed.  Once the Americans came in and the Partisans triumphed, Italy began to breathe a sigh of relief.  La Festa della Liberazione, a National holiday in Italy marking the end of World War II and the fall of the Fascist government, is celebrated today, April 25th, with parades and other festivities all over Italy.  Rebuilding Italy after the War would turn out to be a significant and difficult task, but the Italians worked hard and persevered.  Even though it is not immune to the problems plaguing the rest of the world, Italy has come a long way from those horrible days during and after World War II to become the Italy that so captivates and enchants those that visit her.

Below is a song written by Partisan sympathizers and sung during the War by the Resistance.   It was sung in the underground and only became popular to the public after the War when it was introduced by some Italian student singers at Berlin’s Youth Festival in 1948.  I have to make note, here, that I am purely sharing this song as part of Italy’s history and I’m not making ANY political statement here!!!  With that said, here it is:

BELLA CIAO

Una mattina mi son svegliato O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao Una mattina mi son svegliato Eo ho trovato l’invasor

O partigiano porta mi via O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao O partigiano porta mi via Che mi sento di morir

E se io muoio da partigiano O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao E se io muoio da partigiano Tu mi devi seppellir

Mi seppellire lassù in montagna O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao Mi seppellire lassù in montagna Sotto l’ombra di un bel fiore

E le genti che passeranno O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao E le genti che passeranno Mi diranno: “Che bel fior”

È questo il fiore del partigiano O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao È questo il fiore del partigiano Morto per la libertà

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One morning I woke up O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao One morning I woke up And I found the invader

Oh partisan, carry me away, O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao Oh partisan, carry me away, For I feel I’m dying

And if I die as a partisan O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao And if I die as a partisan You have to bury me

But bury me up in the mountain O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao, But bury me up in the mountain Under the shadow of a beautiful flower

And the people who will pass by O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao, And the people who will pass by Will say to me: “what a beautiful flower”

This is the flower of the partisan O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao This is the flower of the partisan Who died for freedom

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Here is a song that was sung by the Alpini – a branch of the military that patrols the mountains all around Italy.  It captures the sentiments felt during the War by those Alpini soldiers and their love of the mountains of Italy.  It is in a sort of dialect, and therefore I will try to translate it as best I can!

IL TESTAMENTO DEL CAPITANO

 El capitan de la compagnia l’è ferito stà per morir el manda a dire ai suoi Alpini perchè lo vengano a ritrovar. el manda a dire ai suoi Alpini perchè lo vengano a ritrovar.

I suoi Alpini ghè manda a dire che non han scarpe per camminar O con le scarpe o senza scarpe i miei Alpini li voglio qua. O con le scarpe o senza scarpe i miei Alpini li voglio qua.

Cosa comanda, siòr capitano, che noi adesso semo arrivà? E io comando che il mio corpo in cinque pezzi sia taglià. E io comando che il mio corpo in cinque pezzi sia taglià.

Il primo pezzo alla mia Patria secondo pezzo al Battaglion il terzo pezzo alla mia Mamma che si ricordi del suo figliol. il terzo pezzo alla mia Mamma che si ricordi del suo figliol.

Il quarto pezzo alla mia bella che si ricordi del suo primo amor. L’ultimo pezzo alle montagne che lo fioriscano di rose e fior L’ultimo pezzo alle montagne che lo fioriscano di rose e fior.

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The Captain’s Testament

The captain of the company is wounded and is dying.  He sends a message to his Alpini soldiers for them to come and visit him.

His Alpini soldiers tell him that they don’t have shoes to walk.  He says that with our without shoes, he wants them there.

What do you command, Captain sir, now that we have arrived?  I command that you cut my body up into 5 pieces.

The first piece to my Country, the second piece to my battalion, the third piece to my mother so that she may remember her son.

The fourth piece to by girlfriend so that she can remember her first love.  And the fifth piece to the mountains so that it can be covered in roses.

Attack of the Cruise Ship

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Courtesy of Alamy

Having experienced this sight first hand, I can say that it is very disconcerting to see this gigantic cruise ship come so close to the shores of Venice, dwarfing the old buildings.  It literally looks like a giant invading the city!

The amount of cruise ships visiting Venice has increased significantly over the last decade.  This is great for the economy of the city, bringing in more that 1.5 million tourists annually.  But the concerns for the erosion caused by the waves these giant boats create are more pressing.  There is a fear that the waves could undermine the foundations of the city, causing even more damage than is already present.

The mayor of Venice, Giorgio Orsoni, is meeting with the city’s port authority to find another site for the ships to dock.  One such place is Porto Marghera on the mainland.  Even if the boats dock at this farther off port, I don’t believe it will impact the number of tourists that will still visit the city.

I hope that they come to a decision to move the present port of Venice as an additional aid in preserving this World Heritage site.

Un Cuore Con Le Ali…and Some Deep Reflections

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This beautiful song by Eros Ramazzotti evokes various responses in me whenever I hear it.  The music, as always, is mesmerizing and artistically pleasing to the ear, but it’s the lyrics of this song that trigger my inner reflections.  I am instantly transported to Italy with  ci si trova in compagnia, sotto i portici del centro, alle uscite del metrò (We find each other, under the porticos of the city center, at the exits of the metro)…the old porticos of the ancient cities with the modern metro…it is so descriptive that I can easily picture myself in that same scene.

This song has a deeper message, though….it is a social commentary on Eros’ view of Italy’s youth culture back in 1985 (when the song was released).  He seems to be saying that the youth felt bored and trapped – they wanted to do so much and had desires to fly, but they weren’t capable of achieving those goals.  I’d be curious to understand why and what was holding them back…was it a stab at the government or the state of the Italian economy?  And would this song be pertinent in today’s world?  Perhaps someone from Italy can clue me in…but the song has a sad and desperate tone about it.  What do you think?

quando il cielo si fa scuro
e la notte cade giù
come intonaco dai muri
ci si trova in compagnia
sotto i portici del centro
alle uscite del metrò
per guardarci dentro
e parlare un pò…

ci hanno detto a muso duro
che per camminare soli
noi non siamo ancor maturi
e che siamo tutti uguali
ma un cuore con le ali
ce l’abbiamo solo noi
e nessuno sa
che presto volerà…

cosa si fa
cosa si fa questa sera
dove si va
dove si va fuori un’idea
prima che ci soffochi la noia…
cosa si fa, dove si va
questa sera…

per adesso si comincia
a girare la città
fino in fondo alla provincia
per i viali e per le piazze
a chiamare le ragazze
che ci aspettano di già
per vedere fuori
l’alba a colori…

che nessuno ha preparato
come il mondo che ci han dato
senza domandarci niente
è per questo che i pensieri
così grandi, così seri
ce li abbiamo anche noi
e nessuno sa
che fatica è…

fuori di te
fuori di te, fuori di testa
che gente è
che vita è e quanto ne resta
quella che vogliamo
non è questa
la carità, finta pietà
nessuno l’ha chiesta…

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When the sky gets dark

And the night falls down

like plaster from the walls,

we find each other

under the porticos of the center

at the exits of the metro

to look within

and talk a bit…

They told us, with a stern face,

that to walk alone

we are not yet ready

and that we are all the same;

but a heart with wings

we are the only ones to have it

and nobody knows

that soon it will fly…

What are we going to do?

What are we going to do tonight?

Where are we going to go?

Where are we going to go…let’s have some ideas

before we suffocate from boredom…

What are we going to do, where are we going to go

tonight…

for now, we’ll start

by wandering the city

until the end of the province,

through the alleys and in the piazzas,

calling the girls

that have been waiting for us for a while now

to see outside the dawn and the colors…

Nobody prepared

the world that was given to us

Nobody asked us anything

and for this reason, the worries

so big, so serious

we have them, too

and no one knows

what hardship it is…

Outside of yourself,

Outside of yourself, out of your mind

What kind of people are there,

What kind of life is it and what remains

The life we want

Is not this one.

The charity, the false pity

No one asked for it….