Dreaming In Italian

The Gran Balon

Sunday, May 19th, 2019

I mentioned in one of the previous posts, a flea market in Torino called the Balon. After a bit of research I found that “balon” is a piemontese word for “ball”. The wikipedia description is a bit murky about how this became the name for the market. So the Balon occurs every weekend. But only the second Sunday of each the month there is the Gran Balon, i.e. Big Balon. While the Balon is quite interesting it is mostly a flea market of used stuff with a scattering of antiques here and there. The Gran Balon on the other hand is just the opposite, mostly a market of antiques or higher end goods with still a bunch of used stuff. We walked pretty much the entire market. Lots and lots of ceramics, glassware, silver services and interesting stuff but I just took photos of the things that I found more unique. So here they are.

I thought that the home puppet show stage was pretty interesting.
One guy had lost of prints of advertisements and photos
And more!!!
I happened to notice the figures painted on the wall of the first floor of this building. High class graffiti instead of that at the base of the building.
We were both pretty impressed with this ship model
Just a nice street view, there are several bars and eating places along here, handy if you need a coffee or need to use the bathroom – if the latter then you should at least buy a coffee.
One guy had a lot of interesting African art.
More African stuff, primarily baskets.
A vendor selling leathers buy the yard.

Well, that’s all folks. I hope that you enjoyed it.

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Fai da te (do it yourself) in Italy,

Sunday, May 19th, 2019

WARNING – Handyman musings ahead.

Having been a homeowner in the U.S, for many years I quickly realized that if you need to call a handyman or plumber for everything in the house it really can quickly cost a bundle of money. A lot of things are relatively simple to do, especially in the era of YouTube. It seems that there is a video (in fact usually several) for just about everything. Well, maybe not for brain surgery (I HOPE not!). So I’m relatively handy around the house and brought a few basic tools with me, pliers, screwdrivers, etc.

So I came home around 8PM after being out of town for a couple of days and found that the water was running continuously in the toilet. I called Lorenzo (the son of the proprietor) who lives above me. He didn’t know what to do and the handyman, Carlo, was unavailable. But, ha, there’s a YouTube video for that. Most of the toilets here are different than the toilets in the U.S. in that the tank is within the wall rather than external. Since the walls are typically thicker than those in the U.S., this saves space, which is often at a premium here. Also it’s more aesthetically pleasing, always high on the list of values in Italy.

Typical household bathroom arrangment

It does however make fixing or adjusting things a lot more complicated. Rather than just lift lid off of the tank you have to do some disassembly and then reassembly. Given the circumstances I didn’t want to wait until the next day to fix this so I found the video and dived in.

Push here to flush, a little flush or a big one.

First you have to take off the visible part of the mechanism. Note that, as is common, there are two areas to press; one for a lighter flush, for , um, liquid waste and the larger one for things more solid. I find that you just simply push up on the cover and then pull it away from the wall. Success with step 1.

The outer cover removed

Then there two screws to extract to remove the next layer of covers.

The second layer of cover removed

Then finally swivel two lever kinds of things on either side in opposite direction and remove the 3rd layer of cover. And, voila, the innards of the patient are exposed.

Down to the guts of the matter, Not the water valve at the top.

So the problem is that here there’s a lot of calcium in the water and it gradually builds up deposits on various things including the float mechanism. This leads to friction which makes it stick so that the water never shuts off and overflows into the toilet – the same thing that happens in an american toilet but often for a different reason.

After turning off the water – you can see the black valve at the top – I just moved the lever up and down a bunch of times until it seemed to work smoothly. I tested it before reassembling everything and so far it works fine.

That little black lever needs to get pushed up to shut off the water.

I’m proud to be an engineer, well, former engineer but once an engineer (or whatever) always an engineer (or that whatever).

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Internet and Cellphone Service

Monday, May 6th, 2019

Okay, this seems like a prosaic thing to write about but I’ve decided to write a little bit more about actually living in Italy. One significant difference that I’ve been aware of since I began coming here in 2011 is that the cellphone service is significantly cheaper and now astoundingly better. Since I have my own apartment here I don’t have the benefit of internet service at the house that is usually available. Before I came I asked my friend Monica to make some prearrangements for me with an internet provide, Fastweb. After arriving I went to their office to finalize things and within a few days I had the ADSL modem in hand and a Fastweb guy came to do any necessary installation and then I had that service. Since Fastweb also has cellphone service and offers an attractive service that combines the ADSL and cellphone I chose them for my cellphone.

So here is my plan:

Internet service (amazingly fast) and cellphone service. The cellphone service includes:

  • 20 MB of internet – ha, compare that to the offers in the U.S.
  • 1000 minutes of calls – also compare that to the U.S.
  • 100 SMS messages.

Now for the speed part. At my house I used the Google Speed tests and you can see the results below.

OMG 146 Mbps – blazingly fast!!!

I don’t have a photo of the same speed test that I ran on my phone where I had a good signal but it was ….20 Mbps. Also blazingly fast for internet access through the cellular network.

So how much does this extraordinary service for the internet at the house and cellular service cost? $40 a month. Compare that to what you are paying in the U.S. for far inferior service. It does make you wonder why the service in the U.S. is so expensive. In both Italy and the U.S. the providers are private so one can only conclude the consumers in the U.S. are being raped.

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Oh my god, it finally arrived

Monday, April 15th, 2019

I arrived in Italy with a visa for Residenza Elettiva ( Elective Residence) meaning I was not here for any other reason that I wanted to live here. If you come to Italy for any period longer than 90 days, which is the limit without a visa, then you must apply for a Permisso di Soggiorno (Permission to Stay). You must make the application for this document within 8 working days of arriving in the country. You fill out a relatively long form. I had the help of a non-profit organization that helps foreigners to deal with Italian bureaucracy. Then you go to the post office, present this form, your passport, and pay some money (not too much). They check to make sure that the form is complete and then assign a date to got the department of immigration section of the questura (the police station). So I did all of the above and went to the questura at the assigned date (October 1st) and time, waited for an unseemly period of time despite the fact that it was supposed to be an appointment. They say that they will issue the permisso with 3 months….ha ha ha. They don’t let you know when it is ready even though they have your phone number and email. NO, you must periodically go to their website, enter the number on the receipt that you receive and your date of birth. The response doesn’t say that your permesso is in process, only that no permesso with that data is ready. So after almost a 6 month wait I was really wondering if a dog ate the file for my request. Then, on April 4 when I checked the site is said that it was ready and I made an appointment to go pick it up. This appointment was an actual appointment, that is I didn’t have to wait for an hour or more. Within 15 minutes I had the permesso in hand. I told the guy that 6 months seemed a really long time to wait and he replied that sometimes it takes even longer. Welcome to Italy. In any case it is valid until the end of the year and I was told I should make a request for renewal 60 days before the expiration date. In any case I’m quite relieved to finally get it.

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