An unexpected surprise at my door step

One day I found an unexpected parcel at my door step. Curious, I opened it thinking that maybe it was something I ordered and then forgot about (which sometimes happens to me). What I actually found was an interesting illustration book and a notecard box, kindly gifted to me by the Princeton Architectural Press.

Grafica della strada by Louise Fili

The book, Grafica della Strada: The Signs of Italy by Louise Fili is a compilation of restaurant, shop, hotel, street, and advertising signs that the author has collected over the past 30 years during her trips to Italy. The images have been divided in chapters that reflects the typographic style of the signs: classical, traditional, eclectic, futurist, fascist, and so on.

These are some of my favorites:

Classico1- Grafica della Strada

These are the four marble panels of the Farmacia di San Marco in Florence. Although the pharmacy has been closed since the end of World War I, its façade still displays a list of elixirs and remedies that used to be sold during its golden years (how cool is this?).

In the chapter about traditional signs there’s this photo that I really like and that, if you pay attention, you can still see everywhere in Italy outside the alimentari stores (family ran grocery stores):

Tradizionale1- Grafica della Strada

It is a list of the most important items for sale in the store.

Tradizionale2- Grafica della Strada

I like this sign because it shows a beautiful light effect, and most importantly the dedication of Mrs. Fili who waited for the sun to settle down and the illumination to turn on in order to catch this image.

Eclettico1- Grafica della StradaColor, color, color… this sign is simple and yet sophisticated.

Eclettico2- Grafica della Strada

I’ve selected this photo for the Sermoneta sign on the bottom of the page. I find its characters very elegant and unique, besides the fact that the actual town of Sermoneta is one of my favorite Medieval villages in Italy.

Eclettico3- Grafica della Strada

I couldn’t stop smiling after seeing this image. I do remember, when I was a child, many bars using this kind of beaded curtains. You don’t see many nowadays, and if you do, they are usually found in smaller cities and towns.

Eclettico4- Grafica della Strada

Mosaic signs are an artistic expression very common in the Italian città d’arte, some are made to lead tourists to a restaurant, as shown above.

Eclettico5- Grafica della Strada

I find the image above particularly interesting, first for its message (Duce= Mussolini), second because it hasn’t been removed after Mussolini’s fall. To me, it’s a piece of history well preserved (you can find it in the Foro Italico in Rome).

Louise Fili, a graphic designer with a love for all things Italian, is also the author of Quattro Parole Italiane Notecards (available on Amazon)a beautiful collection of notecards with four different Italian words printed on the front:

Notecards- Grafica della strada

This is such a clever idea as well as a beautiful gift to give to anyone who loves Italy.

I think that Grafica della Strada: the Signs of Italy by Louise Fili (available also in Kindle format) is a very unique approach to an aspect of Italy that often times is forgotten or simply goes unnoticed, but that nevertheless is a part of its artistic heritage.

Buying an iPhone in Italy

Call it bad timing. Actually, call it awful timing. Or even better, call it sfiga (horrible luck). The story started even before leaving for Italy, when I diligently (?) checked my technological arsenal. iPad? Checked. Laptop? Checked. Adapters? Checked. Chargers? Checked. iPhone? Checked. At least so I thought…

The truth is that… iForgot. I totally forgot that the iPhone Paolo passed on to me last October was purchased as a locked device.

To make it short, when I realized it and reacted pretty much like this


I ended up with these choices:

1. Unlocking my iPhone 5 (but in Italy it is illegal).
2. Opening a new contract hoping for a good promotion, such as a 2 year contract in exchange of a free phone (nope, no luck there).
3. Renting one locally or borrowing one from someone (no luck there either).
4. Buying a new iPhone (last choice).

As you can imagine from the title, #4 was eventually what I ended up doing and this is where the story gets interesting…

I started inquiring about buying a new iPhone that I decided I would have given to my Mom as a gift, since Paolo and I talked about it many times. I went to the only authorized Apple reseller that we have in town to check it out (with that I mean the only store that sells exclusively Apple products). They informed me that the iPhone 4s (I wasn’t even considering the new models) was on sale: €399 instead of €429. After feeling a light stomach contraction, I left with the promise to think about it. And so I kept looking around for a better deal but with no success.

Left with no other choice (keep in mind that this was already my fifth day in Italy), I returned back the store, where, with some tears of pain, I paid €399 for my new 4s. I immediately went to my cell phone provider to get a new SIM with my old number. The moment I explained my situation and showed my latest purchase, I heard: “Did you know that in Slovenia (which is 15 minutes away) they can unlock your iPhone legally?” Whaaaat? And… here I am again, only this time amplified by 50:


Feeling beaten up deep inside, I started dragging myself home thinking about what I just heard while cursing here and there (Italian cursing is quite melodic, you should have heard me).

Once I got home I received a phone call from a dear friend of mine. “Cool” I thought “someone to talk to to cheer me up”. And that was true… up until she said: “Did you know that they sell the same iPhone at the Mall for €299?”. Whaaaaat?


Yup, that is me. Again. Amplified by 100 this time. Yes, 100, exactly like the Euros I could have saved if only the timing was right.

The day after I went back to the store fully aware that they wouldn’t have accepted a return. In Italy you can exchange the item you have purchased with some other merchandise of equal or higher value. But you can forget about getting your money back.

And with this, the story ends. Needless to say that for the next days iFelt pretty much like this:


An entire street reserved to scooters


Scooter parking- Italy from the InsideIl motorino. This is how the scooter is mainly known in Italy. The number of motorini in Italy is so great that some cities, like Trieste, have decided to turn entire streets into scooter parkings. And yet, sometimes not even that is enough: note the first two scooters on the right and how they are parked outside the marked spaces. Or the one at the end of the walking corridor. That guy clearly preferred to park in “pole position”.