Friday, 11 April 2014

Ecce beatam lucem

There have been days when I thought the entirety of volume II of The Venice Project would be dedicated to my seemingly endless battle with ENEL, the state electricity provider. It took nearly two weeks to get the supply reconnected after the previous tenant moved out. It was taking so long I briefly considered getting in touch with the two employees I taught business English to, nearly eighteen months ago, in the hope they might be able to move things along. And then, one blessed evening, I turned up at the flat, flipped the trip switch on the fuse box to the 'on' position, more in hope than expectation, and...the lights came on. I heard the opening bars of Also Sprach Zarathustra running through my head...

It didn't end there. ENEL refused to believe that there was, or ever had been, a gas supply to the flat; but they switched it on anyway. Nearly there then, except the cooker needed to be connected. The previous tenant seems to have bought a spanking new gas cooker and never used it. The landlord seemed surprised it was there, and didn't even know if it was electric or gas.

Now, connecting it up appeared to be straightforward. Just connect the gas pipe to the rear of the stove and that would be it. But, even in Italy, you're not supposed to install gas appliances yourself. So a man had to come out.

This was a stroll in the park compared to the struggle with ENEL. Nevertheless, it took a couple of days to organise. One afternoon, I found myself leafing through the instruction manual. It really did seem very easy. Surely even I could manage this? Connect the pipe to the back of the cooker. Switch gas on. How hard could it be? And then I thought about the possible consequences. Incorrectly installed gas appliance. Dozens of other residents. In the middle of an historic city. I shook my head. I badly wanted a cup of coffee...but not that badly.

Still, it's installed now, and my special cooking trousers can be pressed back into service. All that remains is to get an internet connection. Except that Telecom Italia refuse to recognise our address. Their help page is on Facebook. That's right, to register a problem with the state telecommunications company, you use a social networking site designed to allow people to post photographs of their cat.

Still, I'm not grumpy. It's been fun finding new places to eat. The daily commute is so much easier. The flat, once sorted, will be great. And I'm looking forward to cooking again...


  1. Cooking trousers? Are they chef's black and white check? Andrew

  2. They most certainly are...a birthday present from Caroline a couple of years back. One day, perhaps, I'll have a matching hat as well..!

  3. I know just the shop where Caroline can find that cap, Phil! You folks do have some character developing experiences, don't you?

    Say hello to the Melbourne duo from me.

  4. Last time I looked the Scots were trying to set up a whole modern country using Facebook!

    Hi, just dipped into your blog during an idle moment. Hope you don't mind the comment. Telecom has an extensive commercial website with many options for contacting the company for assistance. They also have telephone numbers for help desks you can dial with a cell phone that are no better or worse in terms of wait times than other nations. Italian state agencies are hardly alone in using Facebook for customer/client service. It is done all over the world today. Commercial companies use Facebook for this as well.

    In most places, when you put in a new stove not only are you well advised to get a licensed professional for the hook up (and usually they are busy so you must wait for an appointment), but you also need to make an appointment with the town safety inspector to certify it was done correctly (I am surprised Venice relieved you of that burden). Often takes a couple of days if not weeks. Ditto electrical work, although it is true it is seldom turned off between customers. However, when it has been turned off, re-establishing service can be tedious.

    Not so subtle point is that Italy is not that much of an outlier in the modern world as English language ex-pat blogs often make it out to be, and even where it does get more complicated it doesn't seem quite fair to relocate to a place to be immersed in its well preserved feeling of days gone by and then publicly portray it as not up to speed both when it is understandably slow but also when it utilizes new social media like Facebook.

    Don't know why Italy is constantly being framed in English language ex-pat blogs as the country that doesn't work when people are so fundamentally happy being there and might be suffering even more annoyances with things breaking down in the places they left, which are noticeably in decline.

    Sorry to be so scoldy but moving house is always a trial with many frustrations and surprises in the walls, no matter where you are moving from or to. The blogosphere is full of such tales. Nothing special about Italy.

    1. Interesting post, and thanks for taking the time to write it. Hmm, where to start...

      Firstly I'd say that I was well aware of the difficulties in moving to a foreign country before we arrived. I first came to live and work in Italy over twenty years ago. It's not as if I arrived at the airport with nothing more than visions of pizza, ice cream and fine art in my head. But of course, whenever we move to a new place, there are always difficulties, and there is always something of a culture shock to adapt to. If the blog was entitled "The Manchester Project" I'm sure I would be recording the trials and tribulations of moving to / living in Manchester.

      Of course Italy is not an "outlier" in the modern world, it's a highly developed first-world economy. That does not mean that there are no problems here. When I started the blog, I decided that it would have no value if it were not honest. The last thing I wanted to write was a "my fabulous life in Italy" piece. This meant that I would record the things that were good (of which there are many) and those which are, well, not so good. This is a country in which most things work well and some things, at times, work less well. Even my Italian friends will sometimes moan about ENEL or Telecom Italia...

      The majority of my posts on here are fundamentally positive. If, at times, I write about things that are less than positive, they are - I would hope - always written in a humorous way. As I said, thanks for the feedback.

  5. could be worse...


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