New Fiat: First the hard drive. Then the test drive.

PORTLAND, ITALY – We’re not really in Italy but standing at a Fiat dealership surrounded by a sea of new Fiat 500s, it’s not hard to imagine you are on right side of the pond. Quirk Fiat of Portland has them lined up as far as you can see in every color. But all Midge can see are the shiny red ones. Ooooh, tops go down? midgefiat

We are there partially so our buddy Roberta of Torino who has worked at Fiat for ten years, can see where the rubber hits the road here at Fiat USA. (You’ll maybe recall, she started all this by bringing us that 500 shaped removable hard drive.) We’re also trading test drive vehicles with our friends the Turinas. Paul, imports his family’s wines from Italy: Turina Italian Wines. He has had one of about every kind of Italian car made. We’re just a bunch of Italians at an Italian car dealership on our way to pasta night out at Paciarino’s Italian restaurant. Owners are Italians from Milano. Did you notice how I tried to slide a renegade pair of Vreelands in with the bonafide Italians? Big old wannabes we are. I know, sad really isn’t it? We try.

YES THERE IS A COVER CHARGE

Check out that soft Fiat in the showroom. It’s a car cover. Can you believe? Too cute. But alas, too pricey. The Fiats are not expensive. But putting one of those covers over your Fiat is going to be. Over $900 with taxes. Gulp. Ma puo darsi va le la pena perche carina al massimo. And way cute.

OK, see you in Italy!

Stew Vreeland

The new Fiat is here.

newfiat4PORTLAND, ME–Our friend Roberta is here from Torino, Italy. We’ve known her forever. She lived with us for a year, many years ago. For the last ten years she’s worked for Fiat. She arrived here August 1st, the day they started promo’ing the new Fiat 500.

I’ve always wanted a Cinquecento. I fantasize that we could even squeeze one in our cantina in Panicale. But, mainly its just fun to say “cinquecento.” Usually the ones you see now in Italy are the cool tricked-out survivors, and they are often hyper-cool. Nostalgia is a wonderful thing, and Fiat has worked it hard on these new ones. Rightly so.

ATTENTION – MAJOR CHOTCHKE
Check out the fine bit of branded swag she scored for me. Very fuel efficient. And like any fine vehicle it has good storage. Two megs in this case.

REALITY TEST DRIVE COMING UP
Just for fun (and because Midge insists) we’re going to check out the real ones tomorrow afternoon. Last month, during the Italian Expo, the dealer had three and they were all locked-in, not for sale, demos. Today they say they’ve got a 100 of the 500’s. We will see, test drive and report back.

See you in Italy,

Stew Vreeland

The Italians are coming, the Italians are coming . . .

What would the world be without an Italy? Discuss among yourselves and get back to me? I was thinking about this after having pizza at a seminar yesterday, penne pasta primavera last night at home and on my way for a shhh-don’t-tell-the-office cappucchino breakout this morning. When! What to my wondering eyes should appear but a brand new Fiat 500. Parked right next to me. What a trick pony that is. The owner was getting his haircut when they saw me taking his car’s portrait and salon emptied and we had a moment there. Fiat execs would have been misty-eyed at the enthusiasm over their new baby. This one is a limited edition. Edition of 500. Wicked cool.
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And of course that reminded me that the Italian Life Expo team just got confirmation yesterday that a literal boat load of Italian products got onboard in Genoa. And that ship has sailed! Wines, olive oils, copper and ceramic wares all pointed towards Portland, Maine. The Italians they belong to are probably packing their bags as we speak. The countdown is well underway, let the festivities begin. Got your tickets? June 9-11 on Portland’s waterfront.

To keep up with the details about this happy bit of Italy coming to our shores Follow the Expo on Twitter and/or “Like” their Facebook page

See you in Italy (when Italy comes to Portland!)

Stew Vreeland

Italy vs Spain? In BA, the Spanish sounds very Italian. Can we call it Italianish?

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We had a trip that carried us from Miami to Buenos Aires and Uruguay. What an amazing adventure that was. Did you know it is full blown summer down there in the middle of “our” winter? Something about being South of the equator. So, we were glad to be chasing that kind of weather. On the other hand we were mildly nervous about our lack of language skills there. But, you know what? Italian is better than no Spanish at all. Seriously, I know nadda in Spanish. Or so I thought. But I found myself asking where the eggs were at the buffet in the hotel (the waitress said “Sto preparando”), ordering coffee with sugar, asking our waiter for a new white wine from the Salta region, translating things people handed us on the streets. A lot of things were so close to Italian, so in the right context and so blatantly obvious that we learned them on first exposure. (felt like we did!) Whatever we were doing, it was working! It was a total lark. Thank you Years of Italian Lessons, thank you. Oh my. Italian as a portable skill? Who would have thought? Spanish is so omnipresent in the world, and Italian is so Italo-centric. Is that a word? Chi lo sai.

Now, I can be on record as knowing nothing about nothing. Especially, all things linguistic. And maybe because BA has a huge percentage of people of Italian origin, maybe because of that their inflections are Italian. Every Argentinian we met had AT LEAST one grandparent directly from Italy. Che sorpresa. And just maybe I’d be at a total loss in downtown Madrid. But, on the other hand, Italian was as helpful in Miami’s Little Havana as it was in BA. BTW, having hot hot espresso leaning on the outdoor counter with the cool, cool Cubanos at Cafe Versailles? Worth the trip. That is a serious cup o Jose. Doing this back and forth language dance was fun, like a 24 hour word game. And as eye-opening as that Cuban coffee. Could not have been more pleased that our Italian at least cracked open the door to the Spanish-speaking world. In ways I would never have imagined.

Spanish/Italian points of similarity right off the top of my head:
Nadda / niente, Permesso /Permesso, puerto / porto, la cuenta, il conto, agua minerale / acqua minerale, con gas / con gas, sin gas / senza gas, azucar / zucchero, bueno / buono, oltre / altre. Should I go on? Everyone says ciao and ok, ok?

Next month we’re off to where they really speak Italian: Umbria!

See you in Italy!

Stew Vreeland

thinking italian, speaking spanish. trying in ArgentinaPS: But seriously folks, where has the blog been? What can I say? Wandered off muttering to myself? Instead of putting my mutterings on electronic paper? I wasn’t sure if anyone was out there listening or if I was actually talking to myself. A lady from England wrote this morning and said she hadn’t seen any blogs lately and asked if I was OK. Sort of made me put my feet back on the road. We’ll see where it goes. Good intentions and all that. We’ll be in Italy in a few weeks so that will be a good test.