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Unscrupulous Venetian Restaurants

Unscrupulous Venetian Restaurants

Old Feb 1, 18, 4:40 am
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Unscrupulous Venetian Restaurants

How to avoid 'tourist trap' restaurants in Venice | CNN Travel

I was actually very surprised to read about this, it didn't seem that Venice was quite that bad when it comes to this sort of thing. I looked up some of the restaurants mentioned on Google Streetview and the negatively-reported restaurants really did have people standing around outside trying to get you into the restaurant! The one time I ate in Venice, it was in a place in Piazza San Marco, just a cafe, really, not a real restaurant. It was probably expensive then in 2005.

The article recommends that if there are pictures of the food and there are guys trying to herd you in, avoid the place. Sound advice to me. Have any of you been to the restaurants mentioned in the article, good or bad?
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Old Feb 1, 18, 9:54 am
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Originally Posted by RussianTexan View Post
The article recommends that if there are pictures of the food and there are guys trying to herd you in, avoid the place.
I pretty much go by that rule everywhere I travel, not just Venice. If they're trying so hard to wrangle customers, the food probably isn't very good.
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Old Feb 1, 18, 1:22 pm
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Originally Posted by ShopAround View Post
I pretty much go by that rule everywhere I travel, not just Venice. If they're trying so hard to wrangle customers, the food probably isn't very good.
My thoughts exactly. There's one restaurant just west of Piazza Navona in Rome where the barker in front of the restaurant almost always tries to get me to stop in for a meal as I walk past. It's getting to be something of an inside joke between us, I think!

But here's what I don't get: how does anyone get "fooled" into purchasing a meal that is hundreds of dollars more than expected? Do people not check prices on menus? Are these people ordering the special and not bothering to ask the price from their server? I'm befuddled ...
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Old Feb 1, 18, 1:35 pm
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I know that joint! A couple of years ago, my wife and I decided to go ahead and take his invitation as a game.
Sat at a 4 top out front. And ordered one Margharita pizza and one demi of sparkling water (11 total bill). Manager came out and had a discussion with the barker. And best of all, just after the pizza came, the barker snagged a party of like 6 or 8. But there was no tables open out front. The looks we got from the manager as we leisurely dined more than made up for the mediocre pizza and overpriced water. That big party moved on after a couple of minutes waiting. I didn't feel bad. I felt like I was doing them a service.
Oh...I was never bothered while passing that place again on that trip.
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Old Feb 1, 18, 1:53 pm
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Originally Posted by rickg523 View Post
Oh...I was never bothered while passing that place again on that trip.
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Old Feb 4, 18, 1:57 pm
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Originally Posted by RussianTexan View Post
How to avoid 'tourist trap' restaurants in Venice CNN Travel

I was actually very surprised to read about this, it didn't seem that Venice was quite that bad when it comes to this sort of thing. I looked up some of the restaurants mentioned on Google Streetview and the negatively-reported restaurants really did have people standing around outside trying to get you into the restaurant! The one time I ate in Venice, it was in a place in Piazza San Marco, just a cafe, really, not a real restaurant. It was probably expensive then in 2005.

The article recommends that if there are pictures of the food and there are guys trying to herd you in, avoid the place. Sound advice to me. Have any of you been to the restaurants mentioned in the article, good or bad?
The CNN video and article are completely wrong. Venice does not have to rid itself of unscrupulous restaurants, any more than any place else. Tourists just need to prepare themselves a little before going on a trip. The video starts with a guy yelling at a water taxi going by, trying to hail it down. Of course, it doesn't stop and he says, "See, just like hailing a taxi in New York City." This person obviously knows nothing about Venice, and shouldn't be allowed to do a story on it. If you stand in a street in Boston, San Francisco, Miami, and try to hail a cab, just as in Venice, you'll be waiting all day and night. Getting a water taxi in Venice has nothing in common with how you hail a cab in NYC. How can something like that even get on CNN?

As for unscrupulous restaurants in Venice, the honesty of restaurants there is second to no place else, except perhaps Japan. All that happened were two incidents reported in the Venetian papers. One not true, and the reported in favor of the restaurant, and the other true, reported in favor of the customer. Venice fined the owner about $15,000 and promptly closed the place down because it was truly an anomaly and a crime, which does not only happen in Venice, but in many places in the USA?

Of course, if you decide to eat WITHIN Piazza San Marco, immediately next to San Marco Basilica, the restaurant will be expensive, and the food will be terrible. This happened when three British tourists at in Piazza San Marco at Trattoria Casanova (just the name tells you it's a tourist trap.). The ordered plenty of oysters, each had lobster, they ordered a large fritto misto (platter of fried crustaceans from the laguna), branzino (bass, which is sold by weight, and they ate almost 8 pounds of it), scampi, spaghetti seppia (squid ink spaghetti). wine, bottled water, and each had desert. The bill was 526 euros, about what that much food would cost in prime tourist location in the USA. They complained to the Mayor and sent a copy of the receipt, which listed the cost of each dish, and they said that they thought all of that lobster, branzino, scampi, and all the rest was included in the fritto misto. That's on them, because there is no waiter in a restaurant in Piazza San Marco who does not speak to you in English, even if you are talking to them in perfect Italian, they respond in english, and all of the menus are in english.

Have you ever had a shot of espresso at Cafe Florian or Cafe Gran Quadro, in Piazza San Marco, where they have a small orchestra in front of each? The shot of espresso is 16 euros, and as always, prices are on the menu. This is the norm for that area, and they all have menus in english I get my coffee there for 2 euros by standing at the bar inside near the door and listen to the same music). It's just like stopping at the Four Seasons in San Francisco, or the Pierre in NYC and ordering a martini, which will cost you about $25-28 per drink. If you actually eat within Cafe Quadro in their restaurant upstairs it's a price fixed dinner at about 380 euros per person. Two blocks away I eat at a Michelin star restaurant for a price fix of 30 euros, or at the bar right next to them for 10 euros, wine included, that is owned and run by the same chef (Il Ridotto is the Michelin star restaurant, and five feet away is the bar restaurant, Aciugette).

This came to the press's attention because the foolhardy customers wrote a letter to the mayor, along with a copy of the receipt that detailed the price of everything they ordered, and complained about the prices. He wrote a letter back telling them, "This is the normal price to eat that much food and wine in Piazza San Marco, right next to the Basilica. Read the prices on the menu, pay your bill, and don't complain. Stop being a cheapskate."

CNN travel writers are generally just dead wrong. Including the recommendation to use guide books. Guide book are a step up from TripAdvisor, which is guaranteed to send you to the worst restaurants in town, but not by much. I met a Lonely Planet writer in a small restaurant in Rome last July. It was actually a fancy panini shop. Like a wine taster, she would take a few bites of the food, then spit it out. I asked her why she was doing that. She said that she was a college student in England, and flying to Italy for weekends and writing for Lonely Planet was how she paid her tuition, and she still had four cities to get to that weekend before she went back to London. It's crazy if someone thinks that makes this person an expert on food in Italy. Also, every time I go back, if it's been a few months, some of the same places are closed, or under new management, and new places open up that are some of the best I've ever had. Guide books take a year to publish, and by that time they are out of date.

The second incident was a crime. A restaurant (where? Around the corner from San Marco Square, of course.) had four Japanese customers who were exchange students at the University of Bologna (I believe it's the oldest university in the western world). I don't remember exactly what they had, I think they shared a fritto misto, and each had a fish. The bill was about 1,200 euros. They paid, and sent a copy of the receipt to the mayor. The mayor fined the restaurant 14,000 euros, and closed the place down.

Please don't say this doesn't happen everywhere. From time to time there are articles about taxi drivers charging Chinese and Russian passengers $1,500 to take them from JFK to Manhattan. There is the bogus claim that Roman taxi drivers take the 50 euro bill from you, use sleight of hand, and show you that you only gave them a 5. Never heard of it. I know a lot of people don't know the euro, and have trouble figuring out what they are giving the cashier.

Once in JFK a taxi driver tried to rip me off with extra charges, and I wouldn't let him. I was standing next to his open window, and telling him he's getting the regular fare, and that's it. A good pickpocket can slip the watch off of you wrist without you knowing it, and he tried to do that to me, but I knew it. I grabbed onto his open window, and he started speeding away with me hanging out of the window. I grabbed the steering wheel, and steered the cab onto the sidewalk, and drove it into a chain link fence to stop it. Within a minute the police where there. All they did was to tell the driver to stop doing this. They told me he was a serial offender, and they let him go right back to the taxi line.

At least Venice immediately closed down the restaurant, and give the owner a stiff fine. There is no problem at with restaurants in Venice being unscrupulous, just because one crime that could happen anywhere, that was promptly dealt with, occurred. By the way, Venice had the 4 students come back from Bologna at its expense, put them up in the Hotel Daniel, treated them to a meal at an expensive Michelin star restaurant, and refunded all of their money.

Anyone who travels to Italy should know the basics. If the restaurant is open between 2-2:30 PM and 7-8 PM, with few exceptions it's a cheap, touristy restaurant serving bad, overpriced food, like microwaved frozen lasagna. Any restaurant with a person standing outside the restaurant trying to encourage you to come is a bad restaurant, no exceptions. Any restaurant with pictures of food in the window is a bad restaurant, no exceptions. Any restaurant with a menu that is in 6 or more languages and that has pictures of the food in the menu, is a bad restaurant, no exceptions. With some exceptions, any restaurant at a major tourist site like Piazza Navona, Campo de Fiori, the Forum, Colosseum, Fountain of Trevi, Spanish Steps, etc, is a bad restaurant. You can eat well at one of these sites, but only if you're careful.

I don't understand people spending thousands of dollars to go to another country and not doing any preparation, and then complaining. There is no problem with unscrupulous restaurants in Venice, any more than anywhere else, including the USA.
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Old Feb 5, 18, 5:50 am
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It was I who made the claim of the taxi driver making the bill switch. Not bogus.

i suppose it is always easier to blame the victim or to state that it happens everywhere. Not the point for a forum of people trying to learn about Italy.

You have made many good contributions to this forum, but on the above you are off base.
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Old Feb 5, 18, 6:27 am
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Perche describes the situation very well.
Venezia is one of the better places for tourists in Italy. And it's still possible to find non tourist spots if you get off the beaten path between San Marco and the train station.

If you hang out with tourists in any country, you will experience what tourists expect to experience. It's exactly the same with "Italian" restaurants in NYC.
And as for hailing a gondola, sure you can do it, but why not just hand over your wallet and skip the preliminaries
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Old Feb 5, 18, 6:54 am
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Originally Posted by Dansa View Post
Perche

It was I who made the claim of the taxi driver making the bill switch. Not bogus.

i suppose it is always easier to blame the victim or to state that it happens everywhere. Not the point for a forum of people trying to learn about Italy.

You have made many good contributions to this forum, but on the above you are off base.
I respectfully disagree. When I go to a cashier at a department store, diner, or to pay a taxi driver, if I'm handing over a fifty, I say "Out of 50." If I'm handing out a 20, I say, "out of 20." This is in the USA, and every place else except Japan. Once or twice in the USA I insisted to a cashier that I gave her a 20, snd she said I gave her a five. I made her pull the cash drawer out of the register, and count it to see if it agreed with her tally. It turned out I gave her a five. It's one of the reasons I state the denomination of the bill I'm handing over, unless it's just a dollar or a five in the USA. If it happened to you, it was as if you got pickpocketed. Pickpocketing happens everywhere, but it's impossible to happen to you unless you are careless or indifferent and let it happen.

It's a very rare thing for someone in Italy to try to short change you, unlike say, what happened to me in a movie theatre recently. I handed over a $50 for a $15 movie ticket. The cashier gave me back $5, and acted as if he was done, and started to talk to a colleague. I guess he thought that if he acted is if he was finished, I would conclude, "I must have given him a $20," and walk away. No words were changed. I just stood there. Finally, he made believe that he was just pausing, then took out the other $35 and gave it to me. This was at a very fancy movie theatre in Marin County, in one of the most expensive zip codes in the USA.

This goes on everywhere. It's not a Roman thing, or a Venetian thing, or a taxi thing. Given that, avoiding being short changed is as easy as not getting pickpocketed. Whenever I hand over a large bill in the USA I say, "out of a hundred," and hold onto it for a second until it is acknowledged. That's it. It will never happen to me, and the only way you will ever lose money is if someone stops you with a gun or a knife and makes you hand over your wallet. And that only happens in the USA, not in Italy. It doesn't happen in a Roman taxi cab.

Just take normal precautions and say, "do you have change for 10?" Actually, they'll probably say no. Even a supermarket often doesn't have change. When you get to the cashier, if you are buying something for 4 euros and hand them a 20, they will ask you for exact change, because if they have to give you 16 euros back, they will be out of change. There's very little change in Italy. A taxi driver will not have much change. Nobody does. Go to the supermarket with extra one or two euro coins, extra fives or tens. If you try to buy something for 4 euros and you hand them a 10, they might not have 6 euros in the register. They will ask if you can pay in "contanti," or coins, because they are running out of cash, and if you reach into your pocket and come up with 4 euros, they will love you. If you say, "here are two fives euro notes, and ten dollars in coin, I'm' willing to exchange it for a 20, they will love you.

In Italy, they are very short on cash. That is everywhere, except a hotel or large department store. If you go to a neighborhood wine shop and bring a 6 euro bottle of wine to the cashier and hand over a 50, It's almost certain that they will take the wine back to the shelf and not sell it to you because they won't have change. It's actually rude to hand a 50 to a taxi driver for a fare less than 40 euros because it's going to pull him from the street as he'll have to stop working and drive around trying to find a way to break it up so he can give change to the next customer.

In Italy it is your job to carry in your pocket the right amount of change, so that you don't stick it to the driver, and make him stop working while he looks for a department store that will have change. Changing a large bill is not easy. If you go to a giant place like Mercato Centrale in Rome, or Eataly, they will be able to change it if you buy something. However, you can't just walk into a bank and ask for change for a 50. Just to get into a bank you have to stand in this tiny, circular isolation chamber that scans your body before it opens up on the inside to let you in.

If you walk to the teller and say you just want change, the teller will get angry with you, because the purpose of the bank is not to help you out for free by being a money changer for you. If you want change, they will tell you to go to a Casa di Cambio (House of Change), that will charge a hefty commission. Some banks in the center parts of large cities like Rome will change a 100 euro note for you if they look like they can trust you, but Italy is a different country.

The things that people complain about are because they want Italy to be the same as home. Don't want your wallet or phone pickpocketed? Don't let it hang out of your back pocket, or sit there in an open purse. Don't want to be shortchanged? Carry close to the exact amount of cash, and as in the USA, when you hand over a large note, say the number, and get it acknowledged before you hand it over. This last step is basic travel sense if you go to Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, Miami, etc.

Last edited by Perche; Feb 5, 18 at 11:32 am
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Old Feb 5, 18, 11:33 am
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I remember when I lived in Torino and I accidentally tore a 50 euro bill in half when pulling it out of my pocket. I went to numerous banks and showed both halves and asked for a new one. That would happen in a second in the USA. They all laughed and said something like, "Compri uno Scotch," meaning that I should buy Scotch tape, do it myself, and see if I could find a merchant to accept a scotched tape 50. Finally, at one bank, I got into an angry argument, and told the guy, "You must have Scotch tape!" With great frustration on his part, he taped the two halves together, but he wouldn't accept the bill. I was able to pass it off at a large supermarket, but only with some angry stares.

Just beware of what you are doing when traveling in another country. If something goes wrong because you are not prepared, don't blame the whole city, or the whole country.
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Old Feb 5, 18, 11:56 am
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I feel like we've all had this discussion before. Perche is basically correct. Italians in general are pretty straight shooters. That's why Perche can take photos in a Roman restaurant of women's purses left on empty chairs while their owners went out to catch a smoke and not be a witness to theft.
I've personally taken dozens of taxis in Rome without once being scalped. Even during rush hour, the routes taken, while circuitous, were the most efficient (and end up costing me far less than the direct route clogged to a standstill). But can there be rip off artists driving cabs in Rome? Sure. Anyone who's tried to grab a cab in to Walls from CIA knows what that looks like. Also, I have to say if you jump in cab in Naples, if you're not prepared, you will be overcharged. I've gotten quoted fares as high as 35 for the 11 fixed rate from Centrale to Beverello. But even there, another driver walked over and offered 20. And eventually took 11, when I produced the fare card I'd downloaded.
(Btw, unlike Perche, I only speak basic - extremely basic - Italian. This hasn't made me "mark").
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Old Feb 9, 18, 10:53 am
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Venice lives on tourism and the hospitality industry, so it is very rare for a restaurant or hotel to be unscrupulous, because the penalties are severe. I mentioned upthread that a restaurant overcharged four Japanese exchange students for a meal. They informed city authorities that they were overcharged, and showed the receipts. The Mayor did a prompt investigation, fined the restaurant 14,000 euros and closed it down upon finding the students complaint to be true. That's why I've never seen or heard of an unscrupulous restaurant in Venice, except this case that received a lot of media coverage because a group of tourists were ripped off.

The Mayors response was first only in Italian, but the newspaper announced that he wanted to reach as many tourists as possible, so he had it translated to english. You can read what happens to an unscrupulous restaurant in english here.
Hospitality is sacred in Venice: we will punish these dishonest people - Cronaca - La Nuova di Venezia

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Old Feb 16, 18, 5:13 am
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Originally Posted by Perche View Post
Have you ever had a shot of espresso at Cafe Florian or Cafe Gran Quadro, in Piazza San Marco, where they have a small orchestra in front of each? The shot of espresso is 16 euros, and as always, prices are on the menu. This is the norm for that area, and they all have menus in english I get my coffee there for 2 euros by standing at the bar inside near the door and listen to the same music). If you actually eat within Cafe Quadro in their restaurant upstairs it's a price fixed dinner at about 380 euros per person. .
Gentile Perche, suppongo che parla del Quadri, non Quadro. The Quadri Alajmo clearly shows its tariffs and is a Venetian institution at a perfect location with gracious service. The downstairs restaurant abc Quadri (alla base della cucina) serves reasonable dishes or a lovely degustation at EUR 85, ideally taken after an opera evening at the Fenice. On the first floor (about to be refurbished) they serve a Michelin starred degustation menu from 185 to 225 EUR, NOT 380 EUR. And no need to tip, only some US Americans do .
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Old Feb 16, 18, 6:19 am
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Originally Posted by behuman View Post
Gentile Perche, suppongo che parla del Quadri, non Quadro. The Quadri Alajmo clearly shows its tariffs and is a Venetian institution at a perfect location with gracious service. The downstairs restaurant abc Quadri (alla base della cucina) serves reasonable dishes or a lovely degustation at EUR 85, ideally taken after an opera evening at the Fenice. On the first floor (about to be refurbished) they serve a Michelin starred degustation menu from 185 to 225 EUR, NOT 380 EUR. And no need to tip, only some US Americans do .
Bene, it's different speaking three languages and having spell check turn on in all three. It means having to go back and reread what I write three times, because the words keep getting changed. Even then, the corrections don't take unless I do it three times. It's why the grammar in my posts often seems lost, and quando has b been changed to the Spanish cuando, which I correct if I have time, which I try to catch, and then when I redo it, the English spell check dominates, and turns cuando into candy.

Every body knows the place I'm talking about. Your 225 Euro dinner would not include starting with the 20 euro martini, the wine pairing, a 20 euro grappa as a digestive, (darn spell check, I wrote digestivo, and it keeps changing it to digestive) and a 16 if you want to take it outside an finish up listening to their little orchestra on Piazza San Marco, which drives up the price considerably. It's very easy for the check to reach approach 380 euros. God forbid if you add a bottle of champagne to the bill, because they start at 150 euros. Remember, 225 is without even the obligatory bottle of sparkling water. If you want to be linguistically technical, it's Ristorante Quadri Alajmo, and downstairs is Caffe' Quadri, where I have my coffee standing at the bar or 2 euros, vs. 16 euros if you sit down outside to listen to the music, then there is ABC quadric. downstairs. The 10:30 PM closing time makes it a little difficult to have a caffe' there after the Opera at La Fenice. For example, Barber for Seville is playing there now, and it's a 3 hour opera that starts at 7 PM. Who wants to rush?

I agree, it's been said her many times, there is no tipping in Italy. There is no jar with dollar bills in it near the cash register at the bar. If you want to be nice, if the bill comes out to 21.60 euros, you might leave the 40 cents on the counter. It's not about the money, it's a courtesy because most places don't have change. Look at the cash register whenever they open it anywhere in Italy; they are always out of, or nearly out of change, and love when you have exact change. Even in a big supermarket. Now, if somebody would explain to me why restaurants and stores all over Italy are always short on change, that would be interesting. When the taxi driver doesn't give you the correct amount back when you pay for the fare, they are not ripping you off. They just don't have any change. If you pay a 12 euro fare with a 50 euro bill, after they give you change, it is going to take them off the street for an hour while they try to find more change. They are not ripping you off, it is just considered rude and insensitive to expect people to have to give you more than a little change. Different countries have different customs.

The point remains, it is very hard to find an unscrupulous restaurant in Venice, although you can get ripped off by going into one where there is a barker standing outside, waving a, "Menu Turistico" with a three course meal for 18 euros, then charges you 5 euros for a basket of bread, and 6 euros for a bottle of water. That's no different from Times Square or Disneyworld, you get fleeced, but in a different way. That's not the same as unscrupulous, it's just tourist traps. Quadri, like 99.5% of Venetian restaurants, are scrupulously honest.
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Last edited by Perche; Feb 16, 18 at 7:29 am
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Old Feb 16, 18, 11:46 am
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Originally Posted by Perche View Post
Now, if somebody would explain to me why restaurants and stores all over Italy are always short on change, that would be interesting. When the taxi driver doesn't give you the correct amount back when you pay for the fare, they are not ripping you off. They just don't have any change. If you pay a 12 euro fare with a 50 euro bill, after they give you change, it is going to take them off the street for an hour while they try to find more change. They are not ripping you off, it is just considered rude and insensitive to expect people to have to give you more than a little change. Different countries have different customs.
All of which is fine and good by me. I've come to accept this. It's just that this would be far less of a problem if Italian ATMs gave you more options regarding the denominations of the bills they give you! (Admittedly, I actually think I may have seen this at one of the ATMs I've visited.) It's also why I am very judicious about where and when I spend my 50 notes.

FWIW, I love the fact that Apple Mail somehow figures out which language I'm using and autocorrects for that language. It does get a little confused when I mix and match in a single e-mail, though.

Sorry, that was all a bit OT.
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