The Euro has landed!

Actually, here in sunny Italy the Euro might as well have arrived on Mars for all the notice that the locals are taking of it.

That's not really fair, but suffice it to say that most, if not all, Italians would rather still pay in their good old Lire.

It is amazingly difficult to get
a decent photograph of coins.
Here is a full set of Euro coins.

For those who've been resident on another planet for the last few years, the Euro is the new single European currency which became legal tender at midnight on Jan 1st 2002, there now follows two months of total confusion whilst Europe changes over to having just one currency rather than eleven (certain countries like the UK have decided to watch what happens before actually joining the rest of Europe). On the 1st of March the existing currencies cease to be legal tender.

Here in Italy the run-up to "E day" has been treated with typical Italian apathy, not a nice word but the best I can find to describe the Italian way of saying "it is going to happen soon" right up to the last minute and then panicing wildly when it actually happens.

The Euro is proving somewhat confusing for the locals here, firstly about 20% of people think that the plural of "Euro" is "Euri" (like bambino and bambini), a certain TV show had a crew going round Roma asking just that question (amongst others that is). Secondly, for the first time in a very very long time Italy has coins which are actually worth something, Euro coins go from 1 cent to 2 Euro, in contrast the largest coin in common use until now was 500 Lire, 2 Euro is about 4000 Lire (the 2 Euro coin is also VERY similar in size, shape and colour to the 500 Lire coin), so giving a few coins to the chaps washing windows at the traffic lights could get very expensive! Don't forget that the Italians also have not had a currency which is divided into cents for more years than anyone cares to think.

Because the conversion from Lire to
Euro does not result in exact
values (1 Euro is 1936.27 Lire),
I e1nded up with this (rather heavy)
pile of change in just ONE day!

The existing currency is being removed from circulation by the simple method of restricting shops etc. to only giving change in Euro. This is proving to be a real nightmare, the goods are priced in Euro, the cash register totals in Euro (at least there is a Lire conversion on the till slip), you pay in Lire which the till person has to convert to Euro manually (with his nifty little electronic converter) before entering the value into the till. Then you should get your change in Euro unless the shopkeeper has run out of Euro (or, more likely, not bothered to get any because the queue at the bank was out into the street), then you get Lire or even a mixture of the two!.

The possibilites for mistakes and rounding errors are unlimited, queues at the bank, the supermarket checkout and the post office are huge at the best of times, recently they've been astronomical.

All this is added to by the little old lady who just can't understand these new things, and the unscrupulous traders who set out to rip her off.

The company which operates the thousands of parking machines all over Roma have been updating mechanisms for ages! At least, now, after two days all (nearly) the ATM machines are working again and mostly are dispensing Euro.

I'm sure it will all be ok in the end.