"In London the statues are of dead generals and here they're all of naked men.I can't believe Italian men have become as 'pin-striped' as the English," she shrieked, as we sped past the massive, manly and un-figleafed statues of Castor and Pollux on our way into the city. You can pass laws and standardise currency, but can you really knock the stallion out of the Italian? With blue skies and temperatures of at least 70 degrees (particularly appealing when those at home had plummeted to the mid-40s), our three-day plan was to pursue our research into the Italian male and enjoy shops, sculpture and sunshine in equal measure - with plenty of eating along the way. Churches and fountains, palazzos and columns have been restored to their resplendent, pristine state.
But by age sixteen she didn’t get her period, so her mother brought her to the doctor and an astonishing discovery was made. Inside, she appeared male: no fallopian tubes, no uterus, no ovaries.
Candidates in this year's election have attacked each other's wives, accused each other of pants-wetting and traded monikers like "Lying Ted" and "Little Marco." Casual observers might be tempted to conclude politics are getting dirtier.
Whether that's true, a traipse down the annals of American political history shows that throwing barbs is nothing new.
My mother (then in her early forties; the age I am now) was chatted up whenever we sat down in a restaurant. Thirty years later, and now more than capable of delivering a killer glare, I was determined to keep my culo (bottom) to myself.
My travelling companion, Australian novelist Kathy Lette, had no such ambitions.
The process of changing waste to resource is so familiar in nature that we are almost unaware of it.