Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Song of The Week

I'd not really appreciated this song until I heard it on the radio early Sunday morning. With the world outside quiet it seemed to reflect the mood in the air. It's Sornione, the second single released from Daniele Silvestri's album S.C.O.T.C.H, and features Niccolò Fabi.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Lo sciopero

I don't know about the rest of Italy but in Milan people joke about there being a transport strike once a month. Actually it's not far off the truth, as most months there's some sort of strike involving the public transport within the city. Today the strike doesn't only affect urban transport, it's a national strike that also affects the train lines in the country.

Strikes are announced in advance, the unions that organise them are required to by law. Sometimes they're cancelled, sometimes they're rescheduled, but recently they've always been on a Friday, or starting Thursday night - convenient for the weekend eh? So for the people of Italy who rely on public transport to get around it's a matter of keeping an eye on the news and on the transport companies' sites to see what's planned.

The thing is with the strikes is that even if they're announced for 24 hours or any other period, public transport doesn't come to a complete and absolute stop for that amount of time. There's always what's called the fasce garantite, the periods during the day when service is guaranteed. In Milan today, as it usually happens when there's a strike, service is guaranteed for urban transport until 8.45am and then again from 3-6pm. There are also certain trains that are guaranteed in case of strikes, which are indicated on the timetables in train stations. Outside these times you'll still see various mezzi around, the strikes have a varying level of success, especially as there are many different unions involved - some drivers won't be members of the unions on strike. Even so, here the metro is always the worst hit. Today outside of the guaranteed period of service, the underground is completely closed. So when there's a strike it's not necessarily impossible to get around using public transport, but very difficult.

For people who have a limited knowledge of Italian it can be difficult finding out about these strikes. On the Ministry of Transport site's there's information about planned strikes, but only in Italian. If you're in Milan you can check the ATM site, which is in English here (even though I can't actually seem to find any news in the English section about today's strike..). After not finding anything in the English language news from the Italian news agencies, I'd recommend running Italian news about strikes through an online translator. The translation may not be accurate, but at least you'll be informed to a certain level.

If you're unfortunate enough to experience a transport strike, here are some words you may hear used:

Lo sciopero: strike
I mezzi: transport
- mezzi urbani: urban transport
- mezzi interurbani: interurban transport
La fascia:
- fascia garantita: the guaranteed period/s of the day when service will be running as usual
La circolazione: circulation
Il disagio (singular) / i disagi (plural): disruption
superficie: surface (when referring to non-underground services)
Essere in agitazione: to be on strike

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Song of The Week

As far as songs are concerned, I don't think you can get much more summery than one by Luca Carboni called Fare le valige - 'packing'!

Lesson of The Day

If you have a gas stove keep a very close eye on your Moka as your coffee's brewing as the handle may catch fire. That's exactly what happened to me today whilst making my post-lunch coffee!

Poor battered Moka!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Snaps from Milan: Via Sarpi

Via Paolo Sarpi is the main street that makes up the area that's known as Milan's Chinatown. It's to the north-west of the city centre, about 10 minutes on foot from Arco della Pace. When I have a craving for Chinese food I head for zona Sarpi. There's a couple of places I can recommend; one's where I usually go to, it's a little place on a sidestreet, Trattoria Hua Cheng on Via Giordano Bruno, no. 13. I normally pay around 10 euro for three different dishes and a bottle of water. Jubin on Via Sarpi itself (no.11) is almost the complete opposite as it's a spacious restaurant, and it also offers Japanese and Thailandese food as well as Chinese.

Sarpi isn't the easiest place to get to, for one thing the street's now pedestrianised (though being Italy you'll obviously see the odd car driving down the street every so often...). The nearest metro stop is Moscova on the green line, and it takes around 10 minutes on foot to get to the nearest end of the street. The no.43 bus stops at the western end of the street, and the no.12 and no.14 trams (both of which also stop at the Duomo, Cardusio, and Lanza metro stops) stop streets that cross Via Sarpi. To walk from Arco della Pace, head down Corso Sempione and take Via Pina on the right. However you get there you'll know you're in the right place from the Italian flags hanging in the street!

Monday, July 18, 2011


Last night I experienced my first Italian earthquake. According to the Corriere della Sera the quake I felt was 4.7 on the Richter scale. Last night it was unclear where the epicentre was, but it appears to have been somewhere between the provinces of Rovigo and Mantova, over in the north east. The earthquake was felt over a large part of northern Italy - Lombardy, Veneto and Emilia-Romagna, and even as far up as Trentino-Alto Adige. No major damage or injuries have been reported, but travel on train lines was disrupted, with several trains from Verona cancelled.

I was at home, luckily, and clearly felt the earthquake. I'd only experienced one earthquake previously, in the Midlands in February 2008,  which was stronger than yesterday's (5.3 magnitude). Even though I wasn't sure it was actually an earthquake as it was weak, I was quite scared. I took to Twitter to find out what was happening.

It took the traditional media some time to catch up on the earthquake, but by then the news was all over Twitter. Not long after the quake I turned the TV on and started watching Rai News, but by 11pm I hadn't heard a thing about it!

Here is a map that has been created which shows the areas where the earthquake was felt. The red star is the epicentre, the pink dots show where it was felt, green by 'some' and the blue dots are where people reported that they did not feel anything.

Of course when things like this happen, people start thinking about the earthquakes of the past. The one that came to my mind was the Aquila earthquake, which happened on the 6th of April 2009; just over 5 months into my stay in Italy. At the time I didn't realise how serious it was, or how long the effects of the earthquake would be felt for. 308 people lost their lives as a result of that earthquake. Around 65,000 were made homeless, many temporarily living in the 'tendopoli', the tent 'cities' around Aquila. Thousands are still homeless, many in accommodation provided by the government, and there are still tons of rubble in the streets. Unfortunately (and sadly not surprising) it's hardly mentioned in the press any more, even though there is still a lot of work to be done and a lot of help needed.

Last night only minor damage was reported, the worst being part of a church tower near Mantova collapsing and falling on some cars. So we were lucky. But I can't help but wonder about what could have happened had it been worse.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Songs of The Week

This week I have two! They're two bilingual songs, Italian and English, so my thinking was 2 half-Italian songs is worth one completely Italian song...?

Here's the first, and what might well become one of the tormentoni of this summer: Michael Franti and Jovanotti in the Italian version of The Sound of Sunshine.

The other is from Caro Emerald and Giuliano Palma, Riviera Life (Vivere). Palma also released a bilingual song last summer, Nuvole rosa featuring Canadian singer Melanie Fiona, and was one of the big songs of the season.