Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The end of NaBloPoMo

A month ago I had the idea of partecipating in NaBloPoMo, National Blog Posting Month. To me it was an ambitious idea, sometimes I even struggle to write one blog post a week. That was the main reason why I decided to partecipate, because I don't write enough. I've been in Italy for over three years now and there's still a lot of things I want to write about, but for whatever reason I haven't done so yet. I felt like I really needed to force myself to write in order to have a decent blog.

I'll openly admit that this during month my writing hasn't been at its best. Some days the last thing I wanted to do was write, there were times when I was practically falling asleep on the keyboard but I had to plod on, I didn't want to give up. But to me it wasn't necessarily about the quality of my writing, it was more about getting into the habit of writing more often than I have been. Maybe my technique's improved, I've been reading more blogs and newspapers this month to find inspiration, and I feel that I have understood a bit more about the art (?) of blogging and what makes a good blog. I've also been able to look at Italy in a different way; when you're searching for something to write about every day it really makes you realise how different the country is that you're living in compared to the one that you grew up in. Every little thing can stand out and be worthy of a blog post.

I'd like to thank everyone who's supported me this month, and everyone who gave me ideas for posts. At the beginning of the month I didn't think I'd be able to complete my challenge, that I'd run out of ideas, but I've still got plenty left to write about! Hopefully now I'll be able to carry on with this habit, maybe not necessarily every day, but hopefully now I'll blog more often than I used to.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Song of The Week

I think I might just have found my favourite Italian single of the year. And again this year it's by Jovanotti. I was so pleased when he tweeted that the next single from his album Ora would be the song of the same title, after Tutto l'amore che ho (which was mu favourite single from last year) it's my favourite song on the album. It debuted on radio on Friday, and the video for it hasn't been released yet, but here is one that's been doing the rounds on youtube since the release of the album.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Challenges

I had a pretty miserable weekend for reasons that I don't want to go into now. By Saturday evening I felt like packing everything in and going back home. That's one of the problems that I've found living abroad, little things can make life very difficult, things that shouldn't really be that important can throw you. One word that sums up life in Italy can be 'challenging'.

Challenging not only because you're living in a foreign country, but sometimes Italy just seems to make things difficult just for the sheer hell of it. I won't even get started on the beaurocracy and how, when I went to sort out my residency as required by law, what they wanted from me wasn't much short of a pound of flesh; but there's silly little everyday things that can wear you down. Italy doesn't have the same history of immigration as the UK and some other countries in Europe, historically Italians left this country in search of a better life, not the other way round; and it definitely shows.

For a start it's the people who challenge your presence in Italy. Often at lunchtime, just down the street from my office, there's a pensioner walking his dog. And he always stares at me. A proper full-on stare threatening stare until he physically can't move his neck any more for his eyes to carry on staring at me as I go down the street. I've seen him doing the same to another foreign lady, so it's not just me, but he doesn't bat an eyelid when Italian women go past him.

It's the people at the post office who lean forward and squint their eyes when you start talking to them. It's the random men who want to talk to you purely because you're blonde. It's the people of all ages who look at you on the metro. It's the people who don't believe you can speak a word of Italian even though you have a degree in it. There's a whole list of ridiculous petty little things. On a bad day even little things like this can make you question what you're doing in a country that will never treat you like a normal person, never mind accept you.

You've got to have a lot of love for this country if you want to live here. And I do, if I didn't I wouldn't still be here after three-and-a-bit years. It does wear you down at times though. But every time it does I just have to stop and think for a minute, it doesn't take me long to realise how lucky I am to be living in this country. It isn't perfect, but where is?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sunday Classic

Today's classic is from 1966, Se telefonando by Mina. Her career spans over five decades, and her latest single, Questa canzone was released last month.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

You know Christmas is coming when.....

.... whilst walking around Milan city centre you get handed one of these:


A leaflet for Milan's biggest Christmas fair, the Artigiano in Fiera. This year it runs from the 3-11 December at the exhibitions centre in Rho, just outside Milan. And I'm going to be there on the first day with (Christmas) bells on!!

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Floods in Sicily

Parts of Italy have been hit by floods this week, but unfortunately not much was said about it in the news. It's taken me this long to write about it simply because I didn't know enough about what happened. The province of Messina on the island of Sicily was hit hard by torrential rain on Tuesday and Wednesday; according to ANSA 260 ml of rain fell in the space of 12 hours. The latest figures seem to show that three people lost their lives and 700 were made homeless in the province.

As an outsider it's been very difficult to judge how bad the flooding actually was because I heard so little about it. When Genova was hit a couple of weeks ago, the news - and quite rightly so - was everywhere. TV and radio interrupted their normal broadcasts to cover what was happening. But the floods in Sicily have been critically under-reported. Even on Twitter, which was widely used to report the news of the flooding in Genova and to help the people affected, it wasn't spoken about that much. The severity of the situation just didn't hit home. For whatever reason, all too often the North-South devide rears its ugly head. And as a foreigner I just can't get my head around it.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Song of The Week

Up patriots to arms is Subsonica's new single, a cover of legendary singer-songwriter Franco Battiato's song from 1980. He also collaborated with the band on their version.



And for reference this is Battiato's original:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Unwanted Attention

I know I've dealt with this subject before, but after being wound up by it today I'm going to try and take a different slant to it this time...

Whilst I was walking home for lunch, down my own street, I got "Ciao bella!"'d by yet another random middle-aged man. I had my earphones in, listening to the radio as usual, and the thing is with those earphones is that I can never hear a thing when I've got them in. But I heard him clearly, which made me think that he spoke pretty damn loudly. I turned round and glared at him as he carried on walking down the street. I still get too shocked to say anything, plus I think provoking the randoms won't do me any good.

Nothing I do seems to stop it. I even got "Ciao bella!"'d a few weeks ago when I was in the most tomboyish outfit I own. Today for example I was all wrapped up in a coat, boots and hat, with only a few tufts of unruly blonde hair sticking out. Oh, and a very spotty face. A greasy 15 year old ain't got nothing on me this week. But that doesn't make a blind bit of difference. As much as it baffles me I've learned to put it down to the simple fact of being blonde-haired and blue-eyed. I may not be the only one that exists in Italy, but we are a rare breed. And it seems that if you're blonde in Italy you're automatically seen as being "bella", even if you believe to be anything but that.

It still annoys me though. My defence mechanism involves wearing earphones/headphones around everywhere, most of the time I want to listen to the radio so it works out; but there are times where I'll just have them in and not be listening to anything. At least that way I can pretend I didn't hear anything. I've learned the randoms' tricks, asking for directions, asking for a lighter, staring to get attention; but I've still not got used to it. I feel threatened every time it happens, it may seem harmless, after all, if it was something a friend of mine said to me when they saw me it'd be a perfectly normal greeting. But these are complete strangers, and usually men much older than me. Feeling unsafe in the city I've lived in for three years unsettles me. But unfortunately it's something not only us foreigners, but also Italian women, have to learn to put up with. As much as that annoys me to admit it. Because these random Italian men don't show any sign of growing up any time soon.

Sigh.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Countdown is On

Today's the 22nd of November. Which means there's one month left until I go home for Christmas. Well, until I should go home for Christmas. After last year I'm not taking anything for granted.

Last year I was stuck in Milan for Christmas, after heavy snowfall in both Italy and the UK. My flight did actually go, but there was too much snow for me to be able to get home from London. If you haven't spent a Christmas away from your loved ones, and not out of choice, then I don't think you could ever imagine what it really felt like. Even nearly all my Christmas presents got lost (yeah, more like stolen) in the post. Waking up alone on Christmas day is one of the saddest things I've ever experienced. It was like going through the motions, it wasn't real Christmas. I made myself a three-course Christmas dinner, I managed to find some turkey and rustled up some amazing stuffing (I LOVE stuffing). But when you've got nobody to share it with it's just like any other meal, just that there's more food involved.

Last week I saw the John Lewis Christmas advert, and as ridiculous as it sounds, I don't think I've ever felt so homesick in the three-and-a-bit years I've spent in Milan. To me it just summed up the typical British Christmas. Missing out on Christmas last year has only made me look forward to it this year even more. I can only hope that this year I won't be disappointed again.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Fog

Milan's and the area around the Po Valley has a reputation for being a very foggy part of the country; but out of 3 winters I've spent here so far I've never seen anything like what we've been experiencing this last week. Once the sun sets the fog mysteriously appears. It wraps the city in a thick, freezing eeriness, which sometimes doesn't budge until mid-morning...



Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sunday Classic

This week's song is from 1975, Rino Gaetano's Ma il cielo è sempre più blu. I got to know this song thanks to one of the contestants singing it on X Factor in 2009 when I was in the audience; and then about three weeks later Giusy Ferreri, a former X Factor contestant herself, released a cover of it. But of course, nothing beats the original.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Lost in Translation?


Ok, if this isn't an Only in Italy thing then I apologise for my ignorance, I've pratically lived my whole post-university life in Italy, and a 'sensual' fabric conditioner amused me no end when I saw it in the supermarket last night. I've yet to use it though so I can't say if it lives up to its name or not!

Friday, November 18, 2011

10 Things I Don't Like About Milan

I'm not feeling particularly negative today, but I think it's important to give a balanced view on what life's like in Milan as a foreigner. As I've been telling people for months, living in Milan is just like living in any other city in Europe at least, it's got its ups and downs; just because I'm in Italy doesn't mean that I'm constantly living the bella vita as some people would like to think.

1. It's a dirty city

I'm talking rubbish on the streets, cigarette butts everywhere, overflowing bins and people not cleaning up after their dogs. Mind where you step.

2. It's expensive to rent

I've written about this before, but it's worth emphasising. Average monthly salaries in Milan are 1000 euro, but you'll be lucky to find a bilocale (a two-roomed flat) anywhere in the city for under 800 euro a month.

3. Public transport stops early

Things have improved since Giuliano Pisapia was made mayor, finally some new night buses have been introduced. But the main form of transport in the city, the metro, still shuts at 1am on weekends and midnight on weekdays.

4. The stares

Seriously. I'm blonde-haired and blue-eyed, not an alien.

5. The people selling things on the street

I'm not talking about the dodgy bag sellers, but my gripe is mainly with the people selling books in the city centre. If I say 'No' politely I do not want to be followed down the street, that's just rude.

6. The greyness

There's been a freezing fog sat over Milan this week. Winter's very grey in general, not just fog-wise, but we don't really get much of those crisp autumn or winter days.

7. Being a pedestrian's difficult

For some reason crossings always seem to be at the stupidest places, usually right on junctions. And it's a miracle if anyone stops to let you cross.

8. Going out's expensive

I know at aperitivos you have food, but it's still the idea of paying 8 or 10 euro for a drink (even a beer at some places) that shocks me.

9. You're never left in peace

Take a hint random (and almost always middle-aged blokes) no means no, ok?

10. Chinatown's difficult to get to on public transport

The trek from the metro and the fact that the buses that pass don't go anywhere useful for me makes me a sad Nerys.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Christmas is coming...

Well, sort of. 

Whilst it's full-blown-Christmas style in the UK, Italy is much more subtle about it. However, I've noticed that since I arrived here back in 2008 that Christmas things have been popping up earlier and earlier every year. The Italians don't go absolutely bonkers like us Brits and start selling Christmas things before the kids are back at school in September, but it seems to me that at least in Milan the Christmas period has been eating into November that little bit more every year.

Take this year for example. There's been Christmas lights in the shape of a star hanging outside a tabaccheria down the street from my office for just over a week now, and the beginning of November for Christmas lights in Italy is early. And they're not the only ones, on the same street maybe a couple of hundred metres down another shop has a whole load of those icicle type lights outside; and from today an opticians on the way home has three shooting stars! Seriously, it's too early for all that.

Even the Christmas food in the supermarket arrived earlier. Lidl went absolutely bonkers and bought its Christmas stuff in about a MONTH ago. I can't imagine anyone in Italy even remotely thinking about buying Christmas food in October. But even the Italian supermarkets weren't far behind with their panettone and chocolates!

I remember when I was in Urbino for my Erasmus, the Christmas lights in the streets of the centro storico didn't go up until the 1st of December. To me it seemed sensible, I don't really get the point of going mad about Christmas when there's still weeks to go, and certainly not in September like the UK does. I mean, it's not going anywhere, is it??




Thanks to Sarah for the inspiration for today's post!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Moka

Making coffee with an Italian moka pot is easy peasy.


This is one of the two I own, bought after my arrival in Milan. I've had the smaller one for over four years, I bought it in Lucca when I was studying in Pisa; for some reason I couldn't find a moka in Pisa itself for love nor money (especially money).

So, a moka is made up of three main components. What you don't see here is the rubber seal and the filter which are in the top part of the moka.


Fill the bottom part with water up to the valve....


... and the funnel with ground coffee...


... screw on the top part and stick it on the stove. When you start hearing a bubbling noise the coffee's starting to rise...


And before you know it, your steaming hot coffee will be ready!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Nerys's Random Tips - The Supermarket

With this blog post I'm now half way through my NaBloPoMo mission of writing one post a day during the month of November, and as difficult as it may be to believe, I'm starting to run out of ideas. I don't have all that much time to write or research blog posts during the week either. Tonight's idea came to me on the way home from a supermarket run, a random list of things you'll see in Italian supermarkets which are different to British supermarkets; and I hope it can come in handy to people moving to Italy or those who have very recently moved here.

1. Not so uncommon maybe, but all loose fruit and veg needs to be weighed and labeled. Look out for the number for each item, which can be denoted by the word tasto or button, referring to the button on the scales to be pressed for that particular item. And don't forget to wear one of the plastic gloves!

2. Skimmed milk, or latte scremato, is much uncommon here than in the UK, both fresh and UHT. Full milk, latte intero is the milk for most Italians, but there's also a lot of latte parzialmente scremato on sale.

3. And milk in supermarkets is sold in 1 litre or 500 litre bottles/cartons.

4. Don't buy anything labeled cavallo if you're fond of horses, yup, it's horse meat!

5. You'll also see that vitello, veal, is popular. Turkey, tacchino, is definitely not.

6. There's a very limited choice of cereal, so it might be wise to get into the habit of eating biscuits for breakfast - you're spoilt for choice!

7. Watch out for tea labeled deteinato and decaffinato coffee if you want something that will wake you up in the morning - they're decaffinated.

8. There's a lot less 'ethnic' food. Most supermarkets just have a very limited selection of Indian/Chinese/Japanese food and cost a lot more.

9. You really won't find much in the way of teabags in the sense of teabags us Brits are used to, but there's plenty of variety when it comes to flavoured tea. Iced tea, most commonly lemon or peach flavoured, is popular, especially during the summer months.

10. For those of you in Milan, buying alcohol if you're under 16 has been illegal for a couple of years. So if you look particularly young (seriously, it happened to me last year when I was twenty four) you may be asked for a documento, a form of ID.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Dopo Silvio

The celebrations Saturday night were nowhere near as big as I expected. I rather naively expected people out in the streets honking their horns waving flags like they were when Italy won the World Cup in 2006. I guess under happier circumstances maybe, if it had been one of the many scandals that had engulfed Berlusconi that had made him resign then possibly it would've been a similar picture. On the TV the news was showing people in Rome celebrating, but even their celebrations didn't last very long. An event that we had been waiting years for had happened, but the circumstances surrounding the resignation meant that Italy in general wasn't in much of a mood to celebrate.

Last night Mario Monti officially accepted the post of Presidente del Consiglio. Berlusconi wasn't going anywhere in a hurry though, and before Monti appeared in front of the press to announce that he had been asked by Presidente Napolitano to form a new cabinet he spoke on TV in a video message to say, amongst other things, that he was going to double his efforts to improve Italy, and to thank the people of Italy for the "affection" that they had shown him. Monti only gave a quick speech, in which he gave his thanks for the faith shown in him, and appeared very serious, the complete opposite of his predecessor. Napolitano then spoke, saying that Italy's current situation didn't allow new elections to be held, and hoped that Monti as an independant figure, and not a politician, would be able to unite the various different parties in the Italian government.

It's still very difficult to tell what's going to happen over the next few days and weeks. A lot of people are still happy that Berlusconi's finally gone, but there's a lot of caution about the future. It's taken an event as large as the prime minister's resignation for a lot of the country to realise how serious the economic situation is. We can only hope now that Italy really can get a fresh start from all of this.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sunday Classic

This week's song is another of my favourites, Il gatto e la volpe by Edoardo Bennato,which was released in 1977. The song is inspired by Pinocchio, the gatto and the volpe are the cat and the fox from the tale who lead Pinocchio astray. In this song they are portrayed as talent scouts who try to con an aspriring singer.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The end of an era

The whole world knows by now that Berlusconi has resigned.

It's been a long and tense day for Italy. The austerity law was passed this afternoon paving the way for Berlusconi's resignation. And at 8.30pm he was set to meet president Napolitano to hand in his resignation. He arrived nearly half an hour late and was greeted by furious cheers from the crowd, including the words 'Buffone!' (bufoon) and 'Mafioso!'.

Right now I'm watching people doing a conga line (known in Italian as trenino) outside the Quirinale (the official residency of the President) in Rome. There had been a bit of a twitter campaign to create a virtual trenino (you may have seen #aeiouy trending this week, it refers to this song which always kicks off the trenino at new year parties and the like) over the last few days to celebrate Berlusconi's resignation, and tonight people in the crowd that had been gathering for the last few hours are doing a real one.

His resignation won't solve the problems Italy has, but tonight Italy is celebrating something which it has been trying to achieve for years. No longer will the rest of the world laugh at this beautiful country because of the actions of one man. The situation is desperate, but there is hope for a new start.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Sleep

I'll never understand how most Italians get away with the amount of sleep that they do.

Evenings in Italy run on a different timetable to that of the UK, a later one. Supper isn't eaten before 7pm, and up here in the north 8pm is more or less and average time for the family to sit down to eat. Prime time or prima serata is generally classed as being 9pm or a few minutes after onwards, that's when the main and most popular programmes of the evening ar shown, or films. Reality shows such as X Factor or Big Brother are on during the week (Thursday night and Monday night respecively) and they don't finish until after midnight, with shows lasting three hours each! Even Masterchef Italia (a new addition to the tv schedules this year, which is proving to be very popular) doesn't finish until 11pm when it's shown on Sky.

Another thing you'll see in Italy is how children stay up late at night. It's just one of those typically Italian things that us Brits who grew up with strict bedtimes just don't get. There have even been times during the week in the past when I've been curled up in bed around 11 at night only to hear a child chattering away with their parents or relatives outside the trattoria next door!

It's not like the Italians necessarily wake up later in the morning than people in Britain do. A study revealed this year that the alarm for Italians was being set at a time that was gradually getting earlier and earlier, with 6.49am being the average time it went off in the morning. Historically there has been the siesta culture in Italy, it's still very much in force in areas of Central and Southern Italy, but not so much in big northern cities like Milan. You will find small shops and businesses such as pharmacies that close for a couple of hours or so in the early afternoon, but for most of the year life during those siesta hours for most people goes on as normal.

And that leaves me with my original question, with this late bedtime that Italians have right from infancy, how on earth do they get enough sleep? I certainly can't hack it, not even with all the coffee I can get my hands on!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Song of The Week

This week's song is the new single by Casino Royale, Ogni uomo una radio, which translates as 'Every man a radio'. The video has been released in the last few days and can be watched exclusively on Radio Deejay's website.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The end is near...

... or so it would seem.

After a very tense day for Italy yesterday which involved Berlusconi losing the majority in the Camera dei Deputati (the Italian parlament's lower house, he still retains a majority in the Senato, the upper house) by obtaining 308 votes instead of the required 316 during a vote on the budget. In a meeting with the Italian president, Giorgio Napolitano, Berlusconi  promised to reisgn as soon as the financial stability law was passed.

So now it all depends on how soon that law will be passed. Napolitano is reported to have said today that Belusconi will resign within a "few days", instead of the two weeks that was expected go by yesterday before the law was passed. He is also calling on either a new government to be formed, or elections to be called. Berlusconi has declared that he won't run if new elections are called, and his Popolo della Libertà party aren't too keen on the idea of early elections.

I'm no expert on politics, but at this point it doesn't seem very clear what exactly will happen once this new law is passed. The Popolo della Libertà's coalition partners, the Lega Nord, are calling for elections as well as Berlusconi himself, even though he has said he won't run. The opposition has yet to name a candidate for their coalition, and the view of ordinary members who want Berlusconi to leave is very skeptical. For the public it has to be seen to be believed to put it simply.

So for now the prosecco's going back in the fridge... 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Kaki

This


is known in italian as a caco. 

Opened up it looks something like this:



Up until my arrival in Milan I'd never even seen one, never mind tried one. For some reason or other after one winter of eating them I went off them for two years and didn't want to eat any at all. But yesterday I saw the packets in the supermarket and thought 'why not?'. I still find the slightly slimy texture a bit too strange, but I'm hoping after eating the other three in the pack I will have managed to get used to it again. It's difficult to define the taste of it, for me the fruit that comes closest is the apricot, but it's more tangy.

Whilst talking about kaki with a friend of mine on Twitter last night she sent me the link to this, it's a song by Elio e le Storie Tese, La terra dei cachi - Italy is the 'land of the kaki'.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Il supermercato

I know this's going to sound strange, but one of the things I look forward to the most when going to a country other than Italy or the UK is going to the supermarket. I love seeing all the different kinds of food which aren't on sale here or in the old country, and trying things I haven't eaten before. One of the best things I've seen on my travels was in Vienna when I was there at the end of March last year - normal chicken eggs which had been painted in different colours for Easter, I thought it was such a lovely idea!

As supermarkets go, Italian ones are very different from British ones. In my hometown there's this massive Tesco that sells everything. None of that here, well, not in a supermercato anyway. The nearest thing would be a ipermercato, a superstore. And even then they don't have as much clothes as a lot of British supermarkets do. I remember the first time I went to a ipermercato in Italy, in Pesaro during my year in Urbino; I was overjoyed not only to find products for sensitive skin which were impossible to find in the small town where I was studying, but also foundation which was light enough for my skin! But as for supermarkets, here there are much less non-food goods.

I think you can learn a bit about the culture of the country you're visiting when you go to the supermarket too, epecially in Italy where the food culture is so important. You can learn so much about the eating habits of the population. Instead of the cereal aisle you have in the UK, there's a biscuit aisle. There's more bread and pasta. It's no surprise that Italy's a much healthier nation when you look at the shops where they buy their food. There's more fresh produce, fewer ready meals and pre-prepared food, and fewer snacks and fatty food aimed at children. Generally speaking there's less frozen produce too, even though gelato obviously takes up a large section of this!


This was my food shop from earlier today. Those red things at the top that look like overgrown tomatoes? I'll be blogging about them tomorrow!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sunday Classic

Yes, I know I'm being crafty seeing as I've set myself the task of writing a blog post every day this month, but I've thought of a new feature; which is posting a video for a classic Italian song every Sunday. I know I focus quite often on current music on my blog, but I think it's also important to have a knowledge of the songs which are part of the history of Italian music.

This week the song's from 1979. I thought it would be appropriate to feature a genovese singer, and this song happens to be one of my favourite Italian songs of all time. It's La mia banda suona il rock by Ivano Fossati.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Floods - an update

After yesterday's events I feel it'd be unsensitive to write about anything else today. Genova yesterday was hit by flash floods, rivers which run through the city burst their banks. Streets became torrents. The images are shocking, it's hard to believe something on that scale could happen in the country I'm living in.

Six people lost their lives; amongst them a mother and her two young children (the youngest just 11 months old) who were trying to get to safety when they were carried away by the water. I saw a man being interviewed on Sky News 24, his business which he had been running for 50 years had been flooded; the water had reached a depth of 1.5 metres and there was nothing he could do. And unfortunately more flooding is predicted for the area.

There are also flood warnings issued during the day for Piemonte. The Po river is expected to burst its banks at some point between Sunday and Tuesday for different areas of the region. Evacuations have been ordered for areas in the province of Alessandria, where flooding is expected tomorrow.

In Milan it's been raining solidly for nearly 48 hours. I don't think I've ever seen such heavy rain in Italy. But we're the lucky ones here, apart from a lot of water on the road so far everything seems to be fine. The Seveso and Lambro rivers however are being monitored, as the rain isn't expected to stop any time soon.

My thoughts go out to everyone who's been affected by the events of the last couple of days, the whole of Italy is with you.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Genova

I don't think that there are enough words to describe what's been happening in Genoa.



Stay safe everyone.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

British Week

Brits of Italy rejoice, it's British week at Lidl!!



Ok, ignore the scema in the photo and concentrate instead on the glass full of purple lovelyness. Blackcurrant squash.

I absolutely adore the stuff, but unfortunately for me it's practically inexistant in Italy. I have found a juice which was blackcurrant and something (if someone could enlighten me as to what it could be that'd be great, the bottle has possibly a white flower on it?) but much to my disappointment I didn't like it. But this week it's on sale in Lidl along with other British food, and I bought three bottles of the stuff. Yes, three.

For someone who hasn't experienced what it's like to drink or eat something that you haven't for months or even years, something you loved when you were growing up, it's difficult to explain what it means. It might seem silly, after all, it's just a drink. It's more than that though. For me it's mainly memories of cold winter nights curled up in bed with a cup of hot blackcurrant, with the wind and rain howling outside, watching something good on the tv. It's comforting, it reminds me of home.

So I'd like to thank Lidl for reuniting me with my favourite drink, it's been far too long!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Floods

I don't watch the news on TV. It wasn't a conscious choice as such, I don't seem to have the TV on when the news is or I'm busy doing something else, and I'm also skeptical about the contents at times - with the media as it is in Italy, it's a question of trust, who do you trust to get your news from? - so I prefer to get my news from other sources; namely the internet and the radio. But unfortunately not watching news reports has worked against me during the last couple of weeks or so.

I was very slow picking up the news about the floods in Liguria and Tuscany last Tuesday, and I still feel like I'm playing catch-up now. After torrential rain on Tuesday rivers broke their banks, the area has been devastated. The picturesque Cinque Terre in the Liguria area has been hit especially hard. Two of the towns, Monterosso and Vernazza were cut off from the outside world, and were without electricity gas and water for days. Ten people so far in the area have lost their lives, including one volunteer who was killed whilst he was trying to help the people hit by the floods.

The clean-up operation is well underway, but obviously it's going to take a long time for the area to get back to a state of normality. There are various different ways to donate money to help the operations in the area, if you have an Italian mobile you can text 445500 to donate 2 euro, and you can also ring that number from a landline. 

To donate from abroad you can now go to the Italian Red Cross site and select 'Emergency Tuscany and Liguria' for the donation cause. You can also donate to two bank accounts that have been set up, the first to collect funds for the Cinque Terre area, the second for the La Spezia area:

IBAN: IT64W0603049870000046275829
HEADING: “Un aiuto per Monterosso e Vernazza”
CAUSAL: “Alluvionati 5 Terre”

IBAN: IT11 Y061 7501 4000 0000 3452 080
BIC: CRGEITGG040
CIN: Y
CAB: 01400
HEADING: Società Edizioni e Pubblicazioni (S.E.P.) Spa
CAUSAL: “Alluvione Spezia”

More bad weather is forecast for the next few days, and the entire country is hoping that it will spare these areas that have already been brought to their knees by last week's rain.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Ognissanti

Today's All Saints' Day, as with many Catholic holidays it's public holiday in Italy. And when Italy has public holidays generally speaking everywhere's closed. I was amazed this morning to pass three open bars on the way to work, but by the time I got home one of them had closed - even though they had a sign in the window saying they'd be open all day. How very Italian...

With it being All Saints today is everyone's onomastico. In Catholic tradition every day is a different saint's feast day, and everyone who has a saint's name has their own name day or onomastico. Historically the onomastico was as important as a person's birthday, especially in the Southern regions of the country; and even now people receive gifts (mostly small) or simply auguri when it's their saint's day.

Having a Welsh name I don't strictly have an onomastico. The Italian version of my name's Nerina, and apparently my onomastico is May 12th. I never remember, partly because it isn't my real name, and partly because I didn't grow up with this tradition of having a name day. So I'm sort of counting this as my onomastico today. Now where are my presents??