Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Buon Anno!

It's been a very interesting 2013 for me, interesting and very emotionally challenging... Certainly memorable for many reasons, good and bad. I'm hoping the year will end in a memorable way for the right reasons! Tonight I'll be ringing in the new year at the Radio Deejay studios with two of my friends and some other listeners, after two of my favourite presenters, the belli e bravi Mauro and Andrea, invited listeners to spend New Year's Eve at the radio. I'm very excited!! I'm not sure how I'll manage to stay awake until 10pm when their show starts though, never mind midnight!

Buon anno to everybody, I hope 2014 brings you everything you wish for!

Monday, December 30, 2013

A late Christmas present

This year my mam's beaten the Italian post! Maybe it was the smaller-than-usual size of the parcel that made them not want to steal it... It was only yesterday I spoke to her on the phone, and after two and a half weeks waiting for the parcel to arrive at my work she'd pretty much admitted defeat. But this morning it arrived! It's not so much the content that made me happy - but seriously, chocolate - but the fact that one of her parcels safely arrived at my end, after so many presents had gone missing. I've already tucked into one of the Chocolate Orange bars and it tasted like Christmas!!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Buon Natale!

It's a very wet and grey Christmas Eve in Milan, it reminds me of Christmasses past in the Old Country... In about an hour I'll be getting on the train to spend Christmas over with a friend in the province of Venice, and I'm very much looking forward! Buon Natale to everyone, wherever you are!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Word of The Week

Il regalo - present

With four days left until Christmas what the Italians like to call la corsa ai regali (the race to buy presents) is well and truly on. These two shiny gift bags were full of regali that I delivered this morning. I got the last few things on Thursday evening, so that I could stay well away from all the crazyness this weekend. And with only a few days left I'm hoping that the Italian post doesn't steal the regali my family's sending over again!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sunday Classic

O mio signore by Edoardo Vianello was number one way back on this day in 1963.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Word of The Week

Le luci - Lights

With ten days to go until Christmas Eve, Milan's all dressed up for Christmas. The great big tree's been put up in Piazza Duomo, this year decorated with unfestive yellow bows as it's sponsored by DHL... But at least it looks pretty at night. There are also obviously luci decorating the streets of the city centre. The prettiest ones are these, hanging from the cupola in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. The stem in the centre is the one of the city of Milan, and the blue lights create a beautiful atmosphere as you walk through the Galleria.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Il panettondoro

When it comes to the panettone vs pandoro discussion I'm firmly in the panettone camp. Call me biased because panettone is traditionally from Milan, but I much prefer it. Yesterday I had to get my shopping done, and it was going to be the day that I bought my first panettone of the season. Except I came home with this:

A panettondoro. It wasn't intentional, honest. I've been having a bit of a tough time with my Italian this week, recently for one reason or another far too many things have been going straight over my head. I blame this bad period on me not realising that the writing on the box said panettondoro and not panettone.

I'd never seen one of these before, and I assume it's a gimmick that's been thought up in time for this Christmas. The word is a combination of both panettone and pandoro, and that's basically what I got when I tried the first slice. It's quite nice actually, it has a bit of a strange texture for someone used to eating panettone every year, but it's not as dry as normal panettoni. The next time I'll definitely read the box very carefully before picking the cake off the shelf though...

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Sunday Classic

This week's song was number one exactly fourty years ago, it's La collina dei ciliegi by Lucio Battisti.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Word of The Week

Comprare - to buy

This morning I braved the crowds and went to the Artigiano in Fiera. Here are some of the spoils, four anelli I treated myself to from a gorgeous stand full of jewellery and beads. The other purchase I made for myself was a bottle of chocolate liqueur from a pugliese stand which had liqueurs in all sorts of flavours including strawberry and pistacchio. It's delicious!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Bilingual Songs

For reasons I haven't quite understood there are more bilingual songs doing the rounds on the radio at the moment than usual. It might be due to trying to boost sales at Christmas, but it doesn't usually happen that you get so many at once. Just in the last couple of weeks three duets by Italian and English language singers have been released.

It's not unusual to see a bilingual Italian and English song pop up every so often. I can think of a couple of big examples from the last few years - Mary J. Blige's Each Tear which featured Tiziano Ferro in the Italian version of the song (in 2010); and at the beginning of my Erasmus year during the autumn of 2005, Anastacia and Eros Ramazzotti's I Belong To You (Il ritmo della passione) was everywhere.

My favourite song of the current batch - and the first one to come along - is Stardust, which in this version features last year's X Factor winner, Chiara. This song was bilingual before Chiara first performed it with Mika, as a special Italian version of his last album - The Origin of Love - was released here last year. This version of the album featured two songs - the other being the title track - which included some Italian lyrics.

The second features one of Italy's most well-loved singers with one of the most famous singers in the world - Laura Pausini and Kylie Minogue. Limpido features on Laura's Greatest Hits collection, which celebrates her 20 year career.

The third is a song I heard on the radio earlier, by Giorgia - another well-loved female voice in Italy - and Alicia Keys, called I Will Pray (Pregherò). The duet is one of two which feature on Giorgia's Senza Paura album that was released last month, the other is with Olly Murs.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A Weekend in Rome

At 4.45 on Saturday morning my alarm rang, it was the start of my Roman weekend! I got a night bus - seriously, I was amazed at how many people I saw on it - and jumped on the metro to Porta Garibaldi train station. On the way down to Rome the journey was with Italo, and I really appreciated the Casa Italo in the train station, a safe and warm place to wait. Much better than what I could say about Trenitalia who leave you waiting on your feet in the cold... After just over three hours I arrived in Roma Tiburtina, and navigated my way through the Roman underground to get to Termini train station.

I stayed at B&B Giovy, which is a couple of minutes walk from Termini. Luckily check-in was from 10am so I could leave my case in my room. I was so happy to find a double bed when I'd paid for a single room! After sorting out the makeup I'd somehow managed to apply at 5am and hair I went to find a bar in Termini train station for a cappuccino and then for a wander to the Spanish Steps.

For lunch I met up with the lovely Claire from Run Brit Chick Run who had very kindly offered to meet up during the weekend. She took me to Haus Garten Bagel Bar, where I had a delicious salmon bagel and some lovely pancakes for dessert! It was great meeting her and hearing about her new baby after getting to know her through Twitter!

After lunch me and my full belly rolled over to the Vatican to have a look around. There was a massive queue as the museums had been closed for a few hours, luckily I had no intention of visiting them because I was only down for the weekend!

After a short rest in the B&B I headed out to take some photos after dark. I got off the metro at Barberini to see the Trevi Fountain at night.

Pretty eh?

I then hit Via del Corso, which is the main shopping street in Rome, after Claire recommended that I went to see the Christmas lights at night. There were so many shops all dressed up for Christmas! That was just the start of my long walk, I also went to see the Vittorio Emanuele monument and a rather deserted Colosseo, before dragging my aching feet back to the B&B.

Sunday morning I was up bright and early and on a mission. I'd asked Laura Antonini, aka the loveliest woman in radio and my favourite presenter, if I could visit her at Radio Deejay's Roman studios. I was downstairs with my case by around 6.30, and the lady at reception very kindly showed me to the breakfast room where I could get a coffee, even though breakfast wasn't starting for another hour.

At 6.59 exactly I stepped off the bus, grinning to myself for making it to the radio a minute before the beginning of the show! It was great seeing Laura again and being in the studio with her, it's always so fascinating seeing what goes on when the microphone's switched off!

A second breakfast was very much needed once I got back into Rome city centre, before heading off on another day of touristing. My first stop was the Pantheon, which always manages to amaze me. Then it was off to the Christmas market in Piazza Navona which I'd heard so much about. There were so many stalls selling Christmas decorations and all sorts of food. I had a delicious pork sandwich for lunch which I wolfed down even after having a second breakfast!

One of the things on my must-do list was a stop at Pompi. That place does amazing tiramisu in different flavours. Back when I first visited there in March I had a strawberry tiramisu, this time my choice was chocolate and banana. Gorgeous!

Even though I was exhausted I still had some time to kill before my train so I decided to go and see the Collusseum during the day. Unfortunately at the moment a lot of work's being done on it which means lots of scaffolding... I had a walk around before going to a cafè I'd stumbled across during my last visit, called Cafè Cafè. I remembered their long list of teas, and a break with a hot drink in a relaxing atmosphere was just what I needed.

Then it was time to go back home. And in true Trenitalia style the highspeed Frecciarossa arrived in Milano Centrale 20 minutes late!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Dawn on the train

I'm in deepest darkest Emila, on my way down to Rome for the weekend an Italo train. I've been awake since 4.45 and I left a pitch black and very cold Milan. The sun's now starting to rise over the fields and towns of northern Italy as we race down to the capital... And I need another coffee!

Today's the 30th of November, which means it's the last day of Nablopomo! I've written a post every day! I've made it!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Christmas is Coming... Again.

For me Christmas starts with the Artigiano in Fiera at the beginning of December. Well, I say beginning of December, this year it's starting tomorrow. November. It may be the 30th but it's still November. Hmm.

Anywho, the Artigiano in Fiera is amazing. Bonkers, but amazing. Over the course of the week pretty much the entire city of Milan descends on the exhibitions centre in Rho Fiera. An artigiano is an artisan, but as an adjective it's used to describe something that's home made. And that's what the Fiera is full of - stands of artisans from all over the world selling their wares. You get everything from Limoncello and pastries from southern Italy, to scarves and jewellery from India, to wurstel and brezel from Austria and Germany and everything in between. There are also restaurants from all over the world catering to all tastes.
The hardcore Milanese bring along cases and shopping trolleys to take home their purchases, stocking up on Christmas presents. It's certainly not for the faint hearted - even from the red line Rho metro trains transporting the crowds there - but it's definitely worth a visit.

Entrance to the Artigiano in Fiera is free. It starts tomorrow at 10am and finishes next Sunday, 8th December. Getting there on public transport from Milan is easy, jump on a red line (M1) train with Rho as the destination (not Bisceglie, that won't get you there). A return ticket from within the city limits costs 5 euro. Information about the Fiera can be found in English on their site here.

Normally my carefully planned attack on the Fiera takes place on the first day, but this year I can't go - as I'm off to Rome for the weekend!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Song of The Week

Ecco che is Elisa's new single, the second to be taken from her latest album L'anima vola. It was co-written with Giuliano Sangiorgi from Negramaro.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Bye Berlusconi (?)

I've got a slight fever (and as all expats in Italy learn sooner or later, a fever is pretty much the worst thing you could ever suffer from) I apologise if I ramble more than usual, but with it being NaBloPoMo the show must go on!

What else could I write about but Berlusconi? Finally he's been kicked out of the senate following his definitive conviction for tax fraud on the 6th of October. Yes, it took Italian politicians *that* long to arrange a vote as to whether a convicted criminal should be allowed to stay in parliament.

In the five years I've been in Italy I've seen the carefully created legend of Berlusconi slowly unravel piece by piece. His court cases, from tax evasion, to underage prostitution, are slowly catching up on him. At the moment I'm (finally) reading Tobias Jones' The Dark Heart of Italy - which should be essential reading for anyone considering a move to Italy - but for one reason or another, I'm only getting around to reading it now. Certain passages dealing with Berlusconi are incredible, even after all this time in Italy. His control on tv, football, printed press, advertising... One (small) man has so much control over this country, you really can't escape from it. People abroad wonder why he still has so much political power, but he really has so much influence in day-to-day life here. When he was prime minister he basically owned all of the main tv channels, as the Mediaset ones belong to him, and Rai to the state. Your tv set was basically a propaganda machine. Even now with the left wing-right wing coalition government you'd still need to watch several different news broadcasts and read several different newspapers just to get an idea of what was really going on, and even then you wouldn't get the real picture.

What's been happening recently is a start. I never imagined when I was studying the 20th century history module at my uni in 2007-2008 that Berlusconi's grip on Italy would loosen any time soon. But finally the pieces are starting to fall apart.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Blue skies in winter

It's been another day of beautiful blue skies in Milan. From my 6th floor office in the east of the city I could see the planes twinkling in the sun as they took off from Linate, and the snow-covered mountains in the distance. Of course this kind of clear sky comes with a price - the cold! This morning when I woke up an app my phone was showing the temperature as -2. Brrrr!! Wrap up warm kids!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Sunday Morning at l'Arco della Pace

L'arco della Pace is one of Milan's most beautiful landmarks. It's to the north-west of the city centre, the other side of Parco Sempione. It's at the end of Corso Sempione, a wide street packed with bars.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sunday Classic

Today's classic is from 1985, Noi, ragazzi di oggi, by Mexican singer Luis Miguel. He was just 15 when he took part in Sanremo with this song.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Word of The Week

Gli stivali - boots

Italy's often described as being a stivale as it's the shape of a boot. And in my part of the stivale winter has arrived so the winter stivali are getting a good use. We haven't had any snow in Milan yet, but some other areas have seen a dusting, even nearby Varese. And they're forecasting even colder weather over the next few days!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Song of The Week

Giuliano Palma is a singer who I connect with the summer months (see here and here) so I found it a bit strange hearing his voice on the radio when it was cold and grey outside. Ora lo sai (now you know) is his new single, which is the result of a collaboration with Subsonica frontman Samuel.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

We have pretty sunsets too!

Milan, being a grey and smoggy city, doesn't get much in the way of nice sunsets. But when we do get one, they're pretty spectacular. This was today's, complete with a bonus - a rainbow!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


It's been impossible to avoid the news coming out of Sardinia over the last 24 hours. I have to admit that I've never been to the island, but when this kind of disaster hits my beloved adopted country it's obvious that I'm affected. In 24 hours the same amount of rain has fallen in some areas of the region as what normally does in six months. 18 people have died and 2,700 are reported to have been evacuated from their homes.

I've seen photos from a couple of my friends in Sardinia - not in the worst affected areas, luckily - and reports of the situation where they are, things I couldn't ever imagining in somewhere like an island that's associated with sunny blue skies and clear blue seas. I've seen images on the news of bridges that have been carried away by the water, streets completely flooded, cars almost completely submurged by the water...

In my cosy home in the metropolis of Milan I can't imagine what these people must be going through. My heart goes out to everyone on the island who has been affected. Un abbraccio alla Sardegna.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Monday night treat

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to the krapfen (stop sniggering). As the name would suggest it has germanic roots, but is popular in Italy.

This particular (tasty) specimen is a krapfen alla crema. Take a guess? Yes, it's filled with cream! And I love the cream you get in pastries and tarts and croissants here in Italy - thick, almost custardy stuff, and very sweet.

So this is my Monday night treat, because we all deserve a treat for getting through Monday, right?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sunday Classic

This week's classic is a song that was performed by one of the contestants (Fabio) on this week's X Factor. The original was by Lucio Dalla and was released in 1971, it's La casa in riva al mare (The house on the seafront).

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Word of The Week

Dormire - to sleep

Last night I was fast asleep by 9.30 and woke up when I heard the church bells ringing at 8, and after listening to the radio for an hour I went back to bed... Until I got disturbed by my neighbour who was raising hell on the phone about an hour and a half later. I've had a couple of very late nights for me this week, especially Thursday night when I went to X Factor, so I desperately needed to dormire last night!

Friday, November 15, 2013

A Welshie at X Factor - Again!

I know, I'm still being a fangirl.

Last night I was in the X Factor audience. Massive thanks to my friend, who I know will want to stay anonymous, for finding me a spare ticket! After going to the Milan auditions back in June it was great to see the progress some of my favourite contestants had made.

X Factor in Italy is on every Thursday night, and on Sky Uno. This year it's being held in a purpose made tented theatre in the east of the city, in the Lambrate area. It holds 1,200 people, but only 250 tickets are put on sale every week for the Italian public to buy. And we have to buy them. The tickets cost 28 euro, and are put on sale every Monday at midday for the show on the following Thursday. And with only 250 tickets and such high demand they're pretty much impossible to buy.

The show's an epic three hours long, starting at 9.10pm, and it's followed straightaway by Xtra Factor which goes on for another hour - so when I walked into the arena last night I knew I was in for the long haul! It went a lot quicker than I imagined though, and I enjoyed it more than I expected to!

This week was 'Hell Factor', and my inner Dante geek was very happy about all the Inferno references. It had been given that name due to the fact that there were two eliminations instead of just one, and unfortunately one of my favourites got voted off. Roberta was one of the most memorable contestants from the Milanese auditions for me, partly because of her slightly unfortunate surname... Another one of Mika's girls, Gaia - who killed it at Milan with her performance of Mina's Brava - escaped being voted off after ending up in the bottom two of the second group of contestants.

I was particularly impressed with Michele, for someone so young the kid has an amazing voice. Ape Escape are fantastic, and they bring a touch of originality to the competition. I loved Fabio's performance too, another singer who had impressed me back in June.

During the show I couldn't help but think back to my very first experience with X Factor Italy, over four years ago. That was when Mika was a mere guest, and now he was a judge. Back then I hadn't even been in Italy for a year. I didn't know who the judges were, and I didn't recognise the Italian songs the contestants were performing. This time I knew too well who the judges were - also back in July - and I knew every single song that was performed. The fact that the audience was applauding everything was perfectly normal, and I felt quite at home in my surroundings.

Mika is doing a brilliant job. His Italian gets better and better, but it's only normal that he makes a few mistakes (a couple that come to mind from last night were a couple of incorrect conjugations of the verbs sapere and essere - both of which are awful irregular verbs). The audience went wild when he took his place at the judges' table at the beginning of the show, much to my delight. I'm still amazed that this country has taken to a foreigner so much.

We left the arena to find that it was absolutely pouring down with rain, and quickly jumped in the car to go home. By the time I crawled into bed it was around 1.30!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Song of The Week

I'm going to bend my rule of featuring only songs completely in Italian for my song of the week, but as I'm in Italy it's all good. It's a duet by Mika, my favourite singer; and Chiara, who won X Factor Italy last year. It's a beautiful bilingual version of Stardust, from Mika's third album The Origin of Love. They first performed the duet together on the show last year, when Mika was a mere guest. This year he's one of the judges and they performed the song together again on last week's show. It's been No.1 on the iTunes chart in Italy for several days since its release; as well as the album that contains it, Mika's Songbook Vol.1, which contains his singles to date, and has only been released in Italy.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

My New Toy!

Monday I bought a shiny electric milk frother from Lidl, and this morning I got to try it out for the first time!

Luckily, it's blonde proof. You pour milk into it, and at the bottom you can put a whisk for frothed milk, or take it out if you just want hot milk.

Press the button and off it goes! Whirrrrrr...

And here's the finished result - some very frothy milk...

... that I used to treat myself to a cappuccino this morning!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Snaps from Milan: The Underground

Empty seats on a sleepy Sunday morning...

Some slightly puzzling Engrish graffiti...

A map of the three main train lines on one of the older trains...

Monday, November 11, 2013

Nerys vs Nutella

For the last few weeks I've been bitching about Nutella. This is the last I'm going to say about it before abandoning the product completely.

Just over three weeks ago I saw that Nutella had jumped on the 'personalised packaging' bandwagon. I hadn't cared about Coca Cola and their personalised cans, the only time I'd ever drank that stuff was when I was drunk. But then Nutella decided that it wanted a piece of the action. In the supermarket there were displays of stickers with popular Italian names on them, in the same style and colour as the Nutella packaging, so that you could stick on the jar.

It was like practically everyone I knew in Italy sent me a link to Nutella's site, where three weeks ago you could order a sticker for your Nutella jar which would be sent to you by email, and it could be any name you want. Brilliant I thought, even though I don't have an Italian name I can get one too. But no, obviously being Italy that would be far too easy. When I sent my request and got the following message:.

"Segnalaci il tuo nome, se lo riteniamo idoneo ti spediremo la tua etichetta il primo possibile."

'Tell us your name, if we think it's suitable we'll send your sticker as soon as possible.'

Right. So you're basically accusing my name of being some sort of swear word because it's not in your list? Nice.

One week passed, no email with the sticker.

Two weeks passed, I was in Florence, still no email with the sticker. How long does it take for someone to decide that a foreign name isn't some kind of insult?

And the whole time on the radio every weekend my favourite radio presenter and her partner in crime were giving away personalised jars of Nutella as prizes in various competitions. I desperately wanted one but for a foreigner their quizzes were too difficult, I never knew the answers. And some of the contestants had names such as Marco and Laura... People who could get their stickers at the supermarket. To rub things in further...

Three weeks. Ok, even for Italy this is ridiculous. Before demanding an answer from Nutella's Twitter account I went to read their last tweets.

They'd changed the rules. You could no longer request any name, only ones on their Approved Italian Names list.

Well, thanks for telling me. I wasted three weeks waiting for nothing.

I just wanted a sticker with my name to put on my Nutella jar. They didn't even send me any kind of communication, or let me know in any way that I actually, even though they'd said that they could send you an email with a sticker for any name in the world, I couldn't have one. I felt let down by a product that had been with me through thick and thin.

All summer I'd felt ignored because I was working... I wanted to take part in the Italy in a Day project so I could tell the story of adopted country - my new home - but after reading the small print I found out foreign residents couldn't take part... Now my beloved Nutella was discriminating against me because of my name.

It may seem silly, but it's a matter of principle. I don't like feeling discriminated against in any way, no matter how small, in a country that I now call home.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Sunday Classic

I randomly heard a clip of song on the radio last week and I was instantly hooked by the catchy chorus. It's called Se io ti regalo un fiore (If I give you a flower) by Sardinian band I Barrittas. The band were active between 1962-1971, and this song is a single from 1967.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Word of The Week

Il parrucchiere - hairdresser (m)/hair salon

This morning I dragged myself out of the house to go dal parrucchiere for my 10am appointment. I've been lucky to find not only a good hair salon near to home where I've always been happy with the results, but also one that has friendly staff who have had to put up with the slightly drastic changes I've wanted over the last few years. That's my rather serious face that I had on when I had a head full of hair dye!

I've been growing my hair over the last year, and I'm not done yet. Today was a trim and a colour. And to give you some idea of what I've put my poor parrucchiere through, this is what I looked like a year ago:

And this is me today!

Friday, November 8, 2013

The best beer in Italy?

You know you might like beer a little bit too much when you start blogging about it.

This, in my humble Celtic opinion, is the best beer in Italy. It's Ichnusa (pronounced ick-nooza) and it comes from Sardinia.

You never would have associated the island with beer, right? The beer's name is actually the ancient Greek name for the island, and the first brewery was opened in Cagliari (Sardinia's capital city) in 1912. Since 1963 it's been brewed in Assemini in the province of Cagliari. It's a lager, and has a slightly bitter taste.

The flag on the bottle is the Quattro mori, and if you've been to a music festival probably anywhere in the world you will have seen one of these guys. It's the flag of Sardinia, and it's not a concert or festival anywhere Italy until one of these guys shows up. Every single time someone has a Sardinian flag, no matter where, no matter when. True story.

One other amazing thing about Italy is the price of alcohol. How much did this 66 cl bottle cost me the other day in the supermarket? 1.11 euro. One euro eleven cents. Truly amazing.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Song of The Week

The girl who was behind my song of the summer is back. Levante's second single is Memo, and the song centres around the question of 'where does the love go at the end of a relationship?'. The video was filmed in Milan, see if you can spot the Duomo!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Only fog?

One of the stereotypes associated with the city of Milan is that we've got solo la nebbia - nothing but fog. Ok, during the winter months 9 times out of 10 it's true, but some days you see beautiful blue skies - such as today. I left the house around 8am this morning wrapped up in my winter coat and boots, thinking it was going to be a typical November day. By lunchtime I was sweating in 20 degree heat!

You think you know your adopted city, and somehow it still manages to surprise you!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

'Well' cereal

I was at the supermarket the other day looking for cereal when I found this box. These are well flakes. So translated from English-borrowed-by-Italian-companies means what exactly? A healthy cereal; in this case made with wholegrain wheat, rice, and fruits of the forest.

So yes, flakes that make you well, apparently. Maybe I should eat them the next time I feel ill.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Coats and Confusion

After some unseasonably warm weather it's finally time to buy this year's winter coat. And by unseasonably warm I mean that just over a week ago when I was in Florence I was walking around in a t-shirt and cardigan. During the last weekend of October. Crazy.

When it comes to winter coats, it's all fun and games in the Italian language. There are different words for different kinds of coats. A jacket is a giacca (the 'gi' is an English 'j' sound), so that's easy enough. Then there's piumino. This can mean both 'coat' and 'duvet'. Piumini are those coats that I call 'sleeping bag coats', the plastic-y looking ones that are filled with feathers. I tried one a couple of years ago and felt and looked ridiculous. The Italians however, totally rock them. A piumone however, is just a quilt. There's also giubbotto which is somewhere inbetween a giacca and a full-blown coat. The generic word for coat is cappotto and a hood is a cappuccio. And staying on a wintery theme a hat is a cappello.

Confused? I am.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Sunday Classic

On Monday Roman singer-songwriter Eros Ramazzotti celebrated his 50th birthday. Una storia importante gave him his first No.1 in Italy, back in 1985. It was also an entry at Sanremo that year, coming 6th in the competition.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Word of The Week

La maschera - mask/fancy dress costume

In the five years I've been living in Milan I've seen Halloween's popularity grow and grow. However it's still nowhere near to the level of celebrations in anglophone countries, and it's still very much treated as a 'foreign' holiday. I didn't go out on Halloween myself, as I had to work the next day, but I saw lots of photos of my friends mascherati - or dressed up - with zombies being very popular. I love fancy dress though, and beautiful Venetian maschere. The one in the photo's from when I went to Venice for the first time, almost four years ago. And here's a more recent photo of me mascherata as Studio Ghibli character Totoro!

Friday, November 1, 2013

NaBloPoMo - The Return!

Two years after I took up - and completed - the NaBloPoMo challenge, I'm back for more. 

NaBloPoMo stands for National Blog Posting Month, and was inspired by the NaNoWriMo project for National Novel Writing Month, which takes part every November. NaBloPoMo consists of writing a blog post every day, which for someone like me who doesn't write enough, is a real challenge. And that's the reason why I've decided to join NaBloPoMo for another year - so I can hopefully get into the habit of writing more content for my blog.

November starts off with a public holiday in Italy, Ognissanti or All Saint's Day. Seeing as it falls on a Friday this it's an excellent opportunity to get out of Milan and leave the city for a long weekend, with many people heading up to the mountains. Tomorrow iss also a religious holiday, but not a public holiday like today. It's All Souls' Day, known in Italian as Commemorazione dei defunti - commemoration of the dead. Italians traditionally visit graveyards to pay their respects to relatives who have passed away, taking flowers. There are also special sweets - most commonly a kind of biscuit - prepared for this day, called dolci dei morti - sweets of the dead. Here in Lombardy the biscuits are traditionally made using almonds, and are oval shaped. There's also pane dei morti - bread of the dead - in this part of the country, which is sweet bread that can also contain candied fruit. Traditionally the sweets prepared for this day are left out during the night between the 1st and 2nd of November when the dead are said to return to the earth, so that they have something to eat after their long journey back.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The 'humid' bin

There is now a grand total of five bins in my little studio flat.

Up until yesterday there were four I divided my rubbish into for the recycling - paper, pastic, glass, and everything else. Yesterday we got a delivery of new bins to my building, for the umido - which might literally translate to 'humid' or 'damp' - but it's for organic waste. The umido collection is far from a new thing in Italy, but it's currently being introduced to my area of Milan - with deliveries of little brown plastic bins for each flat and big shared bins for each building. Inside each little bin there were some leaflets explaining what exactly we should put in the umido bin - for example fruit and vegetable waste, coffee grounds, and meat and fish leftovers - and a free packet of biodegradable binbags. Now I've just got to find some space to put the new bin!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Weekend in Florence

Saturday morning my alarm went off at 5.30am. I was off to Florence to celebrate my 5 year anniversary in Italy!

I caught a very early train with Italo, a new train company which is Trenitalia's only national competitor. For the journey down to Florence I'd decided to pay four Euro more for a seat in Prima classe. There are three classes, Smart (where I was on the way home as the price difference for the return journey was too much), Prima, and Club. The four euro extra got me a snack - orange juice and some tasty biscuits - a free newspaper, and so much legroom that my 5ft nought frame could practically lie down in the seat! And two hours later I was at Firenze Santa Maria Novella station, where it was time for a much needed cappuccino!

I dropped my case off at the left luggage on platform 16 (it's 5 euro for five hours) and off I went to explore!

I wanted my first stop to be Ponte Vecchio, so I worked my way down on foot from the station - mostly following the tourists! All the shops on the bridge are amazing, all jewellery, there was sparkling gold everywhere. Naturally the bridge was packed with mostly tourists, from all over the world. After crossing the river I stopped at Gelateria Santà Trinità (Piazza de' Frescobaldi, 11-12r) which had been recommended to me, and I wasn't let down! The dark chocolate was the most deliciously intense one I'd ever had. Not long after I'd sat down with my cone the gelatieria was invaded by a group of students and their guide!

After a lunch of a delicious slice of pizza back at the train station I went to check in to my hotel (Vasari Palace, Via Bernardo Cennini 11) which was a stone's throw away. I found a framed quote from Dante's Commedia in the lounge area and a unique touch upstairs - all the doors had paintings on them!

After a much-needed rest (I had been up since 5.30) I had a look around a nearby market and then onto Piazza del Duomo. It was just as amazing as it had been when I first saw it over 7 years ago. There I had a Chianti sorbet, no, really. It was as amazing as it sounds!

I must admit that my favourite thing about staying in hotels is the breakfast. And the morning after I refuled in style. A croissant, a piece of crostata, a bread roll with butter and jam, biscuits, a yogurt... On leaving the hotel I found the streets quieter than the previous day, it were as if Florence was still half-asleep... I stopped off in Caffè Sabatino (Via Faenza, 68r) for a second coffee after having had a lovely merenda (afternoon snack) there the day before. Lunch was a cheeky gelato - the best pistacchio ice cream I'd ever had!

After a couple of hours wandering around the streets near the river Arno I was peckish again. By chance I found a sandwich shop, Pane & Toscana (Borgo Albizi 31R). The menu outside caught my eye, a list of panini which included some named after areas and towns in Tuscany.

After following my feet I found myself back in Piazza del Duomo soaking up the atmosphere. It's fascinating tourist watching, and I was happy enough to rest my feet for a while and watch the world go by. The only problem was the Lindt shop which was calling my name...

During my weekend I'd read about the Piglet on Tripadvisor, which isn't actually a pig, but a wild boar. It's a fountain, and the legend is that rubbing its snout brings good luck - and putting money in its mouth even more! I couldn't resist!

Too soon it was time to go back to the hotel to pick my case up and go to the station to catch my train up to Milan. My exhausted phone was very happy to find electrical sockets at Casa Italo! My last meal was a McDonalds supper (I know...) sat in a slightly random green area by platform 16...

So to sum up my weekend in one of Italy's most beautiful cities, I walked a lot, ate a lot, and walked some more! And it was an amazing way to celebrate five years in Italy!