Thursday, May 30, 2013

Song of The Week

Alfonso is the debut single from singer-songwriter Levante. She was born Claudia Lagona in the province of Catania in Sicily, but she now lives in Turin. The song may seem cheerful, but it tells the tale of being at a party where she doesn't know the host, and the feeling of being somewhere where you don't want to be.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Return to Urbino

From September 2005 until July 2006 I lived and studied in the town of Urbino, in the Marche area of Central Italy. It was my Erasmus year, the obligatory year abroad which for me was during the second year of my degree. And I might be terribly biased, but I think it's one of the most beautiful places on earth.

This past weekend I went back to Urbino for the first time since I left the town on the first of July 2006. It had been a shockingly long amount of time since the end of my Erasmus year, but a couple of months ago I finally got my act together and booked a long weekend back in my beloved Urbino. It's a pretty long journey down from Milan, the train journey takes around three hours and a half to Pesaro, where the nearest train station is. From there it's a coach up into the hills, taking either 45 minutes or around an hour. So on Saturday I left my house in Milan at 7am, and I got to the hotel in Urbino around 1 - also thanks to Trenitalia and their constantly delayed trains!

In the bus on the way to Urbino it began to rain... And a thunderstorm whilst I was getting settled in the hotel meant that I decided to make the most of BBC World News on the tv! Once it all settled I was off to explore! I was staying at Albergo Italia just off Piazza della Repubblica, the main square in the town, which made it a very convenient base for wandering around the town. Unfortunately on Saturday there were a few other showers, and also on Sunday. The locals very wisely decided to stay inside over the weekend, and the only people around were us tourists!

For merenda I decided to go back to what had been my favourite gelateria, La Romana in Piazza della Repubblica. I also called in over the next few days, after all, holiday calories don't count right?? They no longer had the cookies gelato that I'd lived on in the past, but I did discover a delicious cream one!

Taking advantage of the fact that most students would be fast asleep on Sunday morning I went on a pilgrimage back to my old university halls. I could've walked the kilometre there from the centre with my eyes closed. It was a path that I had walked hundreds of times during that year, and following it seven years down the line, now settled in Italy, was a very strange feeling indeed...

Monday came around, and the town was full of locals and tourists. The sun had also come out, and I was also able to have lunch outside near my old faculty. I took advantage of the sunny yet windy weather to walk up to the fortress at the top of town to admire the spectacular views.

I have no idea how I managed to walk up and down the hilly streets day in day out for a year. After just one afternoon I was exhausted! I've still got muscles aching that I'd completely forgotten about! It was a wonderful weekend, full of memories. It was almost like returning to somewhere I'd grown up in. Urbino was the very first place I went to in Italy, after landing in Rome at the beginning of my Erasmus adventure. It was amazing to see how much hadn't changed in seven years, everything was just like how I remembered. Next time I won't wait so long to go back!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Nerys's Guide to Italian Music - Giorgia

Giorgia Todrani was born in Rome on the 26th of April 1971. She's one of the most popular artists of recent years, selling over 6 million albums since her self-titled debut in 1994. She's released 23 singles, five of which have reached Number One.

Giorgia's career started in 1993 when she took part in the Giovani section of Sanremo, for young artists. She came first, and the following year participated with the song E poi which was co-written by her, but was only placed seventh. She returned again in 1995 with Come saprei which was placed first, and also awarded the Premio della Critica (the Critics' Prize), the first time the two prizes had been awarded to the same song.

By 1997, after another appearance at Sanremo in 1996, Giorgia was on her third album, Mangio troppo cioccolato, which gave her her first Number One album in Italy. It was also released in several countries worldwide. The highest charting single from the album was also the first one to be released from it, Un'ora sola ti vorrei, which reached No.3 that year.

The first song of Giorgia's I ever heard was one from 1999, the title track from her Girasole album. It was during a language course in Urbino, and the song was one that was used for a fill-in-the-gap listening exercise. It's become one of my favourite songs of hers. The album remained in the charts for over a year.

Giorgia's second Number One single came in 2003 with Gocce di memoria, which was also the biggest selling single of the year. It's an autobiographical song which deals with the importance of memories, and it also refers to the death of her partner  Alex Baroni, who died in a car accident in 2002.

Giorgia has also duetted with other Italian singers, including Gianna Nannini on Salvami in 2009.

My favourite song of hers is from the summer of 2012, Tu mi porti su. It was written by Jovanotti and also features him on the track. It reached Number 6 on the singles chart in Italy.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sunday Classic

Today in 1963 Adriano Celentano was at Number One with Il tangaccio.

Eurovision 2013

Italians don't quite get my love for Eurovision. For them it's all about Sanremo, which is a completely different beast. They grew up on Sanremo, and I grew up on Eurovision. But on Italy's third year back in the competition it seems that the country is starting to understand the concept of the Song Contest.

After hovering around 10th place for much of the voting, Italy finished in a respectable 7th last night, two positions higher than Nina Zilli last year. Not too bad for a country outside the Eastern European voting blocks, and with few neighbours. And one of Italy's neighbours, Malta, didn't even give them 12 points!

For a Eurovision veteran the Rai commentators disappointed me. Not only for their constant talking which meant that we missed the song that had been specially composed to open the evening, amongst other things. The two radio presenters from Rai Radio 2 from last year were back again this year, but this time round they were joined by a female voice, a Swiss girl from the Italian-speaking part of the country. Not only was her general Eurovision knowledge better than theirs, but her English was too. What made me lose faith in the commentators was doing the interval between the acts and the votes being annouced, when there was a crash course in the history of Eurovision. They called Bucks Fizz ABBA. Nil points for that!

Marco put on a great performance. Unlike all of the other acts, it was just him on stage. No backing singers, no band, no pyrotechnics or any other shenanigans. As he said in an interview before the competition, it would be him and his voice, nothing else, just the essenziale, the essential.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Word of The Week

Gli occhiali - glasses

These are the two pairs of occhiali that you can see me wearing at the moment. It was when I was 22, about a month before my move to Italy that I got prescribed glasses, after a lifetime of having perfect vision. The funky sunglasses I bought a couple of weeks ago, in preparation for the summer. To get the Italian for sunglasses add da sole after occhiali, they're glasses for the sun. There's also the word for eyes, occhi, in the word occhiali. Occhiali is a masculine plural noun beginning with a vowel, which means that the definite article in front of the noun is gli and not i.

Monday, May 13, 2013

My least favourite Italian words

Some time ago I wrote about my favourite Italian words. So for fairness, here are the words that I don't like quite as much.

Piacere - to like
Don't even get me started on this, this verb is a nightmare. Ok, liking something as in the sense of how I like gelato's fairly straightforward, 'mi piace'. Even though I'm the one doing the liking the verb's congiugated as if the liking were done by someone else, it's the 'mi' that shows that I like it. The verb conjugation always refers to the object that's being liked, in this case the gelato is the it/he/she single 3rd person singular. Confused? That's why it's such a nightmare.

Mancare - to miss
The conjugation works in the same way as piacere, yet for some reason my brain seems to get the concept of mancare better. So basically if I were speaking to someone on the phone who I was missing I would say 'mi manchi', I miss you. The 'i' at the end in the present tense is used in the second person (familiar) conjugation of verbs.

Altrettanto - likewise/as much/the same
Too. Many. Ts. I mean, four out of 11 letters?? I trip over my tongue every single time I say it. Avoid avoid avoid.

Arrivederci - Goodbye
And this has too many rs. I swear this is a test the Italians thought up to see if us foreigners were capable of speaking their language. It makes me sound awfully foreign and feel very paranoid every time I try to say it.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sunday Classic

Thirty years ago in 1983 Matia Bazar's Vacanze romane was Number One in Italy.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Word of The Week

Verde - green

Excluding last night's massive thunderstorm, Milan is finally acting more Spring-like. There's finally a bit of verde in the city, this is a view of Parco Sempione from Thursday evening, in all its greeny loveliness!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Song of The Week

La vita davanti is the new single from Perturbazione. It's the first single taken from their latest album, Musica X.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Strange Creatures in Milan

This is one of the two Food People who have popped up in Milan. They're the work of set designer Dante Ferretti, and there are four pairs of them around the city, including this one near the Sforza Castle. They are part of the preparations in the run up to Expo 2015, and in the coming month many events are being held in the city to promote one of the main themes of the Expo, that of nutrition.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Nerys's Guide to Italian Music - Fabri Fibra

Fabri Fibra was born Fabrizio Tarducci on the 17th of October 1976, in Senigallia in the province of Ancona, on the Adriatic Coast. He's one of the biggest names in Italian rap.

His debut under the name Fabri Fibra was in 2002 with his Turbe giovanili album, but it wasn't until two years later and the release of his Mr. Simpatia album that the mainstream started to notice him. In 2006 he was signed to Universal, and his third album, Tradimento was released in May. The first single taken from it was Applausi per Fibra, which preceeded the release of the album. It peaked at number 6 on the singles chart.

Not long after arriving in Milan I heard his single In Italia, which features singer Gianna Nannini. I was struck by the grittyness of the song, which deals with life in Italy and themes such as crime and corruption, and all of the contradictions which make up contemporary society. The chorus features the line "You were born in the country of half-truths." (Nato nel Paese delle mezze verità)

I fell about laughing the first time I heard Speak English in 2009, with its chorus "Do you speak English?", and the part of the song which pokes fun of the phrase "Alright, mate?" which according to Fibra can be used for just about everything. The song makes comparisions between British and Italian society from Fabri's point of view, who deals with drug use and discrimination amongst other themes.

The first single from his 2010 album Controcultura was Vip in trip which was released in July of that year. The video is clearly inspired by The Clash's Rock the Casbah, and it also features lookalikes of two Italian politicians...

Tranne te is Fabri's most well-known single, with its repetitive chorus and house-inspired beat. The song ridicules commercial rap, and also fans who follow artists purely because they're popular. The video also features some statistics about the Italian music industry, such as the difference in album sales in the last 10 years before the release of the single.

His latest album, Guerra e pace, was released in February this year. The first track to be taken from it was Pronti! Partenza! Via! which reached number 9 in the charts. The song deals with what was the political situation in Italy at the time of its release, with a not so subtle play on the words in the line 'si va per mari e monti via!' - we go to the coast and mountains - 'Monti via!' being repeated several times, which literally means "mountains, away", but as Monti was also the surname of the now ex-Prime Minister of Italy, it also means "Monti, away!".

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Sunday Classic

Stella stai was released in 1980 by Umberto Tozzi, who was born in 1952 in Turin.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Word of The Week

Il lago - lake

Living in Milan it's easy to get to Lake Como, Maggiore, and Garda. Today I went on my first trip of the year to Lake Como, to Varenna, after having put it off for a few weeks due to all the bad weather we've had recently. It wasn't the nicest of days, and unfortunately around lunchtime a temporale arrived which meant that I ended up going home a couple of hours earlier than I'd planned. I thought it was April showers??