Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sunday Classic

I've been inspired to include this song as this week's Sunday Classic after seeing a rather disastrous performance of it on X Factor on Friday. It's by Enzo Jannacci, a Milanese singer-songwriter and actor who passed away six months ago. It's one of his most well known songs, Vengo anch'io. No, tu no from 1968.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Word of The Week

Il raffreddore - cold (noun)

The lurgy's got me. For most of this week I've been suffering from a raffreddore, and with the change in seasons there's a lot of it going around. Fighting it when you're in Italy doesn't come cheap either - the Tachifludec in the photo, a lemon drink which contains paracetamol, cost me €6.20 for 10 sachets this time! And for language geeks the Italian for the adjective cold is contained in the word raffreddore - it's freddo.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Poste Making Things Easier (?)

Towards the end of last week I got this leaflet in the post from Poste Italiane, aka the Post Office:

Translation: The bill always rings twice. Make yourself comfortable, pay at home.

Not quite getting the meaning of the first sentence my tired brain started thinking of a new way of paying your bills at home. A new way of paying online? An app? I turned the leaflet over and it all became clear.

You pay the postman.

Quite genius in its old-schoolness.

Obviously Italy being Italy not all forms of payment are accepted, only some cards are mentioned on the leaflet. They're the Poste's Postamat card (for those who have a bank account with them), Postepay (a rechargeable card that I have that sometimes causes more hassle than it's worth...) and Maestro.

I think I'll stick to paying my bills through my online banking, that's probably as advanced as it's going to get.

Oh, it's worth mentioning that even though I got this leaflet about paying my bills, they don't always arrive in the post. And even if they do, it's not always on time.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sunday Classic

On this day 35 years ago in 1978, Umberto Tozzi was at No.1 with Tu.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Word of The Week

L'autunno - Autumn

No, the photo's not from this year, but with the autumn equinox tomorrow the seasons are starting to change. Growing up I always used to think of September as being the start of autumn, especially as I'd go back to school at the beginning of the month. Here the Italians try to cling on to summer for as long as they possibily can - which is reasonable if you live down South - and don't even contemplate the idea of autumn until the equinox. Coming back to Italy on Wednesday I noticed a difference in the temperature from how it had been the previous week, here in Milan there's a definite hint of autumn in the air. And I can't wait for the colder weather!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Another Week Back in Wales

So what did I do during my week back in the Old Country?

Well, I ate.

And ate.

And ate some more.

Oh, and there was also the small matter of being a bridesmaid at my best friend's wedding.

I hadn't been back twice in such a short amount of time since I first arrived in Italy nearly five years ago, but in some ways it felt as if I had been away for longer. I kept noticing things that we don't have in Italy, or things that had changed in the last five years - silly things such as the ridiculous amount of short-term loan ads on tv, and the free wifi that was everywhere in my hometown (LOTS of love for the free wifi). Between the week in July and the week I've just had it was impossible to ignore the much bigger changes. In the year and a half-ish up until July that I'd been in Italy without going back home so much had changed, so many people had changed. Everyone was getting married, having kids, and settling down. By this time round even my baby brother was engaged, and we had a lovely meal out with his fiancée's family. It did also make for some not-so-great situations such as during the wedding reception when the big old soppy ballads came on, and my now two married friends were dancing with their husbands and I was left on my own like a loser, crying into my vodka orange. Yeah.

It's strange seeing everyone moving on without you, but I guess that's one of the downsides of living abroad in such a beautiful country like Italy.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Sunday Classic

Lucio Battisti died 15 years ago tomorrow and is considered as one of Italy's most important singers of all time. He's been mentioned in the news over the last few days, not so much for the anniversary of his death, but because his remains have been resumed from his grave in Molteno, in the province of Lecco. His widow and son wanted to have his body re-buried closer to them, but the exact location of the grave remains a secret. Here's Mi ritorni in mente from 1969.

Last lake trip of the season?

Yesterday I went on a trip to Lake Maggiore, before Autumn started to kick in. I have to admit that Maggiore's my last favourite out of the the three big lakes of northern Italy, mainly down to the impression I have that both Como and Garda are livelier than Maggiore. Part of the idea of going to Maggiore for the day was to change my mind about this. So yesterday morning I was up at the crack of dawn (6.30!) to catch my train to Stresa.

For the journey to Stresa I took the 8.25 (hence my oh-so-early alarm) Milan-Genève Eurocity train. Even though I'd only bought my tickets on Thursday I managed to score myself a bargain - €9 for one-way first class! To put that in perspective, it's €7.60 for a second class Regionale (aka bog-standard, slightly grubby trains) ticket, and €23.70 for a full-price first class Eurocity ticket! Feeling very pleased with myself I enjoyed the extra leg room and comfy seats as the train made its way up to the lake.

It was 9.20 when I arrived in Stresa, still early for a Saturday morning. I followed the sloping streets downhill to the lake, and there it was, a slightly hazy Lake Maggiore. I went for a long walk around the lake, enjoying the relative peace and quiet of the morning, before retracing my steps back towards the town centre and stopping off for a second breakfast. I decided on a lakeside bar/trattoria called Lido Blu, and in true Italian style my second breakfast could only be a cappuccino and a croissant - the pastry is more commonly known in my neck of the woods as a brioche. And I don't think I'd ever had a jam brioche with that much filling before! Delicious!

After refueling I carried on exploring, following the lakeside path before heading into the town centre. It was just as touristy as I expected, but I didn't imagine that there would be so many food shops aimed at tourists. They sell typical Italian products, mostly pasta in pretty much any shape you could imagine, and all sorts of liqueurs. And of course there are the usual knick-knacks, postcards, magnets, Pinocchio toys, and a surprising amount of Mokas in lots of different forms and colours...

Unfortunately lunch was a bit of a disappointment as I let myself fall into a tourist trap thanks to the reasonable prices and the presence of some Italians in the restaurant. The service was quick, but the pizza was a let-down. Admittedly I didn't make the wisest decision with my speck and scamorza pizza, seeing as it was still sat on my stomach at 10pm last night... One of my pet hates in Italy is people who continue to speak to me in English when I answer them in correct Italian. And this is what one of the waiters at the restaurant continued to do. I can understand if someone initially greets me in English because with my blonde hair and blue eyes I look nothing like your average Italian, but if you carry on speaking to me in English when I speak to you in fluent Italian without hesitation then I'll get annoyed.

Stresa is a beautiful town. The little narrow streets are completely different to Milan, and it's always nice to have a change of scenery. The lungolago path that goes around the lake is part of a well-kept park, with plenty of beautiful flowers and plants. I didn't go out to the islands, as I don't travel very well on land... Maybe I'll risk it next time. They looked beautiful from the mainland though.

To reach Stresa from Milan:

Regionale trains leave from Milano Centrale and Milano Porta Garibaldi (M2 green metro line), taking anything from around 1 hour 10 minutes to almost one and a half hours to reach Stresa. The trains from Milano Centrale are the quicker ones, and from either station you'll pay €7.60 for a one-way second class ticket.

The Eurocity train departs from Milano Centrale, and reaches Stresa in 55 minutes. Unlike the Regionale train here you have a reserved seat. Advance tickets are available for both first and second class for €9 one-way. Full-price tickets are €23.70 one-way in first class, and €16.50 in second.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Word of The Week

Il matrimonio - wedding

The photo is the aftermath of an Anglo-Italian wedding I went to a couple of years ago... A week today my best friend is getting married, and I'm a damigella or bridesmaid. I've got a gorgeous light blue dress I can't wait to wear. Unlike in the UK or US there isn't a tradition of having bridesmaids in Italy, even though recently some brides have started to have them here too. Every time I've mentioned that I'm going to be a bridesmaid to my Italian friends the first thing that comes to their minds is an American tv show that's on here which involves bridesmaids choosing their dresses. And the matrimonio also means I get to spend some time back in the Old Country again!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Sunday Classic

Back on the 1st of Semptember 1973 Patty Pravo was at No.1 with Pazza idea (crazy idea).