Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Venetian Birthday

I've now celebrated six birthdays since moving to Milan, and three of them have been away from the city. This year I decided that I'd hit my late twenties in one of my absolute favourite places - Venice.

I absolutely adore Venice. This was the fifth time I'd been to the lagoon itself since my first visit at the end of 2009. I always say that it's bonkers in the most wonderful way, there's nothing quite like it! Luckily it's easy to reach from Milan, taking around 2 and a half hours on the train. The day before my birthday we got on the Frecciabianca and arrived in Venice at lunchtime.

This time I stayed in the city for two nights, at a lovely guesthouse called Locanda Herion in the Canaregio sestriere (just off Strada Nova). The rules are quite strict regarding eating food in the rooms (you can't. Drink too), and washing towels and sheets costs extra, but the room itself was great value and the location was perfect. Andrea the owner (for some reason or other I've met more Andreas over the last week than I normally do in about a month) is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to Venice, and very welcoming.

After we had lunch on the first day (at a pretty trattoria/pizzeria near the locanda called Le Campane) we headed over to the Rialto bridge - the view's always worth it! There are also some pretty shops and stalls on and around the bridge, so there's plenty to see. We then went for a long walk around the city for the rest of the afternoon. That's one of the things I like about Venice the most, it's an island so you can't get really lost!

I had a wonderful day on my birthday itself. The highlight was the climb to the top of St. Mark's Campanile - the bell tower. I'd done it once before but it took my breath away again. We were lucky to have a clear, sunny day, so we could see for miles around! Lunch was at a bar called Angiò, in the Castello sestriere, to the east of St. Mark's Square. We had a musical waiter called Andrea (see, another one!), and a lovely view out on the water where we could watch the boats and ferries go by. I had a very un-Italian but very delicious burger!

Breakfast wasn't included in the hotel, so for our two mornings there we had to venture out to get some coffee. The first bar we found was a lot less touristy than your average, and the second one just down the street was modern and completely different. Even though it was more like a coffee shop you'd get back in the UK I had one of the best brioches I'd ever tasted!

One thing I'd never noticed in Venice before was the amount of bag shops that there are. I don't know if things have changed in the last couple of years (my last two visits before this week were specifically for Carnival and the streets were packed!) but they were everywhere! Leather bags of all shapes and sizes. I bought a gorgeous little leather satchel with some of my birthday money. There are also loads of shops selling Murano glass, as you would imagine. And they make everything out of it! From pendants, to earrings, to little Christmas trees, to clocks... I bought some beads myself as I love making jewellery. And obviously there are masks, masks everywhere.

Every time I leave it always feels like I leave a part of my heart behind. Yes, it may be full of tourists with everything catering for them, but it's beautiful. The architecture, the colours of the masks and the glass, the water... Everything. I can't wait to go back!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Sunday Classic

You know those songs that randomly enter your head in the morning and stay there all day? The very random song that did that to me a few days ago was from 1979, it was Splendido splendente by Donatella Rettore. And I have no idea why.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Word of The Week

Il colore - colour

Yes, that is my actual hair! No, it wasn't planned, but one of the girls at my hairdressers (who always has the most amazing brightly-coloured hair) always manages to talk me into doing things that are slightly drastic. Today's idea was to add a bit of colore to my usual blonde. I've gone through lots of different colours and shades in my life, especially since living in Milan, but I've never done anything like this before though!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Snaps from Milan - La Madonnina

La Madonnina is the statue of the Virgin Mary high above the Duomo in the city centre. Traditionally it was the highest point in Milan, that is until the skyscrapers came along. From today until the 22nd it's holding the Italian flag, in celebration of the Cinque giornate di Milano - the five days of Milan. This was when an anti-Austrian rebellion rose in the city, which was then part of the Austrian empire. During these five days the Austrian soldiers were driven away from the city in 1848. There's also a busy piazza in the city called Piazza Cinque Giornate.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sunday Classic

The song I've chosen this week is by Luca Carboni, and it's Ci vuole un fisico bestiale, from 1991.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Word of The Week

Pulire - to clean

Yes, I know, my cleaning materials could probably do with a bit of a clean themselves. Not exactly the domestic type me, though I do try my best. Spring's definitely in the air, with today reaching a high of 19 degrees in Milan. Which makes it spring cleaning season. And with the idea of moving to Rome still bubbling away in my head, I need to declutter. It's amazing the amount of stuff you can accumulate over the years...

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

An idea

The problem with me is that if I get an idea planted in my head I have to go through with it. Whether it's dying my hair red, entering a competition for aspiring radio presenters, or just going to Rome for the weekend on my own, I have to go through with it. The only recent example I have of not doing this is the idea I've had for a couple of years of getting a tattoo. That I've not got round to yet.

I've not had the greatest of starts to the year, in fact it's been a difficult few months since I broke up with my boyfriend at the end of last summer. It's one of those periods in life where nothing seems to be going right, yet I've been clinging on to the hope that sooner or later things will get better. But so far nothing's changed.

One of my closest Italian friends planted an idea in my head a couple of days ago and since then I can't stop thinking about it. And that idea is to move to Rome.

My birthday's coming up soon which is making me reflect more on my life than I do at other times during the year. I'll be 28 in just over 2 weeks' time, and I've been living in Milan for over 5 years. I've been feeling pretty damn pessimistic recently, and I've come to the realisation that for one thing I haven't got much to show for having lived in Milan for five years, and another thing is that I haven't actually got anything that's keeping me here - unlike other people. Of course, I have my friends, but I'm lucky to have friends all over Italy. I feel like I need a new start, and I don't want to go back to the UK where all the people I grew up with are settled down and are having kids.

So watch this space. If it does happen it'll be a long process, and this is just the beginning.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Sunday Classic

Way back in 1959 Domenico Modugno was No.1 with Piove.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Word of The Week

La cena - supper/dinner

After a stressful week I decided to treat myself to a takeaway supper last night. I went for a hamburger (from Burger & Co. in Cologno Monzese if anyone's interested), not one of my usual choices as I fancied a change. The mega burger in the photo was delicious, with bacon and barbeque sauce. The main reason I decided to order from a burger shop was because I had a random craving for onion rings (I'm not pregnant, honest!). This is from a person who's never liked onions until very recently (but has a weakness for anything fried). As well as the onion rings I treated myself to a piece of delicious chocolate cake, and washed it all down with the bottle of wine I had at home. It was all superb, but after the amount of food I ate I woke up this morning with it still sat on my stomach!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Post-Sanremo 2014

The dust has settled from this year's Sanremo, and I've been judging the songs that have come out of this year's festival. I don't have the patience to watch it on tv, but I'm always interested to hear the entries.

Arisa was this year's winner. She first made a name for herself at Sanremo in 2009 with Sincerità. Since then she's undergone a slightly drastic transformation and been a judge on X Factor Italy for one season. Her winning song was Controvento.

In second place was a combination that had intrigued me ever since the collaboration was announced, Raphael Gualazzi & The Bloody Beetroots. Liberi o no wasn't quite what I expected, but it's still a great song.

The winner of the Nuove Proposte competition for emerging artists was 19 year old rapper Rocco Hunt (born Rocco Pagliarulo) with Nu juorno buono. The title's in the dialect of his native Salerno.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

La raccomandata

The thing about living abroad is that even the most everyday things can seem like a bit of an adventure. Such like going to pick up a recorded delivery letter - a raccomandata - from the post office.

It's very rare that I get a racommandata in the post - luckily! I don't have a car, motorbike, scooter, or anything else that can be fined; and everything else comes with the normal post (if it arrives at all). Yesterday when I came home from work I found a notice from the postman advising that he'd tried to deliver a raccomandata, and as I wasn't home when he called I'd now have to go and pick it up from the post office. The signed-for post isn't kept at what might be your nearest post office - which is a shame as I've got one just down my street - but at a special office dedicated to collecting letters and parcels, as well as a couple of other services. Luckily for me it's about 1km away from my house, so I didn't have far to walk. The stamp on the notice gave the address and opening times, and this morning I decided to get up bright and early (and full of cold) to go and pick up my letter before going to work.

I arrived about 10 minutes before the office was due to open, and to my surprise I found only one signore waiting outside. Unsurprisingly however, was how it opened a few minutes late. At the normal post office and at this one there's a machine that you have to use to get a number for the service you want. I was worried when I saw that the machine here wasn't working - Italians aren't exactly known for their queuing skills!

The last time I went to pick up a raccomandata a full-blown argument erupted between someone who had been waiting for too long and an employee, so I was expecting today to be a long process. But I was wrong! It was all calm and so quick! I picked up my letter, went home, and even had time to have a brioche and another cup of coffee before going to work. It's nice to experience some efficiency for once!

Monday, March 3, 2014

La Grande Bellezza

Disclaimer: This post might be a bit more rambling than I might have liked, due to the fact that I've been drugged up on cold medicine for the past few days. Bleh.

I didn't stay up last night to follow the Oscars, I've never been a big film fan, but I was very interested in the outcome of one particular category - Best Foreign Language Film. When it came to reading the news about La Grande Bellezza's win I was pleased, but not surprised. Ever since the Golden Globes Italy had been quietly confident that Paulo Sorrentino would also be taking home the statue at the Oscars.

As with much of Italian tv, Italian film appeals to the lowest common denominator - going back years it's full of scantily clad women and crude jokes. The finest (?) example of this is the 'comedy' that comes out every Christmas, nicknamed cinepanettone (a combination of cinema and panettone). It's void of substance and relies on cheap laughs and sex jokes. La Grande Bellezza isn't without this, but it's limited to a few scenes without being gratuitous.

'Intelligent' films like La Grande Bellezza are few and far between. And I must admit that it was the praise and recognition it had received abroad that encouraged me to watch it. Almost all the most popular Italian films are things that I wouldn't want to watch, because the actors or the storylines. I know that makes me sound like a foreign snob, but I wish things were different. I was very disappointed at Christmas when I was taken to the cinema to see one of Christmas's most popular films, the whole room was laughing at the Italian humour whilst I was just wondering what on earth was so funny. I desperately wanted to be like everybody else who was watching it.

La Grande Bellezza made me think of the films by Fellini that I'd seen when I was at university. Not so much for the surrealism (though there's more than a touch of that if you think of it as being removed from the reality of everyday Italians) but for the extravagance and exaggeration of the lifestyles of the characters. And that's one of the things I liked the most about the film, the aspect of seeing how the other half live. These characters' lives couldn't be any more different to mine and I found it fascinating. And as the title suggests, it's an aesthetically beautiful film, set in Rome. These are the lives of the beautiful people living their beautiful lives in a beautiful city.

I'm very glad to see what I consider to be a great Italian film recognised abroad. So little film (and music) gets any kind of mainstream recognition outside Italy, and it's very much deserved in this case.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Sunday Classic

Ma che freddo fa by Nada was at No.2 in the Italian singles chart today in 1969. She was just 15 years old when she took part in Sanremo with this song, which was placed 5th.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Word of The Week

La gola - throat

After getting rained on in rather spectacular style in Venice last Saturday it was inevitable that the lurgy would catch up with me. The worst thing about the raffredore I've had this week was the mal di gola - sore throat. My voice also dropped around three octaves below normal too, which has made things fun. I'm hoping a weekend of rest will chase it away!

Protip for the Brits: if you ever have a mal di gola in Italy and you don't have any throat lozenges, Benagol are Strepsils with an Italian name (and at least twice the price).