Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sunday Classic

Back in 1980 Lucio Battisti was at No.2 in Italy, behind Video Killed The Radio Star, with Una giornata uggiosa.

Saturday, May 23, 2015


I love Eurovision. I have done ever since I can remember. When I was younger I was fascinated by these people from far away countries, foreign languages (the rule that contestants can sing in English has taken away a big part of the experience for me), and their strange accents when they spoke English. I was always the last person awake in the house watching the votes come in.

When I talk to my Italian friends about Eurovision they always seem to see it like a strange foreign custom, which to a certain extent it is. Nobody outside of the UK can fully appreciate the Brits' relationship with Eurovision, and trying to explain why exactly it's so worth watching to someone who didn't even grow up with it is difficult. Italy has Sanremo, and since it re-joined the competition in 2011 after it had decided to stop playing with the rest of the kids and withdrew for 14 years, and from my experience here the public has a bit of difficulty accepting another song contest. It has been getting more visibility as the last few years have gone on, but the live coverage has left a lot to be desired from my point of view.

Even though it's not very popular here, there have been some big Italian successes in the competition over the years, and for its' 60th anniversary (tanti auguri!) I wanted to look back on some of the Italian entries of the past.

Who doesn't know Nel blu dipinto di blu by Domenico Modugno?? Commonly known as Volare, it came third (!) in 1958.

Italy won the contest in 1964 for the first time, with Non ho l'età by Gigliola Cinquetti. The following year the contest was held in Naples.

In the 80s Italy was in and out of the competition a few times (they didn't participate the year I was born, boo!). When returning again in 1987 they came third with Umberto Tozzi & Raf's Gente di mare.

1990 was a winning year for Italy. Toto Cutugno's Insieme: 1992 scored 17 points more than the 2nd placed song. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, it was a song about bringing Europe together. The contest was held in Rome the following year.

Italy's biggest success since returning to the competition in 2011 has been Raphael Gualazzi who came second that year with Madness of Love.

This year Italy is represented by Il Volo with Grande amore. To quote a Buzzfeed article I read yesterday, could they be any more Italian??

Sunday, May 10, 2015

365 Days of Happy - Days 271 to 300

We're over 300 and I'm late as always!

Day 271: Nearly home after being stranded at Amsterdam airport...

Day 272: Trying out my pretty new espresso cup.

Day 273: Pick & mix from the Old Country.

Day 274: Getting ready to go to Trieste.

Day 275: The sea!

Day 276: Trying out Trieste's famous coffee.

Day 277: At Miramare castle.

Day 278: Coffee In Piazza Unità d'Italia.

Day 279: Cracking open a late Easter egg.

Day 280: Pretty new spring clothes.

Day 281: Luca Bianchini's Se domani farà bel tempo

Day 282: Prosecco!

Day 283: Tasty breakfast.

Day 284: Finally trying out the black tea with vanilla I bought in Trieste.

Day 285: Colourful concert tickets!

Day 286: Another bagel delivery in the office!

Day 287: Reading The Sheep Look Up.

Day 288: Getting ready for my weekend at Peschiera del Garda.

Day 289: An alternative supper...

Day 290: Morning at Lake Garda.

Day 291: The radio in my ears and a beautiful view.

Day 292: More wine!

Day 293: Omnomnom!

Day 294: And this was on offer...

Day 295: Fresh from the hairdressers!

Day 296: Shiny shoes!

Day 297: In front of the fireplace in the mountains.

Day 298: Homemade gnocchi.

Day 299: Yummy mountain cheese.

Day 300: A new jar of Rigoni di Asiago's hazelnut spread.

Sunday Classic

The legendary Mina was No.1 in Italy on this day in 1965, with Un anno d'amore.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Another Roman weekend!

It takes about three hours to get from Milan to Rome on the high-speed trains, so if I'm going to Rome only for a weekend - or a long weekend like this time - I like to get down there as early as possible. This time my journey to Rome was with Italo, leaving at 7.03am (oh yes) from Porta Garibaldi. I'd bought my tickets back in February (I don't mess around with my Roman trips!) and the Smart XL seats were one euro more expensive than Smart. Smart is Italo's second class, and Smart XL is one step up with more legroom. On the train there were plane captain style accouncements letting us know the progress of the journey and the weather in Rome, I was very impressed!

I'd actually made a battle plan for my three days in Rome, normally I'm much more easy-going. My first day involved covering some of the main sites which I just had to see again. My first stop was what's become a tradition, Piazza di Spagna, on a packed metro train (which became a recurring theme during my time there!), and the steps were packed too - and full of flowers! From there I headed up to Villa Borghese with its wonderful view overlooking the city.

My stomach was full-on complaining by then, after only having had breakfast and another brioche since 4,30. I went down to Piazza del Popolo and sought out a place a colleague had told me about, called Que te Pongo. They sell fresh fish, sandwiches, and dishes made with different types of fish. I went for a sandwich with Norwegian salmon, salad, and cream cheese and it was amazing!

I then walked down a busy Via del Corso - Rome's main shopping street - to go to a few sites that are near to each other. The first one was Fontana di Trevi which was still covered with scaffolding. I read the details of the work that are posted outside every construction site with details such as the name of the architect, the company doing the works, and the expected duration - which was 600 days from last June. Boo!

The Pantheon and Piazza Navona were also busier than I'd ever seen them before. The Pantheon never fails to impress me, no matter how many times I visit it. Seeing as I was in the area I just had to drop by my Roman gelateria of choice - Frigidarium. They had a brioche and pistacchio flavour that I couldn't resist!

Before heading back to Termini I decided to pay the gatti de Roma (Rome's cats) a visit at Largo di Via Argentina, but I think most of them were sleeping out of the warm spring heat somewhere as I only saw two and they were sleeping as well!

I was staying at the Caravel hotel again, on Via Cristoforo Colombo, outside the city centre. After resting a couple of hours I headed back into Rome for supper...

Chips! I'd been craving chips all week (it's a long story...). Whilst doing some research for my battle plan I re-read my friend Claire's post about Chipstar near Campo de' Fiori, and after two different buses I had some very tasty chips with barbecue sauce!

Joy. Sunday I woke up with a headache. Still looking a mess with only foundation and un-straightened hair (lion's mane much?) I went down to breakfast. Oh, how I love hotel breakfasts... Then it was on to say hello to Laura and Rudy just down the street at Radio Deejay's Roman studios!

After the radio show I got back on the 714 bus to Termini where I would get the H bus over to Trastevere, And about half the tourists in Rome had had the same idea. The bus was absolutely packed (like I said, running theme...) and it was chaos getting on. It was so full after a couple of stops there was no room for anyone else to get on. I was so glad when we got to the other side of the river where I could get off the carro bestiame and breathe some fresh air!

I'd never properly explored Trastevere before, and it really is a beautiful neighbourhood to wander around. Full of old ivy-covered buildings, cobbled streets, and pretty churches. I picked up lunch at La Boccaccia, and they do a cracking pizza al trancio!

I got on a packed No.8 tram to Piazza Venezia to visit the Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II, and from there it was just a short walk down to the Colusseum.

I was getting defeated by my headache, so I went back to my hotel for a much-needed nap. After waking up I went out for an early supper. On the bus on Saturday I noticed a place on Via Nazionale called Lasagnam. My love for lasagna is on a Garfield-type level, so that was a change of plan for supper for Sunday night. After examining the map, I'd planned to take a bus from Termini to the restaurant, but the 40, 64, and H buses were so full - I have no idea how the 40 managed to even close its doors - I decided to walk the one and a bit kilometres instead. I saw a part of Rome that I hadn't seen before, around the Viminale. Lasagnam is an Italian fast food focusing obviously on lasagna. The chips are un-Italian but the place definitely gets my seal of approval!

Monday was my last day, and after raiding the breakfast buffet I went back to leave my case at Termini - ARGH - before getting the metro to the Vatican. I over-heard one of the overly-pushy (seriously, calm down, there's really no need.) ticket/queue-jump sellers mention that the queue for the museums was five hours, which I could easily believe when I actually saw the queue.  I thought with the weekend being over there would be less crowds but I was oh so wrong! As the weather predicted, it was a scorcher of a day, so I went to seek out some shade in a nearby park.

Also nearby there area few restaurants which have very good reviews on Tripadvisor. I went for one in my true no-faffing-about style, a take-away pasta restaurant! At E.G.G you choose the type of pasta you want, and then which sauce. I got the owner to suggest the best types to go with the carbonara that I just had to have, with it being traditionally Roman. It was wonderful, creamy and freshly made.

I battled the crowds back to the metro to go to the other side of the city - the stop was Circo Massimo. A short waslk from there is the comunal rose garden, and it's a welcome break from the chaos.

The Colosseum's a few minutes walk from the rose garden, and as I'd only seen it quickly the day before becuase of my headache, I decided it'd be the last stop of the day and the long weekend. There was hardly any queue outside, and I was so disappointed not to have enough time to go inside.

After that it was back to Termini for the last time. I picked up my case - there's a special circle in hell for that left luggage - and had a crema di caffè and waited for my train. For the journey back I took a Frecciarossa as it was the cheapest option, and I was in the Premium class, which meant a free snack and drink, much appreciated around 6pm! And amazingly we got back to Milano Centrale on time!!

I'll be back soon Rome, I promise!