Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!!

So, the end of the year's upon us eh? It's such a cliche to say it I know, but this year really has gone so fast!! Personally I've had a great year, and I'm looking forward to an even better 2010! I'd like to say a big grazie to all my Italian friends who have helped me settle in and made me feel so welcome this year, you guys rock!! Happy new year to everyone, I hope 2010 brings you plenty of happiness! Don't forget to wear your red pants and to eat plenty of lentils!!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas at Home - The Journey!!

The journey was so traumatic it deserves its own post! Maybe writing about about it will help me recover??

So yes, my journey home for Christmas started last Tuesday morning, after an epic snowfall of 11 inches in Milan! I knew it was asking for trouble, the day before all BA flights to Heathrow from Linate, except for the last one of the day had been cancelled. But the weather was better, and the BA site that morning said that the flight was delayed by only 19 minutes, so I left for Linate feeling slightly optimistic, if still nervous.

It doesn't matter where I fly from in Italy, the state of check-in is always the same. It's never really chaotic, just not very organised, and never enough check-in desks open. I had a bit of a funny turn in the queue though, not exactly sure what provoked it, but I nearly fainted! And that was after I'd eaten something because I felt lightheaded!! But I managed to sort myself out somehow, get checked in, through security and on to the gate...

Where I had to go through passport control, and where there was nowhere to have food - only half-empty vending machines. No water, only fizzy drinks. Luckily there was some Fanta, it helps when I'm suffering from my low blood sugar. And then we waited. Boarding time came & went, and no news, not a peep. From the screens every single flight was delayed, but there was nothing about ours. Eventually someone turned up at the desk, and everybody got up to queue - even though there was no announcement or anything. Until the announcement that eventually followed that we would be boarding in 15 minutes. Fair enough, I'd still have enough time in Heathrow before getting my coach at 5.45pm.

It was when we were waiting at the gate that I started to hear people talking about baggage problems. I couldn't believe it. I'd had no idea about any problems, and hoped that everything was in fact ok. But when we got on the plane I found out that infact, everything wasn't ok. There were problems in the terminal, and not all of the luggage would make it onto the plane. I honestly started to cry. All my presents were in my case. Home was at least 5 hours from Heathrow, and with the bad weather & it being 2 days before Christmas I knew that I didn't stand much of a chance of getting it in time.

After being told initially that we had a 65 minute wait before take-off, that was then changed to 15 minutes a little later. We eventually left around 2 hours late. For the whole flight I couldn't keep my eyes off the screen that gave us the progress of our journey, and I tried not to think about the possibility that my case wasn't on the flight.

I arrived with around 1 1/2 hours to spare until my coach, and flew through arrivals!! Then it was baggage claim. I had to wait to see if my case would be there or not. More and more cases arrived, and finally - mine!!! I'd never been so happy to see my case!! And then I was off to find the coach stop!

I couldn't believe I arrived at the coach stop with 1 hour to spare!!! I decided to sit outside, I wasn't going anywhere and risk missing my coach! The National Express staff were lovely, checking where I was going, and letting us know what was happening with our coach home. The coach was nearly hour late after breaking down, but I didn't care. Even if I missed my connection in Swansea - where I would've had 70 minutes to spare - it was close enough for someone to come and pick me up. So I settled down for the journey, and tried to get some sleep.

The coach arriving late in Heathrow was actually a blessing, I only had to wait around 20 minutes in Swansea for my connection. By the time I had arrived it was around 11, it was cold, dark & wet. But I was nearly home, and too tired and frazzled to care.

I arrived in Carmarthen around 12.15am, after all the delays I was just about on time, to be greeted by my mam and my brother. I'd made it, and with my case full of presents to boot. After the snow in the UK and Milan, a 2 hour delay in the airport, and a broken down coach, I'd made it home!! Luckily the journey back to Milan was nowhere near as traumatic!!!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

This morning I went into the centre of Milan to finish off my Christmas shopping, Italians don't do Christmas decorations in a big way, but with the snow it was definitely feeling very Christmassy!!



From afar it looked like the tree had snow on it, but the whiteness is actually flowers! Slightly unusual I thought, but pretty!




The Galleria has lights in it this year too, not as impressive as last year in my opinion!


And this is the obligatory look-at-the-snow-in-the-piazza photo!





Pretty, isn't it?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The BA cabin crew strike - my 2 centesimi

As usual, I'm a bit slow on the uptake. But I've been trying to get my head around the whole strike situation, and trying to calm myself the hell down. I was fuming on Tuesday when I read the news, I can't even remember the last time I was that angry. I'd never sworn so much in the space of such a short time!! I've not slept well since finding out either, I'm so tired.

If anyone was reading my rants tweets about 3 weeks ago when I was trying to book my flights home would've seen how stressed I was just trying to book the flights! Nobody would come and pick me up from any airports, which created a nightmare situation for me. Normally I would've gone to Bristol with either Ryanair or Easyjet, and then get the train home. But after nearly losing my flight the last time I did this, I wasn't prepared to go through that again. After searching for flights from SEVEN different airports, the only options I had were to go to Gatwick, and then home on the coach, which would've included 2 changes - in short, no thanks, I can do without that stress. Then there was BA, it meant standing around in Heathrow for a few hours on the way home, but with a pretty straightforward journey home, one change in Swansea (the best part of an hour away from the end of my journey). So after some persuading from my mam, I booked my tickets with BA, to fly home on the 23rd and then back to Milan on the 29th.

And today BA and Unite are holding talks again to try and resolve the planned strikes, so things are just as up in the air as ever. I've almost quietly accepted my fate though, if I stay here for Christmas then so be it. It won't be nice, and I'll just want to be at home all day with my family; but if that's what'll happen, then that's what'll happen. I'm not even going to start ranting about it again, because nothing I do or say will change things; and I'm not letting myself get wound up again. All I can hope is that on Christmas Day I'll be home with my family, eating Christmas dinner, and opening my presents. And not here in Italy on my own.

A Weekend in Venice!

After over a year in Milan, and a whole academic year studying down in Urbino, I finally made it to Venice last weekend!! It was for my work's Christmas party, and party we did! Venice is the most surreal place I've ever been too, the second I stepped out of the train station it was like I was entering a different country. It was bizarre being able to understand everything - I say everything, but the Venetian accent isn't the easiest one for a wannabe milanese to understand! - and to be able to speak to everyone without a problem. It's only 2 1/2 hours from Milan, but a completely different world!!



When we arrived in Venice it was dark, and Piazza San Marco with all its lights was beautiful! After partying the night away, I managed to drag myself out of bed Saturday morning to do some sightseeing - no hangover was going to stop me from seeing Venice!! We had (a very expensive!!) breakfast in Piazza San Marco, a lovely way to start the day, and something that definitely had to be done! Lunch was fantastic too, one of the best pizzas I've ever had (might've had something to do with the hangover & sleep deprivation though...!!) with scamorza (my favourite cheese!) and potatoes (yes, potatoes!)... all washed down with a glass of beer! Sorted me right out!!



The highlight of the day was a gondola ride home! It was completely a spur of the moment thing, we'd not planned to go in a gondola at all! It was lovely, we were in a pimped out black gondola with prosecco, and a legend of a gondoliere! I'm so glad we did it, definitely worth it!!




And being in Venice, we couldn't leave without buying masks! As you can see from my picture on here, I do like my masks, and this one is the first genuine Venetian one I bought! Very pretty!!

I can't believe it took me so long to get to Venice, it's so easy to get to from Milan!! Definitely be back there soon!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Song of the Week 4

I know I'm a bit slow on the uptake with this song, but it has grown on my recently. It's Ti vorrei sollevare, by Elisa and Giuliano Sangiorgi (of Negramaro, possibly my favourite Italian band).

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Song of the Week 3

My 'Songs of the Week' do what it says on the tin - I pick my favourite Italian song that's doing the rounds that week. And this week it's Alex Britti's Piove.



No rain in Milan today though, but a crisp, sunny December morning!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Educating the Italians about flu...

There's a government campaign on tv in Italy, as you'd expect I guess, to help prevent the spread of swine flu (most commonly known in Italy as Influenza A), and to clarify who needs to be vaccinated against the seasonal and/or 'A' flu.

And these adverts feature a kids' puppet. I must admit, I thought the puppet mouse was just some random creation for this campaign, until when trying to find the ads, when I discovered that this particular puppet was a well-known and well-loved mouse by the name of Topo Gigio. So, admittedly, had I have known this, I probably wouldn't have been as baffled as I had been when I first saw the ads. A puppet mouse educating the Italian masses on the flu vaccinations!

After a bit of searching, I finally found that advert I was after on youtube, the one that deals with the vaccines. The advert which deals with the 5 rules on how to stop the spread of the flu I can sort of understand, it's basic stuff kids need to know too. But the vaccines??



I don't know... Maybe if I were Italian I'd see things differently??

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Song of the Week 2

So for this week, here's Zero Assoluto's new song, Cos'è normale (what's normal)

Monday, November 23, 2009

My Favourite Italian Words - So Far!

1. il piccione - pigeon
A far funnier word for those annoying creatures!!

2. il riccio - hedgehog
The funny thing is that this word also means curl or curly - hedgehogs definitely aren't curly!


3. il bimbo - (little) boy
Slightly immature, but I don't care...

4. strambo - strange/wacky/freakish
A new word I only learned a couple of weeks ago, and according to my Italian friends, it can be used for those 3 English meanings.

5. il trucco
Used most commonly for 'make-up', but it also means 'trick' - clever those Italians, eh?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Italian medicine

I was convinced I'd done a post about medicine in Italy, but it seems not...

Last night I went to pick up some medicine in the pharmacy on the way home that the doctor had prescribed me. Nothing serious, a dietary supplement; the packet would contain 10 little bottles to take once a day, before breakfast.

Which cost me 19.50 euros!!

I nearly had a heart attack!! The doctor had prescribed me two packets, but the pharmacy only had one - and at that price I'm glad that was the case!

I almost dread to think how much money I've spent on medicine in this country since I've got here, even the most basic things are so expensive. A packet of paracetamol or asprin costs around 4 euro, cold medicine can easily be 5 euro, and when I've had a stomach bug, things for it have cost around 10. The supplement I had in the summer for my low blood pressure cost over 13 euro for 14 packets. It all seems a bit excessive to me, especially after my experience last night. And coming from a country where you can buy paracetamol/asprin/ibuprofen for 40p - and cheaper, and it was always the cheap stuff I bought, and I never had any problems with it. Oh, unless it was a migraine that I had, then I had to shell out on the hardcore migraine medicine.

I think I've just made myself seem like I'm always ill, which actually wasn't far off the truth last winter! But this winter I'm prepared, I've got my vitamins, my supplements, some cold medicine already, and I'm hoping I'll be able to dodge more lurgies this winter then last time round - to save money for one thing!!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Song of the Week 1

Ok, so this one's been around for a few weeks, but the first few times I heard it I wasn't convinced. I'd actually only got to know the original thanks to the edition of X Factor I was in the audience for, when one of the contestants sang it. It's Ma il cielo è sempre più blu by Giusy Ferreri. It's a cover of a very well known Italian song, originally by Rino Gaetano, released in 1975. Even though I still don't like how the intro in the cover's been changed, I've grown to really like it!



And for comparison, here's the original...

There's always going to be something to miss...

So, over one year on in Milan, what is it that I miss the most from the UK? This time I'm not talking about the obvious things such as family, friends and the like, but the little things from daily life back home that I used to take for granted...

Intelligent TV programmes
Le sigh. There's really no hope left for Italian tv. There are a couple of rare gems, such as (in my opinion!) La prova del cuoco and Affari tuoi - both imported formats, known in the UK as Ready, Steady, Cook and Deal or No Deal respectively; which in Italy become all-singing, all-dancing versions (literally!) - and the odd fairly-interesting game show (the Italians do love their game shows...), such as L'eredità which I started watching at uni; and my favourite Italian language soap (dubbed from the original German), Tempesta d'amore, there isn't really anything exciting about Italian TV, especially if you still have bogstandard analogue TV like I still do. To make some sweeping generalities, it's full of chat shows, dubbed programmes - many even 15+ years old, which have been repeated to death - and the veline - the half-naked showgirls... But there are a couple of things - bar my soap! - I couldn't live without, namely the two music channels, the newly-launched Deejay TV (love!) and MTV.

There are only a couple of things I follow religiously from the UK - Casualty and Holby City; but what I miss are the interesting documentaries and dramas, both of which are extremely scarce over here. It would be nice to settle down in the evening in front of the TV, knowing I'd be watching something that was actually intelligent...

24 hour openings
Not exactly an obvious choice, but it was something I took completely for granted at home, especially when I was living on campus at uni, when I'd have a 24 hour Tesco 5-10 minutes from my halls. I could go on a late-night chocolate run, or a hungover wander to get fry-up making ingredients without thinking about it. The nearest supermarket to me (Esselunga if anyone's interested, what one of my English friends here calls the Italian Sainsbury's!) is usually open 2 Sundays in the month; but as the only place I've seen the Sunday openings advertised is in the shop itself, and also as it's on a street I don't go down on a daily basis, I never really get to plan a Sunday trip in advance. Then here's the little mini-Unes up my street that doesn't open Sundays at all, and is still faithful to siesta hours. All in all, in can make even popping out for a bottle of milk difficult!!

Looking for something...?
This is from a conversation I had with an English workmate yesterday - how difficult it can be sometimes to find the easiest of things, even in Milan! The object in question yesterday was a notebook; a non-squared, nice, cheap notebook. But most notebooks in Milan are either for schoolkids or are too expensive - or a combination of the two!! Even clothes shopping can be a mission when you're looking for a specific something! I was surprised when it took me two shopping trips to find a dress to a wedding I went to last month (though admittedly, I found a dress for a party I went to last Monday in the first shop I went into!), and I've still not found a pair of boots here yet. The problem is that everything's all the same, there's just not enough variety in the clothes here - which creates a lot of problems sometimes!!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Happy Italyversary to me!

Today's the one year anniversary of my arrival in Italy!

It was around 10.30 at night when my flight from Bristol arrived at Malpensa, and it was the start of a big adventure. I had no permanent address and no job - only an interview the following week. It was risky, but I was determined to go out to Italy, and find a job and somewhere to live.

Luckily I had friends scattered all over the country, including an absolute star who offered me a place to stay until I found a place of my own. Those couple of weeks was one of the best periods of time I've had, I had so much fun and met new people, and it helped me settle back in to being in Italy.

And then I got the job and was off to Milan!!

And that's where I've been since - apart from the couple of short trips home I've had obviously! And I can't believe a year's passed already. And I'm very happy here, I think Milan's a great place to live. It's a big enough city without being too big, and even though there will always be the odd thing that baffles/amazes me, I do feel really at home here. The fact that it's a foreign country washes over me most of the time to be honest, it's where I live now. I think it'd feel different if I'd started working back in the UK, as I came out here pretty much straight from university - just over 3 months after graduating if anyone's counting. I used to say that I'd stay out here for a year or two before going back to the UK - to do what though, I never knew! But one year's already passed, and I know the second will go just as quick! I haven't got any long-term plans, but at the moment - and this may sound really bad, seeing as my family and everyone else I grew up with is back in the UK - I can't think of anything that could draw me back to the UK. So I'm here for the foreseeable future, and after that, who knows!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Italians vs Europeans

Yes, this video's been around the block a few times now, but it's only since I've been in Italy for a decent amount of time that I've realised just how true it actually is - especially the part about crossing the road!!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Nerys's Guide to Italian Music - Jovanotti

I'd been thinking recently about sharing some of my favourite Italian songs, and to my amusement, the list got quite long, so a change of plan was needed! I'm not pretending to be any kind of expert on Italian music, it was something I had not much of an idea about up until just over 4 years ago, when I first came to Italy - my education's been mostly listening to far too much Italian radio during my time in the country!

So I've decided on a guide to Italian music, my style! And the first artist is one of my favourites, Jovanotti. I was introduced to him pretty much on arrival in Urbino, to what's remained one of my favourite Italian songs ever, Mi fido di te.

Annoyingly I couldn't find a video of it that I could embed, so there's a link to one on youtube instead...

Jovanotti - Mi fido di te

Even though I could only grasp the odd word in the song, I fell in love with it. And now it reminds me of the wonderful year I had in Urbino.

Over the last few years Jovanotti's chilled out a bit, compared to his stuff from the 90s (his songs that *I* know at least!!), releasing ballads such as Mi fido di te and Come musica from last winter. One exception though is this summer's cheese-tastic Punto with Sergio Mendez!



And my second favourite song of his is another one I discovered during my year in Urbino, it used to get played in a club we used to go to in the town - L'ombelico del mondo ('the belly button of the world!')



A fantastic, fun, party song - if you ask me anyway!

And one more to end with! The very beautiful, and very soppy A te from the summer of 2007. Here's a live performance from last year's Sanremo festival.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Cambio di Stagione

I don't know about the rest of Italy, but up here in Milan, people are starting to think - and some have already gone about it! - about the cambio di stagione. It's getting to that time of year when the Italians put away their summer clothes for the winter and bring out all the winter things they put away in spring. It's not like the UK where you wear pretty much the same clothes all year round!! I did my cambio di stagione earlier than I as planning - next weekend I'm at a wedding, and the weekend after I'll be preparing to go to London for a week; so I decided to get all my clothes sorted this weekend whilst I still had the time. Apparently it's supposed to get a lot colder this week, but bar the odd shower - and thunderstorm like the other morning!! - the weather's been nice up til now, still in the 20s, still mostly sunny. Cardigan weather - if that some days! But it's been cooler this weekend though, tonight I've been wearing a jacket round the house for the first time in months and I'm finally wearing proper PJs again, instead of shorts!!

I really need to find a coat now, before it does start getting too cold. Last year I left it too late, when I arrived here in late October I didn't bring a coat with me. I thought it'd be warmer up here for longer than it was, and ended up getting caught out. The coat I did eventually find is now 2 sizes too big, so a new one's definitely needed! Some new jumpers wouldn't go amiss either; or some boots, especially after all the snow we had last winter...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Welshie on Italian TV!

Let me just explain first, it was last night X Factor, and the audience, so I'm not famous yet!! Being the massive Mika fangurl that I am, I jumped at the chance to go and see him at X Factor last night - even though I've never even followed the UK version, never mind the Italian!! And I was lucky enough to get a ticket to be in the audience, along with 19 other Mika fans!

If anyone saw X Factor last night, the people in the back row, with the gold pom poms (which were actually gold wigs!), yep, that was us! The back row was obviously not our choice, and it was a bit of a pain, as cameras were swooping past us and could choose to film from there at any point, which meant no standing up or waving our arms about. We had to sit still. Which obviously didn't happen when Mika was on, though we were actually sat for the whole performance - we only stood up when he came on & when the performance finished :D It was fantastic, I was in full-blown fangurl mode! And he made a great judge too, even though the simultaneous translation did my nut. I can't stand it, let the boy speak!!

Even though I've never properly followed X Factor at home, it's not exactly difficult to avoid, I've watched lots of bits over the years, so obviously I know enough about it. So it was interesting to see Italy's take on the format. You'd think for a reality show not much could change, well, you'd be right. Obviously, there's not really much you can change, but it is very different! For a start, the Italian show was an epic 3 1/2 ish hours long (I didn't check the exact time that it finished), the judges argue much more and for longer, and just generally talkandtalkandtalk! The voting system's different than the last time I watched the UK version too... Oh, and the audience are more lively, and heckle the judges - shame there were a lot of injokes I didn't get, things that were incomprehensible to my ears being chanted; but people singing " sei bellissimooooooooooooo" to Morgan was win :D - a lot more! It was more enjoyable than I expected actually!

And I'd like to thank everyone who made yesterday so enjoyable and made it possible for us to be in the audience, it was an unforgettable experience!

Friday, October 2, 2009

At the hairdresser's...

The fun of living in a foreign country is the change in doing everyday things such as going shopping, travelling around the city, or as in my case this afternoon, getting my hair cut! I mean, something as easy as "It needs a good trim, the ends have gone a bit scraggy" just doesn't work in my Italian... And then there's the problem of wanting to dye my hair blonde... After deciding to risk it in December, today was the second time I'd dyed my hair here, and luckily this time it turned out fine, but the first time I wasn't very happy with the colour as it wasn't light enough. The colour I've got now is 'very blonde' by Italian standards, and for some reason if I'd have wanted a lighter colour I would have only been able to have highlights and not an all over colour!

My hairdressers is fab, they deal with a fair amount of native English speakers too, which helps! It's funny how in the UK the people in the salon make you a cuppa tea or coffee if you're having your hair dyed - here they order it from the bar just down the street! Today and the last time I went there was one point in the afternoon when the girls decided to order coffee, and they asked us punters if we wanted something too. It did amuse me, I must say!

So here's my new hair, it turned out shorter than I thought it would - nothing to do with anything getting lost in translation! - but I'm very happy with it.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Mysteries of the Italian Postal System

Last November, when I first came to Milan, the first parcels that got sent from home took around three and a half weeks to show up. So by the time I got some of the things in said parcels, it was too cold to be able to wear them! After autumn kicked off more suddenly than I expected, I had to get on the case of getting some things sent over from home that I'd had to leave there after being home in August - gotta love Ryanair's luggage weight limit! because I knew it would take a good couple of weeks, probably more, for the parcel to arrive in Milan. And the parcel would include 3 much needed cardis - no more problems of having a combination of slightly-clashing top & cardi!! - my awesome black-with-white-trim blazer, and a new shirt my mam picked up for me in the sales - I've really not lost that much weight since August, how come a size 10 shirt's that big on me?? And I got this precious parcel yesterday, meaning it took less than a week to arrive!! And it was sent the exact same way as all the others I've got since being here! Result!! I have noticed that things have been taking less time to arrive here, when I've been ordering things from the UK online for example, but it usually takes around a week and a half for them to arrive, which was less than it was earlier in the year. So my question is, if the parcels weigh around the same, contain the same sort of stuff, are sent in the exact same way to and from the exact same places - why is it now taking under half the time it used to for them to arrive??

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Nerys's Random Tips For Living in Milan #2

To ensure you arrive the other side of the road alive, it's highly recommended that you cross the road with any combination of the below:
  • Any member of the various Italian police forces
  • An elderly man/lady
  • One or more young children
The above rule applies to crossings which don't have traffic lights to control the flow of traffic; however it is still recommended that you are highly careful even if there are traffic lights, as Italians are known to drive through them if they think nobody is crossing the road. A polizziotto or carabinere etc etc at either end of the crossing will also be enough to make sure that the Italians are behaving at their best.

Yeah. Risking my life crossing the road first thing in the morning gets tiring.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Autumn already?

I didn't expect there to be such a sudden change in temperature! It was like once we hit September it dropped around 8 degrees during the day, and the humidity pretty much disappeared overnight! It's lovely, still warm enough during the day, and finally cool enough at night. I've even got a thin blanket out of my cupboard!! I've slept so well since the weekend, when it really started cooling down at night, it's made such a difference! It's even a bit chilly in the morning & evening, especially in the shade, I could almost wear a cardigan - almost! But it's not quite Converse weather yet ;) It's getting dark very early too, which I don't like as much. Not long gone 8pm it starts getting dark here! It's like a completely different feel to how it was a couple of weeks ago, melting in 35+ temperatures and unable to sleep at night. I'm pleased we're finally getting into summer, my full one (ok, minus the week at home!) was a very long one!!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

My Erasmus Year - Urbino

 
The Ducal Palace, Urbino


From mid-September 2005 (argh, nearly 4 years ago now!!) to the beginning of July 2006 I was in Urbino, Le Marche, for my Erasmus year. Unlike most British unis, I had to do my year abroad during my second year (I went to Warwick if anyone's interested...), after only having studied Italian for a year! After somewhat of a year of a crash-course in Italian language, after which we were supposed to be up to A Level standard (srsly??), we had to go out to Italy to attend university for a year!

I'd actually never been to Italy before, not for a holiday, not for anything! Yes, I know it's strange to decide to choose to study a language for a country you've never been to, but that's how I am! I'd decided to go to Urbino after one of my lecturers had been talking about it during a class, it sounded perfect, a beautiful little traditional town up in the hills. So I did a bit more research, and the photos I found were amazing, it looked perfect!

I must admit, the idea of going out to Italy, barely able to string a simple sentence together even though I'd been studying the language at uni for a year terrified me. It took a good two months to settle in to my new surroundings and to being in a foreign country, but by around mid-November I felt completely at home, and had a great circle of friends, mostly foreign students like me.

I was lucky to have my accommodation sorted when I arrived in Urbino, I had a room in halls. Which was quite an experience!! A million miles away from my halls back in England! But out of everywhere I stayed in uni, those halls were definitely my favourite; there was a much better atmosphere (even if the noise of partying got a bit tedious sometimes), we could graffiti the walls (I wish I could've seen my face when I saw all the graffiti that was already there when I arrived at my block!!), and each block had their own terrace on the roof!
 
Sunrise in Urbino

And Urbino has a fantastic student life, especially if you live in halls like I did; and very Erasmus friendly! It's a town of 6,000 that pretty much gets taken over by students during the university year - especially at night! There are plenty of locali to drink and party in - one of the most popular places was called the Bosom Pub - there were only 2 clubs during my time there, but both, in my opinion were very good, and I always had a good time!

Studying in Italy gave me a chance to broaden my educational horizons, I could do courses I couldn't in England. I took three 'history of the Italian language' courses, which properly ignited my love for the history and development of Italian (I eventually did my dissertation on the vernacular in the 1600s), a couple of linguistic courses, and a very interesting course on dialects. Of course, it was very difficult at first, having all my classes in Italian. But by the time the second semester started in the spring, things were much easier; and my language improved so much by going to my classes.


It's still very much a traditional town though. The town centre itself is small, it pretty much consists of the main piazza, surrounded mainly by cafes and restaurants, and 4 streets then branching of it - 2 going uphill, 2 going downhill! Barely any high street shops, and of course, the ducal palace, the main attraction of Urbino. It's definitely a whole world away from Milan, pretty much the polar opposite of it!

It's not the easiest place to get to though. I'm not going to start whinging about my flights again, but Urbino doesn't have a train station, the nearest one is in Pesaro, the nearest big town. Then there's a coach which goes fairly frequently to Urbino, and by taking a bit of a scenic route, it gets to Urbino in about 50 minutes.

I couldn't recommend the place highly enough, and even though it is a bit of a trek down from up here, I'm hoping to make a return pilgrimage there soon!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Nerys's Milanese Pet Hates - Part 3

Bwahaha it's been a while!!

People who stare at me on the metro.

Yes, I know I'm blonde. I've got blue eyes too. Oooh, look at all of the colourful things I'm wearing!!

Ma basta!

I've been here for nearly 10 months now, when are you going to get bored of staring at me??

Back to Normality!

For many many Italians this weekend meant the end of the summer, and the return home to the city -  it was the last big rientro weekend, after people had been trickling back from their holidays over the last few days, this weekend was when pretty much everyone else was making the journey home from their holidays. So now everyone's back in the city and back to work after 3/4 weeks' holiday - nice for some! And life in Milan is almost back to normal. Ok, so the school's aren't back yet, and there are still a lot of tourists around, but there's a big difference to the ghost town of 2 or so weeks ago! There are still some shops closed though, even in the centre of Milan, but only a few by now. Oh, the public transport's still on holiday service too, but that I can live with during the day!

And the weather's improved massively! It's around 27-28 degrees at the moment, and nowhere near as humid as it's been recently! I was even sleeping with a sheet last night and Saturday night - amazing!! It's lovely, I wish it could've been like this all summer! It's even cool enough to wear jeans (with sandals albeit) around town, I'm very pleased, to be honest I'd got a little tired of wearing summery skirts all the time! Apparently it's not going to last, the temperature's set to rise again this week according to the meteo I saw last night, but I'm enjoying it whilst it lasts!!

Friday, August 28, 2009

How to Survive in Milan in the Summer - Random Tips: No.3

Before you go anywhere, cover yourself in insect repellent!!

Even if you're just going shopping, the buggers are everywhere! They get you at home, in the office, when you're in giro in town, and especially at night! They get you through your jeans too, they're very crafty!! I've got a plug-in at home that works a treat (ok, I may not have noticed a couple of times that it had ran out...) and some Autan spray, which most of the time works great; but it seems that I need to be a little bit more liberal with it when I go down the park to sunbathe!!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

How to Survive in Milan in the Summer - Random Tips: No.2

Buy a handheld fan.

Seriously, I don't know what I'd do without mine! It lives on my desk in the office most of the time, the air conditioning's not so great in here! But it's invaluable on public transport, especially on the metro, it gets so hot in the summer! They're so easy to get hold of too, from people selling them on the street or on the underground, and I've seen loads selling them for 2 euro for a pair! Barganious!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

My songs of the summer!

It's not quite so hot in Milan today, and even though I got bitten three times last night by the mozzy that was apparently in my room last night (err, plug-in, what happened??), I'm in a non-ranting mood today! Maybe it's more wishful thinking, but the summer really is coming to an end, and I thought I'd share what have been my favourite songs in Italy this summer!

1. Mika - We Are Golden



Predictable fangurl is predictable :D I absolutely love it, and I'm glad the Italian radio does too!

2. Negrita - Gioia infinita



Negrita are one of my favourite Italian bands (not that I have that many lol!!) and this is such a lovely summery song!

3. Zero Assoluto - Per dimenticare



This one's been around all summer, but I just can't get tired of it!

4. Calvin Harris - I'm Not Alone



Amazing. Shame only a couple of radio stations I can pick up play it...

5. Airys - Vedo in te



Not enough stuff like this in Italy at the moment! And bonus points for the last bit of her name matching mine :D

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Flying to Italy

Maybe it's the heat, or the lack of sleep, or more than likely a combination of the two, but this week I've been in quite a ranting mood...

Every so often I sneak in a little rant about how difficult it is for me to fly to and from home to Milan. The problem isn’t in Italy, I could fly to/from any of the three airports which are in & around Milan: Malpensa, Linate and Bergamo. The problem is the UK. My nearest airport at home, Cardiff, doesn’t do any non-charter flights to anywhere in Italy! To be honest, it still baffles me. So then, the next closest airport is Bristol.

The option I usually take to get there is the train, and then the airport bus from Bristol Temple Meads, which takes around 3 1/2 hours (compared to the car journey of around 2 1/2). And to catch the flight back to Bergamo that I usually get, it means getting the train around 6am. Then changing trains twice along the way. And then getting the aiport bus. And after the panic when I missed my first connection when I was coming back to Italy after Christmas - thanks to a fault on the line - I never want to take the train to the airport ever again. I don't care that it was the first train after Christmas, it's just too risky now. There is the coach, but it takes a long time, (anything between 4 hours 50 minutes to 6 hours 50 minutes!) and never gets me to the airport in time for a flight. And not only is it a pain for me, it's a pain for everyone else who comes out here to see me. My mam even said when I was home a couple of weeks ago that the next time she comes out here she'll get the coach up to Heathrow cos it's easier. That takes between 5- 5 1/2 hours on the coach, which makes the length of the journey to Bristol seem even more ridiculous. I just think it's a bit of a joke really that someone would have to travel that far in their own country to get a flight to a big European city. And I think I probably will have to do the same the next time I go home too, unless I'm lucky like I was last time when I actually got a lift home and back up to the airport cos there was no traffic. I'm so jealous of people who can get to and from airports at home without any problem, it's just unnecessary stress!

I think I need a big glass of vino and a lie down in a very air-conditioned room!!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Why I'm looking forward to Autumn

  1. Being able to sleep with a duvet (cosy!!)
  2. Scratch that - being able to sleep at night will be bliss!!
  3. Wearing my Converse (adore my Converse!)
  4. Wearing my swanky new skinny jeans I bought at home (oh, how I love them!)
  5. My favourite soap (Tempesta d'Amore, if anyone's interested!) going back to being a full episode every evening instead of annoying half episodes!
  6. My low blood pressure not giving me (as much) grief
  7. My doctor and the pharmacy down the street being open again
  8. Not being eaten alive by the mozzies constantly - eventually! I got bitten a lot during a picnic in Bologna last October, so I know they'll be hanging around for a while yet!
Can you tell it's been a hot, horrible, humid day in Milan today??

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sunday Breakfast


That's a piece of left-over lemon cake from yesterday, a bottle of strawberry Actimel, and a cup of tea. A slightly random breakfast, even by my standards, but it was very nice! Perfect for a Sunday morning!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Buon Ferragosto!

Buon Ferragosto a tutti! It's my first Ferragosto in Italy! Even though I'm not Catholic, it's nice to be here on Ferragosto, it feels like another landmark, another step towards getting to know Italy better. According to a local radio station, apparently only around 500,000 milanesi are still around in the city today, about a third of the population. So where are they all??

Friday, August 14, 2009

How to Survive in Milan in the Summer - Random Tips: No.1

Get out of the city if you can.

Seriously. Now I understand why everyone abandons Italian cities every year! The latest I'd been in Italy before was August 11th, and it was in Pisa as well. And after having been there for only 4 weeks, I hadn't really noticed that there were less people around - the place had just constantly been full of tourists since I'd got there! But the difference in Milan is massive! In the week I was at home like half the population of Milan had disappeared! And I don't blame them at all, I'd still be out of the city if I could! It's too hot to work, and I've been suffering this week cos of my low blood pressure. It'd be lovely to go to the coast for a couple of weeks!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Back in (ghost town!) Milan!

So, I'm back from a lovely, though rather hectic week at home! I got back on Sunday after an epic almost-10 hours' travelling (damn you Cardiff airport!!), to a dead Milan! I'm still trying to recover from always being in giro at home, seeing family and friends, going out on the town, shopping, and going to the coast! It's amazing how much you can fit into a week when you have to!

It was so strange being home after being in Italy for over 7 months solid, people had changed, my hometown had changed a surprising amount, and it was so cold!! I stepped off the plane at Bristol around 10.30 on August 1st shaking and shivering! Ok, so it was night, but still, it was so cold! Even in the daytime up until Weds was cold, on Wednesday I was the only one walking around the shops in a jacket and scarf! I was amazed at how little some people were wearing, it wasn't even 20 degrees at that point!

And speaking of shopping, I had a lot of fun in the British shops! I officially fit a British size 10 and I'm absolutely chuffed to bits!! I even bought 2 pairs of skinny jeans that I absolutely adore! I never would've imagined even a few months ago being able to buy skinny jeans! But annoyingly because of Ryanair's 15kg hold luggage limit (mine was 15.5 kg! Ha!) I had to leave some things at home, and get my mam to send them out in autumn. But there we go...

On the way home I flew from Malpensa airport, I'd flown into Malpensa twice before, the first time being when I first arrived in Italy last year; but I'd never flown from Malpensa. And I don't think I will again. Getting to the airport's fine, I took the Malpensa Express from Cadorna station. That was fine, I got there on time, and the journey was easy. The disaster was once we got to the airport. Having arrived on the train, I needed to get the shuttle bus over to terminal 2 for my flight. Which meant waiting for ages. Bang went my plan of managing to get to check in on time! And check in was another disaster too. I was flying home with Easyjet, and I never expected them to be so disorganised in an airport like Malpensa! 3 check-in desks open, from the like 15 that they had, for at the 3 flights that I knew of, and because of the shuttle bus I ended up near the back of the queue! Frustrating isn't the word. And then the flight was late!! It may be out of the city, but I think I'll stick to Bergamo from now on!

And when I got back on Sunday the city was deserted! Walking to work yesterday was one of the strangest things, the streets were quiet, hardly any cars, more shops than usual were shut, and the sky was a very ominous looking dark colour!! It was like everyone in Milan knew something bad was up, except for me, who, after coming back from a week at home, didn't know anything about it!! I'm getting used to it now though, for one thing it means less chance of getting run over as I go to work every day! I wish I was off on holiday too though, even though I've just been home for a week - I want a proper holiday like everyone else! :(

Friday, July 31, 2009

Holiday!!

Today I'm going home for a week! I'm so excited!! I haven't been home since Christmas, I can't believe the time's gone so fast and that I've been out here for that long a stretch without having been home! It's got so hot here recently, it'll be lovely to go back to the cool for a bit! I'm flying from Malpensa tonight, I haven't flown from Malpensa before, only into it, and I've got to cross the city to get there, so it might be a bit of a mission! But first I've got a day of work to get through - it might well be a long one!!

It always feels like I'm going home for longer than I am when I leave Italy, it was the same at Christmas; even after doing a year abroad in Italy and going back and forward for the holidays. And because it feels like I'm going away for longer than I actually am, I'm a little bit reluctant to leave! But I am looking forward to being at home, it's been a long time coming!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Nerys’s Random Tips for living in Milan #1

Always carry extra spare change.

I learned the hard way on Tuesday night that I should always have some spare change on me! I was coming home on the metro from Sesto F.S after being going to the cinema with a couple of friends, and I’d completely forgot that Sesto was out of the city, and so the urban metro/bus/tram 10 trip carnet I had wouldn’t cover my trip home! I didn’t have enough loose change, and didn’t have a note less than 20 euro, and by then it was around 11.30pm, no bars or anything open, and the ticket machines didn’t have enough change - PANIC!! I asked as many people as I could if they could change my 20, no luck. But then a flash of inspiration hit me! A few weeks ago I’d found a euro by the side of the road near work, and I’d put it in my bag – not in my purse, just in my bag. I frantically scrambled around in my bag, digging things out, trying to find this euro that I knew I had somewhere at the bottom of my bag! And I found it! So I was able to buy an interurban ticket and finally get on the metro and home to my bed!

So the moral of this story is, if you take public transport in Milan, especially late at night, make sure you’ve got change to cover your journey before you leave the house!! What I’m going to do from now on is carry a couple of euros extra in my bag – not stashed away at the bottom though! – not in my purse so I won’t be tempted to spend them, just in case this sort of situation happens again!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

From the 'Nobody Told Me..' series: Monsoon Season!

I'd never been in Italy at all during the first half of July before this year, and the only time I'd been in the north of the country during the summer before was a week at the beginning of August; and I have been amazed at the weather this month! So many thunderstorms!! Tuesday morning was mad, the mother of all thunderstorms rolled into Milan around 6.30 in the morning! Of course, it woke me up, with 2 hours to go before I needed to get up for work - not happy!! It even caused a powercut! I live in a mahoosive block of flats, and our patch had no power for the best part of 3 hours. 3 hours! In a big city like Milan, I couldn't believe it! The other side of the flats didn't get their power back til about 11, and the houses in the nearest piazza didn't until 5 that afternoon! It's so Italian that it took so long, but surely that's poor for even a town, never mind Milan. From what I heard Milan and Bergamo (around an hour to the east of Milan) got hit the worst, the pictures that I saw on the news was insane! So much rain in such a short amount of time! I had no idea the weather could be so bad in the summer!!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

At the doctor's...

I've been ill. Again!! Another stomach virus that's been doing the rounds. Seriously, how many illnesses like that can do the rounds in a city in the space of just a few months?? Ok, I won't start whinging again... So I had to go to the doctor's to get a certificate for work, the first time I'd gone to the doctor's on my own in this country. I'm lucky that I live around 5 minutes away from my doctor's, but even though it's that close to home, I'm not too keen on the area it's in. Don't ask me what it is, it involves going under a bridge, I just don't like the atmosphere round there... But never mind. It's obviously a pain dragging myself out of the flat when I'm ill, and when I went on Thursday the surgery was only open in the afternoon, so add around 30 degrees to my annoyance! It wasn't as scary as I expected, I was in & out quite quickly, another new experience under my belt! But hopefully I won't need to go back to there for another few months at least!

And with a couple of days at home, I had plenty of time to watch Italian daytime TV. Oh yes. Though La Prova del Cuoco (Italy's take on Ready, Steady, Cook which is shown on Rai Uno) is legendary - It feels like I grew up with that, for the 3 years I was actually at uni in England, I watched so much of that, it always seemed to be on when I was watching tv after my lectures were done for the day! - I got bored of what was on offer fairly quickly. I also managed to get bored of Italian radio! Yesterday I spent a lot of the day listening to British radio online. I'm a bit of a radio geek to be honest, I spend so much time listening to radio, here or back in the UK; but I rarely listen to British radio when I'm in Italy, only when I'm bored of Italian radio, really. I used to think that Italian radio was more open-minded than mainstream British radio, that it played a bigger variety of music. After yesterday I'm not so convinced. There were so many songs I didn't recognise, things that had been doing the rounds for the last few weeks or even months in the UK that I'd never heard before; mainstream, Top 40 stuff. It was nice to have a proper comparison, and to see what was going on with music at home!

It is hot though, it's finally starting to get to me! It's still not so bad in the night, but having to leave my window open & the sound of the trains being louder is a bit annoying, but I think I'm getting used to it. No new mozzy bites - yet! I think my plug-in's doing its job! We've been having a lot of thunderstorms here recently, I hate thunderstorms, and one we had recently, when the thunder was properly shaking in the flat was horrible; but the morning after a thunderstorm is lovely, it properly clears the air. A necessary evil I'm starting to think!

And I've lost 6 kg now, I'm so pleased! I haven't hit the sales yet, I didn't think it would've been very sensible after being ill, and still not feeing 100%; but I did go shopping last weekend, and bought a very pretty multicoloured Italian-equivalent-of-a-UK-size 10 skirt from Promod, I was so chuffed! Only problem is all the other summer clothes I've got from summers past are getting too big! Never mind, an extra excuse to hit the sales I think!!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Do You Speak English?

Fabri Fibra is a legend!! I heard his new song on the radio a couple of days ago, and I was in hysterics! It's called Do You Speak English? For an Italian it's scarily close to the truth about modern society in England/the UK, but maybe I find it so funny because I'm Welsh and not English :D

It doesn't portray England in a good light at all, a big chunk of the song's taken up describing English girls, how they drink a lot and what happens when they get drunk - and it's not pretty! It may not be positive, but it's very true! It's the first bit I find funniest, a series of scenarios where the answer of "alright mate" would be given, such as when someone was giving you evils & wanted to beat you up! It reminds me so much of being in uni in England, when I used to use "alright" or "alright mate" far too much, it's not something that I use at home that much with the people I know. It's amusingly accurate that bit!

After over 8 months in Italy, it's funny to have this sort of viewpoint of England, it reminds me of a lot of things I don't miss about the UK! But it makes me smile when I hear this, England seems to have a magical quality for young Italians, things that are by now a completely normal part of society in the UK, even if they aren't necessarily accepted, are just so fascinating to Italians!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Tourist? Italian? Somewhere inbetween??

I went shopping this morning, and as tourist season's well & truly underway, I seem to be causing the Milanese some confusion! I've got natural blonde hair, blue eyes & am very fair, so I obviously don't look Italian. During the winter nobody spoke English to me, well, ok, there were a couple of occassions, but nothing much. One I remember was before Christmas, I was in the H&M near Piazza Duomo, and one of the sales assistants started speaking English to me when I was going to try some clothes on. I said I spoke Italian, that I'd studied it at uni, and the poor guy said he was glad I spoke Italian cos his English wasn't great! He even asked me to check something they had up in the changing rooms written in English, about putting clothes back on their hangers or something; and it was nice being able to help out in such a way.

Today I had a lot of mixed reactions, some people took me for Italian, mainly the people conducting surveys on the street & the ragazzi selling bracelets/books; but it was only one person who actually spoke to me in English. It was a sales assistant in Zara when I was paying for my things. He said the price in Italian first, quickly followed by the English. Then I produced my Italian bank card, and his expression cracked me up! It was a mixture of 'd'oh!' mixed with amusedness, I think I'd managed to properly confuse him! Needless to say, he spoke Italian for the rest of the time he was serving me!

But I had a lovely morning shopping, I can't believe all the stuff I bought! Those 5 kilos I've lost have certainly made a big difference! Certainly made up for all those weeks I couldn't find anything!

According to one of the pharmacies in Piazza Duomo, the temperature was 31 degrees, that must've been about midday. It didn't feel that hot though! I know there was a nice breeze, but I think I must be getting acclimatised, at least to a degree! I just remember 3 years ago, during my year studying in Italy, at this point it was so hot, it was a nightmare trying to get a decent night's sleep! I know that was in the centre of Italy and now I'm up north, but it couldn't have been that much of a difference! I never would've thought that I'd ever say like 30 degrees was nice!!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Mika @ Teatro Parenti, Milan 6/6/09

Blimey.

I've had about 4 hours sleep after the most amazing night of my life!! As I'd mentioned before, I was going to see Mika at Teatro Parenti, in the Porta Romana area of Milan, last night, as part of his Songs For Sorrow acoustic tour. It was the first time I'd ever seen him, and it was absolutely incredible!! I'd heard a lot about the 3 gigs that had been, but I'd managed to stop myself from watching any videos people had filmed at any of the gigs as to not spoil the surprise! And I'm so glad I did that! I was absolutely blown away, even though I'd heard so much about the tour, it wasn't what I expected! It was definitely a very interesting definition of 'acoustic'! Including drumming on metal dustbins - ON a grand piano, wearing a silly hat & all! - a stage invasion during Lollipop, and the entire room on their feet dancing and singing! I was second row centre, an absolutely amazing spot! And that stage invasion, I was actually part of it!! Just thinking about it now is hysterical, one minute I'm standing in front of my seat singing & dancing, the next I'm on the stage, next to the grand piano, looking up at Mika who's stood on top of it singing! Absolutely mad!! And Lollipop's my favourite song of his by miles, so it meant so much to me to be on stage during that performance! And he did Relax, Take it Easy too, which I was so pleased about, because it was thanks to that song I became a fan, almost 2 years ago, when I was in Pisa doing a language course! What he did with it was amazing, it started off as a proper acoustic version, and by the end it was the full-blown disco Relax! And the new songs sounded amazing!! Toy Boy was very funny with the expressions he was doing, Blame it on The Girls was fab - I found out it's not easy to do that clapping & sing along at the same time LOL! - Good Gone Girl I've properly fallen in love with, and Rain was a real surprise!! I was expecting what he did in the Parc Des Princes, but ooooooh no!! It was much better!! Like mid-way between that and what we've heard of the studio version! VERY good!! The atmosphere was electric, and Mika's interaction with the audience was fantastic!

It was an absolutely amazing experience! The whole day was amazing, I spent the day with a group of amazing people from the MFC (hellooooooooo guys!!)! And I managed to meet Mika twice, though as the stunned fangurl I was I managed to make a bit of an idiot of myself, though I gave him my present & got an autograph so I was happy :D Such a shame that was the only gig I could go to on this tour, I would love to go through that again! Bring on the next tour!!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

And back to spring - ish!

I'm being such a Brit, all it seems that I blog about these days is the weather!! Unfortunately it hasn't dropped the 10 degrees in Milan that the media was promising, yesterday it was a measly 3 degrees cooler than Tuesday, down to 31 degrees!! Last night was much better though, I could actually sleep with the covers on! Going outside onto the balcony when it was really hot was horrific, I couldn't believe it was that hot at like 10-11pm! It's been difficult sleeping too, I'm not a great sleeper at the best of times, but I'm so tired today after a string of hot nights. I'm looking forward to having a lovely lie-in Saturday morning!!

One thing that this hot weather's good for though is that it gives you an excuse to eat (more) ice cream :D I was naughty and actually had ice cream for lunch when I was out shopping over the weekend, chocolate and stracciatella, lovely! I had to eat it too quickly though cos it was melting so fast in the heat!

And Sunday afternoon I was down the park enjoying the sun! The first proper sunbathing session of the year - and it gave me a migraine!! That'll teach me! I thought I'd better off starting with the factor 30, but I didn't get much of a tan from that, so I think I might be ok on factor 20 for another few weeks! Well, I think I'll risk it, I'm sick of being this pale!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Heatwave!!

30+ degrees in May!! A heatwave's hit Italy this week, luckily it's the centre that seems to have been hit the hardest, though the maximum for the last few days here in Milan has been around 32 degrees! Thing is, it doesn't feel anywhere near as hot as 30 odd degrees does in the UK! Honestly, if I didn't know it had been 30+ degrees these last few days, I never would have guessed! It's nice at the moment, when there's a bit of a breeze admittedly, though the evenings can be pretty stuffy, even around 10-11pm, getting to sleep's already proving to be a bit of a problem!! I'm looking forward to spending some quality time down the park this weekend, working on my tan (not that I've actually got much of a tan at the moment, but never mind...) and enjoying the sunshine! The weather's promising much of the same over the weekend, sunny and around 32-33 degrees! Now this is what Mediterranean weather should be like!!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

What a racket!!

You didn't need to tell me this morning that Inter had won last night, I knew. From all the noise there was around 11 last night I thought there had been an accident or something, but then it clicked, Milan had been playing, and that game could've decided that Inter had won Serie A. What a racket!! I couldn't believe it! It wasn't even my street, barely any traffic goes down here! I wasn't in Italy when they won the world cup 3 years ago, but I was there until the semi-final if I remember correctly, and it was exactly the same there! Imagine, a little medieval hill-top town, population of around 6,000, but a big student town, cars and vespas going round and round the little streets beeping and waving flags! Madness!!

The weather recently, mostly at least, has been lovely! Easily hitting 23 degrees, and gorgeous sunshine, if only it could stay like this for the rest of the summer!! My freckles are already coming out even though I haven't been out much in the sun yet, good thing I bought that factor 30 the other week!

And to everyone who's going to see Mika on the 6th in Teatro Parenti, you shall most definitely see me there, with bells on!! Very much looking forward!!

And one more thing, should I be worried that I like Biagio Antonacci's new song??

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Bank Holiday Weekend!

Ah, 3 day weekends are awesome! An extra day for shopping, housework, or just lazying around & doing nothing! And today I went shopping, on the hunt for summer clothes... And I came back with a pair of flip flops, a necklace & hairclips. Rubbish. How is it that there are so many shops in Milan but I can't find any summer clothes that I like or fit?? It's supposed to start hitting the high 20s by the end of next week (it's about 23/24 degrees today) so I really need to find some things soon! There were a lot of tourists in giro today, definitely outnumbering the Italians!! But it's starting to get full on Saturday mornings now, especially in the centre; I can't imagine what it must've been like this afternoon!

One piece of pretty important news, I got my new contract this week! As with most contracts in Italy, it lasts for a fixed period, in my case, 18 months. So I can stay here for another 18 months! So obviously, I'm very happy!

One whinge though, the price of suncream in this country is insane. Over 10 euro for a bottle of factor 30?? I need factor 30 to start off with in Italy, or I'm in trouble! I spent the best part of 30 euro this afternoon on 2 bottles of suncream & 1 bottle of aftersun, and I just think it's a lot of money for something essential in the summer!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Nerys's Milanese Pet Hates - Part 2

Ok, so this's more of an Italian pet hate, but seeing as I'm living in Milan.....

Pedestrian crossings.

The white stripes on the road aren't just there for decoration you know!!!

Though in Italy you could well just think that.....

Would it hurt so much just to stop when there's someone on a crossing, actually in the middle of the road?? It didn't happen this morning, and it never does most mornings. And having to walk to work every day it's really getting annoying now. It's bloody dangerous! Unless a crossing actually has lights indicating when it's safe to cross, I don't trust it one bit. I try as often as I can to follow someone else, safety in numbers, plus the Italians are used to it! Nearly getting run over is not what you need first thing in the morning when you're not quite awake!!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

6 month anniversary!

6 months ago yesterday I first arrived in Italy! I only realised this morning!! It was the evening of the 22nd of October when I arrived at Malpensa, a journey of around 10 hours altogether from home to the airport. I stayed with one of my friends (who is an absolute star, one of the nicest people you could ever meet!) for a couple of weeks before moving to Milan on the 4th of November.

I've been doing a lot (well, maybe not a lot, seeing as I've been at work!) of reflecting about my time here during the day. It's over 4 months since I've been home, so this's the longest stint I've been anywhere away from home, and I haven't got any plans to go home as yet (that sounds awful, but as far as summer's concerned, let's just say things are a bit up in the air at the moment.....). It feels like a bit of an achievement, even though I was never intending to go back home permanantly before the end of the 6 months or anything! I've still got no idea when I will go home permanantly, I'm not much of a planner anyway, but who knows how things will be like even a few weeks down the line? I'm loving living in Milan, sometimes it's still such a novelty. Piazza Duomo still fascinates me, the Duomo's beautiful, even the piazza itself is amazing, I can't put my finger on it. But all the tourists congregating there, especially now as there are more of them, it just adds to how special a place Milan is. People come from all over the world, and it's amazing walking around the centre (or not so centre sometimes) hearing all these different languages, understanding some tourists who are talking about how amazing the city is and where they should go.

It's still strange to think of Milan as being where I'm currently living. It's almost like how it was when I was living on campus at uni, living in a bubble. Most days I feel like I could be anywhere in Italy, there's not much around where I live or work that identifies the area as being part of Milan (though what would identify the area as Milan I don't know...), it's only really when I go into the centre that it properly feels like Milan. I'm still getting used to living in a city, amusingly enough the only time I'd ever lived in a town before coming here was when I was studying in Urbino, and that was a small town of 6,000 odd, up in the hills! So yeah, living in the city is definitely still a novelty! I can just hop on the metro to go to the shops, I can be in the centre in like half an hour. I don't drive, and at home I had to rely on lifts from other people even to get me to the nearest bus stop! So the freedom of being able to get around on my own is brilliant! And as skanky as my metro line is (the green...) I still love the underground, it's just so easy to get around the city! Well, to where I usually need to go anyway!

I need to get out of the city more though, just it's not easy working full-time. There are still so many places I want to go to, hell, I haven't even been to Venice yet!! *hangs head in shame* But I guess there's still plenty of time for that!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Easter Weekend

Yes, I know it's taken me a few days to get round to it :P

For Easter my mam came over to spend a few days, so it meant that I well and truly had my tourist hat on! We spent most of our time in Milan, before I came to Milan in November we'd only ever spent a day here; so we spent some time in & around the centre, and on Corso Buenos Aires. On Saturday we went up to Arona, which is on the south of Lake Maggiore. The train journey was quite fun, going from Centrale meant changing at Novara (around 40 minutes to the east of Milan), and cos our train was 5 minutes late leaving Centrale (who knows why, that train starts at Centrale!) it was a mad dash to catch our connection to Arona! Never again!! But Arona's nice, it was lovely to get out of the city a bit. I'd been to Lake Como before, last summer, but I'd never been to any of the other lakes. It's quite a small little town, with some nice (& expensive!) shops, a few gelaterie & restaurants. Luckily the train journey home was better, we got the cross-Alpine train back to Milan, no rickety old trains & no changes!

The centre of Milan was full of tourists over the weekend! I barely heard any Italian when we were in giro on Sunday and Monday! The weather was lovely too, it was proper British summer type weather! For lunch on Sunday we had the mother of all pizzas, in a place on Via Dante (I forget the name...) never seen pizzas so big!! Needless to say, we were well & truly defeated by the monster pizzas!

As for today, the weather's miserable, what happened to the 20+ degrees & gorgeous sunshine???

Monday, April 6, 2009

Earthquake

Firstly, I'm absolutely fine (not that I've had all that many people asking me, maybe their Italian geography is better than I think!!), we didn't feel a thing up here in Milan. I haven't seen anything on the tv about it yet, but I will do when I get home; but I always have the radio on when I'm getting ready to go to work, and I had RDS on for most of the time this morning. All they were talking about was the earthquake that happened in L'Aquila, it was really strange. The breakfast show on RDS is usually pretty rowdy, telephone jokes & the usual sort of banter you'd get on British breakfast radio, but this morning there was no trace of that, it was quite chilling really, really made me realise the gravity of the situation. Even though we didn't feel a thing up here, and I've lived through a small earthquake before (the Midlands one last year, though that was nothing, at like 1 in the morning it proper freaked me out!!), it scares me a bit, living in a country where earthquakes like this happen. My thoughts go out to everyone affected by the earthquake.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Italian food vs British food

This is the sort of thing I think about on Sunday nights when there's nothing good on tv!

I'm not talking about lasagne vs bangers & mash; but random things you can get in both countries, and obvious things like pasta & pizza are off the list!

Italy
  • Ice cream (of course! Though I do miss my Ben & Jerry's...)
  • Coffee
  • Fruit. In general! Everything seems to taste much fresher!
  • Crackers (Rosmarino crackers ftw!)
  • Olives, I don't like olives at home, funnily enough they're better here :D
  • Hot chocolate. Italian hot chocolate (as long as it's not too thick & sickly) is amazing!
Britain
  • Bacon, how I miss proper bacon...
  • Chocolate (Cadburyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy's!!!)
  • Tea (It doesn't matter what tea bag or milk I use, tea in Italy will always taste like tea in Italy, it's just not the same!!)
  • Milk, randomly enough! Long life milk in this country is disgusting!
The grey areas!
  • Biscuits. How I miss my chocolate Hob Nobs, but biscuits for breakfast? Awesome.
  • Crisps. I love salt & vinegar flavoured crisps, but plain Italian crisps. Are. Amazing.
  • Cakes (more junk food!!). Homemade sponge or crumble at home, and little pasticcini you can get here, no comparison!
Hmm. That's all at the moment I think.....

Friday, March 27, 2009

It's my birthday!!

So today I reach the grand old age of 23! 23, hmmm, that's going to take some getting used to... I don't think I ever properly came to terms with hitting 20!! This's my second birthday away from home; when I was at university my birthday was always during the Easter vacation. The first birthday I celebrated away from home was in Italy too, when I celebrated my 20th during my year abroad in Urbino. I don't usually make a big deal out of birthdays, they're usually pretty quiet, spent at home with my family, and then usually a night out on the town with my friends. This one's going to be a quiet one too, to be honest I haven't given my birthday much thought, I don't usually I guess, maybe I really don't like the idea of getting old...! But tomorrow I'm treating myself, I'm going shopping (I've not decided if it's going to be in the city centre or Corso Buenos Aires; it's been a while since I've had a wander round Corso Buenos Aires, plus it's closer to home...) and then in the afternoon I'm getting my hair cut. My hair desperately needs a trim! I'm leaving the colour as it is, I'm going to grow it out, I figured there's no point dying it blonde in a country where my natural hair colour's considered to be blonde; plus I can't say I'd trust Italians too much with blonde hair dye, they just wouldn't be as used to it as the hairdressers at home... So yes, tomorrow should be fun, I'm just hoping I'll find enough clothes, I don't have enough Spring stuff with me, and clothes shopping in Italy isn't all that easy unless you're proper skinny!!

It's overcast in Milan today, colder than I thought too! We've had some gorgeous weather this week, beautiful sunshine, temperature in the high teens. I'm hoping it'll be quite nice tomorrow, or at least that it doesn't rain!

Oh, and diet update, 2 kg (4.4 lbs) lost in 3 and a half weeks, awesome!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Homesickness

The longest amount of time I've been away from home (Italy, university, anywhere) is 3 months and 7 days - from the beginning of January to mid April '06 when I was studying in Urbino. This stint in Italy's going to hit 3 months at the end of the week (Friday to be precise). I don't know what it is about reaching 3 months away from home, but it's usually at that point the homesickness starts to kick in. Maybe it's because I used to go home every 3 months or so from university (even when I was studying in Italy), so maybe I got used to that sort of fixed timetable of holidays. But this Easter I'm not going home. When it came to thinking about going home for Easter, I didn't really feel like I needed to at the time, plus I'd only have 4 days off without taking any holiday (I'm trying to save my holidays up for certain special occasions), and it's so much stress getting home! It's fine this side, it's just a matter of getting on a train at Lambrate, and then a bus at the station in Bergamo and I'm sorted. But it's always so stressful after arriving back in the UK, I wish there were an easier way. But my mam's coming over for Easter, so that'll be nice. I'll have to think of what she can bring me over from home! So yeah, I guess a bit of homesickness is inevitable, being this far from home... Maybe I should make some plans to go back there for a bit??

Thursday, March 19, 2009

This Week I'm Mostly Loving...

Seeing as I've got some time on my hands...

1. The smell of freshly cut grass wafting around for the first time this year!

2. Sophie Blackall's new blog, Missed Connections, http://missedconnectionsny.blogspot.com/

3. Royksopp's Happy Up Here (finally!) being played on Italian radio, once albeit...

4. The suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuun!!

More illness!

It seems I'm always bloody ill in this country, it's never anything serious (apart from that stomach flu I had) - colds, sore throats, and bad stomachs. And this week I've had a tummy bug, it's been on and off since Friday. I'm off work today again, and I'm a bit fed up of this really. I don't remember being this ill all the time when I was studying in Urbino! Eating everything in bianco when I've been home ill's doing my nut too, where's the fun in plain rice or pasta?? I think I should count myself lucky I don't need to use any public transport every day - especially as I live on the skanky green line!! - I can't imagine the bugs & viruses I'd pick up!

On a chirpier note, it's nice too see a lot of my friends have joined Twitter recently (I can't possibly think why though ;)), I've been on there since December, to follow my tweets, look for a Nezza27 :)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

This week I'm mostly loving...

Some love to balance the other day's hate :D

1. Wearing my sunglasses at like 8.30 in the morning on the way to work, and it being completely normal!

2. Caffè al ginseng (Ginseng coffee). There's a place near Lambrate which makes a mean ginseng coffee, it sort of tastes like coffee and Baileys, just without the alcoholic kick! It's so good!

3. Being able to see the mountains again from the office!

4. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ElO4x_BZ1As
Ace song!!


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Nerys's Milanese Pet Hates, Part 1

People who ride their motorbikes on the pavements.

Honestly.

Ok, so the postmen-on-motorbikes are absolutely fine, I understand they're doing their jobs, but randoms who ride up the pavements on their motorini, is that really necessary? What's wrong with the road?? The car drivers try and run me over when I'm crossing the road, and then those muppets on motorbikes try to run me down when I'm on the pavement! Is there no escape??

Monday, March 9, 2009

Shopping trip!

So on Saturday I went on a bit of an epic 4 hour shopping trip :D Mostly in the centre, down Corso Vittorio Emmanuele, Via Torino and Corso di Porta Ticinese; then back out to Loreto to find a bead shop I'd heard about (love my beads I do :D). So it was good fun!! And the weather was lovely, amazingly the Italians were mostly out in their winter coats, I was warm in my dinky little 3/4 length sleeve spring coat! There were a lot of tourists about too, I find it quite nice coming across such a mix of languages of the people visiting the city, marvelling at their surroundings. It just makes me realise how fortunate I am to have landed here. It almost still hasn't sunk in, even now when I'm around the Duomo or the Galleria, it still feels surreal, and I've been here over 4 months now!

As for today, the weather's been lovely! Spring's properly sprung (though saying that, it's probably going to rain tomorrow...!), and if it weren't for that wind, it'd be so warm!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Friday!!

Blimey, this week's flown by (don't I sound like an old woman? :D), and it's Friday again! Even the sun's starting to come out in Milan, after a pretty miserable & rainy week! The weather's been awful though, and my brolly (my red one which clashes fantastically with my blue coat, didn't think of that when I bought it did I?!) is now pretty much broken! And walking to work means more chance of getting rained on and/or splashed by cars. Lovely. But apparently the weather's on the way up, and this weekend should be nice! Hopefully I can put that winter coat away soon!!

I'm looking forward to a pretty epic shopping trip tomorrow, in & around the centre, there's a couple of streets I've been recommended to have a wander down, it'll be nice to discover some new shops instead of just sticking to around Piazza Duomo and Corso Buenos Aires. Then there's a bead shop around Loreto that I want to check out too, I love making my own jewellery, so it'll be great to have some new materials!

And then Sunday I can sleep - yay!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Residency

Anything which deals with the slightest amount of red tape in Italy is always going to cause trouble..... Though, to be honest, I am quite impressed that sorting out my residency only took 2 days! Well, I say, sorting out, by that I mean going to the ufficio stranieri with all my documents & all that, but at least that's done, I just need to wait now... It meant losing half a day of work, 4 euro in metro tickets, and getting up at 6.30 today, so I'm glad it's all over!!

So, it's March, and the miserable winter weather's back again! What's going on?? It did amuse me, it hit March 1st on Sunday, and the weather completely turned! I want the sun back, it was so nice, properly feeling like Spring, and now we could be in the UK with this bad weather!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Hazy Monday

From my 7th floor office the whole of Milan (that I can see at least :D) is covered by a foggy type haze. It's not the type of haze that belongs to winter, even looking out the window I get the feeling that Spring's in the air. Even some of the Milanese are daring to go out in coats other than their big winter ones (and Italians feel the cold much more than us Brits do!), and I've got a pair of ballet type shoes on today (with knee high tights albeit, it's not that nice yet!!) instead of my usual trainers! Apparently it's supposed to be nice for the rest of the week as well!

Carnival's definitely in the air, plenty of silly string (seems quite random for someone who's grown up with pancake day and not carnival...) and confetti (preeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeetty!! :D) all around where I live, made the walk into work more fun this morning!

Oh, the diet's going well too, 1.5 kg lost in 2 weeks, so I'm pretty chuffed!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Bugs!!

Ew. I was wondering what all that "schifo"ing was about earlier, they've found dead cockroaches in the office....! We're on the 7th floor, amuses me slightly, but still, ew. It reminds me of when I was studying in Urbino and my room was invaded by ants in the summer!

Another thing that amuses me (more I should say :D) is all the confetti that's all over the streets round Milan! Carnevale has definitely arrived, even though I didn't realise the confetti meant carnevale... But still, it's quite pretty I think :) And all the masks & random carnevale things in the shop are awesome too, I love things like that (I bought a feathery mask in Accessorize when I was home over Christmas), and just the whole party atmosphere of carnival!

As for Valentine's day... I spent the evening with a group of friends and had a brilliant time! One thing that's stuck with me from that day though was when we were walking through Piazza Duomo on our way to the restaurant at like 7pm, there were people in the piazza cleaning up. The piazza was practically deserted, and there was rubbish everywhere. That was the aftermath of valentine's day, piazza duomo full of rubbish. Quite sad really, that that seemed to be the only evidence that valentine's day had ever been!

It's gone a bit colder here today, it's still sunny though so it's nice :)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Spring in the air!

Oh, I'm loving this weather! It's wonderfully sunny outside, so clear that I can see the mountains from the office, so pretty! I had my lunch in a nearby park today, and there are even a few buds on some of the trees! It's nice to know that spring's on its way, it's been a very cold winter. Funny thing is, we've had quite a few sunny days this week, and the weather sounds absolutely horrendous at home!!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Diet

So I've finally decided to go on a diet. Losing 3 kg when I was ill sort of inspired me I guess LOL! Only another 12 to go!!

Not the easiest thing to do in Italy though, surrounded by all this nice food, the cakes, and biscuits and pastries..... YUM!! I mean, in a round journey to and from work, around 35 minutes altogether, I go past:

6 bars
2 bread shops
1 gelateria (a proper weakness of mine...)
1 restaurant
1 grocery shop
1 pasticceria
1 piadineria

And those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head!! So yeah, I've got a feeling it's going to be a fun few weeks & months....!

Weekend

So, it's Monday & back to work...

I had a nice weekend, I went shopping in the centre on Saturday morning, which I thought was quite a foolish idea, until I actually got off the metro in San Babila! I was amazed by how few people were in giro! Looks like Italians spend Saturday morning asleep, and then go shopping in the afternoon, cos it's always mental the times I've gone into the centre on Saturday afternoons! I got some very pretty things in H&M, I was so happy to see Spring clothes in the shops after the winter we've had here!

There were a lot of tourists around - and I know they were tourists, maps and backpacks are usually a bit of a giveaway ;) - which I was quite surprised at. It's been so dull, and wet, and grey, and cold, in Milan these last few weeks, I don't understand why people would want to come to somewhere where the weather's been so bad! Well, I don't understand why anyone would really want to come to the north of Italy during winter anyway, it's winter here too! Ok, fair enough, it's lovely outside today, really sunny, a lovely crisp winter's day, but it definitely wasn't like this on Saturday!

On Sunday, much to my surprise, I found the rugby on La7!! I had absolutely no idea any Italian tv channels would be showing any 6 Nations games, bar the Italian ones obviously. I just happened to be flicking through the channels, around 10 minutes after kick-off, and there it was on La7! And seeing as we won, I was very pleased they showed it!!

Ah, the sun's putting me in a good mood :)