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!