Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I tormentoni dell'estate

Italians LOVE their summer songs, and the big songs of each summer are called 'tormentoni' (literally: torments), they are the songs you hear everywhere wherever you go, and you can't escape from. For me, this summer's been a good one for Italian music, and here are some of the Italian 'tormentoni' from this summer:

Irene Grandi - Alle porte del sogno

Due di Picche - Faccia come il cuore

Cesare Cremonini feat. Jovanotti - Mondo

Not Italian in the purest sense as it's a new version of a song from 1957 by Renato Carosone... Yolanda Be Cool & D Cup - We No Speak Americano

Thursday, August 26, 2010

"Il controesodo"

Also known as "il rientro", it's the Italians' return home after the holidays. I don't remember it starting so early last year, but last weekend was a "bollino nero" on the motorways of Italy, meaning that it was going to be a very very busy weekend for traffic. Milan's starting to wake up, even though a lot of shops around where I live are still closed, and won't be re-opening until the beginning of next week. I've been lucky that I haven't had any problems this summer with places being closed, luckily the supermarkets near me have been open, there's always been somewhere to have lunch, and I caught the hairdressers before they went away on their holidays.

I love Milan during August, it's so quiet! No traffic, no people, nothing. It's so much more relaxing, it's like a break from hectic city life without leaving the city! Yes, it was still strange to start off with, after that last weekend in July when so many people left the city, but it didn't take me long to get used to it. Now I wish it could stay this way - just without all the closed shops!!

My holidays aren't quite over, I'm leaving Milan for Switzerland tomorrow. First stop Zurich, then Saturday morning I'll be going to a festival on the German/Austrian border, in a little place called Arbon. And yes, the reason I'm going is to see Mika!! I'll be back in Milan on Sunday and then that'll officially be the end of my summer!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


It's funny how your eating habits can completely change in a different country... It's not just the availability of ethnic food, or not having certain things that you grew up with (oh chicken soup, how I miss you...), I've also started eating random things that I never used to want to eat when I was at home!
  • Lettuce
Last summer I was eyeing up the salads in a bar next to work, and one day I decided to go for it. I NEVER used to eat salad, in burgers I used to take the lettuce out even if it I'd have barely tasted it as was covered in sauce. I still don't like tomatoes, and just the smell of rocket makes me nauseous, but lettuce is all good (especially covered in aceto!!)

  • Olives
All the olives I'd ever tried outside Italy were too sour, not that I'd actually eaten a lot of them though I must admit - I'd figured out years ago that I didn't like them! I was wary of them when I first tried them here, but knowing that in general fruit and veg are nicer here, I decided to give them a go!

  • Dark chocolate
When it comes to Italian chocolate, their best, without a doubt, is dark chocolate. It's of a much better quality than anything I'd tried at home, and less bitter too. Baci (link), made with dark chocolate, are my favourite chocolates here! I've also grown to like white chocolate recently too.

  • Mayonnaise
This one I can't figure out for the life of me. I used to avoid mayonnaise at all costs at home, but here I'll gladly eat it! It only started a few weeks ago when I chose to have some mayonnaise with my chips and cotoletta (buonooooo!!), and today for lunch I had a panino with salame, mozarella and mayonnaise.

But this also seems to work in reverse - there are a few things that I ate during my first winter here that, for some reason, I no longer liked last winter. There's polenta, puré and kaki for a start... And the trouble with living on my own is the temptation to eat junk food - I really must learn how to cook properly!!

Thursday, August 5, 2010


When it rains in Milan during the summer it rains. Proper full-blown thunderstorms that last for hours, in most cases it's worse than winter rain. It's rare that it rains during the day, most storms are during the evening or at night, so it's not very likely that you'll get caught out in a storm. I got woken up this morning around 5am by thunder, and I knew there wasn't much chance that the storm would calm down before I had to get up at 7.30. And I was right, when I left the house around 8.30 it was still raining heavily, but the thunder and lightning had stopped thankfully! But with a broken umbrella it wasn't much fun! I'd discovered at the beginning of last month, after taking my umbrella to a concert so I could get some shade from the sun, that it was broken, and I hadn't been able to find a new one. Finding umbrellas during spring and summer when it's not raining doesn't seem to be the easiest thing in Italy! When it is raining you can find street sellers in the underground stops and train stations selling umbrellas, but when it's not there are no umbrellas to be found! And this leaves me wondering, I may not have to go out in the rain again this month, but I've got another concert in 2 weeks and I need a brolly that isn't falling apart - when am I going to be able to find a much-needed new umbrella??

"Ciao bella!"

Apologies in advance if this turns out to be somewhat of a rant.....

The major disadvantage of being blonde in this country is not the stereotype of being stupid, but the unwanted attention that it attracts. Yes, to a degree I bring it on myself by dying my hair, but even before I started dying my hair blonde again my hair colour was still blonde for Italians. During a period of around 15 minutes during my lunch break yesterday not one, but two random men went "ciao bella" at me in the street. What amused me the most was that I had my big ol' sunglasses on - they pretty much cover half of my face, how can you tell if someone's bella if you can't see like half of their face?? Luckily for me I was listening to my iPod, so I could pretend that I hadn't heard the comments - definitely one of my tips when it comes to living in Milan, even if you're not listening to anything, put a pair of earphones in your ears! - and carried on walking.
The funny thing is, when I first came to Milan I used to get some unwanted attention, not much, but enough to keep me on my toes. And as soon as I had wised up to the game and the tricks that some blokes would pull, the attention stopped - completely during the daytime! It wasn't until recently that, for some reason, I started attracting unwanted comments again. I first started dying my hair again in February, but funnily enough the comments didn't re-start until pretty much when I'd finally reached my target weight of 50 kg nearly a month ago. Do one or two kilos really make that much difference??

It makes me feel uncomfortable. It hasn't caused any big problems yet, but I'm always worried that someone will turn nasty, you never know. It's just one of the things I have to put up with here, and unfortunately it's become more of a pain during the last few weeks. Hopefully in winter, all wrapped up in layers and layers of clothes I won't attract as much attention??

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Buone Vacanze!

The summer exodus has started, last weekend was the first BIG weekend for people going away on holiday in Italy. Milan - or my part of town at any rate! - has gone very empty very quickly! I was sure I remembered a more gradual process last year, maybe people's holiday habits are different in my new neighbourhood?? It was so much quieter over the weekend, less traffic, less people around. A lot of shops in my area have closed for the holidays, more will be following suit during this week or the beginning of next week. I've only done one full summer in Italy, and the idea of a big city like Milan being pretty much abandoned by the native population for a whole month is still a strange one to me! Last year I heard that around 500,000 Milanese were away at the height of the holiday season, so around a third of the population - but it felt like a lot more!! Soon practically the only people wandering around Piazza Duomo on the weekend will be tourists.....

... and me. I don't go away for another two weeks. I've already had a week off, but as three days involved travelling around Italy (Milan-Rome-the province of Udine-Milan in three days on the trot!!) to go to two Mika gigs, so it didn't feel like much of a holiday!! And the only reason I've got the week after Ferragosto off is for another concert..! It's Cattolica this time, in the province of Rimini, so it'll be nice to go down to the coast for a couple of days. No trip home for me this summer, luckily I'd actually decided to admit defeat before the news of the summer gigs were announced. The flights were too expensive, I'd have had to fly to London again, and I needed to save my money to move house. I'm hoping I'll be able to go home in Autumn, when the flights should be cheaper.

You don't even have to leave the house to notice that something's up. The voices I'm used to hearing on the radio have slowly been disappearing, leaving one by one to go on holiday. New shows have been popping up, and my favourite radio station (Radio Deejay) has become more and more automated. TV schedules have changed, my favourite soap's slot's got chopped back even more, and the news seems to have become obsessed with showing images of tanned Italians (mostly women, surprise surprise!!) on the beach. There's no escaping it...

At least it's not been too hot here recently, makes summer in the city a bit more bearable..!