Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Ciao ciao 2014!

So it's the end of another year. On a personal level it's not been great for me, and I'm hoping to leave a lot of bad things behind in 2014 and move on. It's not all been bad at all though, I've visited a helluva lot of places for me, Venice twice, Rome twice, Florence, Genova, Riccione on the Adriatic coast, Veneto for Christmas again, Paris, and the French Riviera.

As always with the end of the year it's time to look back over the last 12 months at what I have (or haven't) accomplished. At the beginning of the year I made a list of 14 things I wanted to achieve this year, and this is how far I got (or didn't get)!

1. Go to Naples and the Amalfi coast
Unfortunately not. And the annoying thing was how Mika performed in Napoli in May, but that same weekend I was in Florence with some of my friends. Argh. Hopefully next year.

2. Write more
Not really. It's still on the list.

3. Visit more places in Lombardia
Nope. Places further away are always more appealing...

4. more about Italian dialects, and especially the Milanese dialect
I've picked up a lot of random things this year, Milanese, Veneto, Roman, Neapolitan...

5. Lose 10 kg
It took me from July to the beginning of December, but I lost 9kg and for now I'm more than happy with that.

6. Worry less about speaking Italian and making mistakes
Hmm, I guess so. This year seems to have been a year where the Italian speaking foreigner has become more accepted, thanks to certain people on tv, and it's certainly given me more confidence.

7. Read more contemporary Italian fiction
Absolutely! This year I've read 92 books (I'm desperately trying to finish book 93 before midnight), 20 of which were Italian novels.

8. Study more Italian history from the unification onwards
That too, and it's something I really want to explore over the next 12 months.

9. Learn to knit
Right. This winter I will.

10. Take better care of my skin
Yes, but my skin's still not having any of it.

11. Swear less, especially in Italian...
Err no, definitely not.

12. Go to Puglia
Nope. I still haven't been further south than Rome.

13. Go on a daytrip to Italian speaking Switzerland
As close as it is, I didn't get round to it. In compensation I saw a lot of other places!

14. Learn how to make a good lasagna
Somehow I don't think that's ever going to happen...

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Buon Natale!

Right now I'm on a Frecciabianca train in Milano Centrale ready to leave the city for Christmas. For the second year in a row I'll be spending it in deepest darkest Veneto with a friend who very kindly invited me to stay. I'm hoping that everyone far from home at this time of year gets to pass Christmas in company. Buon Natale a tutti!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sunday Classic

I have no idea how I only found out a couple of days ago who was behind this song. I'd heard it few times before, but the singer's voice has changed so much during the last 30 years that it didn't occur to me that I knew his songs well. It was a 21 year old Eros Ramazzotti! Terra promessa was released in 1984.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


I haven't been home for Christmas for a few years, so with the wonderful Italian post swallowing my presents, and no family in Italy or a scrap of a man to speak of, I don't get much in the way of regali.

However today I got two!

This colourful plant is known as a Stella di Natale in Italy - a Christmas star. Today one of the receptionists and a helper went round the office giving one to everyone. It's not the first time we've had it as a gift from the company at Christmas, and I'm hoping that this one will last longer than the last one...

And there's also this I got from my future sister-in-law, to accompany a book of Nutella recipes I got in the post a few days ago. There's 30 of them!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Piazza Duomo's Christmas Tree - 2014

One of my favourite things about Christmas in Milan is the massive Christmas tree that's put up in Piazza Duomo every year. On a shopping trip to pick up some last bits and pieces I had time to properly admire it this morning.

The obligatory Christmas-tree-and-Duomo photo. You can't not do a photo of the Christmas-tree-and-Duomo combination.

This year the tree's sponsored by Motta, which is reflected in the blue and yellow baubles. I liked this sign at the bottom of the tree, it's a play on the phrase buone feste, which is Italian for 'happy holidays', but feste has been replaced by fette which means 'slices'. Happy slices of panettone to all!

And here it is in all its lit-up glory at night!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Tea capsules

Coffee in casa Nerys is made by my beloved Nespresso machine that's been living in my kitchen for the past two years. I've noticed recently that a lot of compatible capsules have been popping up, and not all of them are just your normal coffee. Oh no. My latest addition to my capsule stash is tea. Yes, tea from a coffee machine. I know, I have betrayed my roots.

So these are the capsules I bought. Thè in foglia - foglia means leaf. The blurb at the bottom states which machines they're compatible with. Caffè Vergnano also make a lovely coffee, I'm a big fan of their Cremoso capsules. But tea, as we all know, is a whole different ball game.

Inspecting the capsule closely I could indeed see the leaves, it was like a big solid teabag, with plenty of room for the leaves to move.

So I popped it into my machine and drank it Italian style - no milk!

And how was it? Very nice. It wasn't as strong as I expected, which for me is a good thing, but it probably would have been a bit too weak with milk. The machine boils the water to a lower temperature than a kettle, so it wasn't as hot as I'd normally have it. I was very impressed though, for an Italian company it was a cracking - if slightly unorthodox! - cuppa.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

365 Days of Happy - Days 121 to 150

I haven't given up yet!

Day 121: Coming home on Friday with the food shop.

Day 122: Beads!

Day 123: Sunday morning

Day 124: I love Kiko!

Day 125: Mokaccino

Day 126: My bag of New Look goodies arrived safely!

Day 127: Book two of Elena Ferrante's L'amica geniale series.

Day 128: Trying out my new boots!

Day 129: Bubbly bath!

Day 130: A brilliant new book.

Day 131: Out of my wet clothes!

Day 132: More zombies :D

Day 133: My big new comfy jumper

Day 134: No rain!

Day 135: My first beer in a while!

Day 136: Curled up in bed with my Kindle and a coffee.

Day 137: Sunday treat!

Day 138: Lots of yummy Christmas treats from Lidl!

Day 139: My lovely fluffy jumper from H&M

Day 140: A new decoration for my Christmas tree.

Day 141: A little treat to celebrate finally getting under 50kg!

Day 142: Nearly all packed to go to Rome!

Day 143: And off we go to Rome!

Day 144: At Radio Deejay

Day 145: More zombies!

146: At least it's nice and warm in bed.

Day 147: These things are lifesavers.

Day 148: My head was clear enough to read.

Day 149: Preparing a battle plan for the Artigiano in Fiera

Day 150: Ready!

Monday, December 1, 2014


(It doesn't take a genius to figure out what dicembre means, eh?)

Hello stash of Christmas food! It's December 1st, and according to my rules I can now start Christmasifying my life. Ok, so this year I've bended the years a little bit by buying and giving presents in November, buying decorations, and accumulating my wonderful delicious biscuit-box-full of Christmas food. I haven't got any decorations up in my house yet, but I'll be getting my tree out this weekend. No panettone either, seeing as that stuff will be coming out of my pores by the end of the month I'm in no big hurry to get one yet.

It's still strange going through the Christmas period in a different country to the one I grew up in. There are different traditions that I may now be used to, but don't associate with Christmasses past. There's no turkey, no stuffing, no crackers and their bad jokes. To tell the truth, it's always a bittersweet time of year, being single and surrounded by people constantly discussing what they're going to get their other halves doesn't help either. Luckily I won't be spending Christmas Day on my own, but this period really doesn't do much for my self-esteem. So I try to throw myself into everything Christmas, looking for positivity and happiness through things that I don't have all year round. Hence the stash. Because chocolates and sweet things always help.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sunday Classic

This is a song I heard on the radio a few days ago. It's a song that by now I know, and I thought that it was about time that I featured it on the blog. It's La donna cannone by Francesco De Gregori from 1983.

Saturday, November 29, 2014


Since leaving for Rome last Saturday I've fallen off the diet wagon ever so slightly... Before stuffing my face with pizza and pasta for two days I was only 300 grams (!!) off my target weight, but since coming back to Milan I haven't quite been able to face the scales yet...

This cheeky treat didn't help matters either, but my willpower by now is seriously fading. It's a chocolate orange cupcake - yes, that's a piece of Terry's Chocolate Orange sat on the top! - that I bought at the Artigiano in Fiera today. I go to the event every year, it's held at the exhibitions centre in Rho Fiera, just outside the city, and showcases handmade goods from across Italy, Europe, and from the rest of the world. I bought a few Christmas presents, even though it pains me to start my Christmas shopping before the beginning of December! Before going home I actually went back to the cupcake stand I'd seen earlier in the morning to take one home with me.

And it was amazing. It was the first cupcake I'd had since this whole craze started. With Italians being fiercely proud and protective of their cooking, it's obviously not taken off in the same way here, but American style baking has become popular with the younger generations - as the crowd around the stall showed earlier!

That's the thing with foreign food in Italy, it's rarer, often not as good (not in the case of my precious cupcake though!), and more expensive. It makes that burger, that bagel, that cheesecake, or in this case cupcake, even more special!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Another Roman Weekend

The thing about going to Rome for the weekend is that the alarm clock goes off in the middle of the night. This time it was at 4.30, and not long after 10 (thanks Trenitalia for the late train both to and from Rome!) I was standing in Termini station in Rome. And this time I had company! My friend Sandra who lives in Veneto was coming to visit the city for the first time with her kids, so it was going to be a full-on weekend of touristing!

Our first stop was where I normally start on my Roman trips - Piazza di Spagna. I was glad to see that the work on the Barcaccia was over after it was covered in scaffolding the last time. We walked up the steps to Villa Borghese to admire the fantastic view above the city. We then hit Via del Corso, and the kids enjoyed doing some shopping. The Christmas music in Alcott was a bit of a shock - it's only November!

Visiting the city with Italians I was running late in true Italian for my lunch with Claire from Runbritchickrun! We went to La Zanara over near the Vatican, a 20s/30s inspired restaurant (even the waitresses' uniforms!) where we had some delicious food. I had papardelle with porcini mushrooms and vanilla creme brulee, quite a treat after being on a diet since the summer,but I had to laugh at the fruit on my dessert - it wasn't long ago that I discovered I was allergic to fruitsof the forest!

After a walk around the area I met up with Sandra and kids and we headed to our hotel for a rest. We were staying at Hotel Caravel on Via Cristoforo Colombo, the same place I stayed during my last trip in June. For some reason I was given a junior suite (without paying any extra!) and I didn't quite know what to do with all the extra room!

Supper was at a pizzeria called Grazie a Dio è venerdì - which translates as thank God it's Friday! In my over-tired state I didn't realise that the pizzas I was trying to choose from were bianca - without tomatoes - and when my salmon pizza arrived I had a bit of a surprise, and it was one of the most delicious pizzas I'd ever had. Dessert was a strudel with gelato, and afterwards we went for a walk through the cobbled backstreets to see the Colusseum at night. By then I was absolutely destroyed, but it was well worth the effort!

Sunday morning we were up bright and early, and after a delicious breakfast (much love for hotel breakfasts!) the four of us made the short walk from the hotel to Radio Deejay's Roman studios. It was lovely seeing Laura and Rudy again, and we were also joined by Alessio, a Tuscan friend of ours.

I then decided to take our group to the Trevi Fountain, even though there's still work being done on it I didn't really want them to miss. Now there's a walkway that takes you right up to the fountain, and even though there's scaffolding covering the fountain it was interesting to have another view of such an iconic landmark. From there we went on to the Pantheon and Piazza Navona, stopping at a bar for a sandwich for lunch.

After walking around in the direction of Piazza Venezia, we decided to hop on a tram to rest our feet for a bit. Our destination was the Altar of the Fatherland, where there's always a particular atmosphere. From there it's a short walk to the Colusseum, where we met another one of our friends. Unfortunately by then it was time to start heading back to Termini so we could get our trains, and we had one last coffee (hot chocolate for me as I wanted to sleep on the train!) before parting ways and getting on our separate trains.

Thanks to everyone who made the weekend so memorable. My Roman weekends are always exhausting but so much fun!