Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sunday Classic

I heard this song on the radio a few days ago, not for the first time, but I knew that I had to feature it today. It's Balla balla ballerino by the late Lucio Dalla, from 1980.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Word of The Week

Prenotare - to book/to reserve

After arriving back in Milan from Rome it was time to prenotare my summer holiday in August. I'll be spending five days on the Adriatic coast in Riccione, Rimini's lesser-known next-door neighbour. I had a hotel to prenotare and my train tickets to comprare (buy), and after the usual fight with the Trenitalia site which never seems to want to cooperate when I need to buy tickets, I got everything sorted. I can't wait to spend a few days relaxing on the beach!

The foto refers to a prenotazione, which is the noun 'booking' or 'reservation'. And here's a protip if you're learning the language: nouns ending in -azione, such as prenotazione, nazione (nation), and azione itself which means 'action', are feminine, and in the plural form the final 'e' becomes an 'i'.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Another trip to Rome!

Friday I was off again, this time to Rome. I had been hoping to get a weekend in the capital before it got too hot, and the second lot of X Factor auditions gave me the perfect excuse to go!

This time both the journey down to Rome and back to Milan were with Italo, it was the first time I'd done a return trip to Rome with them. My train to Rome left Porta Garibaldi station bright and early at 7.34, but a fire at Napoli Centrale station seemed to cause some problems as we were stuck outside Bologna, and at Florence for a while. Amazingly we got to Rome only a couple of minutes late!

Before I could start my touristing, I had to deal with left luggage at Termini as check-in at my hotel wasn't for another three hours. If Dante were alive today it would be a circle of hell in Inferno. Not only for the sweltering heat, but also for the endless wait both depositing and collecting luggage.

My first stop was what it always seems to be - the Spanish Steps. I walked up them to Villa Borghese, and on the way into the park there's a fantastic view overlooking the city!

I was so disappointed to see the Trevi Fountain all dry and covered in scaffolding! I had no idea! The piazza was still full of tourists and I could feel the disappointment in the air. I didn't hang around, and headed over to the Pantheon. It's one of my favourite sights in Rome, even though I wish some people were more respectful... The heat was starting to get to me, so after a walk around Piazza Navona I went to hunt down a gelateria which had spectacular views on Tripadvisor - the Frigidarium. The gelato is amazing. Up there with the absolute best I've ever had anywhere!

Saturday was a very long and intense day, it was the reason I'd made the trip. The X Factor auditions were going on all weekend, but I only went on Saturday as I couldn't hack two very late nights and two early mornings in a row! The morning I was up early to go to the Roman Radio Deejay studios to visit the wonderful Laura Antonini and Rudy Zerbi. It's always a pleasure to see them, and they're always so lovely! They invited me back on Sunday morning too - where I ended up giving English pronunciation lessons live on national radio!

The reason why I wanted to go to the auditions is because I'm a Mika fan, I saw the Milanese auditions last year, and one day of the auditions in Bologna earlier this month. The auditions in Rome were being held at the Palalottomatica, and the doors were meant to open at 3.45... It was around 5 when we finally got let in, after protests and football-style chants, and by then I was slightly sunburnt and very tired. Of course there was no explanation given for the delay! We were told several times during the evening not to tweet anything or post anything on Facebook or anywhere else, so I guess I still can't say anything... But it was an enjoyable experience, I had a friend from Milan keeping me company, and we saw some interesting characters... Like in Bologna the auditions went on late, and it was 2.15 by the time I got back to my hotel!

After another early start on Sunday and a grand total of four and a half hours' sleep I met up with Claire from Run Brit Chick Run for lunch at C1b0 near the Conca d'Oro metro stop. We had some delicious pork ribs, and dessert for me was a gorgeous chocolate cheesecake, whilst Claire had a brownie. We then went to walk it off at the market and park at Eur - the lake was so inviting in the heat! I also met her lovely daughter who got lots of cuddles!

I only had the Monday morning left before I had to catch my train, so I didn't want to wander too far. I'd decided to go to the Colusseum, and I saw the aftermath of the Rolling Stones concert at Circo Massimo that the whole city had been talking about! Unfortunately the Colusseum is still covered in scaffolding too - more restoration works!

Italo's only just started stopping at Termini station, and it's only a few trains every day. My train back was from the very new and very fancy Tiburtina station - it reminds me more of an airport than a train station! In around three hours and 20 minutes I was back in Milan, with another piecew of my heart left back in Rome.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Bad Italian Parking - Exhibit 5

If I weren't so damn happy about finding cherry bakewells at Lidl for British week when they hadn't been advertised on the site I would hunt you down. You've obviously not got even half a brain, what are you doing on the roads??

Saturday, June 14, 2014

(Not) Giving Blood

Today I learned that the vast majority of British expats in Italy aren't allowed to give blood.

On Thursday I got a leaflet in the post, Avis - Italy's equivalent of the National Blood Service - would be setting up camp in a piazza about five minutes from my house on Saturday for people to give blood. Great I thought, it was something I'd wanted to do for years but never had the guts to actually go and do it.

Bright and early this morning I left the house after having a light breakfast as instructed on the leaflet, and went over to the Avis van in the piazza. I had to fill in a couple of forms with my personal details, and there was a long questionnaire which would highlight anything that could exclude me from giving blood. The usual stuff about medication, tattoos, recent visits abroad... There was one question I found a bit puzzling. Had I stayed in the UK between 1980 and 1996 for more than six months or received a blood transfusion in the UK during that time? Well, I was born in 1986 and lived in the UK until I moved to Italy in 2008, bar my Erasmus year. I tried to think about what the dates could refer to, a long-forgotten scandal involving tainted blood products? I was only 10 in 1996, so what could it have been? I'd read and read everything I could find on Avis's site, so that I had all the information I could get about the process, and there had been no mention of this at all. I put a cross in the 'Sì' box.

I completed all the forms and was taken inside the van. The doctor arrived, and after seeing my very un-Italian name on the form, asked me what nationality I was. British. When I was I born? 1986. How long had I been in Italy? Five years, I moved in 2008. So I'd obviously lived in the UK for more than six months during the period in question.

Then it all came out. Mad cow disease.

Even though I was sana come un pesce, as the doctor said - literally 'healthy as a fish', it indicates a perfect state of health - I couldn't donate blood because of the mad cow disease virus. Anybody - not just British nationals, but even Italians - who lived in Britain during that 16 year period are unable to give blood in Italy. I was so small when it affected the UK that I couldn't even remember the exact period the virus was around, how was it possible that Italy was still paranoid about it?

I felt my eyes starting to well up. I'd had such a bad week, but I wanted to turn it around by doing something good for my host country. I left the van after being thanked by the doctor for my willingess to donate feeling humiliated.

It's been The Week of Absurdities this week, even for Italy I've seen and heard things that go way above the normal level of Italian absurd. I understand the need to be careful, obviously, but who even thinks about mad cow disease anymore? And don't they screen blood products before giving them to patients? I've had a blood test in Italy, and it came back clear. No strange infections, diseases, or anything. Just a slightly high white cell count because it was winter and I had a bit of a cold.

So to Avis, if you're going to refuse perfectly healthy and willing donors, you've got no right to complain next time blood stocks are low. And even if you do change the rules in the future, you'll never have me.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Song of The Week

With the World Cup kicking off tonight I could only post Italy's official song for the tournament! It's Negramaro's Un amore così grande. The original version of the song was released in 1976, and has been covered several times since.

Forza azzurri!!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Bad Italian Parking - Exhibit 4


Oh, by the way, the graffiti'd building in the background is a school. Congratulations for putting children in danger too.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Fa caldo!

It's hot. Or literally translated, it's making hot. Because that's how Italian rolls.

Just like last year the heat snuck up on us and pounced without any warning. Today the maximum in Milan was 32 degrees, which is pretty crazy for the beginning of June. The over-enthusiastic pharmacy thermometre down the street from my work was claiming that it was 40 degrees at lunchtime, and even though that might not have been the case it certainly felt like it. It's not quite so unbareable that I can't sleep at night yet, but I've had to say a sad goodbye to my spring duvet. The mosquitos are out and about, and even though I haven't seen any in my house yet - luckily! - I've got my anti-mozzie plug-in out from where I'd stashed it last September, to ward off the little buggers before they even arrive. I haven't even had a chance to buy any new sandals this year yet, I hate summer clothes and tend to put everything off as much as I can! I'm still stubbornly wearing jeans (and my sandals from last year) for as long as I possibly can! Obviously this weekend when I could actually enjoy the sun with a book and a nice cool drink on my balcony there are thunderstorms forecast...

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Song of The Week

Vieni con me is the summery-feeling new single from Rocco Hunt. He was born Rocco Pagliarulo in 1994 in Salerno, and was this year's winner of Sanremo Giovani - the competition for young, emerging, singers in the festival. He uses a lot of dialect from his native Campania, and even though a lot of it goes straight over my head, I think it's great that a young artist is so proud to show his roots. Infact the first line of this song is Vieni con me che ti porto dove sono nato - come with me and I'll take you to where I was born.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Italian "News"

So there I was, at home on my lunch break, quite happily watching the news on Rai 2 as I munched away. On came your typical last-item-of-the-news story, the feel-good story to end the bulletin. The newsreader presented it, a story about an English girl who had lost her dog, but it had been found thanks to an appeal for its return being shared on social media. I had a bad feeling right from the word 'England', as ignorant Italian journalists (and not only them) call the whole of the UK Inghilterra, or England.

I was right. As the item continued they showed various pages from Facebook, and on one of them I saw the word Cardiff. Was it really possible that they were that ignorant to say that the capital of Wales was in England?

It was possible. It was the story of young Lola and her dog Ruby who had been stolen, but found thanks to the help of Facebook they had been reunited. They live in Pontcanna, Cardiff.

The incriminating item can be found here, and it's safe to say that I won't be watching any Italian news ever again, because if they mess up something this simple, there's really no hope.

To the people who put together that news item for Rai, go back to school, because at the moment you're not capable of doing your job correctly.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Snaps from Milan - Porta Garibaldi

This was the view whilst I was waiting for the No.33 tram to take me home last night from Porta Garibaldi train station. The area around the station has been redeveloped in the last few years, one of the many changes being made to the city in preparation for the Expo next year. The Unicredit tower in the photo is the highest building in Milan at 231 metres, construction was completed in 2011.

Monday, June 2, 2014

La Festa della Repubblica

June 2nd is a national holiday in Italy, it's the Festa della Repubblica, or Republic Day. It commemorates the foundation of the Italian republic, following a referendum that was held on the 2nd and 3rd of June 1946. ATM, the company that provides public transport in Milan, has created a special ticket for the occassion, depicting the Costituzione Italiana - you guessed it, the Italian Constitution. I'm a bit of a nerd when it comes to souvenirs like this, so tonight when I was out and about I made sure to buy one!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Sunday Classic

After a month of wandering around, my Sunday Classics are back. 35 years ago Renato Zero was at number one with Il carrozzone. It was its third week as the best selling single in Italy, and it would remain so for another week.