Friday, August 29, 2014

10 Types of Italian Men

Last night I was tossing and turning in bed until around 1am. In the light of day i can't even remember what triggered it, but I started compiling a list in my head of the different types of Italian men I've had the rather dubious pleasure of meeting over the last six years. And here's the outcome.

1) Those who decide that you're not pretty and so don't deserve a second of your time. You can forget manners, these will flat-out ignore you, even if they're working behind a bar.

2) The eternal child who wants a second mother. (Simply calling them mammoni would be too easy.)

3) The serial cheaters. (And those who do nothing but boast about it. Karma will bite you on the arse one day. )

4) The middle-aged/old men who do nothing but stare. And stare. And stare. (Their tiny minds can't grasp the concept of being subtle.)

5) Those who immediately lose interest once they discover you speak Italian.

6) Those who immediately lose interest once they discover that you're not just here temporarily.

7) Those who can't see beyond your hair colour. (I recently got chased down the street by a male chugger going 'Bionda! Biondina!')

8) Those who constantly dish out compliments to anything with a pulse, even if it gets them absolutely nowhere.

9) Men old enough to be your dad who follow you down the street like a lost dog going 'Bella, bella, bella'. (It's the only word their brain has room for.)

10) The lecherous old men who have NO shame (see Berlusconi).

In short, don't trust the stereotypes that we hear abroad. Yes, maybe about 0.01% of Italian men are actually decent human beings, and I'm fortunate to know some of them. But the remaining 99.9% not so much.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

My summer holiday in Riccione

"Vieni a Riccione!" Come to Riccione, is what Laura Antonini, my favourite presenter at Radio Deejay, told me when I went to visit her and her partner in crime (talent show judge, tv and radio presenter, and all-round legend) Rudy Zerbi back in Rome in June. The radio has set up camp in Riccione for the summer for years. How could I refuse?

Riccione is on the coast of Romagna, one of the two areas that make up the region of Emilia-Romagna in the centre of Italy, and just to the south of Rimini. From Milan it's around a 3 hour journey on the train, depending on which combination of trains you get, as direct ones are rare. Last Thursday I got on a Frecciabianca which would take me to Rimini, the next town up from Riccione, where I would then have to change and get a regional train for the last few miles. It wouldn't be a trip on Trenitalia without a delay, and I made my connection at Rimini by the skin of my teeth! And after ten minutes, here I was, Riccione. I made a sweaty trek to Hotel Hawaii, what would be my home for the next few days, and discovered that my room was in the attic!



As it was 4pm by the time I arrived at Riccione it was too late to hit the beach, but I had a nice long walk along the lungomare to get used to my new surroundings. I did however have a wander on one of the few small free beaches to have a proper look at the sea, as with all the private beaches along the seafront you can hardly make out the sea itself.

Nearly.

What could my first meal at Riccione be except for Romagna's most famous dish, the piadina? It's a wrap, mostly served with savory fillings, and it's pratically what I lived on during my holiday! The evening was a true taste of Italian holiday lifestyle, one of the many evenings the radio had put on during the month with showman Rudy, and Laura helping out. For two nights I saw an entire piazza singing Volare, Vasco Rossi, Gioca jouer (the original version of the 80s-tastic Superman with all the motions), T-shirts being thrown everywhere, kids dressed up as all sorts to desperately win a phone (Santa Claus in August!) and singing and dancing competitions. Crazy!



For three mornings I was at Aquafan, a massive waterpark near the town. It's one of Europe's most well-known water parks, and it's incredible. As one of my milanese friends told me during my time down in Riccione, the romagnoli have focused on entertainment and activities as they were aware that their sea wasn't the greatest (true, it isn't, but I ain't fussy). As well as the famous clubs in town, Aquafan is an excellent example of this. There are all sorts of slides, but the main attraction is the piscina onde, the wave pool. Laura and Rudy have been broadcasting from a specially built studio at the piscina onde this month, and I watched them during their show. And that wave pool is something else. At 2.30 there was a massive wave, and in the build-up to it the pool resembled a nightclub more than a waterpark. Music blaring, cheering, people hyping up the crowd, and scantily-clad... well, calling them women would be an insult to self-respecting women everywhere. If there's one thing the Italians love doing then it's noise. I watched perplexed at all the fuss over some waves in a swimming pool.



On Sunday I hit the beach, I got up bright and early to ensure that I got a lounger at the beach I wanted to go to. Bar those few scraps of spiaggia libera (free beaches), all the beaches in Riccione are private, and you have to rent a lettino (lounger, literally 'little bed') and then an ombrellone (beach umbrella) if you want some shade. I rather foolishly rented just a lettino, as there are two lettini to an ombrellone, and I wanted to relax without being disturbed by someone next to me. It did however mean that I didn't have any shade, but I did have a front row seat (bed?) to people-watch. Italian beaches are brilliant for people watching, and for the first time I got to really observe the average Italian at the beach. Their favourite pastime is walking up and down and up and down the shore, just on the edge of the sea where the sand's damp and easy to walk on. All morning back and forward back and forward. The only women in one-piece swimsuits were either at least in their 60s (and even then they were in the minority), or foreigners. The vast majority of the Italians just let it all hang out. And yes, there were plenty of Speedos. Around 1pm the beach began to empty, as the Italians headed for lunch. Around 3pm it started to fill up again, but it still wasn't as busy as the morning. Of course I had a dip in the sea, but it wasn't as warm as I expected! Being blonde I was amazed that I didn't get anything more than a couple of looks from some lecherous old men, but no comments or any attempts to speak to me. I got my peace and quiet on the shore.

The day after I was slightly sunburnt (not even factor 50 can save me) so I decided to avoid the beach and walk around the town. I had a delicious granita at Dolce Vita Gelateria, nearby my hotel, which does some fantastic gelato too. Another gelateria I can recommend is Kono Gelateria, on Via Dante near Viale Ceccarini, which does a spectacular pistacchio!

One of the things I'll remember the most from this holiday is how much the Italian on holiday loves walking for the sake of walking. You'll see hoards of them along the beach during the day, in town before dinner, after dinner, and late into the night. My hotel was on the corner with Via Dante, one of the main streets in Riccione, and there was so much noise until about 2 at night. At midnight the streets were packed as if it was 6 in the afternoon, with children and babies everywhere too!

Tuesday evening and it was time to go home. This time I had to change at Bologna Centrale, and I had exactly 17 minutes to make my connecting train. Only problem was the regional train that would take me to Bologna showed up in Riccione 15 minutes late. Great. On my feet in a sweaty regionale train I hurried to change my ticket online - paying the difference - to get the next Frecciarossa after the one I was originally supposed to catch. I lost about 10 years of my life! Never ever ever trust Trenitalia. Almost an hour late, I arrived back in Milano Centrale, to the rain and humidity. Tired, still sunburnt, but very happy with my holiday.

Aquafan - Entrance costs 28 euro. The park opens at 10am, but you can buy your tickets before then and get in the queue to enter. To get from Riccione you can take the No.58 bus, tickets cost 1.30 euro and are the Zona 1 tickets sold at tabbaccherie.

Monday, August 18, 2014

A cornfield in Milan

In the night between July 29th and 30th a cornfield showed up in the centre of Milan.



It's all to do with the Expo that's being held in the city next year, the theme of which is 'Feeding the planet, energy for life.' For the whole of August over 1500 corn plants are going to be living in the now pedestrianised Piazza Castello, inbetween the two new Expo Gate buildings.



The installation goes by the name of Quantomais and it reminds me of a maze, with the plants over 2 metres tall, but here the intention isn't to get lost. There are also other plants such as beautiful sunflowers living amongst the corn. It's quite a strange sight to see!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sunday Classic

Now this is a song you just can't avoid getting to know when you live in Italy. It's Gloria by Umberto Tozzi, and on this day in 1979 it was No.2 in Italy.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The little (and not so little) things a Welsh expat in Italy misses

I was watching a British show when at one point two of the characters sat down to have one of those bowls of cappuccino you get back in the Old Country. I had a flashback of all the huge cappuccinos and big slabs of cake (mmmm chocolate fudge cake) I'd had in various different coffee shops over the years, and I started thinking of all the things I used to take for granted before I moved to Italy nearly six years ago. Maybe being on holiday (even though it hasn't even been 24 hours yet) makes me nostalgic? I put together a list of the first 25 things that came to my mind that every so often I think about, and miss.

1. Being able to walk into a shop and buy medicine off the shelf, and without paying a fortune for it. I used to swear by Tesco's 45p extra strength paracetamol, and pay about 10 times that now.

2. Supermarkets where you can buy everything. Yes, ipermercati exist here, but the Tesco in my hometown is huge.

3. And whilst I'm on the subject of supermarkets, 24 hour supermarkets and ones that are open every day of the year except Christmas.

4. Clothes shops that have better variety, sizes, and prices.

5. Buying ridiculous amounts of clothes at Primark. £10 jeans!! Sigh.

6. Always finding something to watch on tv at any time of day, even if you've just got Freeview.

7. Fish & chips. Battered sausage & chips. Pie & chips. Chips & curry sauce. Chippies in general.

8. 6pm being an acceptable time to have supper.

9. Pick & mix sweets. Especially toffee bonbons.

10. Dairy Milk and all its delicious varieties.

11. Salt & vinegar crisps. All the different crisp flavours (ok, not cheese & onion), but especially salt & vinegar. My weakness.

12. The Chinese restaurant my family has been going to for nearly all my life, and its amazing sweet & sour pork.

13. Going to the beach on sunny, breezy days. Not when it's 35+ degrees.

14. Knowing who the random 'celebrities' on TV are.

15. Proper spreadable butter. Having toast with proper spreadable butter and strawberry jam for breakfast.

16. Ribena. Lucozade. Orange squash.

17. One word for 'hello' and 'bye', and not having to have endless discussions in my head over which varient to use at any given time.

18. Being able to sleep with a duvet all year round. (Even though this year hasn't been far off with the rubbish summer Italy's had.)

19. Reliable post.

20. Chicken soup. The ultimate comfort food.

21. Pot Noodle. (Sorry not sorry)

22. Cider. Especially on a warm summer's day.

23. No random dialect words that I can't understand.

24. Humour I can understand.

25. And there's a pretty big one to end on: being anonymous in a crowd.