Friday, 27 April 2012

Waiting room etiquette...(or not)

Visiting the doctor in your home country can often be slightly annoying/an even further risk to your health/an absolute pain in the neck. Whatever your past experiences with doctors have been, they often pale in comparison to visiting the doctor in a different country, where the culture and/or language can be completely different to your own. My experience in Australia was rather pleasant. Modern waiting room, friendly receptionist. I actually wanted to bring the doctor back to Europe with me, he was just so...NICE. My experiences with doctors in Germany were...well, you can probably guess that there was a bit of a lack of bedside manner. Although German health care is seen as being top notch, and I can't disagree with that. Now we come to Italy. Efficient? Not by German standards. Pleasant? Not in comparison to Australia. So what will you experience if you visit a doctor in small town southern Italy? Let me explain. 

Unlike in my hometown in the UK, there are few 'surgeries' with a handful of doctors to chose from. Here, you pick one doctor and visit his private practice. So there I was, in a cold, very plain waiting room with plastic chairs waiting for the doctor. He came out to lock the front door at one point because he had a good few people in the waiting room. I wondered why he did this, as surely that wasn't necessary. I found out it was. Due to the fact that most appointments lasted about 20 minutes as opposed to the (usual) 10 I'm used to in the UK. If more people had come in, he wouldn't have finished the appointments before the end of 2012. And when I say appointments, I don't actually mean appointments. I mean coming in and simply waiting your turn. There could be one person in front of you, or there could be 10. You take pot luck. But even then, your turn in the queue is not secure. As I was waiting, a pushy, older lady barged her way in as someone unlocked the door to leave. Oh no, she declared, the doctor will see ME! This, of course was accompanied by many a hand gesture and some eye rolling at the ridiculousness of the locked door. And much to my delight, the doctor expressed his displeasure at her forced presence. But her response basically involved more tutting, hand gestures, etc. Oh well, I thought to myself, she's last in the queue anyway. Oh how WRONG I was about this. As the next patient left the doc's office, she stood up and, once again, barged her way through. I was squirming on my chair at the audacity of it all. I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt, thinking that perhaps she just wanted to get a prescription, and would therefore spend a few minutes in the office before grumbling her way out the door again. But no. TWENTY MINUTES later she re-appeared. I was positively scrunching up my magazine in annoyance. Why didn't I say something? Well because it seemed acceptable, at least by everyone else's standards. My British 'respect the queue' attitude was not shared by the others in the waiting room. This happens a lot in Italy. People push in, and the others who are being pushed in front of, to put it simply, don't care. Or don't notice. One or both of these is possible. The concept of the queue is very British, and it may not be something that people think of as a problematic cultural difference, but unfortunately, it can be a little trying. Patience is what's needed. A whole load of the stuff. 

This just about sums it up. (Taken from
 But in case you think I'm being a total negative Nancy (an expression introduced to me by an American friend, and one which I have fully adopted), it's not all bad. The doctor was serious and straightforward, yet there was no rudeness, and he showed a lot of patience when faced with my grammatically incorrect Italian. And despite the queue jumping and lack of appointments, there is one thing that I enjoy when sitting in the waiting room. And that's the chat. The 'keep oneself to oneself' mentality that we British often display is not welcome here. People will talk to you. It doesn't matter where you are or what you're doing, people chat. And the doctor's waiting room is no exception. Once the impatient woman had settled herself on a plastic chair, she engaged the entire waiting room in conversation about strawberries, and a host of other vegetables. I didn't get involved (please, I'm British... ;D) but everyone else did. People pass the time but having a good old gossip. And I find this quite pleasant. Maybe next time I'll stick my own nose in and share my (extensive) views on artichokes.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Hello (again) Kitty...

Whilst on a trip to my favourite low cost, non-Italian supermarket (yes, I am of course talking about Lidl), I came across something that shocked me. No, there weren't creepy crawlies in the fruit and veg. And no, the staff hadn't all of a sudden decided to start smiling once in a while. It was something way more shocking than that. Behold, if you will, the Hello Kitty.....lettuce!!!

Look! You can enjoy all your favourite Hello Kitty designs! (Before you rip open the bag, and chuck it in the bin 2 seconds later...)

Doesn't the salad background make her look SO much cuter?!

Now, I am fully aware of the fascination that people have with Hello Kitty and Disney here. It's everywhere. On bags, t-shirts, pencils, folders, sweets. But lettuce?? Now that's just a little bit too ODD for my liking.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Summer is coming...!

 April 25th 2012. This day is important for several reasons.

1) It is Italian liberation day- a celebration of the end of fascist rule in 1945.

2) It is a national holiday, and therefore a day off. A mid-week day off! Che bello!

3) Today was a beautiful day. So it was time for a bit of BEACH. The first real beach visit of the year. Sandals were on, ice-cream was eaten. BRING ON THE SUMMER!


Oh-so-sweet treats...

Before I came to Italy, I had always associated the country with having great food. Great pizza, great pasta, delicious ice-cream. But in all honesty, I hadn't heard too much about cakes and pastries. What a pleasant surprise it was to find that the cakes and pastries here are SO GOOD! Behold, a small but perfectly formed collection of calorific treats that I picked up yesterday!
Now, when I would go to the bakery in England, I seem to recall the millionaire shortbread or gingerbread man or whatever it was that I had bought, being thrown into a paper and bag and not given a second thought. Here, however, your pastries are boxed or packaged, wrapped, and in this particular case, with a lovely bit of ribbon. And no, I didn't go to some super posh, expensive bakery. When an already awesome experience such as cake eating is made to feel like Christmas because you have to unwrap it first, it's just so much better!

Then when you actually reach the cakes themselves, oh how lovely they are! Probably about a million calories in each one (that's only a slight exaggeration) but this is Italy- good food is a way of life. And these cakes are DEFINITELY good food. I positively attacked them with my fork. And then I realised that the fork was slowing me down, so of course, that was discarded almost immediately! The one on the bottom right is my personal favourite. These particular cakes are called cannoli, and have a sweet pastry casing filled with ricotta and chocolate chips.The other little lovelies on my plate included tiramisu (big hit of alcohol in that one!) and a ricotta, chocolate and pear creation. Needless to say, they were absolutely delightful! People may not come to Italy specifically for the cakes, but if you do visit, make sure you try a nice plate of sweet treats like these!

Just one more thing...

Another item that Italians like to wrap, is medicine that you buy from the pharmacy. How very odd. A slightly less pleasant gift inside but thoughtful nonetheless. "Here are your very expensive and difficult to swallow tablets Mr Giuseppe, but we've wrapped them for you so I'm sure the whole experience will be MUCH nicer!!

Monday, 23 April 2012


As I'm sure you can tell by looking at previous posts and my blog title, one of the main things I love about living in this region is the abundance of delicious tomatoes. During the summer you can buy a big bag of them for next to nothing, but even now, mid-April, you can get some super tasty ones. Feast your eyes on the beauties I saw in one of the many fruit and veg shops in my town:

I bought a big bag and decided to make something tasty for my lunch using these lovely pomodori. This involved, well, pretty much leaving them as they were. No cooking, just a bit of chopping, and the addition of some salt, dried oregano and olive oil. Simple and delicious! In my opinion, tomatoes are at their best when served like this. If you want to be even more Italian about it, you could try bruschetta...

According to my Italian source, you simply chop up some tomatoes into little pieces, and put them in a big bowl with some salt, olive oil and oregano. Take a clove or garlic and, without chopping it up, put it in with the tomatoes too. Leave in the fridge for about an hour so the garlic can get to work! Remove the garlic before you serve a nice spoonful of the tomatoes on toasted bread. To make it perfect, grill the bread on the barbecue. It tastes SO good!

(PS- Prepare for more tomato themed chit chat as the summer draws nearer!)

Saturday, 21 April 2012

7 reasons to teach in southern Italy!

When I gained my EFL teaching qualification, I started the incredibly time consuming task of searching for a suitable overseas teaching job. I didn't limit my search to any particular country, or continent even, but a job in Europe was definitely something I wanted at some point. The European continent is right on the UK's doorstep, yet is so diverse and exciting. I was incredibly lucky to land myself a job at a small-but-perfectly-formed school in Puglia (for those whose Italian geography is not  quite up to scratch, it's basically the 'spur' and heel of the boot). Rome is about 3 hours away by car, and then a further 2 hours by plane before I'm back in England again. Perfect. Southern Italy is wonderful, and a great place to teach English. Wherever you go, there will always be cultural differences and these may prove to be difficult to deal with at times, yet at the same time the experience is very fulfilling and incredibly interesting. So, I have decided to write the 7 most important reasons why you SHOULD teach in the south of Italy:

1. The people are generally very warm and friendly. Obviously there are exceptions anywhere you go, but the majority of my students, and people I know in the area, are simply lovely. They want to talk to you and are often very kind. Friends and family definitely look out for each other here.

2. The sunny weather puts everyone in a good mood. The winter is not perfect, but the lovely hot summer makes up for it! Teaching with the windows open and having the sun shine into the classroom puts everyone in a good mood. Happy students, happy teacher. Now's the time to blast them all with grammar!mwahaha!

sunny classroom. cute kids. (most of the time)

3.The language is beautiful and not as difficult as you may think. I have managed to pick up quite a bit from listening to others, watching TV and trying my best to communicate in Italian. You'll get there eventually. If I can do it, anyone can! Don't ask me about the grammar however, the less said about that, the better... ;)

4. There will often be an opportunity for a siesta. Hardly anybody works in the afternoon! zzzzzz

5. Sometimes students bring food. Like cake. Or little Italian pastries. Make sure you do a lesson on food vocabulary and they will be itching to bring in their tasty specialities.

a chocolate cake made by a student. more of these please!

6. Italians are generally easy going... and often late. Cue: extra couple of minutes to do those last minute photocopies!!

7. You will get a ton of cool points. Why? Because you are 'foreign' and 'exotic' (yes, even the Irish one with her pale legs and major tendency to burn with even a hint of weak sunshine!) and you spark interest in the community. Also, you don't live with your parents. Which is WAY cool, and unlike every other unmarried young person in the area. The downside to this though is that there's no one to do your cleaning and washing and cooking. But think positively. What's a little washing when you live in such a fantastic, sunny, buffalo mozzarella-filled country??

Italian kids are mischievous but teaching them is so much fun...again, I must stress most of the time!
Anyone anywhere can get a coffee mid morning. But here, the coffee is SO.MUCH.BETTER.
What shall we do at the weekend fellow teachers? Errmm, how about the BEACH?!

Thursday, 19 April 2012

teaching truths...part one

Just a few teaching truths to feast your eyes on...

So true. Particularly when writing on the board and you forget letters. And sometimes whole words.

From This is gunna happen, I just no it...

Sounds like the homework I set. Except I usually give 4 questions.

A teacher's best friend after a week of rowdy teens and tricky grammar: Italian wine and nibbly thingies. Mmm.

WARNING. The costumes that Italian kids wear for carnival may cause extreme distress to your sight.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Bespectacled is best!

I've touched on the subject of fashion in the south before, and have expressed my somewhat sceptical view of what constitutes 'fashion' in these parts, particularly for the men, (light blue jeans with what can only be described as US flag 'pannels' on the thighs? Now don't get me wrong, I've nothing against the US flag, but surely there are better ways to wear it?) But I am determined to comment nevertheless, pointing out the good, the bad, and the ugly. And, of course, I am also aiming to promote Primark as much as possible:

I aim to be wearing this.
And these. They were about a fiver.

However, my love of Primark aside, there's one particular aspect of fashion that the southerners DO seem to follow. And that's glasses. Normal and sun. A four year old boy in our pre-school class has a tiny pair of ray bans. People shun lenses in favour of something shiny and designer. It doesn't matter what's on the body, as long as the head is showing off a beautiful pair of specs. People who don't even need a prescription wear them. Because geek most definitely IS chic.They may not dress exactly like the Milanese (who needs them anyway), but they could definitely rival them in the specs department. Now, I have come to realise there's such a thing as 'Italian specs'. Not officially of course, but this phrase most definitely exists in my vocabulary. 'Italian specs' are, in a word, FASHIONABLE. Whichever way you look at it. Designer, and, more often than not, with a bit of bling. There's no generic design here. If you can't see WHO designed them, they aren't worth having.

loving the specs.

 I was told before Christmas that I should invest in a pair of 'Italian specs'. So that I'd look better and not so.....English. And teacher-y. Erm...last time I checked, I was definitely both of those things. At first I protested. I will keep my identity! I will maintain my look! But no. I gave in. I was too curious, and happened to stop in front of a shop window. The beautiful pair of Chanel glasses I saw practically SPOKE to  me. We can make you less geek and more chic! They yelled, with a French accent of course. After almost having a heart attack when I saw the price tag, I decided against the Chanel ones, but promised myself I would find some that were suitable. Some that were Italian. Some that were FABULOUS.

Suddenly there I was. Bespectacled in the most Italian way possible. Black, fairly big, Valentino, bit of bling. I LOVED them. As I put my old glasses back in the draw I felt a little sad. Should I have abandoned the old glasses that had treated me so well, that had literally gave me the gift of sight in the past?

old vs. new

 It was when I walked into the classroom that I knew my 'Italian specs' decision had been the right one. Ah finally! One of my students commented, after seeing my new glasses for the first time. You no longer look like an old woman!!

Italian specs it is. 

definitely a bit of bling going on there. ohh yeeeah.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

10 (slightly unusual) reasons we LOVE southern Italy

Over the Irish one's pesto spaghetti one lunchtime, (yes, that's right, our main meal of the day IS lunch. Traditional and absolutely necessary due to busy afternoons and evenings of teaching) I asked the girls about why they like living here. But I asked them to think of the silly little reasons why they like it. I was given plenty of suggestions (most of the Irish one's reasons revolved around buffalo mozzarella, but more on THAT in the future), and so decided to compile a top ten list of (slightly odd) reasons why living here is just brilliant.

1. Our mobile phone service provider is called Wind. Cue many, many inappropriate yet hilarious jokes.

2. Most houses (including ours) have shutters. Why is this so great? Well, after dragging ourselves back home at 4am after a Saturday night with the locals, we aren't too fond of being woken up again at 6.30am when the sun rises. Solution: shut the shutters and get a full 8 hours without light interruption. Curtains are soooo UK.

3.'Saloon'. A bar in our town, which more often than not has sticky tables and no loo paper, but my word do we love it. It's always packed, costs next to nothing and we particularly love the drinks with rude names.

lots of shots at saloon.

4. Those extra 5 minutes that are totally acceptable and are not, in any way, shape or form, considered as 'lateness'. Italians are not punctual. And I like this. It can of course, become too extreme (turning up 40 minutes late for an hour long lesson? Erm...what?), but I take these 5 minutes as a sign of being laid back. Punctuality is not part of la dolce vita.

La Dolce Vita. Or, being lazy. Both are excellent.

5. A lack of (non- expensive) clothes shops in my town. What this means, is that we curb our spending, focusing on what we REALLY need. That is, of course, until we take a trip to a big city. Then it's purses at the ready. ohmygodwehaven'tbeenshoppinginAGESlet'sbuyshooooooessandbaaaaags!!!

6. Balconies. And a terrace. Even though we don't have a garden, Oh how CONTINENTAL we feel!!

7. Tesco does no exist here. Hence, we buy excellent quality meat at the butcher, veg from the fruit and veg shop, and bread from the bakery. But I must admit, we do buy buffalo mozzarella from anywhere that sells it. Addicted? Us?

8. We are practically forced to learn Italian. This small town does not really have an English speaking community (bar those students who come to our *fantastic* school of course) so learning Italian is a must. It's not easy and the grammar is shocking, but it really is a beautiful language. And besides, the mistakes that you make go largely unnoticed, as long as you make the right hand gestures. It's all about gesticulation.

9. Being a tourist attraction. Yes, people pointing and talking under their breaths about us can get a little tiresome, but most of the time people are just curious, and will try their best to attract our attention. We like talking to new people, so as long as they don't LITERALLY follow us around the town (yes, it did happen to the Welsh one once), we are happy to oblige. Trust me, they will NEVER get used to us. 

10. US. Apart from our boss, we are pretty much the only native English speakers in the area. And so we are like a family. We eat together, we drink coffee together, we engage in tomfoolery together and we know each other secrets. (The Welsh one snores like a trouper and the Irish one has a large, not-so-secret chocolate stash)

Most of the Irish one's suitcase was filled with chocolate (and Primark goods of course) on her way back from Ireland this Easter.

Monday, 16 April 2012

easy on the sauce part two...the carbonara

So, simply because Italian food is just SO. UNBELIEVABLY. GOOD, I thought that I would include another favourite recipe. Major emphasis on simplicity here, which is one of the main reasons why I like it so much.... 

Carbonara is one of the first pasta dishes I attempted. Unlike many carbonaras in the UK, this is not drowned in think gloopy sauce (you know my position on too much sauce..). Simple ingredients, simple instructions, yet possibly some mess. But like I've said before, you aren't really cooking unless you spill something somewhere. Here's what you need to make it (once again, real live Italian person has been consulted):

So, fry the pancetta in some olive oil, and boil your salted water for the pasta. I've written fresh spaghetti because it's just so much better. Be careful with cooking time- you don't want a mushy mouthful of overcooked spaghetti. Ick. Mix your egg, parmesan, salt and pepper in a bowl. I have written 1 egg and 20g of parmesan but this is just an average for two people. Vary the quantities as you wish. To be honest, I rarely measure stuff. I just throw in what feels right... it's all about the learning curve! When the pasta is cooked and drained, add it, along with your mixture, to the pancetta (turn off the heat at this point) and mix together. The egg will cook slightly from the heat of the ingredients, but it shouldn't scramble. Leave the heat on a little if you aren't too fond of raw egg but don't cook it so much that it scrambles.

And there you have it. Actual carbonara. Easy, and minus the gloopy sauce. I've cooked this a few times for the girls and they seem to like it (and believe me, they can be hard to please, especially that Irish one....)

Sunday, 15 April 2012

bumper cars...minus the bumping..?!

Now, I've been to a few places where the idea of health and safety is most definitely not a pressing issue. In Nairobi, watching people pass back and forth through one of those airport scanner thingies as if it was one of those swing gates in a supermarket has to be up there. (Furthermore, the only way to stop people from walking under the wing of a plane was a tiny little orange cone. You get the idea.)

Nairobi's extensive health and safety procedures.

But I wouldn't have put Italy into the 'rather alarming lack of health and safety regulation' category. Alas, rules seem to be rather lax in these parts. Here are a few examples for you.

  • SPOTTED! two teenage boys riding a moped at an alarming speed without helmets.
  • SPOTTED! man riding a moped at an alarming speed without a helmet whilst talking on a mobile phone.
  • SPOTTED! every single person without a seat belt on in their cars.
  • SPOTTED! man driving car minus seat belt, talking on a mobile phone.
  • SPOTTED! woman driving car minus seat belt, children (yes, plural) in front seat minus seat belt, talking on a mobile phone
                                                             need I continue?

Don't the police do anything about this? I asked, while at the same time getting my answer as I saw what looked like a member of the carabinieri driving minus seat belt and talking on a mobile phone. I guess not. Fastening your seat belt here results in two things. Number one- you feel safe and secure. And number two- you get looks of shock and disgust from Italians, causing you to feel terribly, TERRIBLY uncool. Almost worth not fastening to avoid THAT kind of look. While this lack of concern for safety does worry me occasionally, I can't help but wonder what's worse: lack of safety regulation or too much of it. In the UK, we have health and safety rules for everything. I mean, EVERYTHING. Even something so ridiculous as not throwing graduation caps in the air, lest they could fall on someone and 'hurt' them. Oh please. I launched mine quite violently. The Welsh one informed me recently that in the UK you can only drive around in one direction when riding bumper cars. They are even banned from bumping altogether at Butlins. Erm, WHAT? Sorry, but I'm with the Italians on this one. And I believe I proved this only the other day, by jumping into a bumper car (after watching said head height fireworks, albeit at a distance) and zooming around, BUMPING and BASHING to my heart's content. (*cackles gleefully*)
Read some more 'barmy' UK health and safety rules HERE...

Saturday, 14 April 2012

easy on the sauce!!

I've been told by the Italians who have had the pleasure to sample the 'delights' (yes, the inverted commas are needed here) of the UK's take on Italian food, that we 'over-sauce' our pasta dishes. We have pasta SWIMMING in sauce. Positively drowning in it. And I must admit, I tend to agree with their opinion. Sometimes less IS more. There's nothing worse than having to actually search for the pasta on your plate. And so, in my own 'cooking' (inverted commas definitely required here), I have attempted to reduce my need to over-sauce things. After much observation and sampling of various pasta dishes (much more sampling than observation if I'm honest), I am now able to put together something simple and pasta-like. All. By. Myself. I thought I would share my recipe with you. And I consulted with an ACTUAL Italian whilst putting this together. It's wonderfully simple. So, here goes! You will need: 
 The pasta that works best with this is orecchiette, which is a pasta specific to my region. It translates as 'little ears', and is absolutely delicious, especially when fresh (hence why I have scribbled 'fresh' on my little blackboard). 
'Little ears' (image from

Take a medium sized pan and add a lovely glob (yes, this is an official measurement, I'll have you know) of oil. Pop in the garlic (leave it whole or cut in two- don't chop it up) and then add the pancetta. I use the smoked kind as it has more taste to it. Chop your baby tomatoes into quarters and throw them in the pan too (literally, throw them. You aren't cooking anything unless you make SOME mess). I like to add some oregano too, and a bit of basil, but don't worry if you don't have these. It tastes lovely even without. Let this heat up nicely. I like to start squishing the tomatoes with a fork too, to make more of a 'sauce'. You don't have to do this, but I would  recommend it as it's quite enjoyable. But watch they don't squirt tomato juice all over your clothes (yes, it HAS happened to me). Tomatoes and oil are exquisite in this region but my WORD they are a hazard when cooking/eating them. (TIP: bicarbonate of soda removes oil stains. Chuck a load over the stain and the powder draws out the oil. I have used it more times than I can count.) 

While your tomatoes and pancetta are cooking nicely (don't forget to add your salt- you need to taste  frequently and add as necessary), boil up some (salted) water and when it's bubbling furiously, add your pasta. It takes a very very short amount of time to cook the pasta if it's fresh. Make sure you taste test that too! I like the pasta to still have a bit of bite (although it does take practice. I've unfortunately served up mushy pasta more than once.) Once the pasta is cooked, drain and add to the pan. Mix together (don't forget to remove your garlic clove- might not be a pleasant surprise mid-chew!) and put into bowls. Forks only- knives are not invited to this pasta party. There's only one more thing: don't forget to say buon appetito before you eat!

Friday, 13 April 2012

Pasta and pizza...what more could you possibly want?

Well, the occasional fry up actually. Or roast dinner. Or big greasy portion of fish and chips. But all of these small 'Brit food' urges aside, my food needs are well and truly satisfied by the culinary delights that the Italians have to offer. I don't know if you have ever heard of a certain dish called PIZZA. Or perhaps you may have tried PASTA. Or possibly some GELATO. You get my drift. But until I came to Italy, I hadn't really tried any of these things. A frozen pizza from tesco does not substitute the real thing. I'm sure you can guess what's coming now. Yep, that's right, the pizza snob has LANDED, and she will praise Italian pizza until the cows come home, pooh- poohing any other claim you may have of any other pizza being just as good. Oh alright, I'll spare you. But you won't taste real pizza until you come to Italy. Which of course, I urge you all to do.
A half demolished 'grande' pizza from a local pizzeria. And yes, beer is clearly an excellent complimentary beverage .

Our extreme love and appreciation of pizza has even led to experimentation in our own kitchen. Behold, the Irish one's pesto and sun dried tomato creation: 
It is my belief that pesto, although used in several dishes in these parts (try it with spaghetti and some baby tomatoes...very good indeed), is not generally used on pizza here. The Irish one loves pesto (and stereotypically, potatoes, but that's another story), and therefore cares not about such 'rules' of pesto use. The pizza tasted fantastic. 

P.S. If you are a fellow Brit (or any other nationality for that matter) living in Italy and crave a fry-up, try Lidl for baked beans and sausages (the German rostbratwurst are a similar substitute for British sausages). Buon appetito!

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Travel in style...

Everyone knows that the Italians love their mopeds. And I have already seen a moped in almost every colour imaginable (a memorable one was a hot pink model. Its owner was, of course, male). But never one with a retro cartoon strip design. And discovered in a small town like mine? Way. Too. Cool.

Community spirit...and risk of losing a limb...

It's at this time of year that my region has more festivals than you can shake a stick at. Not only is there Easter, but a number of other celebrations that have two things in common: dodgy music concerts and many, many fireworks. I enjoy fireworks as much as the next person. Ones that are way up high in the sky that is. Not near head height. Which, incidentally, the majority of the fireworks here are. It's an incredibly interesting tradition that people in this particular part of the country observe, many even running alongside said head height explosives, one arm majestically in the air, gaining what I can only assume to be respect from their peers. In my opinion it's just downright dangerous. I need a new pair of trousers every time the darn things are set off. Basically, they FRIGHTEN ME. I, unlike those who fully embrace this tradition and get as close to the fireworks as possible, stay well back. That is, until the jostling crowd pushes me further towards my CERTAIN DEATH FROM EXPLODING SPINNING THINGS. And of course, because of this, I earn no respect. And many looks of bewilderment. A positive thing about all of this though, is the way it brings everyone together. Literally. Everyone

I took a walk down the main street yesterday and bumped into about 10 people I knew. And in comparison to the natives, I know practically no-one. We don't have anything equivalent to this in my UK hometown, not even close. Here, everyone huddles together, stops to chat, eats ice cream (this will have a post of its own in the future) and manages to find a parking space where you would never have imagined there would be one (...yep, more on this too!) It's all about the festival. I'm still standing way back though. Preferably two streets away.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012


Some may dislike this (possibly a certain Welsh teacher at Small But Perfectly Formed Language School), but I am a fan of Primark. I like the price, I like the colours(ish), I like the price, I'm always amused at the unusually chatty sales assistant who frequents the upstairs section at the Cheltenham store, and also, I like the price. On a recent trip home to the UK, I managed to fill one of those big blue basket things to the brim. Summer wardrobe: done. And on my return to (disappointingly cloudy) Italy, I had to buy extra hangers for it all. A small price to pay for a set of clothes (and shoes...and bags...) that no-one else here has. There are definite advantages to being part of a teeny tiny minority of native English speakers in these parts. Nobody is aware of Primark, what it is, where it comes from and how much it costs. Cue: major showing off of items that no one else has. In a country where an acceptable, 'fashionable' (yes, I am expressing my scepticism with inverted commas...more on this later) appearance seems to be crucial, I do enjoy the showing off just a little. An Italian, female acquaintance of mine commented on how nice my my new coral pink (ish) bag is yesterday. I gratefully accepted the compliment. Big smile. No mention of the £9 price tag. I shall wear my Primark goods with pride. Secretly hoping however, that they won't fall to bits as I'm swanning along the main street trying to look sophisticated...
The Primark Bag That All Italians Love. OK, perhaps that's a slight exaggeration...

Let's revisit previously hinted scepticism at Italian fashion. Although using the term 'Italian' is highly inappropriate, as many southern Italians have even said themselves that The North and The South are very different, in a number of ways that we can't even begin to count. In my opinion, the South barely gets a look in when it comes to 'style'. In an effort to improve my sketchy Italian, I have taken it upon myself to purchase many, many magazines. I'm not going to lie- the pictures hold my interest the most, mainly due to the fact that my simple brain is attracted to all things bright and shiny and expensive looking, but also because the pictures don't contain ridiculously difficult conditional sentences that I haven't a hope in hell of understanding. Nevertheless, I am reading more and it's paying off. And I am beginning to realise that 80% of articles/comments/other miscellaneous things are based on/written about Milan. Which is most definitely a long way from here. The other 20% is taken up by Rome and a bit of Naples. My poor little region barely gets a look in. Now I'm unsure as to whether this is because it has been observed that some folk down here are, to put it nicely, 'intrestingly' dressed and it would be a travesty to even mention such 'fashion', or it's because they have no guidance as to how to dress, due to the magazines being directed at those 'lucky enough' to live in The North. Either way, I shall continue to read, the Southerners will continue to dress in their own way, disregarding these 'guidebooks' of fashion (and, perhaps, rightly so..have you seen some of the 'clothing' in these things? Pyjamas for outdoors? Errm...absolutely not), and I shall continue to play 'spot the multicoloured trousers' with the girls. Oh, and write about such interesting multicoloured finds, of course...

An Englishman and Irishman and a Welshman walk into a bar...

...or in our case, a school, and we are all female. Funnily enough, it still makes for a pretty good joke. I'm the English one. And the writer of this blog. I'm an English teacher at a small yet perfectly formed school in the south of Italy and most of the time I am rather frightened of computers. And technology in general to be honest. Yet the only real way to share my thoughts and comments on the wonders of the south (yes, many of these wonders are in tight coloured trousers and heels, with terribly expensive designer bags...and that's just the men) is by attempting a blog. 
I'm not too sure about the topics or layout- again, let me emphasise the slight technophobe element here- so especially at the beginning it could be a major mish mash of comments and questionable photography, but I'll give it my best shot.
I'm pretty sure you can guess two of my favourite things about Italy by my blog title, but of course, there's far more to it than that. I've been living here for almost 18 months now, and it has definitely been an exciting, mozzarella fuelled experience so far. I aim to write honestly and openly, giving as much information as possible about this fantastic part of the world. There may be some cursing at the computer at first (because honestly, it's doing everything wrong, not me) but I shall persevere! I hope you enjoy...
The one on the left speaks better English than me. And has better fashion sense.