Saturday, 30 June 2012

Ohhh I do like to be beside the (Italian) seaside!

Italians love many things. Food, football (grr..) and being late. But what they can't get enough of during the summer months, is the beach. Swimming in the sea and getting a nice leathery brown colour- they love it. So the other day, myself and the Irish/Welsh ones did a full on, all-day beach trip. The destination? Termoli, a very pleasant town on the Adriatic coast in the Campobasso province. It's a really popular resort, due to the nice beaches and clear water, but there is also a beautiful old town to explore too, if you get tired of 'taking the sun'.

We travelled to Termoli by train, which was easy and hassle free. As you leave the station, bearing to the right will take you towards the main street, which leads down to the sea front. We stopped for a cappuccino and a croissant at a nice cafe with lots of outdoor seating. Very necessary when the temperature was already about 30 degrees.




 We headed towards the numerous 'Lido's that line the beach. These are commonplace in southern Italy, and all of the Italians flock to them, many having booked sun loungers and umbrellas in advance for the whole of the summer. We went to this particular Lido:






At €7.50 per person it was a little expensive, but it was a good location and very clean. In the summer months, an umbrella is absolutely necessary- it gets very hot, especially around lunchtime, and shade is essential if you don't want to end up looking like a lobster. The owner of the Lido was a complete character, and we spent a very relaxing day sunbathing, swimming (or, sitting and floating...) in the sea and eating ice cream. We may have also attempted some synchronised swimming. That was until the Irish one got salt water up her nose. Some of the beach resorts you can go to tend to have mucky water, but Termoli was pretty perfect in terms of water cleanliness.

When we had had enough sun, we made our way (very slowly, because it's up a big hill, bear that in mind!) back to the station, stopping for another coffee at this lovely little bar on the way:




Visitors to Termoli seem to be mainly Italian, but various signs are in English and German too, and Lido staff speak a little English. Termoli is easy to reach by train, and for us it didn't cost too much at all. There are also some nice shops and numerous restaurants, many serving fresh seafood. Have a look at this link for some accommodation options (there are also several more in the vicinity, but these are actually in Termoli itself):  Places to stay in Termoli (booking.com)

Now, all you need to be aware of are the men in speedos. Becuase there are LOTS.

Friday, 29 June 2012

football fever part 4...the semi final!

As I expressed in my last post regarding the football, I fulfilled my promise of supporting Italy in the semi final. But secretly I had my doubts about how they would fare against Germany. I just wasn't sure. But when that first goal was scored, and not by the Germans, I was hopeful. As was everyone else! Instead of a full account of the match (which I'm sure you all saw anyway), I have decided to highlight just a few bits and pieces that I observed during these exciting 90 minutes (yes, I did say exciting. I maaaay be starting to like football. Just a tiny bit.)

The Italians' mispronunciation of the German names amused me. The fake German accent they used whilst saying them was also rather humourous. 

I heard a great deal of swearing. Yes, I know this is normal in any country, especially when it comes to football, but the literal translations of profanities such as 'sangue di juda!!' (blood of judas) and 'porca putana!!' (sl*t wh*re) are rather interesting. 

I think there was just a smidgen of suprise mixed in with the joy after the first goal was scored. Maybe it wasn't just me who thought it'd be a challenging match...

Balotelli may be a bit of an arse but a) he can score and b) he has a pretty nice body!



 While the Italians chose beer as their refreshment of choice as they viewed the match, I chose 'Esta the'. An incredibly awesome peach iced tea. More about this in the future. 



'Di Natale' literally means 'of Christmas'.

Seeing a shot of two Italians dressed up as Mario and Luigi during the last few minutes of the match was priceless. 

The horn beeping and flag waving and dangerous driving that I said took place after the previous victory was taken to a whole new level yesterday. But this time I actually stayed and viewed all of it, instead of heading home to sulk. 





It's great to be able to have a 'back up' team to support when your national team unfortunately doesn't quite make the cut. 

And finally.....FORZA ITALIA!!! 





Thursday, 28 June 2012

pizza, anyone?

I do tend to go on..and on and on about how fantastic the food is here. It's simple, tasty, fresh and not laced with preservatives like a lot of the food in the UK. I don't know anyone here who eats ready meals, and we have more greengrocers than you can shake a stick at in this small town of mine. Sauces and vegetables are not usually taken from cans and containers. Instead, vegetables and meat are bought that morning and prepared at home. And while ready meals or jars are easy and convenient (I sometimes use jars of pesto or tinned tomatoes), I am trying my best to adapt to this tastier and healthier way of cooking (and eating!).

But there's one thing that I have to buy 'ready-made'. And that's pizza. Fresh, tasty and oh-so-good. Most people label pizza as being fast food. Yes, it's fast, but it's also fresh, and definitely not dripping with grease like some pizzas I've had at home. Take a look at these photos, and I challenge you to not want a slice...

From 'Il Gufo', my favourite pizzeria. The owner is friendly, chatty, and makes the best pizza in town. He does lots of different toppings, my favourite being the one on the left at the back- 'Buffalina'. Fresh tomato with big piece of mozzarella di buffala. There's also the spicy sausage, potato and sausage, and caprese, to name but a few. I do belive I have tried all of them....


Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Eating out in southern Italy...'Il vicoletto'

Recently I celebrated my birthday. I had a fantastic day with lots of lovely presents (especially from my parents, who sent over a lovely big package of goodies) and a lovely get together with my 'Italian family'! But of course, I also had to celebrate with my two favourite girls. So what did we decide to do? Eat. And drink. And eat some more.

We went to a local, family run restaurant in my town, 'Il vicoletto', which is just off the main street. I and the Irish one had been before, but it was the Welsh one's first experience. We knew we were going to be fed well, but we didn't imagine how well!




Let me first explain the concept of eating out in southern Italy. Firstly, be prepared to eat a lot, because you will be given a lot. Usually, the meal is split into several courses: The antipasti, the primo, the secondo, and the dolce. Doesn't sound like too much of an effort really. But sometimes there are a couple of starters. And a couple of 'Primo's. So, if you're a bit of a 'picker', like I tend to be, you need to physically and mentally prepare yourself for a whole lot of food. I suppose you're thinking that you could just skip some courses, resist some dishes. But ohhh no. It's not possible. Because it's all just TOO. DAMN. GOOD.

Behold, the lovely things that were placed in front of us (all accompanied by a gorgeous pink wine):

Antipasti 1: Little prosciutto nibbles, courgette lasagne and a homemade cheese

Antipasti 2: Gammon, potato and ham bites, fritata and peppers

Antipasti 3: Grilled aubergine, ricotta and courgette bake and a mini torcinello

Antipasti 4: Slow cooked beef in red wine (SO good)

Primo 1: Homemade pasta with green beans and potato

Primo 2: Pasta with ham and a sauce that was quite similar to carbonara but with a bit more of a bite!

No secondo- just dolce! We were absolutely stuffed so couldn't possibly fit in a meat course. We opted for the ricotta and chocolate tart and cherry tart instead.
The bill came to €25 each and we had the pleasure of being served by such lovely staff (service is often rather bad here...let's just say that they don't usually work for tips....). When our stomachs have recovered, we will definitely go again!!

For a couple of reviews (literally a couple!), have a look at the trip advisor website (all in Italian though!): Il Vicoletto

Monday, 25 June 2012

football fever part 3...the LOSS

Let me just start this post by saying that, in all honesty, I don't even like football that much. No really. I don't support a UK team, I don't have a clue who half of the England players are, and I know it's shameful to admit, but I'm not too clued up on the rules either. Yet, when the awful possibility of an England- Italy match came up, I suddenly got interested. In that I didn't want this match to take place. Why? Well, you saw my previous post. Italians are passionate, loud, excitable people who use any excuse for a massive celebration. And why shouldn't they? But the thought of being the only England supporter in a town full of horn beeping, flag waving, over-excited Italians did not sound too good.

So yesterday evening started calmly enough. I tried to keep my mouth shut, and stay cool, calm and collected- like a true Brit, if you will. I watched the match with a group of friends (about 16 or so) at another friend's house. Surely this would be more tolerable than at a big screen venue? Well, not really. Because as the jibes started ('God kill the queen') and the Italians got louder and louder (all in a confined space, may I add), I really started to want England to win. As the time ticked on and the match came to a nil-nil end, tensions were very high indeed. My calm exterior was starting to become somewhat strained. Just the thought of how much noise would be made if Italy scored was scaring me somewhat. The Irish one kept reassuring me that it would go to penalties and England would get it. So as extra time rolled to an end, I had hope. But as the number of goals increased for Italy, I braced myself.


'ROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!'

It was all over. On penalties. The boyfriend was trying his best to be comforting while looking like he wanted to jump up and down with glee. Bless him. Then the fireworks, horns and shouting really began, as we got into the centre of town.

But I don't even like football!! Why do I care?! Well, as my fellow expats will know, the blow of a major sporting event loss is bad enough when you are in your home country, surrounded by other supporters and friends. But being in a different country, and the winning team's country no less, is something else completely! Being on my own made me all the more aware of it all. Sore loser? Possibly. Major complainer? Oh definitely. But post-match, a little moping was necessary. However, I'm pretty confident that the Italians won't go on about it too much. They like to make their thoughts clear, but then normally, all is forgotten and everyone is friends again. Hopefully. ;)

So, this happened.



Then I went home and ate some of these. Mmm, self-pity pastries..... ;)
 So who are Italy going to be playing next? Germany. Italy v Germany on Thursday. And who will I be supporting? Well, I think Italy. I simply can't stay mad at them. Italy is now my home, and the Italian way of life is definitely for me, even when I'm on the losing team. And besides, I think they will  need all the support they can get against Germany... ;D






Saturday, 23 June 2012

home improvements...

Mainly thanks to my lovely parents for sending me a fantastic package full of birthday goodies, I have been able to make one or two little changes to la casa di Amy. What do you think?

Yes thanks, I think I might just do that...


These large clips prompted me to create a 'non-wall marking' method of brightening up my hallway. And what else could I do with all the beautiful fashion pages from my Italian magazines?!


How cute is this cushion?!


This fantastic magnetic photo wallets have now been stuck all over my fridge. Great reminders of home and past trips. Oh, and the mandatory smoochy boyfriend one. :p

Thursday, 21 June 2012

(beach) bag lady

As you know, I am definitely a fan of bags, and the less expensive the better! Have a look at this gorgeous pink and turquoise creation that I received for my birthday:



Now I'm not usually a fan of really bright styles like this one, but I love how much it stands out, and the chain detail is really interesting. Being big and waterproof is also a plus!

I have also spent a fair amount of time at the beach recently, and while at my boyfriend's parents' house, I came across this very cute little beach bag. There was no label inside and as hard as I tried, I couldn't find it online but don't you just love it?!



And on the subject of beach bags, here are a couple of designs from Italian brand Carpisa http://www.carpisa.it/en. Not expensive, and definitely bright and colourful! I love the transparent ones- no longer would I lose things in the bottom of my bag!



Wednesday, 20 June 2012

football fever...part 2!

Remember what I said about Italians being fairly chilled out, not getting too rowdy and hooligan-like over football? Well, I take it all back!

Another evening of football viewing started off well, with pizza, beer and a nice, calm atmosphere. But people got increasingly more animated as Italy (excuse me for saying this) weren't playing so well. In the end however, as you all know, they triumphed over Ireland and ended up winning 2-0. Then the celebrations really began!! Behold, how my small, simple town in the south of Italy celebrated a football win...

The Irish one started very optimistically!!

There's simply no get-together without some food.


Very calm and collected...

The mandatory smoking break during half time.

A little tomfoolery during half time...
And when the match finished, the celbrations began...

How many Italians can you fit into a car...

Even the girls got involved

And underage riders sans helmet. Ahem.


Basically, the whole town hosted a procession of moped riding, flag waving, horn beeping Italians. It was awesome!

Have a look at this (short!) video to get a better idea of what I mean:

video

And guess what's coming up on Sunday? Yes, I'm sure you all know...England v. Italy. I'm excited and scared in equal measure..being the only English person in an entire town of Italians when THAT match is on?! Help!!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

it's not all pizza and pasta you know...

 So, I may have included sweet breakfasts and 'chip pizza' in a previous post, but Italians aren't all about the carbs. Honestly! They love veggies, and make good use of what's in season. At the moment, aubergines are in season, and so I have included an oh-so-simple recipe for grilled aubergines. You can also use the same method with tomatoes and courgettes. They all taste delicious!

You will need the following:


So, first you need to rinse the aubergine (or eggplant!) and chop it into fairly thin slices.

Then, place in a pan on medium heat. You don't need oil, but do sprinkle some salt in the pan before you add the aubergine slices.


 As the aubergine is cooking, take some mint leaves (rinse first)...


...and chop a clove of garlic (half if you are using only half of the aubergine) into tiny pieces.


Put the mint and garlic into a bowl, add a little salt, a drop or two of vinegar and a good glug of oil. Then, mix!

 Just look at the wrist action going on here...



Make sure that you turn the aubergine slices occasionally, and that they are evenly brown all over.  They should have a much softer consistency than before. I cooked mine for about 10 minutes in total, but this may vary slightly. They should look something like this:


When cooked, put the aubergine slices onto a plate, and drizzle the oil mixture evenly over the plate. Leave for about 15-20 minutes to cool. I was told to leave them so that the flavour really gets into the aubergine. And in my opinion, they are much better cold than hot, especially when the weather is boiling (like it is today!) 




And one final tip: you may need to brush your teeth after. You may ward off vampires with the garlic...but also everyone else!!

Buon appetito!