Monthly Archives: May 2013

Wine consumption, Grease Spreaders and More Lizards…

Hi all,

Well I’ve had a friend here this week so there’s been a lot of sight seeing which has been great. I’m pleased to say that I’ve now seen the villages that I’ve been looking at from a distance in my apartment every day. I’ll write up a page on each area when I get time but meanwhile:

  • Osimo: It’s a bit bigger than Camerano (where I am). It’s still on a hill with a great view like pretty much all the hill top towns do. It’s got a fab little park which would be lovely to sit in and people watch. There are a few shops as well and in general, it seems like it could be a good place to live in or around.

Park bit in Osimo overlooking a beautiful panorama of the sea and countryside. This photo doesn’t do it justice, it was rainy and horrid!

  • Castelfidardo: Is another little hill top town. Not much to say about this one – there didn’t seem to be much in the way of shops or anything that made it stand out from anything else apart from it has an Accordion Museum. I wouldn’t want to live there…

The Accordian Shop / Museum. Possibly just a shop. Or a museum. It was closed (I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “Closed? What in Italy? At like, 4pm on a weekday? That never happens” but let me tell you, on this one occasion, this shop/museum was shut.

  • Loreto: Loreto is another hill top town. I recognise that there’s a theme in my choice of places to visit – I think my criteria for the next apartment/house is fast becoming “must be on a hill” though I do wonder sometimes if it means something about my personality that I like to look down on things ;-). Anyway, Loreto is apparently known for being the home of the Black Madonna who works miracles. Excellent to know. It’s got a big square with a fountain in the middle and it’s surrounded by very majestic looking buildings and a rather magnificent cathedral (Basilica della Santa Casa) at one end. If you’re catholic, it’s THE place to go. Particularly if you want to stock up on crucifixes from the surrounding tourist shops. There’s a street of shops that leads from the square to a church at the end other and that’s about it in terms of the main “town”. There doesn’t appear to be much general living accommodation apart from at the base of the hill in the valley, there’s a bunch of apartment blocks. My hill requirement rules that out for living but I really like Loreto. Well worth a visit.

Loreto and the piazza

  • Sirolo: For avid readers, you’ll know I’ve been here already but last week was the first time I’ve been to San Michele beach which is a long (and narrowish) stretch of shingle/sand beach to the side of Mount Conero. It’s a bit frustrating to get to. You have to walk down the mountain a bit to get there but hopefully that means it’ll be less packed in the summer. I’ll do my duty and test this beach out for you, dear readers. We went to a restaurant – Da Silvio which was really lovely – overlooking the beach and would be fabulous on a hot summers day. Don’t be put off by the emptiness and the threatening looking waiters/chefs outside. They have only fish dishes I think, but they made me a veggie pasta which was delicious.

Spiaggia San Michele. It was rammed.

  • Jesi: Jesi is NOT a hill top town 🙂 And I like it! I haven’t seen much of it – the weather has been very temperamental this last couple of weeks and the first time I went with a friend from the Language School, it was absolutely bucketing down. The second time it was for dinner with some other friends and we didn’t do so much looking around then. Jesi seems like it would be good to live near. Not on a hill though 😉 However, having said that, yesterday was “Cantine Aperto” (more on that below) which was in the Jesi area and the scenery around that area was just breathtaking. I could most definitely live around there.

Taken from one of the Cantina’s around Jesi.

  • Macerata: This was a 50 minute drive away. I’d heard good things about the area around Macerata and it was indeed lovely (hilly wouldn’t you know ;-)) and it was quite a nice little town – much bigger than the smaller hill top towns I think – akin to Jesi. It had a cinema. So – I would live around Macerata as well – it would definitely be I think a nice place to go for meals and drinks.

This photo’s a bit misleading – and in fact, I don’t know what it is. It looked good. But to go over and take a proper look required darting through traffic so I admired from afar…

  • Porto Recanati. This place should be a thriving seaside resort but because we’re still a full 5 days from summer, was completely empty. I actually left feeling as empty as it was. It was like when Will Smith wanders around the vacant city in ‘I Am Legend’. If there was tumbleweed, it would have been blowing. There were lots of vacant apartments, all a bit unkempt apart from maybe one or two (where Will Smith lived?) and a revolting skyscraper tower block at one end (why WHY do that to the seaside?!).


    Porto Recanati – those doors are probably hiding zombies…

So, let me tell you about “Cantine Aperto”. I think in England, a place where you make wine is called a winery (that’s right eh?). The Italian’s call them Cantina’s. It seems to be anything from an actual legitimate business to someone’s cellar. But in this instance, I’m talking about the former. “Aperto” means open. I think the event is best described as a “Wine Tasting Tour / Drive Driving Expedition”. You pay 5 Euros which gives you a wine glass and a very becoming yellow wine glass holding bag that you put around your neck.  And then with your wine glass and your bag in hand/around neck, you drive around to, let me see, up to 71 (yes SEVENTY ONE) winery’s and have as many glasses of their wine as you want. And sometimes grappa (which I imagine is what petrol tastes like). And lots of lovely snacks. And then you drive to the next one. And then drive to the next one…. you get the idea. We went with the school and I think they knew the best cantina’s to go to so despite the weather starting off a bit grim, we had a great day marveling at the scenery and trying out the wines (and then came back and had some of my 88 cent wine and agreed that we couldn’t tell the difference). It’s an annual event (last Sunday of May) and I thoroughly recommend it. But I must say, I really can’t imagine that there is a more dangerous place to be than on a road in Le Marche on Cantine Aperto day. I’ll definitely go to the next one (though I might wear a neck brace as precautionary measure).


One of the cantina’s. I did, for blogging purposes, try and make a note of the Cantina’s we went to but confess, I soon lost track. No idea wine, I mean why…

This is my last week at the language school! 4 days left. I’m quite scared!  This will be the first time, apart from holidays, where my life has been completely unstructured! No dull job to go to, no school to go to… My life in London was busy – work every day and out every evening and weekend seeing people or going places. Doing “nothing” for me, is or rather was, always incredibly unsettling. I mean – there are things to do, places to go, people to see… WHAT IF I MISS SOMETHING?! But my life here has been: school in the morning, homework, trips and pottering around a bit every day. It’s been a massive change and one I was a bit skeptical I could make without developing some sort of nervous tic but it’s been a relatively smooth transition. I’m surprised at myself. But next week and thereafter will be the greatest test so far of my ability to remain sane in the absence of a rigid agenda so watch this space. Next week’s post might be from some sort of asylum.

Having said that, I do have vague plans – I’ve decided to only apply timescales in the loosest possible sense to avoid inevitably missing them because I’ve not got some piece of “vital” paperwork but in general: I’m going to try and do some private teaching, I’m going to see if I can carry on with the Italian lessons but maybe just a couple of hours a week, I’m going to see if I can start progressing the paperwork that I need to get a car, and meanwhile I’m going to see if I can stay here in the apartment until the end of July to give me some time to a) get a car and b) find somewhere nice to live.

In other news, I have a confession to make. I haven’t taken the bins out since I’ve been here. There’s a detailed schedule of bin takings out (cardboard one day, glass the next, regular rubbish another, organic waste another, nappies another – thankfully not having to worry about that one at the moment. Not unless the bin situation becomes significantly more stressful) and I haven’t really grasped it. But now… well….there’s a backlog. And if I didn’t know how to get rid of the bins in the first place, I certainly don’t know how to get rid of a backlog. This week, I will be closely monitoring bin activities in the neighbourhood. And if I’ve still not cottoned on to it by next week, I’m going to go on evening walks to distribute the rubbish in bins in Piazza Roma. I mean, that wont look at all odd (“Crazy Lizard Photographying Near Naked Rubbish Distributing English Girl”).

That reminds me, here’s a picture of some lizards near school (one can never have too many lizard photos eh?):


I call this one ‘Where’s Lizzy?’. I might do a lizard version of ‘Where’s Wally’.

I’ve decided I have enough material to have a regular “what’s a bit odd” section on my blog posts. So today’s feature: Grease Spreaders. Do you remember “skid paper” that they used to have instead of toilet paper in school (showing my age here perhaps)? It was basically a roll of tracing paper. I don’t want to dwell on the detail here but er, yes, not absorbent in the slightest… But in Italy, they have something similar: “skid napkins” if you will… If you go to a pizzeria, bar, anywhere I think that’s not a proper sit down restaurant, you are supplied with these “skid napkins” but they serve only to spread the grease further around your face. I’ve decided a more becoming term is “Grease Spreaders”.

And finally finally, I’ve found someone that wants crew in Croatia. I would have had to rule that out in the UK I think but Croatia is easy and cheap for me to get to – there are ferries there that run at least once a day from Ancona. Hopefully something might materialise of that.

And now, I need to prepare salad. Today has been a serious diet day to atone for the copious wine consumption yesterday…

Hope you’re all well.


Ps. Aww, WordPress have just wished me a happy anniversary – it’s been a year since starting the blog. How times flies…

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Italy and England – a erm, detailed observational analysis…


I babbled a bit too much during my last blog post (don’t say anything) so I decided to split it out and publish a separate “Random Oddities” piece today…(today being what I hope is Wednesday if this “publish in the future” business works successfully). So, here’s a few random thoughts outlining some of the differences between the Italy and the UK…

Patriotism – The Italians I’ve met so far are incredibly knowledgeable about their local area, history, traditions, food, wine and just pretty much everything really. There’s a lot of dissatisfaction with the economy and politics but in general, they’re a very patriotic lot on the whole. It’s lovely to see.  Apart from the yobs that hang out English flags every few years for a World / European Cup, I don’t think I ever came across much patriotism in the UK 😉

Clothes – I think it must have been about 30 degrees Celsius at the weekend. It was beautifully sunny. There was not a cloud in the sky. Hot, hot, hot.  And yet, apart from the folk who were out jogging, I think I was probably the only person not wearing full length dark trousers / jeans, a jumper and a padded waterproof rain coat. This happens ALL THE TIME. I’ve been so unnerved by it, that I’ve downloaded an hour by hour weather forecasting app (ilMeteo – it’s very good) suspecting they all knew about some impending blizzard and I didn’t. But no, no blizzards come.

I’ve discussed this phenomenon with a few people now and it seems to be that the Italians are very strict when it comes to the seasons and clothing attire. It’s not yet “summer” and therefore, one should wear spring clothes. Regardless of the actual weather. The English, when it’s sunny, regardless of the season, completely strip off and flock to the nearest beach or park lest they miss summer. It’s probably the most blatant cultural difference I’ve come across so far. I think in time, I will become known as “The crazy English girl wearing summer clothes and takes pictures of walls” (honestly, there are lizards there, I swear).

Weather – now I’m on the subject of it – the weather is incredibly fickle here! It goes from one extreme to the other within a matter of a couple of hours. Last week at school it was difficult to hear the teacher because the thunder was rattling every fibre of the building and the rain was just teaming down. And then a couple of hours later, it was gorgeous sunshine. I think in the UK, we’re pretty stable with the weather – if it’s rubbish in the morning, it’ll stay rubbish for the rest of the day and probably the next couple!

The rain... Oh how it poured...

The rain… Oh how it poured…

Camera 360

2 hours later

Plate dryer – I know this is mundane, and I know a lot of people have dishwashers but I like it! It’s just a drying rack but it’s in a cupboard so you can give the impression your kitchen is always in a clean and orderly state (until you open the cupboard). I’ve seen them in a couple of houses here – I haven’t seen them before. Great idea I think.

Camera 360

Amazing Plate Drying Cupboard

Painting – my room is decked out in posters in plain glass clip frames. Nice posters, but posters all the same. Apart from there’s one original painting, by a local artist called “Bartof” (dead now unfortunately), and I really like it. It’s of a girl walking through an archway. Very simple, but it’s really beautifully painted. Intriguingly, there’s a figure in the archway. Intriguing because it’s not “painted” in as such, and it’s not obvious on first glance either. Marco thinks that the artist painted the Madonna, didn’t like it and then repainted the girl and the arch image over the top. That would make sense. Whatever she did, it really is a lovely painting and just a little bit haunting!

The Girl in the Archway

The Girl in the Archway

Directors – do you know the directors of the films you watch?! I’ve no idea. Apart from I’ll make a conscious effort to avoid a Tarantino film. But in general, I’ve not the foggiest. Last year, whilst I was studying with Sonia, my Italian teacher, there were quite a few exercises on describing TV shows paying particular attention to the director. And it’s been the same over here with the exercises. Very odd I thought, to pay such attention to something nobody cares about. But, BUT, they DO! Whenever they talk about a film, they talk about the director! The Italians are a nation of film buffs. Who knew?!

Right, that’s enough observations for now. Hoping to do some serious sight seeing this week so hope to have a decent update next week 🙂


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Out and about and weird and wonderful wildlife…


Well I’m not that much further forward unfortunately on the flat / car renting and buying stakes, primarily down to my laziness. I’m going to look at it all again later today. I definitely need a car – there are so many places I want to see and just a complete inability to get there! I don’t want to rent a car– it feels like money down the drain if I’m going to buy one later but it suddenly occurred to me earlier that I could always rent a scooter. That would be cheaper and let me get around a bit easier. I’ve not driven for years. I never needed to in London. I find the prospect of driving more heart palpitation inducing than moving countries curiously so if I can get over that, I’ll actually be quite proud of myself.

I’ve been out and about a bit this week – Wednesday morning I popped out to see the market in Camerano. I’ve never seen it so busy! Everyone in Camerano it seems were out. There was lots of clothes, watches, fruit/veg etc. It was quite nice wandering around and I think the fruit and veg would be cheaper there than in the supermarket.


Admittedly, not looking busy in this particularly photo but I promise it was!!!


Wednesday I was out in Sirolo with a new friend for drinks and an “aperitivo” – I should have taken a picture of it. I’ll do that next time… Anyway, an aperitivo is a mixture of free food that comes with your drink. Nice and obviously quite good value being free and all. They even mustered up a vegetarian version for me which was nice of them. The following night, we were out again with her friend who lives in Jesi (Jesi sounds like it might be a nice place to live). We went for dinner in Portonovo. It was a bit cloudy Thursday so looked quite atmospheric. Still relatively warm though.



And when I got back to the flat, I had a little visitor! His name is Maximum Yogurtness II – he’s a gecko. An adorable little thing.



Maximum Yogurtness II (Ignore the carton of wine – 88 CENTS!!! 88!!!!)

It was a wrench to release him back to the wild / balcony. I should have taken him downstairs, I’m skeptical about his ability to have got down by himself. He was only little. Anyway, since then I’ve been on periodic lizard searches of the apartment. They have these dark green lizards here with bright green spots (to be clear, not in my apartment). They’re a bit shy though so haven’t been able to take a photo yet (the locals so far have seen me taking pictures of myself eating ice-cream and taking pictures of walls. Even if they could see that there was a lizard on the wall, I think I would still look like an oddball).  Whilst I’m on the subject of wildlife – the crickets are GINORMOUS, like, hand sized. And the bees… don’t get me started on the bees… they have “calabrone” (hornets) that are the size of small planes.


Giant Man Eating Cricket (potentially not actually man eating but certainly large insect eating)

I’ve eaten out about 3 times since I’ve been here and had either pasta or gnocchi with tomato sauce each time. It seems to be the default vegetarian option – the “vegetable hot pot” of the UK. Thankfully, I really like pasta, gnocchi and tomatos 🙂

I went for quite a long walk yesterday in the countryside just down from Camerano. It was such a nice walk –through wheat fields, vineyards, past old rustic houses, meadows and a nice looking golf course into Sirolo. 


Poppy field and a house – you can just make out Camerano in the distance!

The pollen is out in force at the moment. At one point, there was so much it looked like it was almost snowing… I need to get some hayfever tablets. Anyone else get “itchy tongue” hayfever?! I think it’s possibly one of the more unusual hayfever symptoms but it’s very irritating! Anyway, the walk was good, marred only by a perilous walk along a busy road (all walks that aren’t in the countryside are a bit perilous, they don’t do pavements here) in my quest to get ice-cream. Oh and whilst I’m on the subject of perilous roads – beware, the pedestrian crossings aren’t really treated like pedestrian crossings. Don’t be suckered in to crossing one and expect the cars to stop – you’ll most likely die.



Pavements Schmavements

I’ve finally done some washing too – I can’t say it was a vast success. The washing machine leaks / doesn’t hold even a tiny bit of water. The first time I used it, I left it to its own devices and came back to an inch of water in the bathroom (where it is) – took AGES to mop it up. Anyway, still needing to do a white wash, I decided that I’d give it another go. In retrospect, I should have just done a hand wash – it turns out it’s a lot more work to stand guard for an hour with a mop and bucket. And in the apartments, you hang your washing outside on lines that span across the apartments on a sort of pulley system. I’m on the top floor, it’s windy here. So after an hour of watching the washing machine, I watched the clothes dry on the line lest my knickers escaped. All in all, I had a fascinating afternoon of washing.

The language course is going well but I really have trouble believing that I’ll ever be anywhere near approaching fluent. I’m definitely still in a stage where I’m translating everything first to and from English which takes an age, particularly with the sentence structures requiring a complete overhaul. I’m understanding a lot more words than I think I did before but I’ve the memory of a goldfish so I think it’s going to take me ages to get any better. I’m having to be quite strict with myself not to get despondent with it! Last week in class they were trying to explain what a “vasca da bagno” was to me. It’s a “bath tube” they said. I should have worked it out from that. I didn’t. I asked them what on earth they were talking about. “A BATH TUBE” they kept saying, louder and louder – as though that was ample description in itself. The other student even insisted I had one in the bathroom of my own apartment. I racked my brains but there are simply no tubes in my bath. I said the English just must not have “bath tubes” but that I would definitely like to try one given they really seemed to think these bath tubes were almost a basic human right. A full and frustrating 10 minutes later, they double checked on the English pronunciation. Turns out they meant “Tub”. I definitely have a bath tub 🙂

We watched a film this week at school – Manuale d’amore 2. It’s a really nice film with 4 stories running through it. In Italian of course.  I’ve knocked Vin Diesel off the top “Future Boyfriend” slot and have replaced him with Riccardo ScamarcioMonica Bellucci is in it too and I suspect offers a similar service for the male audience. There was a catchy song in it that’s been in my head ever since. “Eppure Sentire” by Elisa (check it out on youtube here. It’s a nice song. There’s an English version too – I’ve downloaded the original Italian. If you’re interested in a lyric translation, click here

It’s my birthday next week – Thursday for anyone that would like to send me presents 😉 I’m hoping to rally the people I’ve met so far and get them to a bar in Camerano. A friend is coming out to stay for a few days from Wednesday next week so looking forward to that. Hoping to do a few touristy things and maybe see an apartment or two?! Who knows…

I have more blog followers of late so thank you if you’ve just signed up 🙂 And if you happen to be Italian, don’t get the wrong idea, I honestly do love your country, its just it has some curious bits! 



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Monte Conero, Sirolo and an impending visit to the police station…


I have been planning! Planning is my forte 🙂 But er, not here! My plan was as follows: Stay in the apartment for two months (I’m in my second week), buy a car in a week or two’s time, use said car to find a flat/house to rent and then once I’ve got a car and a house, start looking more earnestly for a (bit of a) job.

However, you apparently need to be here for 3 months before you can buy a car (?!?!), and you seem to have to have a lot of documents first e.g. proof that you’re a resident, for which I’ll need an address. But I need a car to find myself a permanent address so that’s a bit annoying. And the websites I’ve been looking at which give info on how to get a car in Italy all provide differing advice – but according to them all, the main thing I seem to need is a carta di soggiorno. So, I went to school this morning and was regaling this to Marco and his wife who’ve never heard of this carta di soggiorno and looked at several different websites and decided I needed something else entirely.

So, I’m officially confused! I think tomorrow we might be going to the police station to tell them I’m living in the area. In the UK, I think you only have to tell the police you’re living in the area when you’re a registered paedophile! (I’m not). Anyway, I’ve not got my head around quite how to do this getting a house and a car malarkey and in what order would be best. There’s a fab website – similar to Gumtree, for people wanting to rent/buy houses and apartments. It’s got cars etc. on too. Houses/apartments look pretty cheap – definitely in comparison to London and more than within what I’ve been budgeting for so I’m pleased about that but without being able to look around the areas, it’s impossible to see really whether it is a good deal or not. You really have to have a car here to get places. Marco has suggested I rent a car for a while but that seems like spending money unnecessarily. So we’ll see.  Suffice to say, planning is difficult.

I’m hoping to see the girl I met in Senigallia at the weekend, tomorrow. She has a car so perhaps she’ll be able to help with some advice on that. It seems ages since I’ve actually been OUT for a drink! It’s a bit tempting to stay in for a drink here – the wine is 80 cent a litre… 80 CENT. I feel like I should be drinking it out of a paper bag on a street corner.

Today, we had a class trip (the class still being myself and Jeno) to Monte Conero and Sirolo. First up was Monte Conero – there’s a nice drive up to where you start the walk. Took a couple of nice pictures. Lots of swallows darting around the fields – very nice.


Pretty pic! The little town up there is Sirolo.


Er, another pretty pic (I’ll work on my captions for next time)

We walked to a viewpoint looking out over the Due Sorelle (two rocks out in the sea) and Sirolo. It was a lovely walk with absolutely fabulous views – really very impressive and only slightly marred by what I think might be a broken toe after walking into my bed last night. Pfft. Who needs little toes anyway…


Le due sorelle (those two rocks you can see just after the nice looking bay)

After the walk, we headed into Sirolo for a drink. Sirolo’s very pretty but another one of these places where it’s dead outside of the three summer months (June, July and August) so it’s probably not somewhere I should consider living (everywhere I go at the moment I’m thinking about “could I live there”!) but there’s some lovely views again and the paese itself is very well maintained.






View from Sirolo out to Monte Conero (Le Due Sorelle are out behind that mountain bit)

There’s some pretty little white flowers down the road – they smell nice. I nicked a bit for my apartment and it’s made the entire place smell lovely and less drain-like. Not sure what they are. Anyone know?


Nice smelling white flowers

We should be going for a walk in the mountains this weekend – although I don’t have the shoes/toes for it so we’ll see. Marco showed me a nice place to go for a “jog” / walk just down the hill from Camerano so might check that out too if there’s time.

Right, off to watch CSI. My Italian is becoming someone forensic science-ly skewed. I have difficult conversing about what I’m doing in the future but let me tell you, I can tell you exactly the Italian for the tests that should be conducted in the event someone has been killed in a suspicious manner.


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The dolce vita, settling in and seeing the sites…


Allora (well!), I’m pleased to say I’m settling in nicely 🙂 So far, no regrets or doubts about whether I did the right thing – I’m pretty content! The view from my apartment is just amazing.

Camerano view from my apartment

View from my apartment

You can see at least three towns from the balcony off my kitchen but very difficult to see in the photo above (I need my decent camera which I had to leave at home!): Osimo (right), Castelfidardo (middle) and Loreto (left) and in the background the very majestic Siblini Mountains. They rise up to the cloud level here in the photo – again, my camera’s not good enough to pick it up. They’re difficult to see sometimes anyway because of La Foschia (a sort of summer haze) but it’s pretty breathtaking when you can.

Camerano is perched on the top of a hill – a lot of the Italian towns/villages are, around here. There’s a lovely paved area with a viewpoint – in a couple of weeks there’ll be chairs and tables out from the bar that’s close by so that’ll be nice to go to in the evenings. I’ve taken loads of pictures – I’m going to try and write up about each town I visit but it’s taking ages! Anyway, click here for the main Le Marche page and click on the links to the various towns for photo’s and in time, hopefully more!

It has a wood right at the top which has well kept gravel paths but it’s very small as you’d probably expect for the top of a hill. You wouldn’t really want to meet any axe murderers in there – there’s not really much scope to escape (see mother – I am baring my safety in mind :-)! Admittedly I acknowledged that, and went in anyway but still…Forewarned is forearmed).

Camera 360

Wood at the top of the hill in Camerano

I hear there’s some market stalls selling fruit and veg in the morning most days but I’ve not actually been out before school yet so not seen them. I’ll do that next week I think. There’s a bigger market on Wednesday selling clothes. In the afternoons, all the old men in Camerano seem to hang around in gangs outside the shops. The women it turns out, are busy cooking dinner at home. I am not naturally suited to the male/female role division here and it’s probably one area of the Italian culture I’ve no intention of becoming suited to either!

Most evenings so far, I’ve had dinner back at the apartment whilst watching CSI USA dubbed in Italian and very handily available with Italian subtitles.

The people are nice. So far, I’ve met:

  • Marco and his wife Ursula, Cristina my teacher, Jeno a fellow (and only other) student in my class and Marta (who’s doing teacher training to become an Italian tutor herself). Marco I’ve talked about, he’s great, really like him. Cristina is very good – talks fast but really knows her stuff and explains thing well. I get the meaning of what she’s saying pretty much all the time but probably understand about half the words – hopefully I’ll get better! The entire lesson is in Italian – but it’s only for 2 – 2.5 hours a day. Jeno is Hungarian, retired, and is studying here for another 3 or 4 weeks (having been here already for 2). He’s incredibly, incredibly friendly. Over here, he lives in a place called Marchelli which is a part of Numana (still in Le Marche). It’s right on the coast. He invited me back to see his apartment earlier in the week and it’s great. He’s got a massive balcony overlooking a lovely sea view (I’ve got a sea view too– it’s just 5km away rather than 50m away ;-)) Marta is really nice – talks even faster than Cristina. She’s given me some advice on getting a job and websites to look at and she’s even offered to help me with a little notice for getting interest from people wanting to learn English.
Camera 360


  • An old lady in the Tabbacheria. I bought a postcard, stamp and notebook – had to ask for it all as well as it was all behind the counter. She said my Italian was good – I like her ;-). That was until I tried to explain that I wanted nail varnish remover. My Italian is somewhat limited at the moment on beauty products so I went with the fall back mime option (which was impressive in its detail and complexity involving my toenails, pretend cotton wool and a pretend medium sized bottle of nail varnish remover). She tried to sell me some nail varnish remover wipes for 13 Euros. 13! Pah. And I thought she was my friend…
  • Some scary men in the Trattoria. The Trattoria is not particularly welcoming I have to say. The door is shut all the time and it’s difficult to tell whether it’s open or not. I’ve learnt that if I’m ever in doubt as to whether a shop/cafe is open or closed, it’s best to assume it’s closed.  I mean, I really do admire the Italian work ethic – one should work to live, not live to work. They’ve got that in the bag. But, I can’t help but think that when one wants lunch and the shop which sells lunch is closed at lunchtime and several hours either side, that there’s scope to introduce some minor improvements to suit the consumer like being open at lunchtime. Anyway, the Trattoria was full of old men at tables looking at us (I was with the other student) and we weren’t even sure who worked there or not. Nobody said anything. All conversation stopped. If I wasn’t with my fellow classmate who’d thankfully been there before, I suspect I would have backed out. There were no menus but the guy who eventually did come out and to give him credit, was reasonably friendly, gave us a choice of a couple of options (we had pomodoro basilica – basically tomato/basil pasta) which was very tasty indeed. Completely worth being intimidated for 🙂  And actually, once we’d sat down, the constant staring diminished to sporadic staring only so all worked out well in the end!!!
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Trattoria in Camerano – Stick with it, the food is worth it!

  • Nicole, she’s an estate agent and works in Numana. The other student got his apartment through her a week or two back and so he thought it would be good if I spoke to her if I wanted somewhere to stay longer term. But Numana is only busy in the summer and then quiet the rest of the year and she really only deals with holiday lets rather than people looking to stay in the longer term. She showed me an apartment but it was tiny really and for the double the amount I’m paying here – probably slightly nicer done out than my apartment here but I could look at the view from here all day whereas the view there was of someone’s garage.
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Taken from Numana towards Mount Conero

  • A couple of guys in a pizzeria in Numana – there were very friendly, particularly the owner and the pizza was fab.
  • The guy who serves ice cream in the gelateria in Camerano. I asked his advice on ice cream (honestly, as if I need advice on ice-cream…) and I think I got an extra scoop, whipped cream and a sort of waffley extra bit as a result. I’m going to do that again. In fact, my plan is as follows: go to the gelateria every other day, and in the other days (in order to avoid becoming a total giant), go to a cafe. I have selected my cafe, I’ve just not gone in there yet.
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Piazza Roma in Camerano taken from the Gelateria

  • Catherine, a very nice girl from New Zealand who teaches English and works in a hotel in Senigallia. She’s given me her contact details so I’ll definitely be getting in touch. She has a friend over here that comes from Portsmouth, not far from where I grew up so that might be a nice link too. She thinks, as does Marco, that mother tongue English speakers are in demand here as there just aren’t many of us in the area.
  • Another Marco and Simone. I had a very confusing conversation with the Original Marco who was describing his two friends and how they’d moved to London together but how they no longer saw each other anymore which was sad etc.but that they were going to come around for dinner (on the night I was too). I asked whether that might be awkward and he couldn’t comprehend why. We had a long conversation about it – as we do all the time because I have to go through an insanely long description of everything I don’t know/remember the name of (most things) e.g. “Do you have a long wooden rod that has something inside that I can use to write with on paper?”, rather than “Got a pencil?”.  Anyway, I think a good 15 minutes later, it turned out that Simone is a man and that they went to London as friends and so of course it wouldn’t be awkward! Anyway, Simone and Marco are both very friendly and might be some other people to hang out with potentially.

In terms of other stuff I’ve been doing – every week we get a programme of activities – this week we went to a town called Recanati and we had an authentic Italian cookery lesson (with Marco’s German wife :-)) followed by eating it with Marco’s family and friends at his house. Think this week we’ll be going to Mount Conero for a walk, potentially to see the “Two Sisters” – a couple of big rocks out in the water that’s inaccessible apart from what sounds like a rather perilous walk down some cliffs or by boat. I’m quite looking forward to that. I’d probably be looking forward to it a bit more if I had anything other than flip flops and a pair of gripless trainers.

Recanati is a very nice little town/village/paese with a lot of cultural things to do and museums etc. It’s set in some really lovely countryside – rolling green / golden hills, lots of pretty flowers, vineyards and olive groves. In terms of cultural stuff – despite making a concerted effort to pay attention for the purposes of being enlightening for the blog, I just can’t retain that kind of info so here are some photo’s instead and click on the link if you’re interested in anything else! There’s a museum sort of exhibition next on the 18th May where I think all/most of the museums in Le Marche are free. Much better than that, on the 25th/26th May, there’s some kind of Cantina Festival where you basically visit people’s cellars and drink the wine they’ve made. Sounds good – I’ll try and find out a bit more about it for the next blog.

Camera 360

Yesterday, I went to Portonovo with the other student on the course. Portonovo is a gorgeous bay below some cliffs. Incredibly picturesque. We didn’t stay for long though – only because it’s a flat fee with parking and we were too stingy to pay for the full day (only 4,50 euros or something) and then we headed to Senigallia.

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From the beach in Portonovo

Senigallia is on the seaside – it’s got a 10km sandy beach which is lovely to walk

along. At the moment, it’s all pretty empty and shut, but I think it’ll become a lot busier next month. The Italians appear to take a mass holiday from work from June and go to the seaside for weeks/months at a time. They really do have a fabulous work/life balance!

But it means though that the towns get a bit run down during the winter months and in the summer months, it’s a bit too commercialised and family orientated for me. It’s made me realise that I’d much rather live somewhere in the hills/mountains with a view but close enough to go to the sea when I want.

Senigallia has a castle – it’s 2 Euros to wander around it and look at the exhibition. The exhibition is a bit sparse and the bits that were there are a bit hard going to read but it’s cheap and it’s nice to see out from the top so I’d recommend it.

In terms of other stuff I’ve been up to, I’ve got a little checklist of things to do every day: homework from class, Italian verb conjugation exercises (using the wonderful Italian Verb Trainer app on my phone), some Italian reading, some Italian writing (in the form of a diary), and then some kind of exercise every day and something creative every day. I’ve done neither of the last two but exercise is difficult here. Marco’s shown me a reasonably flattish bit of land where I can go “jogging” which I might attempt today. There’s a swimming pool quite close but I think it’ll be traumatic to get to at least the first time.  I’ve done nothing at all creative bar take my paper and pencils out with me everywhere I go and I’d hoped I’d be a bit more creative than that! Hoping to do some this week.

Just as an aside for things people might want to bring me over (!): Squash – you can’t buy it here (as in the juice concentrate you mix with water). You can just buy juice, which is obviously nice but expensive so I’ve been mixing it with water but I’m not entirely convinced by that concept. And multivitamins appear to be very expensive and surrounded in pig bone (gelatine). So in an ideal world, I would quite like squash and pigless multivitamins. And the washing up liquid has the consistency of water, not washing up liquid. Having said all that, I would much rather be without them but with grissini and Stuffer’s yogurt (not together mind). So all in all, Italy is coming out very much on top.

Anyway, seems a lot of information, sorry! I’ll aim to do smaller updates little and often rather than epics every now and then! 🙂

Buon giornata!


Been to any of the places mentioned? Got any hints and tips? Feedback below!

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Sono qui! First day in Camerano :-)


Sono qui!

Well I don’t know how I made it here! I managed to lose my boarding pass with hours to go. I remember putting it somewhere safe. Hmm. Then whilst at the Internet Cafe printing out another, I left my phone behind and some guy came running out to give it back (stick that in your pipe, South London doubters!), and whilst at the airport, I dropped my passport during a race to another gate (Ryanair). I sort of won the race, or at least improved on my previous “last place” position and got a window seat and a place for my bag in the overhead lockers, AND someone handed me my passport back.  I really am amazed I make it out the door sometimes. And certainly amazed that I generally make it back through.

Ryanair were as expected. Little bit farcical with large queues, broken computers, gate changes and then a steady stream of passengers faffing around with suitcases in the first rows blocking every other passenger from getting on. I mean, I know they don’t like to allocate seats but jeez, it would make everyone’s lives, including theirs a lot easier.  The wing was bent – are wings usually bent? Being a good passenger, I checked the other side and noted it was equally bent which I decided was either very good or very bad (can you tell it’s been YEARS since I’ve been able to get a window seat on a plane?! Things have clearly moved on since the 90’s. I hope next time they will have invented time travel rather than simply bent wings).



The plane was full of Italians. I did consider befriending the one next to me but he looked like he was the stag on a stag do and I couldn’t see the others which made me think he was probably just a bit odd rather than celebrating/commiserating.

The flight was just over 2 hours – not bad at all and Ancona airport is tiny which I think worked in its favour – the plane stopped just outside the terminal and by the time we got through passport control, the bags were there. 10 minutes I’d say from landing to getting out. Speedy.

To my relief, Marco was there with a sign when I got in. I’ve decided I’d like it if every time I went somewhere there was someone waiting for me with a sign (on reflection, perhaps just at airports. It would probably be unnerving if the same thing happened everytime I went into a shop or bar). He doesn’t drive like a maniac as far as I can tell but I was sort of dazed and chatting for most of it. I’m pleased to report that my Italian held up a bit at least 🙂 Marco is a lovely chap, very friendly and helpful. He’s married with two grown up kids.  He set up the school about 9 years ago. He’s tall with what I think must be exceptionally long legs. I used to think I walked fast, but Marco walks at the pace that I run at. And not even a sort of relaxed run, it’s at escaping-from-rabid-dog run levels. I think we must look odd walking/sprinting around together. He’s suggested I come around for dinner one evening.

Ooo guess what? He has a good friend with a large sailing boat that he thinks will want crew and who is a member of a sailing club that’s not too far away. He’s going to introduce us maybe on Monday or at least give me his details. Woohoo 🙂

Oooooo and guess what? Marco’s considering branching out to teaching English to Italians – he seemed quite interested that I was considering teaching English. Would be quite nice to have a bit of a job.

OOOOOOOOOOOoooooo and guess what? I HAVE WIFI!!!! IN THE FLAT!!! What a relief! I’ll be able to continue my (occasionally) undefeated reign at Scramble.

And there’s a Hungarian guy that’ll be on the course as well – he’s been here a week or two already I think. He’s been in my apartment up until now but has just got a place in Numana (a local beach town). Marco reckons that though it’s pretty and a lively place to live in the summer, in the winter it can be dead when all the Italian’s go back home. Not sure how long the guy’s staying for in Italy.

So far, I like Camerano though that was largely based on a 5 minute tour last night. It’s bigger than I thought, and MUCH more lively! Not at all like the sleepy little villages where all the old people take their chairs outside onto the roadsides in the evenings and stare at passersby like other villages I’ve been to in Italy. There seem to be quite a few bars and loads of people in them. Pub Club: You would like it here 🙂 Marco seemed to think I could just turn up to the bar and make friends. That seems unrealistically easy. He did mention that “we” go to some bars sometimes… “We” I think was him and the students, which would definitely be less daunting.

AND AND I now have an Italian SIM card (friends/family – let me know if you want the number – Whatsapp seems to work regardless much to my amazement and Skype does of course anyway). Getting a SIM card warrants an entire page in itself. Here it is: “Getting an Italian SIM card”.


My new bedroom

The apartment is alright – it could certainly do with some sprucing up but really it’s not too bad. And they’ve replaced the metal bed frames that were on the original photo’s with wooden bed frames for a less prison cell like feel.  The bathroom smells – I think it’s the drains rather than anything I can do anything about. The view from the back of my apartment is (ignoring a bunch of factories) just lovely. I can see for miles. There’s a little town not far away on a hill. I wonder what that is… I might get my map out later.

There is an exceedingly complicated rubbish system. I have 5 bins in the kitchen alone. It’s very complex.

I went to a shopping centre this morning, “Auchan”. Auchan seems to be the name of the whole shopping centre as well as the supermarket in there. I LOVE IT. It’s huge! It has EVERYTHING (actually, that’s a lie, it doesn’t seem to have matches and it turns out that you can’t light candles with a gas lighter).  As with the SIM card purchasing, the shopping centre also deserves a page. See here for Italian Supermarket Hints & Tips for the uninitiated. I lost a notebook in the shopping centre. That was my “Italian” diary – I’ve been writing in it for a year or so in Italian. I think my annoyance is probably equal to the hilarity that it must be giving to some Italian somewhere right now!

I’m going to need a car / scooter I think – it’s too in the middle of nowhere. The busses run reasonably often and go to a few places but it’s really not too good for getting around. Driving here terrifies me but I’ll have to get over that. I was considering getting a bike (of the push bike variety) – they’re not too expensive but I’d have to be at Tour de France levels to get anywhere (ah, I’d be pushing the bike all the time. Perhaps that’s where “push bike” comes from!).

I found out how to get a pin number from the Post Office for their pre-paid travel card. You have to phone up for it. A bit frustrating. Cost me 1,15 Euros that did. Pfft. The Travelex one worked well. I’ll put some more money on that I think.

Anyway, that’s far too much writing for one day. School tomorrow!

Ciao x

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Imminent departures, Solitude and Catholicism…


WEEEELLLLLL!!!! The flight is <checks ticket> Saturday at 18.25 from Stansted and let me tell you…. it’s a bit stressful trying to fit all your stuff into two bags. I believe I have to sell a family member for every 1kg I’m over my allowance. It’s a shame, I quite like them.

Plan of Action

So this is the plan:

  • Arrive at <checks ticket. Hmm. It’s not on here> 21.40 or something I think.
  • Get picked up by someone, hopefully a guy called Marco who seems to be a key player in the language school.
  • It’s a 22 minute drive from Ancona Airport to my apartment in Camerano (I think we can safely halve that time based on the driver being Italian)
  • He’s going to show me briefly where things are: the language school (which I have been “walking” to on google streetview – it’s only 5 mins away), supermarket etc. And there’s an Ikea apparently very close.
  • The American girl that was supposed to be staying in my first week has had to postpone/cancel which is a shame so I’ve got the apartment to myself for the full 2 months at the moment. That’ll be not at all lonely then! Good job I’m not the kind of person that requires constant entertainment <cough>. So, plan A of course is Italian Befriendation. If the regular approach of just meeting and chatting to people proves slow, I might consider becoming Catholic 🙂 That’ll get me in the thick of it eh? My first confession I suspect will be a long one… probably focusing on my not actually being a Catholic.
  • Sunday, everything will be shut and so I’ll wander around the town a bit to get my bearings (or go to church ;-))  I’ve got some food and Marco did say that he might take me to a supermarket which is open outside of town if I’m desperate. But we’re going for drinks/dinner on Sunday evening at 7pm as a sort of introduction to all the people on the course (I mean “all” in the loosest possible sense given my strong suspicions that it’ll just be me!).

Things to do in Le Marche

I’ve been doing some research into what to do in Le Marche when I get there – I’ve got several brochures from the Italian House during the Olympics last year. On the face of it, they look very useful and in fact, I’m sure they are. If only I could bring myself to read them! My mind wanders after the first couple of words – they’re not very entertaining <flashback to book club>. And there’s not a single paragraph. Well that’s a lie, there is a single paragraph. Perhaps I should create some Italian brochures with at least two paragraphs and potentially, headings.

I’ve signed up to Le Marche’s quarterly newsletter. That site has quite a bit of info on about the area and events. I came up with a good list of things to go to see and do. Which I’ve promptly overwritten. Annoying.

I’ve been looking at train travel too – it’s about 3 and a half hours (and 19 euros) from Ancona to Rome and a similar sort of time to get to Venice as well. And there are ferries which go from Ancona to loads of places in and outside of Italy. I’ll definitely look at that. I wonder if I could add ferry travel to my sailing hours for my log 🙂 Oh I went sailing last weekend with some lovely random’s from the Sailing Networks website on their trimaran – quite, different from the last boat! Here’s a pic of it:


The Dragonfly 920 Trimaran I was out on last weekend

I left it a bit late to get the credit cards you can get for travel abroad which I think are a good option. I have, however, gone for a couple of pre-paid cards. I’ll be interested to see if they work! The Post Office card one was recommended to me so I’m pretty confident that one will work. But you have to pay 2 euro’s to take out money from the cash point. Having said that, it seems a needless point of clarification given it will be impossible to withdraw cash anyway – as far as I can tell, there’s no pin number! I’ll phone them today to see how they imagine that might work. And it was a bit of a faff to register the card (you need to activate it after 10.30 the next day. I’m BUSY!).

The other one I got was a Travelex “cash passport” card  – same kind of thing but the Travelex guys on the phone weren’t a) able to reassure me that anyone would take their card and b) that the people that do take it wont put some of their own costs on. And there was a long story about how the card will assume if you’re in a cafe/restaurant, that you’re going to pay a tip regardless of whether you do or not and that eventually the “bill” will settle. WHAT?!?! Having said that, it was less faffy to register for it, it was activated immediately, there’s no “activation code” you have to keep forever and you don’t have to pay for withdrawing cash.

I phoned Smart Currency Exchange too  – they can transport money from one bank account in England to one in Italy at a good exchange rate. Alas, I’ll not have one in Italy for a while so not a go-er in the short term.


I’ve been looking more at healthcare in Italy as well. Health insurance is far too expensive. As an EU member, I get healthcare provided free of charge, similar to the NHS. I need to register for a doctor at some point – I think I’ll need a fixed address for that though so might not be for a couple of months. If I need a prescription, the general consensus from the internet forum’s is that I can sort of wink and nod at the person over the counter and they’ll give me whatever I want (within reason and for a price).

Skype & Whatsapp

In other news, the girls from home are now on Skype and Whatsapp which I’m pleased about! Makes it marginally less scary to know that there’ll be people at the other end of a laptop/phone. Having said that, I’ve already used up my data allowance for the entire month in about 3 days due to Vodafone’s fabulous updating of my phone which wiped everything, switched wifi to “off”, switched mobile data to “on” and then took off my data limits during a period where I’ve become obsessed with the Scramble app <sigh>. If you are my friend, and you’re not on Skype / Whatsapp, PLEASE GET SKYPE AND WHATSAPP IMMEDIATELY 🙂


There’s no ex-pats website for Le Marche – I mean, it’s kind of good that they’re not all out here hiking up the prices of houses etc. (well, for me, probably less so for the Italians) but it would be nice to know one or two English-speaking people… So, my next mission might be to set up an ex-pats website for Le Marche.

Right, probably my last post before I head off. Wish me luck. I will be annoyed if the plane crashes.


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