Monthly Archives: June 2013

Nightmare Journey from Hell, Interviews and Fashion…


This week without school has been reasonably productive and saw me actually sorting my CV out and sending it off to some English teaching schools – within a few hours I got a call from one of them in Jesi to say that they wanted me to come in for an interview. I had the interview on Friday.

The interview went well-ish. Getting there did not! The interview was at 2.30pm in Jesi. Jesi is half an hour away in the car. However, I think the Italians would agree with me that the public transport system here isn’t amazing. So I left at 9.30am giving me oodles of contingency time for late connections etc. And interviews are a bit stressful in themselves so I wanted to ensure I arrived in good time in a relaxed and calm fashion. I also thought I’d splash out on buying some replacement shoes for the interview (I don’t want to take the Rain Shoes out anymore, it’s not fair on other people). So that’s what I wanted to happen – this is what actually happened (for clarity I have highlighted levels of annoyance on a scale of “irritating” to “Basil Fawlty”):

1: The first bus was late (Annoyance Factor: Irritating. But to be honest, my expectations had already been set – the bus has never been on time and this is exactly what the contingency time was for).

2: The published timetable for the next bus I needed to catch from Ancona was wrong. The buses did not run every half an hour as stated but at a random frequency which was on average every one and a half hours with an exceptionally long gap in the morning that I had not accounted for. The published timetable didn’t indicate what bus I needed to take either – or from where – but see Item 3 below. (Annoyance Factor: Annoying).

3: The published bus routes were wrong. Having lived in London for a good portion of my life, I feel confident in telling you that I’ve nailed buses. I pulled upon this extensive knowledge and read the bus stop sign / misleading trap (see “Exhibit A” below) with a list of destinations and thought, ah “This bus ‘I’ is going from here to Jesi”. I was pleased. It’s unusual here that there’d be a sign clearly denoting the buses and where they go. When the bus eventually came, decades later, the bus driver informed me that his bus ‘I’ does not actually go to/anywhere near Jesi. Why? I don’t know, the kind and informative bus driver offered no explanation (Annoyance Factor: Really Really Very Annoying).


Exhibit A: I know it’s fuzzy. Squint a bit and pretend it’s one of those magic eye pictures – Bus “I” goes from Ancona to Jesi. This was taken from the bus stop where bus “I” was due and to give them credit, eventually did, arrive at.

4: Even the bus stop itself which said that the buses from there went to Jesi was a trap. It emerges, only through speaking to multiple other people / victims, that I should have waited at The Secret Bus Stop further down the road that had no sign or timetable or indeed little indication that it was actually a bus stop. Why would the bus company go to such extravagant lengths to lure people into waiting HOURS in the wrong place for the wrong bus?! WHY?!?!?!?!?!  Well I’ll tell you why (see Item 5 below. Annoyance Factor: Livid making).

5: Ancona Train Station is large – there are a lot of bus stops, particularly when Secret Bus Stops are taken into account. It really does warrant someone from the bus company being there for information, even if it was to support their Mission Statement which must start with “We are committed to ruining people’s lives…”. What a lost opportunity! They could have been at the station in person to direct innocent people to imaginary bus stops and tell them to wait for imaginary buses all day! (Annoying Factor: Ugh, Annoying).

6: And another thing…Whether it was because I’d be waiting at the wrong bus stop, waiting for the wrong bus or because the timetable was wrong, I don’t know, but I stood waiting for almost 2 hours in searing heat with no shade and no seats. I believe the Mission Statement continues with “…and by the end of Summer 2013, we hope to have played a key part in reducing the world’s overpopulation crisis by indirectly causing the deaths of thousands that attempt to use our buses through severe exhaustion, heat stroke and complications from fat, bloated ankles”. (Annoyance Factor: Too Exhausted and Depressed To Even Be Annoyed Anymore).

7: I bought a bus ticket like a good citizen from the Tabaccheria who gave me a ticket costing 1,80 Euro to get to Jesi and all the way back to Camerano. I double checked because it seemed wrong. I’ve been using a 1,80 Euro ticket to go only one way for a lot less distance. But she assured me that it was correct and she is after all an Italian who sells these for a living so I went with it and cursed myself that I’d not been making full use of my 1,80 Euro tickets before. When I managed to catch the Secret Bus from the Secret Bus Stop, for the first time ever there was a bus conductor checking tickets. He told me that the ticket wouldn’t even get me to Jesi, let alone to Jesi and back to Camerano. So, I ended up paying 3,80 Euro (erm, for the English folk getting annoyed at my poor grammar right now: the Italians don’t use ‘s’ for their plurals. I’ve taken this on board whole heartedly as it means I don’t have to remember where to put apostrophes/apostrophe’s ;-)). I had every intention of writing a separate page for the blog entitled “Using the Buses in Italy – a useful guide”. I’ve photos of tickets and ticket stamping machines and Tabaccheria signs etc. all ready to go. But no, in actual fact I’m going to ditch all that and replace it with some text: NEVER GET THE BUS HERE. (Annoyance Level: Definitely Annoying)

8: That was the end of the public transport saga. Is anyone still reading?! Onto sat nav… 🙂  When I got to Jesi eventually, believe it or not, I still had plenty of time to find where the interview was. That was until my sat nav on the phone decided to stop working. But not in the sense that it wouldn’t turn on. No, I mean in the sense of creating a destination road miles away which never materialised (hmm, perhaps the sat nav app was created by Ancona’s bus company?). I checked numerous times that I’d entered the correct details and not “end of the rainbow” / “horizon”. I almost walked back out of Jesi before giving up and checking on Google Maps. And let me tell you, Google, who make it their business to know everything about everyone and every place in every location that there ever was, had no record of this road that the school was on (even though it did the day before!). Its destination pointer kept pointing to another random road miles away in the opposite direction. Devoid of hope, tired, hot, sweaty, with aching feet, I headed there. And success! After an hour or two walking the streets of Jesi I arrived! (Annoyance Levels: Livid, offset marginally by sheer joy of finding the place after so long).

9: Looking around me when I got outside, I spotted some familiar buildings. I estimate the school where the interview was, was about 20 meters away from where the bus originally dropped me off. (Annoyance Level: See Basil Fawlty at the end of Waldorf Salad episode).

Anyway, I dug deep, visited my happy place and instructed myself to be cool, calm and collected for the interview which went well. The interviewer was a woman that had moved out to Italy a few years ago and loved it. Very nice and friendly. My cool, calm, collectedness lasted for a minute or two until she asked me if I’d got there ok! It’s probably an interview faux pas to launch into how impossible it is to anywhere to the office where you’d be working but regardless, she said that I had the right communication skills and personality to work there. Aw. My lack of experience wasn’t an issue. However, they’re a good school and have standards (standard schmandards…) and if I wanted the job, I’d have to commit to doing a CELTA course (despite my other TEFL qualification) which would cost about £1k, take a month of intensive study to do in somewhere that’s nowhere near here. And they only employ people with cars or that live close by (Yup. I would readily gauge my own eyes out with a rusty spoon before doing that journey again).

I knew pay was less here, that unemployment is a massive issue and that teaching jobs aren’t well paid in general but the salary is terrible! I wouldn’t have thought it possible to survive on such a low income here. I’ve checked and what they’re offering is pretty average. The cost of living here compared to the UK is pretty similar to be honest but the salaries are at least 2 or 3 times less for the equivalent job in the UK. Anyway, I’ll think about it. It was left that “we’d keep in touch”. To be honest, I was looking for something on a more part-time / when I want to do it basis. I don’t really like working.

My quest for an inscrizione dei cittadini stranieri (step towards residency goes on) – I’ve finally got a letter from the school to say that I’m a student there. I’ll attempt to go in to the Comune… (I should check how you’re pronouncing Comune – it’s “koh-moon-ay”, not “com-yoon”. It’s not a communist working camp. Ha! “Work”! Imagine! Yeah, it’s definitely not one of those)… on Monday to see if I can get the ball rolling again. I heard a rumour from someone yesterday that I didn’t actually need to be here 3 months to get a car so I’m going to start looking into that next week too. Does anyone have any opinion on what car I should get? I want to pay the least possible for a second hand one that is reliable, that uses diesel (it’s cheaper here) and that’s cheap to insure and tax. Answers on a postcard (or at end of blog!).

I’m still looking for an apartment too – I saw the neighbour’s apartment last Sunday which he’s going to be renting out in September. It’s just opposite the road from here with two bedrooms but a really small kitchen, with no outside space and newly decorated in Diarrhea Brown (a curiously popular shade here in houses).  I finally caught one of the estate agents whilst the office was open (it’s been shut continually for what seems to be the entire time I’ve been here). Despite hearing rumours that it was indeed a working office, I thought it must have closed down. But no, no…  Anyway, he was a lovely man, said how good my Italian was for the time I’ve been here (my definition of “lovely”: someone that compliments my Italian. Which is interestingly the same definition I have for “barefaced liar” 😉 ). There are apparently 3 potential apartments close by – all unfurnished though. I’m hoping to have a look at some of them soon – he said he’s going to call me. He hasn’t yet. I suppose that’s one of the inevitable hall marks of being a lovely, barefaced liar.


Diarrhea Brown

I have three new housemates – a woman from Austria, another from Russia and her friend (male) from Italy. They’re all are very friendly. I think we’ll get on. I went out with the Austrian to a couple of the local bars when she arrived on Friday and had a lot of fun. We spoke in Italian the whole time so that was good – it’s great to have someone to speak Italian to at home at a sort of conversational level. Almost two months in, I remain constantly surprised that other people can understand what I’m saying: in the same way Euros seem like monopoly money to me, other languages seem like a childhood secret code (albeit a frustratingly difficult and grammatically challenging one). I had to move bedrooms – my old bigger one had been booked out by one of the others but I’m happy with the smaller one – it’s much cooler.


The new bedroom… There’s another window on the wall where the wardrobe is so I get a draught which is really nice. I was almost comfortable last night as opposed to sweltering.

What else? I went to an Agriturismo opening party yesterday – free food and drink! For people that haven’t heard of them, Agriturismo’s are usually B&B affairs set in countryside and often with some kind of working element to it whether it’s a vineyard, olive grove or something more ‘farm like’. This place was a renovated farm house I think (it had handy hooks for your dead pigs in one of the downstairs bedrooms…. I have to keep mine in the wardrobe) which was split into 3 lovely apartments. Friends / family: rather than stay with me for free, I recommend you pay for yourselves (and me) to stay in this agriturismo. It’s lovely. And there’s not even a hint of Diarrhea Brown.


The Agriturismo – It was a unique marketing event. I don’t know what it’s called. Or really where it is. Or what it costs. There’s no website, brochures of any kind or discernible ability to book…Yet, it was really nicely done and had a beautiful swimming pool. I like it a lot. People should definitely go there. If they can find it. I jest, I think I could probably find out if people actually were.

I missed out last week’s “What’s a bit odd” (well noticed Pete) so was going to make up for it now with two (infinite stock to chose from) but there’s a *chance* I may have ranted earlier rather than use the blog to provide a semi-useful Italian moving guide as was the intention. I apologise but it’s been therapeutic and might reduce the need for counselling at a later date. So I’ll keep it at one: Dress Sense. The Italians are known for good dress sense eh? They’ve got Gucci, Prada, Armani, Dolce & Gabbana… But here, back in real life, people’s dress sense only falls into two categories: 1) Bog Standard (I like to consider myself in this group) and 2) Dire. I’ve seen men wearing lime green or pink chinos with little girl vest tops and shiny long pointy shoes… I’ve seen women wearing skin-tight (tighter even) fluorescent numbers with colour coordinated giant earrings and impossibly high shoes that could probably be classified as stilts… Well, there are many examples and I can only apologise that to date, I’ve been too slow to get my camera out. And I say “dire” in the kindest possible sense. I know everywhere has a few er, uniquely dressed people. I think it’s fabulous that people explore their personalities through fashion and it must take an admirable amount of courage to leave their houses like they do wearing what they’re wearing. So this week’s “what’s a bit odd” is only to say that the ratio of Dire to Bog Standard is definitely higher here on the Dire side than elsewhere I’ve been. Along with beautiful countryside, historic and magnificent cities, quaintly picturesque towns, spectacular coastline and amazing food; dress sense is just another reason I like Italy so much. It makes me smile.

Other news – I’ve bought a snorkel! I’m stupidly excited about it. I’ve been writing this in the kitchen patiently waiting for passing-by housemates, hoping to recruit a Bag Guard for on the beach so that I can snorkel without the fear of becoming destitute if someone steals it. Alas, it’s mysteriously quiet. I might have a go in the bath.

Okeydoke, the bath / beaches await…

Hope you’re all good.


P.S. Here’s a photo from the “event” the piazza I mentioned I might go to last week.


Sponsored “stay at home” event?

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Earthquakes, the Rain Shoes and bureaucracy…


This week’s been packed. This not working malarkey is exhausting 😉

We’ve had earthquakes this week. EARTHQUAKES! Just small ones – 3.9 on Thursday and 2.9 Friday and I’m sure there was an even smaller one today but it hasn’t been reported so perhaps not. I’m not sure how I feel about earthquakes. “Fearful” seems to be the consensus with the Italians and they’ve had such terrible earthquakes in the past that have killed a lot of people and caused a lot of damage that that’s the rational response. Me, however, being a complete novice to earthquakes and these being minor, have been lying there with the bed shaking thinking “wow….. cooooool”. It’s really very impressive – this natural force that can shake buildings. I hadn’t really thought about what it would be like to be in one before. Anyway, on reflection, I think getting under the bed would be more productive than just lying there in a state of awe.

I had some success at the Comune on Tuesday morning, albeit limited. It turns out there’s a secret hidden entrance that’s not the large official looking set of doors at the front of the building. Thank goodness for random passersby. I wondered if there might be a secret knock as well but no. The office I needed was closed, as of course, all good offices are on a Tuesday morning. I had a challenging conversation with the information folk there about what I needed to do to live here. Nobody wants my dichiarazione di presenza so I’ve given up on that. It’s all about getting an Iscrizione anagrafica dei cittadini stranieri now. One of those is basically a sort of foreign person registration.  I need to prove that: I have some income, that I’m a student (or that I’m working which I’m not), and that I have health insurance so that I don’t become a drain on the Italian health system. According to the Comune, my European Health Insurance Card isn’t enough. And I’m not sure my travel insurance is either despite it having medical cover. I think they’d be content with an expensive private medical insurance but I don’t understand why I would need that –  we’ve an agreement between the European countries that we’re entitled to a level of healthcare I thought? Nobody seems to be able to enlighten me. Websites all offer differing advice. I’ve emailed the Italian Embassy in the UK and the UK embassy in Italy – hopefully I’ll get a response next week.

So, that will be next week’s task. And then after that, I might be able to get a codice fiscale and a carta di residenza but that’s only 3 months after I’ve been here. I think I can change back to my actual date of arrival in Italy now that there don’t seem to be any implications of not having declared my presence earlier.

I didn’t get around to seeing the neighbour’s place last week – I popped around on Sunday morning and spoke to the guy’s mum who was absolutely lovely but the son was still asleep. And then the son came around later in the week with some more battered courgette flowers and some stuffed courgettes and invited me around to dinner whenever I want again but I didn’t have time to see the house. So, I’ll hopefully see the house tomorrow and maybe get a dinner 🙂

Battered courgette flowers – underneath there were some stuffed courgettes – lovely 🙂

I had a new teacher this week, Laura, she’s very good and I like her a lot but the sessions were exhausting. I have massive difficulties getting my head around the fact that some things are swapped around in Italian e.g. “he told me” is “mi ha detto”, literally translated as “me he told”. I think I react to pronoun quizzing “how would you say, ‘they gave to us?’” in the same way that people react to being tortured.  By the end of Friday I had both hands in my hair and was rocking back and forth in the chair. The other thing they swap around is the nouns and adjectives – “the sea blue”, not “the blue sea” which seems alien to me. I raised it with Marco earlier in the week claiming that the English way was clearly more logical. Look at that car….? What car?! The blue one? The red one? Why the unnecessary delay in describing things?! His argument: When someone’s on their deathbed and says “I have to tell you one last thing…our family has a really big <dramatic pause whilst final spark of life is extinguished>…..”, what good is the adjective?! Admittedly, I can see that it *might* just be more useful to get the noun across first in deathbed scenarios.

We did a few nice school trips this week. By a week or two into being in Italy, I’d already been to more churches than I’d been to in my entire life – this week has seen my church attendance sky rocket.

  • Ancona – around the old part of town by the cathedral at the top of one of the hills and then along by the port. Another interesting trip – Ancona has a lot of history, some of which has come more apparent following an earthquake a few years ago. A lot of buildings were destroyed, and because of that, they found an old roman amphitheater underneath apartments. Very interesting.


Ancona – the port


Looking towards the cathedral – where that carpark was, used to be a building but it was destroyed in an earthquake and people didn’t have the money to rebuild…

  • Abbadia di fiastro –  is a lovely nature reserve set in the midst of some beautiful countryside – it used to be a monastery and in fact, I think there are still monks living there.  It’s free to look around – there are a few shops and places to eat and a church of course and it’s interesting to walk around the buildings there. The monks used to / still make wine, and they’ve got a whole secret underground passageway thing going on where I think they used to keep it and hide from their enemies. I suspect that took the edge off hiding eh?


Abbadia di Fiastra

  • Tolentino – is a little town around Macerata (province of Le Marche) with two giant cathedrals. One of which I think is the most extravagant cathedral I’ve seen so far. They really went to town with the gold leaf. We’d just been to see the church in Abbadia di Fiastro which was completely plain – the monks wanted to be poor and would give everything back to their community (nice bunch really). This cathedral seemed to have the opposite approach. The ceiling alone had life sized figures of important people – it took apparently 5 years to finish the ceiling and it cost an insane amount of money to do. It looked very impressive but perhaps a bit over the top. And there’s a museum underneath the main cathedral – if you go to the cathedral, it’s definitely worth having a look at that. They have this sort of theatre style nativity lightshow scene going on… it puts every other nativity scene I’ve seen to shame.


The altar at the cathedral in Tolentino

  • San Severino – this is a town in one of the valleys around Macerata though actually I think it extends to a couple of churches on the hill too and a viewpoint looking over the main town. It’s unusual because it’s got quite a large oblong shaped piazza – most piazzas are square here. Went to see a church close by on the basis of it having some interesting frescos, and it did indeed. The artists at the time were experimenting with different ways of painting people.

This picture of the boy exposing himself whilst kicking another boy in the bits, was in a church! Certainly not your usual frescos of the Madonna…

  • Monte Conero – Every week there’s usually a walk with the school as well – this time around the top of Monte Conero to Belvedere Nord where there are some spectacular views of the sea and coastline. Monte Conero is great. Great, great, great.

From Belvedere Nord (Monte Conero) The bit sticking out is Ancona.

  • Beaches – I’ve been to San Michele beach in Sirolo a couple of times this week – the first time, I’d walked a couple of hours through blistering desert conditions dreaming of lying on the beach and having a dip in the sea. It was ROASTING. Barely a cloud in the sky. And then the moment I sat down exhausted on the beach, the skies opened! Grr. And it was a Sunday so the buses only ran 3 times a day so I had to wait an hour and a half for the bus. I have this pair of shoes – they have magical powers, as well as very holey soles. Whenever I wear them out, it will rain. Without fail. I should donate them to a drought ridden country. The second time was with my new housemate earlier in the week – I’d left the Rain Shoes at home so finally sat out on the beach and had a swim. The water was a bit nasty – rammed with detritus. Apparently that’s what happens this time of year and then because it’s got lots of vegetation in it, it attracts jellyfish (or medusa’s if you’re Italian – what an apt name). I think the sea will be a more attractive option in a month or two.

Taken from a road that never ends near Sirolo on the way to the beach – see how lovely the sky looked? Until I put on the Rain Shoes that is.

The new housemate is now old housemate! She left this morning. It was nice to have her here. She was lovely and massively enthusiastic (particularly about Sirolo, she didn’t fancy venturing anywhere else after the first visit there), but I must say, communication was a bit of a challenge. She was starting out from scratch with Italian really and her English was a similar level and my Russian, well, I’ve let it slip to be honest (knowing only how to say “niet, he beat me, give that man his money” from the film Rounders in a dodgy “Russian” accent. Alas she hadn’t seen the film). So conversations were conducted in Italian and went thusly:

Sue: Do you want to go to the bar?

Housemate: Yes.

Sue: Or we could stay in?

Housemate: Yes.

Sue: You don’t understand anything I’m saying do you?

Housemate: Yes.

And you know the coffee that goes into those espresso machines that you put on the hob? Well, that stuff doesn’t dissolve. It’s not instant coffee. But she’d have a spoonful or so in hot water every day. I wouldn’t have imagined that would be drinkable.

This week there’s no school! My first week of no school! There’s not even an option to chicken out when I get bored and go to some lessons because there’s no other students at school this week either.  I seem to have a lot of bits and pieces to do so hopefully I should be able to entertain myself reasonably well. It’ll give me some time to do some self study – I hope.

What else? I might be sailing to Croatia beginning of July with the bunch that I went out with last week but I’ll see if there’s space.

I’m having a quiet Saturday today – I think there’s some event on in the piazza today so I might pop up and see what that’s about!

Buonasera all and hope you’re all well 🙂


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Sailing extravaganza, charades and chocolate…

Well I’ve had a busy week. I chickened out of not doing any lessons – Marco gave me a good deal on some group lessons (well I use “group” in the loosest sense – there were two of us) so that’s been every morning with a new teacher and I’ve got another teacher again next week. And when I say a good deal, it’s only really because he’s said it’s a good deal rather than given me a price or anything in writing. It’s er, very laid back here. It’s been quite good to mix up the teachers actually – different techniques, and teaching style. Perhaps one day something will sink in!

Monday, was another “cooking course” night at Marco’s place. I joking asked if I could just go to eat and I’m pleased to report that it worked. I went there at about 8pm for some very tasty home-made gnocchi. We went to a bar afterwards, the one under my apartment which almost completes my bar circuit of Camerano – I think there is maybe two more to try but I might even consider giving one of them a miss (where the old men sit in a row and stare at me as I walk past on my way to the supermarket). We had a very interesting chat about the mafia that night too – it seems an unsolvable problem here. I might do a bit more reading about it. I don’t like unsolvable problems.

We had a school trip to Urbino – Urbino’s a lovely hill top town – lots of scenic hills around and a lot of life inside because it’s got a well known and established university there. Walt Disney apparently got his inspiration from the architecture there. We went into the Ducale Palazza Museum and had a look around. Again, Marco reeled off names, dates, history, artists, architects without breaking a sweat… That man should leave his head to medical science. Alas, all I took from it was that the Duke really should have had his artists and sculptors shot – I would not have had pictures of me like that in my house. Here he is, the handsome devil – Federico III da Montefeltro.

Urbino – Walt Disney’s Inspiration

My boiler is temperamental. It looks like it’s been here since the beginning of time. And I wake up feeling groggy and hungover in the mornings (I know what you’ll say, “too much 88 cent wine Sue?” but no, it’s not…). I’ve decided I’m slowly getting carbon monoxide poisoned. I wonder if it’s cumulative? The boiler man has actually been a couple of times so I would hope he’d have established if there was a leak. Anyway, I’m going to keep the windows open now just in case. There’s a new woman, a Russian moving in the apartment today for a week, and then some Americans the week after for a month I think.  I suspect I’m not actually being poisoned but will be interesting to compare notes with the others (if they make it through. I hope they do. I’d feel quite guilty. And maybe actually responsible. Hmm. Perhaps I should remove this paragraph. Carabinieri: If you’re reading this, I didn’t REALLY think I was being poisoned and also, please skip over the next paragraph).

This week, I tried to declare my presence (dichiarazione di presenza) to the Carabinieri  (one of the police forces in Italy headed up by the army in fact) who, when I eventually got through to them, were closed Thursday until 4pm. Closed! The police! CLOSED!!!), and said that I needed to go to the Comune (sort of town hall, mine has a nice website), who, you’ll be shocked, were also closed. All day. On a Thursday. There are no office hours on the websites or on the doors. When their alarms go off in the morning, do you think they do a quick physical and mental scan and think “Nah…. b*gger that. I think I’ll go to the beach today”? Anyway, I have to declare my presence to somebody within 8 days of arriving in the country. To whom? I don’t know. And where? I don’t know. And why? Not the foggiest. What the consequences of doing it 30 days after the 8 days are up? No idea!

Next week’s challenge will be to get a codice fiscal (the Italian equivalent of the National Insurance number) and a Carta di Residenza. I think I’ll need to make a trip into Ancona for those. Please all send happy bureaucracy vibes from Monday.

Yesterday I’m thrilled to say I finally got some sailing in! And my idyllic vision of sailing around the coast, stopping for a bit of sunbathing and swimming was pretty much exactly what happened 🙂 It was a lovely sailing boat too (Bavaria – 37 feet possibly?), the nicest I’ve been on yet and very spacious. The guys went snorkelling to get what looked like a wide array of muscles, cockles etc. from the reef we stopped near and then we teamed up with another boat in the evening for seafood pasta (bruschetta for me) and some drinks. And I overcame my mild fear of jellyfish as one touched my arm as I was swimming and it didn’t even hurt (I’ve decided it wasn’t a Portugese Man of War). All in all, a lovely evening and didn’t get back until gone 1am.

Camera 360
View from the boat towards Ancona (from Portonovo)

So let me update you on my Italian learning. Every day is like an old style family gathering consisting of Charades and Pictionary… I have fun. It makes me laugh. But, but, ARGH!!!!!! In a group, it’s IMPOSSIBLE! You can’t get members of a group that are chatting at the speed of light and laughing to stop to mime something out… If you pluck up the courage and ask, then the extensive mime / explanation ruins their joke… If you smile and laugh along, you risk being asked an incomprehensible question and them finding out you’ve not understood a word, but if you don’t smile and laugh along, you look like a miserable sod! In summary, I’ve become an atmosphere killer!!! I don’t want to kill atmospheres!!!

And let me tell you something else – the Italians, if you’re not clear about something and the miming hasn’t worked and if they do know a bit of English that they learnt at school when they were 5 for a maybe a week at summer school, then they’re still able to launch into a very acceptable level of English with such a comprehensive array of English vocab that even I would struggle to come up with. And they keep saying “ah, but your Italian isn’t THAT bad considering you’ve only been here a month”. But then, I’ve had 4 years worth of lessons off and on! 4 YEARS! When I meet new people I’m going to say I’ve had a month of lessons so that I can maintain face. Though I think they’d have become proficient in 3 languages in the same month period.

I’ve joined a website to acquire some people to speak Italian too. I’ll need a string of people so that when one decides that it’s too exhausting talking to me (see above), I’ll have another lined up 🙂  Alas, its members appear to think it’s a dating website (it’s not!), and well not even “dating” given some of the messages I’ve been getting :-o. Anyway, it’s been amusing me immensely. You should see some of their pictures – professionally taken photos of them sprawled on sun loungers wearing only budgie smugglers – I have to look through my hands at them. However, I’ve acquired a couple of Italian messenger-ees through it that seem to be vaguely normal – it’s been quite good, a slower more controlled way of talking to people so I can make sure I’m saying what I want to say before I have to say it.

My neighbour came around a couple of days ago bearing battered courgette flowers (battered as in fried in batter, not er, knocked about) which was lovely of him. He’s an artist and lives with his mum and dad next door. It was quite a successful visit – he’s got an apartment or a house in Camerano for rent which he’s going to show me around tomorrow and he’s given me an open invite to eat dinner with them whenever I want. And I’m less fussed about killing atmospheres in close family settings so that might be quite good for the language quest too. Hmm. I wonder what I could get them to mime?

What’s a bit odd: This week’s feature – chocolate! I haven’t had a single chocolate bar since I came here – not a one. Not through lack of trying. The supermarkets sell like the big bars which look like they’re for cooking with rather than eating and at the tills, they have mints and chewing gum – I mean honestly, that’s not very enticing is it?! Who thinks “Mmmm I could really do with a mint right now”? Actually people probably do. But still, I think the Italian’s surely must be missing a trick? It’s a rare chocolate bar display that I’ve walked past without purchasing something from. They could probably retire off my chocolate purchases alone. And let’s face it, their now booming yoghurt trade  (oh, something terrible has happened – I was reduced to buying a new yoghurt brand as it’s the only one my local store stocks and it’s nasty! Ugh!).  Marco keeps asking me why I need to get a car – why don’t I just rent he asks? It’s because I want to be able to get around under my own steam, I say. But really, it’s because I want to be able to go to Auchan and buy yoghurt.

<10 minutes later> My new housemate has arrived from Russia with chocolates (From Russia with Chocolates… the makings of a good film?) – I like her a lot already. She’s gone to get a pizza and left the chocolates on the table.

Camera 360
Chocolates left on the table. Unguarded. An amateur mistake… (this pile was double that about 10 minutes ago)

Right, that’s me done for this week. Have a good week all 🙂


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The Saga of Monte Conero, Monsters and Friends…


Well, this week’s gone quite fast and I’ve still not done all the things I was hoping to do – as well as little things I want to do every day, the bigger stuff like sorting out a car/apartment, trying to get a teaching job, sorting out my finances, remain woefully incomplete!

Instead, I’ve been catching up on sleep. I’ve had what must be simply the worst hayfever known to mankind that’s had me sneezing more than not and my throat swell so I can barely breathe. However, I’ve now found some good hayfever tablets that work so I no longer have an excuse to not get on and do things!

We’ve also had a few sightseeing trips with the school:

  • Grotto di Camerano: These are some caves under Camerano – there’s apparently more in the way of caves than streets above ground. It was a bit of a distracting tour – we went with a bunch of French tourists who had a translator so after every few words of Italian, the translator was wittering on in French for about double the time. I think she was making stuff up. I definitely would have (“And this cave is where Santa Claus keeps his reindeer in the summer”). Anyway, I picked up about half of it and I think I might go there every 3 months or so just to see if my Italian’s improved any. Perhaps in a few years time, I’ll understand two thirds 😉

Grotto di Camerano

  • Ascoli Picena: Ascoli is a bit further south from here – about an hour drive. It’s set in a valley between hills/mountains. I liked it, but wasn’t overly struck. The city is very run down – they don’t have any money to restore the old buildings which is a real shame. The duomo (cathedral) was fabulous though – really very grand and the crypt between was really nicely done out with a lovely colourful ceiling mosaic. If I had a crypt, I would do it out exactly the same. Perhaps I’ll have “must have crypt” into my list of apartment requirements.  They have countless churches. Almost every street has a church. I can’t understand it – did they do no market research?! If you’re considering building a church, would you not think “hmm, but there’s a church next door but one… perhaps I’d best build it elsewhere”. Marco was his usual incredibly knowledgeable self, reeling off names and dates and history like a true tour guide.


A main piazza in Ascoli Picena. Note the small dogs. The Italians have a lot of small cute dogs. That or large scary rabid looking dogs. There’s one I forget about down the road from here that creeps up in his garden whilst I’m walking past and then unleashes the loudest barking making me jump out of my skin. I think he plays a game to see how many unsuspecting pedestrians jump into the road and get run over. Next time, I’m going to creep up on him whilst he’s sleeping and bark the hell out of him…


In the cathedral

In the main square – see the fountain on the left? You can drink out of it. I thought people were being disgusting but no, no, the water isn’t just recycled around endlessly.

  • The Saga of Mount Conero: I went for the longest walk ever yesterday – 20kms I think – to Mount Conero, specifically to the monastery at the top. I thought it would be a 4 hour round trip. Long, but doable. And I need to walk off a lot of ice-cream. BUT I went without a decent map. Or food. Or much water. Or decent walking shoes. And I was listening to music and looking at the scenery and lizard spotting and my mind was wandering and before I knew it, I’d walked too far to go back. Besides I thought I’d be at the monastery soon enough anyway so I carried on and thought I’d try and catch a bus back. Anyway, I then turned a corner fully expecting to be half way up the mountain to the monastery but no, the monastery has mysterious qualities much like the horizon or the end of a rainbow – it was still a speck in the distance on an even larger mountain. 

Can you see the monastery?! If you squint and put your eyes up close to the screen at the top of that green mountainous blob, you can see it. This was about 3 hours in!

  • The Saga of Mount Conero continued: Anyway, not to be beaten, I continued, and after a 5 or 6km perilous road walk (I’m getting the hang of mentally calculating which side of the road I should be on based on probability of death), I started climbing THE mountain. I was the only one climbing up, everyone else was coming down (I worry there’s a cable car I don’t know about). And in large groups too. Every group seemed to have a member who would incredulously ask “er, you’re doing this on your own?”. Pah! PAH! And so started the Climb of Independence 🙂 Anyway, what felt like decades and several heart attacks later, I got to the monastery. My sense of achievement was only tempered by their being no buses or ability to get back. Why did I think I could get a bus? It was a Sunday and the bus drivers probably don’t work on Sundays. Or if they do, they probably have their lunch break between the hours of 00.01 and 23.59. And so….after 5 and a half hours, I walked back. 8 HOURS it took me in total. EIGHT! Up and down COUNTLESS hills and mountains. 

It took me a lot less time on the way back despite a “short cut” that took me past a creepy abandoned house and a wood I didn’t have the guts to go through (you should have heard the noises from it – no wonder they abandoned the house!!!) so had to double back. The speedy return was solely down to dreams of a relaxing bubble bath. Alas, my boiler decided to pack up and my bubble bath was freezing cold. I told myself that athletes, like my good self, always have cold baths (don’t they?) so had the bath nonetheless, but I can still barely move today.

I’m really impressed with the wildlife in Conero National Park – there’s so many different species of plants, flowers, trees, butterflies, lizards (in fact, I think the Monster in the Wood by the Abandoned House was probably a giant carnivorous lizard from the Jurassic era. Hmm. Perhaps that’s why Santa needs to keep his reindeer in the caves…) and it has snakes! I saw two 🙂 It’s a great place to go walking – I think I’ll definitely stay around here – there’s a lot of exploring to do. AND, I can walk to the beach – albeit it’s a 6 hour round trip but still, walking distance!


After careful prodding, I unfortunately ascertained this snake had bitten the dust. Marco assures me they’re not poisonous (particularly when already dead).

The highlight of last week was seeing some friends from home – thanks Chris and Brad for coming to see me :-)! We had a small pub crawl from Bar Bosco to Bar Maffy and then they came back to mine for coffee. I think they liked Camerano and definitely seemed to be impressed with the scenery around Le Marche and Abruzzo.


Chris and Brad on my balcony

I’ve been missing friends a lot this week – two of my closest friends have had babies, and there’s another one on the way so it’s sad to be so far away. I’ll have to plan a visit at some point. Anyway – tanti auguri to them 🙂

This week was supposed to be my first week off from the language school but Marco’s given me a good deal on Italian classes so I might still stick with it for this week and take a view next week as to whether to continue. I went out for dinner with a new set of students last night which was interesting – a couple of them (from England and US) have bought houses in Le Marche so I’ll definitely be taking some hints/tips from them. The students I met yesterday are WORSE than me at Italian – I hadn’t thought it possible, so I’m thrilled about that. Marco was concerned I might not like being a class with them but they look at me when I’m speaking in the same way that I look at people that know how to speak Italian…! It’s great – I’ve thought about it, and I definitely prefer being better than people 😉 Alas, I’m now in a class with someone that’s the same level or a bit better, so the ego stroking was short lived.

Bins – SUCCESS! Well partial success. Close monitoring of the bin situation has resulted in discovery of organic waste collections Wednesday, and regular waste on Thursday. And I’m pleased to report that they take bags of stuff that aren’t in the designated bags (which I don’t have and don’t know where to acquire). No success yet on cardboard and paper but I have high hopes for this week. EXCITING.

What’s a bit odd: This week’s feature – there are no prices on houses and flats in the papers or in the estate agents – you might get the occasional one with a price, but that’s it. I can see why they do it – they want  to entice you in so they can assess how much you’re willing to pay, get your details etc and there can be some negotiation. But it’s annoying – I’m happy to negotiate a price, but I don’t want to waste my time asking if the desired price is way out of my range so I just haven’t been following up. I’ll have to get over that at some point I think…

Right, that’s about it – this week there’s a few visits with the school planned and the weather should finally get consistently better from next weekend so hoping to do a few more beach trips.

Hope you’re all well.


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