Posts Tagged With: Ancona

Divine Comedy, Christmas festivities and slimey fruit…

Ciao a tutti!

How is everyone? It’s been a busy week here. I’m trying out a new way of displaying photos on the blog. If you’re reading it from the WordPress internet site hover over the pictures to read the captions. However if you receive it by email, I’ve no idea what it will look like! Let me know if it works ok 🙂

Here’s a quick update…

Sightseeing!

These last couple of weeks we’ve been to some new places which have been really lovely. I had forgotten how much I like exploring new areas.

A couple of weekends ago, we had an interesting coach trip to Gradara and Candelara with about 40 or so of our immediate neighbours. It was good to meet them all, though I don’t think I could tell you anyone’s name. Although if you call everyone Giuseppe you have about a 70% chance of getting it right!

Gradara is really interesting. It’s a beautiful castle that I’ve been meaning to visit for ages having driven past it several times. It’s a few miles north of Ancona. We had a guide to show us around. She spent ages and ages talking about headaches in a very confusing fashion, almost giving them a personality if you will. Or at least, I thought that’s what she was talking about until I finally established that “mal di testa” (headache) is not the same as “malatesta” (a surname). It turns out Gradara was owned for a period of time by the very influential Malatesta family and not reigned by headaches.

The castle has an interesting story attached – it tells the true love story between Paolo Malatesta and the wife (Francesca) of his brother (Gianciotto). The story is immortalized in Dante’s `Divine Comedy`. Basically Francesca is tricked into marrying the unattractive, limping, hunch-backed Gianciotto because he sends his handsome brother Paolo to propose on his behalf, pretending that he’s him. She seems to genuinely marry Paolo but he signs the wedding certificate in his brother’s name. That night, back at the castle, the curtains around the bed were pulled, all was dark, Gianciotto enters and er, job’s a good’un. Francesca, on discovery that she’s married a man with a face like a bag of spanners and the morals to match (though at least she married a clever man, if not a looker), decides to starve herself to death. Francesca, who seems to have been a very forgiving sort, didn’t seem to hold a grudge against Paolo who she immediately commenced an affair with. Gianciotto finds out, tries to kill his brother but Francesca steps in the way. She’s stabbed and killed and then Gianciotto kills his brother, Paolo.  I think that sums it up – no need now to worry about having to read the Divine Comedy 😉

Candelara is a beautiful hill top town. The coach trip also included this too as at this time every year they have a festival where all the lights are turned off and it’s lit only by candlelight. During this, they had a `pyrotechnic display` which featured 10 regular sized balloons with lights in.  There was also a big market and an exhibition of precepe (nativity scenes).

Ferrara

Last weekend, we went to Ferrara with some friends and had a fab time. We stayed the night before in Jesi at a friend’s house and went out for a nice meal in the centre of Jesi. It reminds me a bit of London. Whereas on a Saturday night in Sarnano, absolutely nobody is in town, on a Saturday night in Jesi, everyone seems to be in town! It was standing room only in all the bars. We headed to Ferrara the next day. Depending on which website you visit or who you speak to, Ferrara is either a great place to go to or quite dull. In my opinion it’s the former. Quaint with lots of little pretty alleys, it’s got a stunning cathedral and it’s just a nice place to have a wander around. When we were there it had a Christmas market and with all the festive lights, it really did look pretty.

Sarnano

It’s not really sightseeing because it’s only 5 minutes away, but I just wanted to say how impressed I am with our little village. It’s got a good sized ice-rink. I went during the day and before the Italian’s turn their Christmas lights on  (here it’s about the 8th December I think) so I’ll go back again this week and take some photo’s for the blog. I might even attempt to skate.

As an aside, I don’t know whether this is just in my area or not but today is bonfire day here. You light a fire so that the angels carrying the Virgin Mary’s house to Loreto can find their way there (no Sat Nav I suppose) and warm themselves up a bit. How sweet!

Christmas Decorations

Keeping on the Christmas theme, we bought a Christmas tree from a florist in town. It’s my first “real” tree too. I don’t usually approve of that but this one is in a pot so we can bring it in year after year assuming we don’t kill it. I hope it doesn’t grow too big. Anyway, it’s feeling quite Christmassy in the house, despite the terrible handmade tree decorations involving paper, oranges and fir-cones. I did a little better with the wreaths which I’ve been giving away as presents (I gave one to my Jehovas Witness neighbour this morning. She wasn’t in so I left it by her door. When I returned, Pane Caldo informed me that they don’t celebrate Christmas so I raced back to retrieve it. Her mother is generally on guard at the window and I have a horrible feeling saw the whole sorry business).

Paying bills

Bill paying in Italy is a mystery. You never pay the company that you need to pay directly. I made that mistake when I phoned up the water company once asking if I could pay my bill. They said, yes, of course. I asked if they would take credit card. They said they weren’t sure. I was a bit stumped and asked if I should give them the long number on the front of the card. There was silence and then they finally understood…. I can’t pay THEM, you know, the people I owe. It turns out, in Italy, you pay your bills at either the bank, at the Tabaccheria (basically a little corner shop selling cigarettes and newspapers sometimes – oh and matches, you can only get matches at a Tabaccheria rather oddly) or the post office. I still don’t know what you pay where. I generally do a circuit of all three until I find the correct one. It vaguely makes sense to outsource your bill payment I suppose, but it seems strange nonetheless!

Food

This week has been curious on the food front. The next door neighbour has a lot of cachi at the moment. Cacchi are orange apple-sized fruit that mature about now. As a short Italian lesson: cacchi is the plural, caco is the singular version of the noun. All italian nouns are split into feminine or masculine and they end in a different letter accordingly (very simply ‘o’ for masculine, ‘a’ for feminine usually). In most cases it doesn’t matter if you can’t remember whether your inanimate object is masculine and feminine – people get what you’re trying to say. But, you must never, ever, say “caca” when you intend “caco”. The word “Cacca” means another thing entirely and something you certainly shouldn’t eat. It’s the same with all kinds of fruit – if you mix up your feminine and masculines when it comes to fruit it can be very embarrassing. Anyway, apparently you should eat your caco on bread and I must say, it’s very nice. It has a consistency of jam without the hassle of having to make the jam.

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Caco on bread…

 

There’s Nespole which is another fruit (Japanese Plum for us maybe?). This one is a small orange one which you eat when it’s brown. My neighbour is insistent about you eating things immediately so when she presented a brown squidgy slime that looked positively gone off and then encouraged me to eat it, I didn’t quite know how to cope with the situation. However, it wasn’t too bad. Weird with lots of sort of big random pips in, but not bad. I’ve got lots to eat now. I’ll have to make something with them.

On taking this photo several flies flew off when I moved them. I think they might actually be mouldy. I think that's just how you eat them, like blue cheese.

On taking this photo several flies flew off when I moved them. I think they might actually be mouldy. I think that’s just how you eat them, like blue cheese.

Carrying on the food vain, I made focaccia the other day but it turned out flat and heavy, not light and fluffy like it’s supposed to. I consulted my neighbour who said I should buy some dough from the bakery. The dough is decades old, from the bakers mum. I don’t think she’s ever bought yeast because it’s a living organism and so it just grows. When you make your bread, you leave a bit of the dough to one side, add more flour etc. to it and then it grows more yeast. I do not know how to make bread using this strategy! I have a bread recipe book and at no point does it say to get a bit of someone’s dough and do ‘x’ to it. You just don’t seem to be able to buy yeast in packets here like in the UK. I kind of like this method, it’s quaint. So tomorrow, I will go to the bakers and ask for their dough (ha!).

Writing

I’ve almost finished my book! I just need to write another 3000 words or so to make it up to 70000 but I’m stuck on the ending! It’s absolute trash but I’m quite proud of having got this far.  I usually give up after the first chapter. Anyway, please send happy writing vibes, I’m determined to finish before I leave for the UK next week. but these last few words are a struggle!

Animal watch

The animal watch spot has been quiet, I know. We haven’t seen many really but here’s one I took this evening of the resident animal.

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I thought cats sort of curl up to sleep but no, Batfink sleeps like he’s had too many beers.

 

Right, that’s it for now. Have lovely rest of weeks!

xxx

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How to: Prepare for an Art Exhibition, make a voodoo doll out of driftwood and avoid cheek stroking

Ciao a tutti,

This week I bring to you the nail-biting tale of an artist with no art, how to make a voodoo doll out of driftwood and where to stock up on products for all your bimbo needs…

The Artless Dodger

I have done something stupid(er than usual). I have ALMOST signed up to showing my work in an “exhibition” just off Piazza Roma in Camerano’s centre. My work. What am I talking about?! I have no work! Not here at least. Scattered around Portsmouth and London, yes.  My next door neighbour is organising the exhibition – for 6 months it’ll cost 1200 Euros to hire the place. He wants to split the cost. Ha! I have only ever sold one thing! Why oh why didn’t I do some artwork last year?! This week’s blog feedback request is face-saving methods of backing out of exhibitions… A free driftwood voodoo doll to the person with the best suggestion (see below).

Anyway, Operation Produce Some Art is in full swing and is commencing with a beach scene. If it’s any good, I’ll post a picture next week. I have also become quite enamored with driftwood of late during my walks on the beach. I have quite a collection now.

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Pretty….

I just haven’t quite got around to working out what to do with it yet! The good news is that I found some wood carving tools in my collection of art stuff today so I thought I’d give that a go. The bad news is, it’s coincided with me being in a bit of a negative mood all week…

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I’ve called him “Bob” (he floats).  I’m going to take him into school and tell the children that he’ll put a curse on them if they’re annoying 🙂

Teaching

I have a new private student starting next week and potentially some more lined up. I got in touch with the poor girl that used to teach English last year at my schools today. She managed two years. Two years! She should get a medal. She MISSES them she says! Having said that, I have now received two Frrero Rocher’s from cutie students and several pictures (I should probably have stored them somewhere other than the recycle bin to be kept as evidence that I’m an adorable and caring teacher).

English Language Consultancy

I’m actually doing some paid work for my language school (the one I went to for Italian lessons) – working on their new website. It’s quite fun! All being well, there should be a lot more students at the school this year so hopefully it’ll be a bit livelier! One of the students (“The Cheek Stroker”) from last year is returning for a few weeks soon. I will have to keep all my cheeks under close guard. Perhaps I can use Bob the Voodoo Doll again.

Swimming Attempt 2

Swimming Attempt 1 took place back in November last year. I went to a local pool that was deserted apart from creepy staring men so I didn’t even make it near the pool. Besides, it looked nasty. People were changing in the reception area.

Swimming Attempt 2 took place on Wednesday with a different pool in mind. However, I forgot where I was! I had planned to check the website, get the address and put it into my Sat Nav. You can’t do that in Italy!!!  The website is nice – it has nice pictures, a nice logo, it’s colourful – someone went to a lot of effort to put it together but alas, there is no information about where it can be found besides “Loreto”. The office address on there doesn’t actually exist on the Sat Nav or Google Maps. TYPICAL!!!! So, after turning up to a large house in the middle of nowhere and driving around for half an hour, I gave up and went home! I’m going to have to get my swimming fix in the summer!

University Popolare!

For a couple of months I’ve been hearing about a university that you can go to for evening courses etc. I like a good evening course. However, it’s been nigh impossible to find any information about it. The most I could get out of anyone was “yes, I’ve heard about that too”. However, I mentioned it my mother, the Queen of Research, and a mere couple of days later, voila, a website! With INFORMATION no less! The courses seem to start in September so I think I’ve missed the boat but to be honest, Operation Produce Some Art should probably take precedence for a while anyway.

What’s a bit odd?

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For all your bimbo needs…

It’s right next to Ancona’s “sexy shop” as well. The shop is not sexy (I’m sure it breaches some kind of trade descriptions act).

Next week I shall be attempting to do some bureaucracy! I know, I know… you’ve missed my stories about italian bureaucracy. I aim to please. Tune in next week for what I predict will be “The Unsuccessful Quest for a Tessera Sanitaria! (health insurance card)”

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Visits, Raw Pig Butt and Navigational Challenges…

Ciao!

Well hello!!!! How is everyone?! Apologies for the radio silence – I’ve had an influx of visitors coming to see me which has been great so many thanks to the following for coming out to see me 🙂

  • “Ms Meaty”: She wanted a pseudonym – she’ll probably regret that.  Anyway, she’s so-called because she spent a good portion of our time in restaurants trying to find carcasses to eat  ;-)) and…
  • Jackie and Pete:  No pseudonyms required – they seem more confident I wont be harsh…

The Tourist Trail

I almost look like I know what I’m doing driving around – I can successfully get to my favourite local places without Tom (my completely untrustworthy Sat Nav – I really must check that I’ve not got some kind of “tractors only” setting on). I still haven’t discovered ALL of the sleeping policeman in order to impose speed rectification measures/avoid launching myself into the air like a stunt driver. To be honest though, I don’t think the Italian’s even know that they’re supposed to reduce their speed when they go over them, in the same way that they appear unaware what the white lines in the middle of the road are for  (any Italian’s reading this – they’re not lines that you’re supposed to drive on).

Anyway, Ms Meaty arrived first and she came with me to do some teaching on Tuesday with the little kids (3-5yr olds) which was EXCELLENT timing as I’d all but lost my voice on the Monday shouting at children (shouting + cold = rapid voice deterioration) which for Ms Meaty meant the start of her blossoming singing and dancing career. So, I played “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” on the guitar whilst she sang, danced and trained the troupes to do the same. We have a Christmas play to do on the 13th December. It’s a shame that Ms Meaty wont be here 😦  By the end of it, she was shouting at them in Italian like a pro.

It was a fairly relaxed week and we spent Thursday doing “Sue’s Favourite Places Tour” where we learnt that the angels didn’t really fly what I thought was Mary’s house from Palestine to Loreto but only flew the bricks. There’s a massive marble surround that was in fact built there after to protect it… Fortunate really, as if it was there to begin with, I imagine health and safety regulations for flying such an unwieldy heavy object would have impeded the angel’s progress.

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Mary’s Marble Surround. The original brick walls for her house are inside.

Alas, by Friday, Ms Meaty had contracted the man-flu strain of my cold which I felt horrible about (but on the plus side, a problem shared is a problem halved and mine felt a LOT better).

In a whirlwind change of guests, I was sad to drop Ms Meaty off at the airport but pleased to pick up Jackie and Pete. We had a lovely dinner in Camerano (Bar Maffy) where I think we probably decided that my Italian/English translations when it comes to meat produce could probably do with more work. Surprisingly, Jackie STILL decided to have the Raw Pig Butt Pasta.

Then we headed to see a band that I felt sure would be cancelled because it was raining. However, they were playing under the Comune in a very atmospheric, er… cellar I think it is.  I was pleased about that – makes Camerano look a bit more hip and happening than it usually is.

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All very talented musicians but I must say, the bass player’s hair was a distraction. So silky smooth and flowing. I wonder where he buys his conditioner. The conditioner here seems to require something akin to acid to rinse out. Since coming here, my hair can happily stay in whatever position I put it in.

I included Osimo in the “Sue’s Favourite Places Tour” the following day which was good as I’d only been there once before.

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The statues here do not have heads. The Osimo inhabitants are thus called “without head” apparently. Poor inhabitants.

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You can take a little railway from some of the parking at the bottom to the town at the top. Cute 🙂

The following day we found a Chocolate Festival in Ancona and did a bit of sightseeing.

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MMMMMMMmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Teaching Traumas Continued…

I haven’t made any children cry yet this week. I feel like I’ve let myself down. I did almost give them an impromptu lesson in English angry swear words after the squillienth time of telling them to “sit down please” and to stop hitting classmates. I exercised patience I think previously unbeknownst to mankind. I should really get a medal.

Anyway, let me tell you about school children here. They are OBSESSED with One Direction.  They ask me if I like them and because they use the correct English I reward them with a “yes, I like One Direction” but then alas, they ask me more questions like “What is your favourite one?” to which, I have no idea but vaguely remember that one is called Dane so go with that. It turns out Dane is not a member of One Direction. I should do some One Direction research to bond with the kiddies.

I’ve taught all the school children that felt tip pens are called felptip pens. They’ve written it in their exercise books and everything. I thought it was! I’ve been saying felptip pens for years!  Admittedly, I should have seen that one coming. I don’t know what felp even is, let alone what a tip of felp might look like. Next week I’ll tell them they’ve all made mistakes and they should really pay better attention when I write things on the board in future. I wonder if they have detention here.

In other teaching news, I’ll never be able to go out anywhere again without seeing children I now know – at the cinema the other day I think there was about 5 I saw. Admittedly, we’d gone to see Despicable Me 2. Perhaps I’ll have to start getting into the horror genre.

What’s a bit odd

Often offices don’t have a house/building number – ok, that is sometimes the case in the UK as well. So you think “Fine, FINE, I suppose I’ll just drive up and down the road and hopefully something will indicate where I’m supposed to be”. Maybe the postcode will help? No no, there will be no postcode. So you try and find the road in the Sat Nav. This is where the next challenge lies: the address you’re trying to find will invariably look something like this: “Via D. Mizoni”. Sometimes Sat Nav makes a point of making you put “via” in and sometimes it doesn’t. In fact, the only common factor I’ve found is that it’s whatever you’ve not tried first. And what on earth do you do with a full stop after D?! You try and put the full stop in after D but of course, there’s nothing – it’s an initial for something. It doesn’t work without the full stop. “Minzoni” on it’s own doesn’t work. So what to do? Is there a way of finding out what the D stands for? No. No there is not. The Italians, not even on their road signs, maps, formal addresses, “how to find us” sections on websites will include the full name of their road. People here must be born with this knowledge of road names. So, imagining you’ve been in Italy long enough to notice that there appear to be hundreds of Via and Piazza Don Minzoni’s within the area, you might try that. Success! But not for long. Then it asks the town, which is a challenge in itself because it could be any town within a 5 km area and then, because there ARE so many Via D. Minzoni’s, it could be any one of a dozen roads. My advice? Allow at least 3 hours to just locate the address on Sat Nav before even attempting your trip!!!

Right, I think that’s all of my ranting done today. Hope you’re all having an excellent Monday.

x

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Pub Club on Tour, Milan, Cinque Terre and Home!

Ciao!!!

Well it feels like a year since the last blog update but it’s only been a couple of weeks or so. I hope you’ve all been well. 

Dedications: This blog post is dedicated to Pub Club. I had a truly great weekend with them last week. I’ve never laughed so much. They were disappointed / rude about not getting a shout out in the blog last time so: many thanks to Sweet Cheeks, Hot Buns, Wet Pants and Cupcake for coming all the way to see me, several hundred miles from where I actually live 😉  

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From left to right: Wet Pants, Cupcake, Hot Buns, Sweet Cheeks…

So the weekend went like:

Trains: There were a lot of trains. Pub Club, in their hatred of Ryanair, decided to take the Eurostar from London to Paris and then Paris to Milan. All in all over the course of the long weekend, they spent 15+ hours on trains. My journey was relatively quick in comparison: 3 and a half hours from Ancona to Milan. Pub Club, knowing me as the font of all knowledge, asked if train tickets bought ages before a journey were cheaper than tickets bought on the same day. I checked the train website and confirmed it was the same price regardless. Pub Club ignored me and bought their tickets beforehand anyway. Imagine! Un-trusting bunch. I was hurt that they didn’t believe me. And even more hurt that when I bought my ticket on the same day, I had to pay 20 Euros extra <sigh>.

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Milan Train Station – the whole station was very nice actually, inside and out. Very impressive.

Milan Part 1 (Thursday): We stayed in the Navigli region of Milan. When I tell Italian’s this they say “aw, nice” (well, not really, they say “che bello!”) but, making our way through the graffiti-ridden, desolate backstreets to the industrial unit where our apartment was, I had to keep reassuring myself that the area was just cool and “edgy” rather than dangerous. 

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Downstairs in the Milan apartment which was very nice…

Cinque Terre (Friday and Saturday morning): We headed out to Cinque Terre the next day. Cinque Terre consists of 5 coastal towns and is absolutely stunning. After waking up at 6am for a 3 hour train journey from Milan to Monterosso (the most northerly of the coastal towns), we got a connecting train to Riomaggiore (the most Southerly town) where we were staying, and then headed straight back out to Monterosso to make our way back to our apartment in a relaxed and leisurely fashion. There is a walk between all of the coastal towns (6 hours), or you can take the train (6 minutes).

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Monterosso – the most notherly of the 5 towns…

We had intended to take the train. Hot Buns had other ideas and embarked on an evil scheme to kill us off, luring us into following him with “let’s just take a 10 minute wander to the next town, I think there’s a pub up here”. Thirty minutes later, there was no sign of a pub, only a stream of exhausted looking people coming the other way wearing full hiking gear, laden with water and open mouthed at our audacity to conduct the same hike wearing flipflops, beach wear and with no water. We were at a loss: return the way we came or plod on desperate and exhausted in the hope of salvation? We plodded on (past a sign indicating there was another 1.5hrs to go). Finally, two hours into starting our “10 minute wander to the next town via pubs”, we made it to Vernazza. We learnt a couple of important lessons that day: 1) Be prepared and 2) never listen to anything HB says. HB learnt that evil deeds do not go unpunished.

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Looking back towards Monterosso. At this point we were hydrated, with un-blistered feet and blissfully unaware of the impending trek…

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Vernazza –  at this point, we weren’t sure whether it was a mirage or not.

Having said all that – the walk was spectacular and I highly recommend doing it. I’ll be going back there and doing the full walk and investigating the towns properly at some point. It’s very touristy though – it was almost like being back in London with the amount of English speaking people.  If you go, watch out for your bag – there are pickpockets.

Milan Part 2 (Saturday afternoon and Sunday): The next day we headed back to Milan to the same apartment we were in on the first night. The trains for that stretch all seem to consist of 6 seater cabins which was cosy. Perhaps a little too cosy for the old lady sharing with us who had to endure hours of an insightful and thought-provoking game of “would you rather…” and “if you had to choose between…” (for the uninitiated, an example being “would you rather have your fingernails pulled off or two of your teeth removed?” ). Anyway, I sincerely hope our fellow carriage passenger couldn’t understand English.

We decided on a cheap night on the Saturday and had pizza and nibbles at the apartment and then attempted to go out on the town. However, there are no taxi companies in Milan that: a) answer the phone or b) don’t hang up on you if they do actually answer so we didn’t make it to the town, only the balcony which was I think probably just as / more amusing.

Sunday was cultural – we headed to the Duomo (cathedral) and had a look inside and then made our way up to the roof (7 Euros each) which has some great views of the city.

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Il Duomo – from the roof

 

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Covered mall bit where all the fancy shops are – fabulous architecture…

Alas we didn’t get much time in the main city before heading back to the apartment to pick up luggage and make our way to the airports (me included – I’m writing this from the dank, drizzly and grey UK now!). Myself and Wetpants formed an economic splinter group and went with Ryanair whilst the others went with British Airways. Ryanair were such a pleasure to fly with as ever.  I lost my passport in the airport, I thought that was quite apt given my loss of the passport on the way out too. I wish I had been born in an age where my passport could be a microchip embedded in the back of my neck. Knowing me I’d probably still lose it.

I’m back in the UK now and it’s been busy! I’m sorry to the folks I’ve not had a chance to see – I’m back again at Christmas and hope to be able to see everyone I couldn’t get around to this time. I’ve got my nan’s car (bought I should add), much to her distress! It’s a Fiat – I’ve told her it’s going back “home” to its cultural heritage. She seemed to be mildly happier with that. Anyway, only one incredibly rude company will insure me to drive the car over here and in Italy. I didn’t want to go with the Rude Company. I wanted their business to fail and I wanted it to be because I didn’t go with them. But I need car insurance!!! So, I’ve had to swallow my pride and go with them. Grr.

This week will be one of sorting things out, seeing people and getting some practice driving the car. I need to plan the route back to Italy as well! Any tips welcome 🙂

Right, onwards and upwards – hope you’re all well.

xxx

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Apartments, Cars and Traps…

Ciao a tutti!

Hope you’re all well – for those back in the UK I hear it’s been as sunny and hot there as it has been here! News this week:

I went to see the owners of the apartment I saw last week. After meeting the family, I decided I definitely wanted to move there – they’re lovely! And they seemed to like me too – they didn’t want me to go, offered me glasses of wine, showed me pictures of their various relatives that live in London, invited me to dinner etc. and said they hoped that I would become like part of their family. Lovely eh?! We discussed the nitty gritty: costs, how to check the gas etc., dates… and on the dates front they wanted me to talk to the school (who currently let out the apartment). I asked if that was a good idea – the school presumably taking a cut of rent and all. But they said I needed to just to confirm who was in the flat for when. The following day one of the family phoned to confirm the details again and told me to go to school to check dates. So to school I went. Meanwhile, I’d been imagining myself in the apartment and how lovely it would be to have my own space again. Can you guess what’s coming?

It’s all fallen through…  Apparently the family don’t want to let out the apartment on a long term basis.  Why wouldn’t they tell me that?! Why would they go through the hassle of inviting me to look around the apartment on the basis I wanted a long term let, then invite me to theirs to discuss the details, say lovely things about having me stay, phone me the following day to confirm everything is fine and tell me that I should go to the school to discuss dates but then get the school to tell me that they don’t want me there!

It’s exceedingly odd. A bit too odd. The school had an alternative suggestion ready to hand – I could stay in their own flat paying them rent all throughout the winter instead. Indeed.

On a less irksome note, there is an astounding amount of cool, free things do in Camerano at the moment. I’ve been very impressed for such a little village. Tuesday’s event was an open air cinema in one of the piazzas to watch “La Migliore Offerta” (or “The Best Offer” in English). I think it’s a great film – very good plot and nicely put together. But I must say, I’m a bit confused by how they’ve gone about releasing it. The Director is Italian (Giuseppe Tornatore – he did Cinema Paradiso too). It was set in Italy and filmed there (as well as Vienna and Prague) and it has only been released in Italy and other non-English speaking countries. But yet the actors are all English speaking (including Geoffrey Rush and Donald Sutherland). Even though the dubbing was well done, it’s not ideal is it?! If you’re Italian and directing a film that’s set in Italy, and will be released only in Italy and other foreign places, why not use Italian actors? If I was Italian, that would annoy me.

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“Sotto le stelle” (“under the stars”) open air cinema event in Camerano – there wasn’t a cloud in the sky so was a brilliant night for star gazing and even spotted a shooting star towards the end of the night.

I had my first Italian lesson for ages last week too which went well. I told him I feared that I might have some kind of grave learning disability preventing me from becoming even partially fluent in Italian. He didn’t seem to think I did. For my homework, I’ve been writing a diary in Italian – it’s sometimes easier to use my smartphone because it’s got a dual language spell checker and you can easily find the accented letters that you need. But I’ve found a reasonable solution using the laptop that involves an Italian online word processor with easy access to the various letters/accents and then you can copy and paste it into another tool for Italian spell checking. Long-winded by works.

Let me tell you about this week’s bureaucracy quest. First off: Car. I went to a car garage and asked them what they needed for me to buy a car. They need a carta di residenza or proof of domicilio. I’m still annoyed about paying for private healthcare insurance for the carta di residenza and I still don’t know what the impact would be in paying taxes in the UK if I did that so this domicilio business seemed easier. So, along I went to the Comune and asked them if I could get one of those things. They said proof of domicilio was an abstract notion that didn’t exist. So back to square one. I’ve since been looking at buying a car in the UK and driving it over – I can get it insured, with breakdown cover for a year and can pay UK tax. After that I think I’ll need to come back to the UK and get it MOT’d etc. After 3 years, I think I have to get it registered in Italy but that process seems to make people suicidal so I’ll probably dump it after 3 years and by then, perhaps I’ll have worked out how to buy another here.

In other frustrating bureaucratic news, I went to the bank to open up an account – it costs 6 euros a month! Apparently everyone pays that, it’s not punishment for being foreign. I’m peeved about paying for the account so I’ve not set one up. It might just be cheaper to pay the cashpoint fee’s. I’ll have a think.

The last bit of bureaucracy was Thursday. I went to the Questura (seems to be a branch of the Police) in Ancona to attempt to register my presence here in Italy again for the umpteenth time. They’re not interested because I’m European (despite the wealth of official police type documents from their own websites that say that I need to regardless). So that’s fine, as long as if it eventually does catch up with me, all of these organisations I’ve been to don’t turn around and say that I should have done x, y and z and why didn’t I let them know! On the way back, someone pointed me to the wrong bus stop so I missed my bus, and subsequently missed the school trip this week which was annoying. I spontaneously decided to do my own trip instead and took the train to Fabriano…

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Not the most interesting picture. I’ve merely added it as proof for a later date that I was here and at least tried to tell them I was here!

Fabriano is in a valley further to the north of where I am in Camerano. The train journey is spectacular – lots of mountains (or if not rocky looking hills) on either side of the tracks and it was less than 6 Euros for the ticket for over an hour journey. I’m very impressed with the cheapness of train travel here. I’d heard Fabriano is a nice place to look around and is famous for paper-making. I thought I could buy some art materials there so I got off the train all excited about my own little school trip. But see this sign below? It’s a trap.

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TRAP!!! Don’t believe it. The centre is the OPPOSITE direction. It takes 5 minutes. If you go the way it suggests, you’ll end up in Sicily.

Lesson learnt: Don’t be scared to ask the gangs of scary old men loitering around street corners staring at passersby in an unwelcoming fashion for directions. It could save you hours of time and sore feet. And I’m beginning to know some of the individual scary old men in these swarms, and they’re actually very nice.

When I eventually made it to the centre hours later, I was so peeved, tired and hungry and all the shops were shut that I sat in a bar, had a coffee and then headed back to the railway station again (actually takes 15 minutes if you don’t follow the Trap), senza art materials. I might give Fabriano another go at some point. Looks quite pretty – here’s a picture:

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Fabriano

Also went for aperitivo in Ancona and headed to the cinema to watch “The Lone Ranger” with Johnny Depp (not WITH Johnny Depp you understand. He was busy that day). They could easily have reduced that film by half.

Every week there’s usually a walk somewhere with the school. This week’s was around Camerano. The sunflowers are out so everything is looking very pretty at the moment…

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I Girasoli – The Sunflowers

Next week I’ll be in the Sibillini Mountains for a bit with a friend. I’ve booked a B&B through Airbnb – Airbnb is a bit frustrating. The first place was booked out (it hadn’t said on the website), the second place wanted double the price that was advertised on Airbnb and seemed insulted that I even thought it could be so low, and the third place was finally a go-er so I shall hopefully report back on some places to visit down there next week. So in summary, the website is frustrating but the prices are really very good. Much cheaper than other B&B booking websites.

What’s a bit odd… This week’s feature – cemeteries!  This might sound morbid but they’re actually nice places to wander around! Bodies aren’t generally buried here in Italy, they’re kept in drawers. Albeit large stone un-penetrable drawers. Given a choice of rotting in dank dark coldness 6 feet under and being put in a drawer, I’d go for being put in a drawer every time (to be honest, I’m banking on there being some medical breakthroughs soon that mean I can stay alive for eternity). It’s much clearer to see people’s names etc, they aren’t worn away like in our graveyards. There are fake flowers next to all of the drawers (seems odd calling them drawers but they’re not really “graves” either) and a little electric lamp on all the time making the whole place really pretty (and surely expensive to run) rather than depressing. And there’s often a photo of the person as well which is nice to see. In fact, I think the experience could only be improved if they gave a brief account of how the person died next to each one to satisfy my curiosity!

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Camerano’s cemetary

You pay once for the tomb and that’s it. However, if you’ve bought a family “tomb”, then once you’re full up, you can elect to either pay for a new tomb or you can move the family members you don’t much like and that have been dead for ages to a communal bone store which is a big stone tomb filled with other old bones. Initially it seemed a little unceremonious but I’ve since decided that after years of rotting in my own drawer, I think I’d be craving the company of other people’s bones (ooo we could play pick-up-sticks).

Marco was telling us how he used to play around in the cemetery when he was a kid – jumping from tomb to tomb. One of his mates fell in the communal bone store. I don’t know how you’d get over that. I would probably die on the spot if that happened to me (convenient!).

Blog Spot: I’ve decided to introduce a blog spot! This week’s interesting blog is from someone that’s moved over from Texas to Ancona and doing a similar thing as me: http://elefantini.wordpress.com Have a look!

Right, onwards and upwards… Have a lovely week all.

xxx

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Thunderstorms, Nudists and Overworked Beavers…

Ciao!

This week’s been quiet – the weather’s not been up to much.

There have been a few beach trips – the first one was Marcelli last Sunday. That stretch of beach seems to go for miles between Numana and Porto Recanati. Because of its sheer size, I’d have thought it would be relatively empty and yet it was RAMMED with people. I don’t think there was a single Italian that wasn’t on that beach. There’s regimented colour coordinated grids of umbrellas that people pay for, interspersed with other grids for people that don’t want to pay but who’ve brought their own umbrellas, followed by another colour coordinated set and so on for miles and miles.

Anyway, this was the beach:

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Marcelli Beach

 In contrast to that, this was Mezza Valle beach…

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Mezza Valle – better eh?

Mezza Valle is known around here as being particularly spectacular. However, you have to have a boat to get to it or be quite fit as it’s a steep 25 minute walk down to it, and more importantly a challenging trek back up!

For that reason, the beach is very quiet. I’ve been there twice this week. The first time was just before the biggest thunderstorm I’ve seen. The weather had been looking a bit ominous but we decided to risk it, had a quick 5 minute swim and then decided that we should probably head back up again before we got caught in the rain. And let me tell you, you should have SEEN it – it wasn’t even rain – I think you have to have “rain drops” for that – it was more like the sky was under water. And it had hail in it!  The weather here is crazy. Thankfully we’d made it back to the car just in time. I feel a bit sorry for the poor guys on the beach behind us. The path would have been a river – they’d have had to have done their best salmon impression to get back up to the top. We’ve had quite a few other thunderstorms this week too. And with thunder like I’ve never heard before. It’s been sounding like the sky has been falling down (anyone else remember Chicken Licken?!).

Anyway, look at me talking about the weather (you can take the girl out of Britain but not Britain out of the girl it seems) – much, much more interesting were the nudists! Family members – you might want to look away now :-). Now, Mezza Valle is not a nudist beach but it’s suitably in the middle of nowhere and big enough to be able to find a discreet location far from anyone and strip off if the desire is there. The housemates and I found a quiet spot far from anyone but kept our togs on. However, within a few minutes, the single naked men on the beach seemed to be edging closer until one started a conversation. I’ve thought about it and come to the conclusion that most of my conversations with people are conducted at eye level. After this guy came over to introduce himself (shook our hands), he proceed to sort of stand amongst us for a bit resulting in an unusual eye / naked groin level conversation. To give him credit, he did apologise for having his bits out, but in a “what can you do eh?” sort of way (put pants on), and then proceeded to squat (oh my eyes…) between us and chat. However, to my surprise he seemed relatively normal and by the end of the afternoon I’d allocated him to the “Harmless Extrovert” nudist category.  In contrast, the other “Filthy Flashing Pervert” nudist category was occupied by a couple of the other men who were patrolling our patch of beach and stopping at random points to face us in a Superman pose (standing Superman pose. The flying Superman pose would have been even weirder).

Anyway, suffice to say, it was an amusing trip and despite the Filthy Flashing Perverts outnumbering the Harmless Extroverts, there were still enough Normal People on the beach for us to not feel threatened. Having said that, I would not go back to that beach on my own. Though I suppose if anything was to happen, at least I’d know exactly where to aim my kick…

Here’s a photo of my housemate and me looking like an idiot with my snorkel:

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Jellyfish Watch: The snorkel is great – it’s the only mask I’ve ever had that doesn’t leak so I’m very pleased about that. But because the weather’s been so changeable lately, the water’s been mixed up from the rain and it was difficult to see anything apart from the occasional jelly fish that would appear out of the blue (literally). I’ve considered it and I prefer the idea of swimming without getting stung.

I went to Fermo with the school this week. Fermo’s a hill top town a bit further south than Camerano (where I am). It’s nothing particularly special, though it does have a lovely playground and cathedral on the top of the hill. Further down there’s a large piazza with places to eat and a few shops. There’s an interesting reservoir thing going on under the piazza from Roman times. We had a tour down there with an incredibly fast speaking Italian guide. Something about holes, rain, dirt and water levels. We all forgot where the car was so we traipsed round for an additional hour trying to find it before giving up and going to a bar whilst Marco carried on the search (successfully eventually!).

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View from the museum into the piazza

After Fermo, we went to a Trattoria in Camerano where we had great food which was excellent value for money but resembled a school canteen. Still no menus. The conversations in Trattoria’s seem to go like this:

Waiter: Hi there. Do you want something to eat?

Punter: Yes, yes I think I do.

Waiter: Is food alright?

Punter: Yes, food sounds splendid.

Waiter: Right you are. I’ll bring some out.

I went to the cinema this week to see “Hangover Part 3” or rather “Una notte da leoni 3”. The literal translation would appear to be “a night from lions”. Though let me tell you something about the word “da” – it falls into an annoying set of words called “prepositions” like our “on”, “in” etc. but “da” is a particular gem which can mean a seemingly infinite number of things. The usual suspect is “from” but who knows?! Anyway, what a weird translation?! Apparently it means to have a great night out. They don’t seem to have the concept of “hangovers” here. There’s not even a word for it, so perhaps that’s why they’ve changed the title?! Anyway, pleased to report that I picked up the plot line relatively well.

What else? I went to Ancona yesterday with one of the housemates and there was a food festival going on which was a stroke of luck – we spent the morning eating free olives, cheeses and tasting all the oils.  It reminded me of a much more tranquil version of Borough Market in London. I got invited out for a drink by one of the men at the stalls. The pick-up techniques of Italians thus far appear to be stereotypically Italian. He grabbed my hand, spun me around and exclaimed “che bello!” (how beautiful!). Outrageous! You can’t objectify women like that! I let him off because he obviously has fabulous taste (and I’d eaten half of his olive stock). But if a guy tried that in the UK, he’d get a thwack in the stomach with a handbag. If  women did the handbag thwack here, I think most of the male population would be constantly doubled over. I don’t think feminism has reached Italy yet.

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Look at these! These revolting looking dried insideless fish that look like they’re screaming (stoccafisso) are a speciality of this region apparently. MMMMmmmmm. Tasty.

On Thursday I should be going to Croatia with the boat folk 🙂 I’ve been sailing before and slept on boats but I’ve always been in a harbour overnight and had a chance to have a proper wash. I’m worried for my hair. It goes all dreadlocky even after I’ve been for a 5 minute swim in the sea. I think after 3 days of not being able to wash it, I’ll have no other option than to shave it all off. I’ve made an appointment with the hairdresser next Tuesday for the occasion.

In other exciting news – I’ve had my first taste of chocolate in almost 2 months! I’m rationing. It’s lasted almost a week (as opposed to the usual 2 minutes). Thank you Lucy for sending 🙂

What’s a bit odd? Given this week’s thunderstorms, it seems apt to point out how sensible and trusting the Italian’s are when it comes to umbrellas. The English, when it’s been raining and when there’s shopping to be done, will close their umbrella and wander around the shops with it dripping everywhere on everything. But the Italians often have a sort of bucket thing going on by the door so that the punters can leave their umbrellas there and if there’s not, there’s a sort of short term adhoc umbrella amnesty outside the shop. I know it’s only umbrellas but I think it shows a sense of trust that’s probably missing in the UK. It’s nice! Next time I’m in the UK, I’m going to leave my umbrella at the shop door and see what happens (I predict I will forget to pick it back up again).

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Umbrella Amnesty outside of H&M. The Italians are so trusting. And they’re not cheap umbrellas either. I’m certainly not going to leave that nice blue one I took from outside the shop…

This week I’m bunking off school – I have plans to attack my Italian learning with renewed vigour (why is it talking so long?!?!?! I should be fluent by now!!!! GRRR!!!), sort out bureaucratic stuff, look at a car (specifically with a view to buying one I should add) and do some more painting / drawing (I’m so pleased I can vaguely draw – in the absence of being able to speak Italian properly, drawing people seems to be a reasonably decent bonding factor). I shall as ever, report back.

Have good weeks all 🙂

x

P.S. It’s been a while since Lizard Watch. Here’s a picture of a beaver instead. It was in Ancona by the beach. Beavers don’t live near beaches usually eh? I think it became exhausted trying to build a damn across the Adriatic. He did not look happy, poor thing.

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Beaver Watch? His teeth were red. Do beavers usually have red teeth?

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Nightmare Journey from Hell, Interviews and Fashion…

Ciao!

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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

X

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

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Sponsored “stay at home” event?

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Earthquakes, the Rain Shoes and bureaucracy…

Ciao!!!

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 🙂

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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.

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Ancona – the port

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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?

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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.

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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 🙂

xxx

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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
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.

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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.

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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 🙂

x

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The dolce vita, settling in and seeing the sites…

Ciao!

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).

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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.
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Marchelli

  • 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.

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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!

xxx

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

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