Posts Tagged With: drawing

Artwork, weeds and travels…

Buongiorno a tutti,

How is everyone? It’s been a busy month or so here and yet another mixed bag.

To get the bad news over and done with first, there’s been yet another loss in my family, another Uncle. He used to read all my blog posts and keep tabs on me from afar and I shall miss him greatly. I think one of the biggest challenges to being an ex-pat is when things like this happen. Living in another country away from your family is difficult – grieving is better done together so I’ve been back over in the UK for a bit.

On a positive note, the weather has really started to pick up in Italy and it’s been lovely to spend a bit of time in the garden again. I’ve even been attempting to hone my (entirely non-existent) gardening skills. I’ve discovered that weeding is surprisingly relaxing (even though my current level of expertise leaves me unsure of what is and isn’t a weed). Somewhat linked to that, I went to a fabulous event in Urbisaglia hosted by Il Salto which showed us how to identify wild plants primarily for the purposes of eating or even medicinal use. It was one of the first nice days of the year and it was a really good group so we had a lot of fun and learnt a lot. They run a few similar events and I’d thoroughly recommend it for anyone in the area interested in that kind of thing.

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We collected our wild plants, then had a lovely buffet lunch which everyone had contributed to and then went to the local library to identify our plants and learn more about them. Alas, at that point, they were a little dead looking.

I’ve also been out and about on a few trips…

Rome

I do love Rome. It’s one of my favourite cities. There’s just so much to see and there’s such an eclectic mix between old, really really old and new. It’s an artist’s paradise – one could never be bored and certainly I wasn’t when I was there and managed to squeeze in a few sketches. I’ve discovered it has my favourite shop in the world too – an art shop near the Pantheon. I could probably have spent the entire 3 days just in there! Here are a few of my quick sketches to make a change from showing you photos…

Venice

I also went to Venice to meet up with a friend. It was just a short trip – less than a day really but I got to see a new part of Venice for me (near the Biennale Gardens). It feels like we uncovered the “real” Venice rather than just the tourist area. Venice is such a stunning city that it sort of overwhelms the senses. We stayed in a gorgeous hotel called Liassidi Palace in the centre overlooking one of the canals so it really was a special trip all in all.

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View from our hotel window!

Art Update

I have some paintings up at the gym on display – I’m feeling quite famous every time I head to the changing rooms. I might put some portraits up there too in the next month if they’ll let me to see if I can get any commissions. I’m quite keen to do pet portraits but I’ve lost a bit of momentum on that in the last few months with one thing or the other. I have entered a couple of painting competitions but haven’t had a great deal of success so far but fingers crossed for a future one.  I painted this one below for the SAA Alive & Kicking competition (here’s a link if you want to browse my competition!)…

alive and kicking

A life drawing class has just started as well which I’m enjoying. It’s a combined class with younger Italian students and English ex-pats. This was a quick watercolour sketch done in the last class.

Life Drawing

I had some success this month on the photography front and won a prize for being one of the winners in a Touring Club Italia photographic competition – have a look here to see my photo. I’ve won a weekend away for two somewhere yet to be confirmed! I’ll keep you posted.

Finally, I’m thrilled to announce I’m a gold medalist swimmer! GOLD! (Yes, admittedly there were only two people in my category for that particular race but still, that’s just  a petty detail). I did quite badly really – my nose clip came off after the first length and I spent the following three lengths drowning. I did manage to beat my personal best in a competitive race though (it being my second gala ever that wasn’t particularly difficult either). Technically, all I need to do is not drown quite so much in the next race and I should beat my latest personal best too.

I think that’s it from my side. I wish you all a good week or two.

x

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The Good Life in Emilia-Romagna: Part 1 – Places to stay

Buongiorno a tutti!!!!

How is everyone?

I’ve been on a blog tour in honour of the “Settimana del Buon Vivere” (the Week of Good Living) in Emilia-Romagna, a region of Northern Italy. I’m going to write it up as another Blog Tour Trilogy. In this post, I’ll give you a bit of background and focus on places to stay, Part 2 will cover food and drink and in Part 3 I’ll talk about things to do and  see in the area. There is a small chance that like all good trilogy’s I might split the final Part into two sections as there’s so much to talk about!

The Settimana del Buon Vivere is a yearly event at the end of September (this year’s event ran from the 25th September to the 2nd October) based primarily in Forlì and it focuses on health, culture, well-being and the environment. To that end there are: art exhibitions, concerts, shows, workshops, seminars… you name it, the list goes on!

There is a 43 page programme / newspaper listing the events for the week so all in all, an impressive programme and although there was a general theme in relation to “Water” this year, the festival covered a vast range of topics. To give you an idea of the events: There were free lessons in yoga, talks on mindfulness, seminars on how to use water responsibly (including how to grow plants with as little water as possible – this seminar is perfect for me!), mobile theatre events that took place in a truck and bus and discussions about sourdough bread… I picked out my personal favourites for these examples but to check out the full range, have a look here.

However, our particular blog tour only touched briefly on the official activities of the Settimana del Buon Vivere as our primary aim was to explore Emilia-Romagna as a whole: uncover some of the cities, learn about their traditions and culture, their food and wine and see for ourselves why the region is Italy’s capital for “good living”. We did, however, attend one of the official events – an Instagram Academy held in what used to be a church, San Giacomo in the city of Forlì.

The talk was interesting, covering how Instagram has come to be, how it can be used, particularly as an aid to tourism and it’s benefits. I have to admit, I do not utilise Instagram to the max, in fact, even to the minimum. I hadn’t quite worked out what point it serves over and above all the other social media which I already struggle to update! I know, I know… what kind of blogger am I?!! Anyway, I left the presentation relatively sold on its benefits. I shall aim to post regularly. If you want to follow me, I’m “lemarchescape” and as an aside, on Twitter I’m @suzzec (long story!).

During the presentation I drew the Instagram Academy team, and posted that up on Instagram there and then –  the two guys presenting “liked it” shortly after – oh the power of social media!

instagram

 

Exploring Emilia-Romagna

Emilia-Romagna covers a large area – it’s one of Italy’s 20 regions (just north of Le Marche where I live), and has a population of almost 4.5 million people. It is over 14 times bigger than Greater London to give you an idea of its size, with mountains, plains, lagoons, sea and one of my favourite cities, Bologna, which is the region’s capital.

You can appreciate that it would be a challenge to experience and write about everything there is to see and do in the entire area during the course of the week we were there. However, we did our best! We had a whirlwind tour of some of the region’s cities, seeing them in a new light, learning about the traditions and culture in Emilia-Romagna and discovering the Delta del Po park. We went on a water-based tour of Forli, a street art tour of Ravenna and a tour of Cesena by bike. We went wine tasting, ciambella making (a traditional cake of Emilia-Romagna), bird watching, art and sculpture exhibition visiting, not to mention eating vast amounts of the local delicacies in an array of restaurants. I know, I know… it’s a hard life this blog tour business! I felt like quite the celebrity. In fact, I was even interviewed by the local radio station! To check out the interview click here. I can’t bring myself to listen to it. My Italian is just awful!

B&B Calicanto

We stayed at the Calicanto Bed and Breakfast run by Andrea and Anna and their family. Like it says in their kitchen, it’s a home from home (which is not totally true in my case, the rooms here are much more luxurious!

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A home from home!

The bedrooms are well decorated – a good mix between modern and traditional. Breakfast was served in a little dedicated kitchen area and amazing breakfasts they were too. Anna is a brilliant cook – she really should be running cake baking courses! There’s something different to look forward to everyday.

They have a large outside space, complete with sun loungers at the guests disposal where we spent most of our first day ‘chilling out ‘ before the blog tour commenced in earnest. If we hadn’t been jetting around the region for the tour, I could happily have spent the entire week relaxing at the B&B!

I think my favourite aspect of the B&B though was the ever faithful Mutley, the excellent and affectionate guard dog!

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I’m trying to get in as much drawing and watercolour practice as I can at the moment so with that in mind, I spent our first afternoon with the sketchpad…

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Ca’ Bevilacqua

To have a look at other options available to tourists coming into the area, we also visited Ca’ Bevilacqua in the evening for a buffet meal. Ca’ Bevilacqua is a B&B with three guest rooms and an area for events such as birthdays or weddings. The property is surrounded by a large hedge and a rather sturdy gate and in consequence you feel totally secluded – a real haven for relaxation. They have been featured in Country House magazine. We ate in the very atmospheric event area, a large almost open “barn” area with vines intertwined amongst the beams and falling down in cascades. Quite a romantic room that makes you feel like you’ve just come across it in the middle of a forest. This is where they host events – holding a wedding recently in what I think is an idyllic setting! Our hosts, Loretta, Vidmer and their daughter provided us with a lovely buffet meal and great company after a long and tiring day of exploring. These are some snaps from the evening but check out their website to see the B&B in all its daylight glory!

Ok, that’s it for this post. Tune in for Part 2. If you want to check out what my fellow blog tour buddies thought about our tour, have a look here:

A presto,

x

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Exploring Venice, Drawing Nudes and My Terrible Affliction…

Buonasera a tutti,

How is everyone? I’ve had a successful week here, slightly more productive than recent weeks at least! Here’s an update going from the least to the most exciting.

Teaching

I have a terrible affliction. I am unable to say ‘no’ to people that want lessons. If you’re new to this blog, just to fill you in, I do not like teaching, particularly children. I don’t wish to sound ungrateful by any means, I’m incredibly fortunate to be in a position where work finds me rather than vice versa. But it’s a lot of effort, not so much the class itself but all the preparation that goes into it for so little reward. The pay is awful (and the children are mean to me and they don’t listen. It’s literally just like being back at school again!!!!) Interviews are non existent – the only qualification required is that I’m English. My interviews in the UK used to be “can you explain to me what the critical path of a project is and how you’d highlight what that is using x software?”. Now my interviews consist of only “when can you start?”. Last week the local school phoned me up to see if I could do some teaching and we organised a catch up. It went thusly:

School: Great. So what hours can you do?

Me: Meh. You know, I really don’t like teaching. Let’s say, the minimum number of hours possible and even then I’m not sure I want to do it. Maximum of maybe 3 hours a week.

School: Ok. What about 8 hours a week?

Me: Ugh. I really don’t like teaching. Did I mention that?

School: Huh. Well what do you want to do?

Me: I want to be a rich and successful artist.

School: <laughing/odd looks> Ok. How about we say, like 6 hours a week?

Me: <sigh> I guess.

School: How much is your usual hourly rate?

Me: Hmmm 25 Euros…

School: Great.

Me: But no, hang on. If I’m teaching a bunch of people and they’re all paying you x, I want at least half of everything you get to take the edge off.

So that’s that. In January, I shall be teaching a mix of children (ugh) and adults (not at the same time unfortunately).

Infinity TV

My Italian speaking went considerably downhill when I stopped watching CSI New York (an american police drama series for the uninitiated) which was for an hour and a half or so each weekday. Watching TV may SOUND lazy but when you’re learning a new language it’s really quite helpful, particularly when it’s dubbed and subtitled in Italian. I stopped watching it when they moved to CSI Miami as I can’t stand David Caruso (I’m sorry if you’re reading this David. It’s nothing personal but for goodness me, you don’t have to spend the entire programme talking to people but looking meaningfully elsewhere). Anyway, since then I’ve not found any other decent TV programmes. To the discerning English eye (mine at least), Italian TV can be summarised largely by back-to-back sexist drivel. However, I have discovered “Infinity TV”! I can’t tell you how chuffed I am! You pay just under 5 euros a month and you can watch an unlimited amount of different series and films, many with subtitles both in English and Italian and have the audio in their original language if you want. So in summary, my Italian language comprehension and vocabulary practice has just got a lot less boring.

Drawing Course

My nudey drawing class has started! It’s for one day a week. So far so good. I think I naturally err to the more traditional sort of art techniques and this course is more about exploring different mediums so it’ll be interesting learning new techniques!

Chioggia and Venezia

My favourite part of last week by far though was a quick trip to Venice and a town called Chioggia nearby to it. I drove up with my friend Pablo (I allowed him to select his own blog nickname and he’s chosen “Pablo” after Pablo Escobar, the Mexican Drug Kingpin. I don’t, however, believe he has any drug cartel connections to speak of). Saturday night we explored Chioggia, a little village on the seafront, 40 minutes drive to the south of Venice. It was nice but probably needs a bit more time to explore to get the best out of it.

This is Chioggia at night...

This is Chioggia at night…

Then we headed to Venice. Venice is one of my favourite places and its nice in the autumn as it’s slightly less busy than usual. Here are some photos…

Venezia (10 of 137) Venezia (118 of 137) Venezia (120 of 137) Venezia (132 of 137) Venezia (134 of 137) Venezia (18 of 137) Venezia (19 of 137) Venezia (55 of 137)And then we went to a cute little island called Burano that you have to get a ferry to. It specialises in lace making and has some really lovely unique clothes etc. The thing of note when you go there though are the houses – all different colours. It’s a very pretty place!
Venezia (79 of 137) Venezia (86 of 137) Venezia (92 of 137) Venezia (95 of 137)

I think that about sums up my week. I hope you’re all well 🙂

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The Fog, PMS and The Trials and Tribulations of Teaching Toddlers

Ciao all,

Well, this week, let me tell you…

Work

I had my first English teaching lesson with the 4yr old.  It did not go well. He didn’t want to learn, play or do anything and apart from about 10 minutes, he ignored me for the rest of the hour. The session was going to be split into 4 parts: 1) Sitting-down time, 2) Up-and-about time, 3) Going-to-the-toilet/ Having-a-snack (not at the same time) time and 4) Wind-down-story time.  I had a Box Of Fun which had different activities in which he could pick for the first two parts – but he just went through them all like this: “nope, I don’t want to do that” (in Italian) and cast them all to one side. He didn’t even know what they were and wouldn’t let me explain!

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Box of Fun. See – how exciting does that look?! EXCITING!!!

Having-a-Snack Time didn’t materialise. He wasn’t interested in the story. When we hit on a successful activity, it lasted 2 minutes before he wanted to do something else. THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH ACTIVITIES TO OCCUPY THIS BOY FOR AN HOUR. I phoned the mum up after and she said sometimes it was difficult to keep the attention of her child. Uh huh. She suggested I should do more drawing activities next week – “NEXT WEEK?! You want ANOTHER lesson?!” I said. Next week I’ll have to bring along some more activities (and a hip flask). I wonder if there’s a local teaching support group where all the teachers can meet up in a room and cry.

The next lot of lessons start on the 4th November with the schools – I’m working Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. They start from nursery school age (what’s that? 4 as well? God help me). There’ll be 26 of them. Marco wants me to work at the school here too. It’s all a bit like a full-time job this teaching malarkey – particularly given the length of time it takes me to prepare stuff. The work situation for a lot of people here is dire so I know I’ve been very fortunate and I’m honestly very grateful, but I didn’t want a proper full time job! I still have sleeping to catch up on from the last decade of working and I wanted to do more in the way of drawing and painting. I just seem to have fallen into it all. Anyway, my revised plan is to teach until the end of the school year – get materials, get experience and then give up next year and then I can do the occasional private lesson but this time with a modicum of experience behind me. At least it’s a way of making a dent in the car breakdown expenses!

Driving

I’ve been driving every day now. The number of Near Death Experiences has thankfully diminished (because I’ve narrowed down my driving times to when the psychos are at work). Today’s NDE was due to a crazy Italian flying down a hill who didn’t look to see if there was someone coming along the main road (I was) before veering onto it at 90 mph. Even though it was my right of way, he glared at me angrily in that 10th of a second it took for him to swerve around the corner. So that’s a classic example of one of my NDEs: nothing to do with me at all. Talk about defensive driving – I spend the entire time looking out for enemy attacks and ambushes. It would be more relaxing driving in a known land mine area. It’s odd – you’d think I’d be more confident…I spend the entire time driving saying positive “I am right” affirmations (to remind me to drive on the right!) 😉

Swimming

I tried to go swimming this week. There are two “local” pools. This week I went to the more local one which turns out is disgusting – in fact, the pool could be lovely for all I know but the car park looked positively derelict apart from creepy men staring at me and the changing rooms which were in the reception area were ghastly looking. I walked back out again. I’m going to go to the less nasty looking pool next week but it’s a bit further away. More NDE-exposure time <sigh>.

Visits from home!

My parents are here next week so I’m excited about that! I’ve been compiling a list of things to see and do:

Towns/ Villages:

  • Ancona
  • Marcelli (selected on the basis that one of my school’s is there, I suspect it might be dead during the winter but it would make for a nice coastal walk!)
  • Numana
  • Sirollo
  • Osimo
  • Loreto
  • Jesi

Walks

  • Around Camerano
  • Around Monte Conero – Passo del Lupo
  • Fiaba di Fiastra
  • San Quirico

Stuff to do if it rains

  • Frassasi Caves
  • Camerano Caves
  • Auchan! Oh yeah…
  • Camerano Commercial Centre

Anybody else have any ideas?

I’ve more visitors coming this month too. People – bring your own entertainment otherwise you’ll be watching CSI Miami in Italian (I really dislike CSI Miami compared to CSI New York – the main guy spends the whole time looking at his feet and then looking up in a dramatic fashion at whoever he’s talking to and then he walks off. No-one can be THAT dramatic ALL of the time. Irritating).

Walk

What else? I went for a walk round the local countryside and now have blisters from wearing my proper walking shoes (as opposed to flipflops which are fine (my feet were not designed for shoes). With Autumn here, all the sunflowers have been harvested and the fields are being ploughed.  It looks positively sparse!

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I had a race to get around the circuit before the sun completely disappeared. I have had now several confusing conversations with Italians about “the dark”. “Buio” (dark) and “buoi” (cows) are pretty much the same word eh?! Anyway, turns out I told my Italian friend that I needed to get back home before the cow came.

I went on another walk with Il Polemico yesterday too around Monte Conero up a path to the old monastery at the top. It was a gorgeous sunny day. Probably. If we could have seen any of it above the fog. As it was, it was very creepy! Monte Conero is pretty much covered in woodland. The fog meant all the spider webs were glistening with dew. Creepily beautiful.

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The entire forest was covered in these! It was like walking through an Indiana Jones set.

Fog has definitely been a bit of a theme lately – every evening it rolls in around 8 or 9pm and stays until midday.

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The Fog

Bureaucracy

I went to the Agenzia Entrata this week and managed to get a new codice fiscale number with my middle name now on – it seems to have placated the Comune so that’s good. I still don’t know what I’ve succeeded in doing.  There doesn’t seem to be anything else bureaucratic to do at the moment so er, that’s good / probably a lie.

Extracurricular activities

I’ve been doing a bit of painting/drawing which has been good. I bought an easel online back in the UK but it didn’t arrive in time so have to wait for that until Christmas when I can bring it back. It took me years to work out that if you paint on a horizontal surface, it skews your perspective. At least, that’s what I tell myself. 😉

What’s a bit odd?

Ladies!!!! It’s nothing to be ashamed of, no need to try and hide it anymore – take inspiration from this graffiti tagger and be PROUD…

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One of my friend’s theory is that there might be a “crew” called PMS. I know a few people that could be in that crew…

Ciao x

ps – WIFI IS BACK – HOORAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Croatia, Blackmail and Helicopters…

Ciao!

And how is everybody? I know I’ve been doing this blogging thing for a while now but it still feels rude to launch into a monologue about me! Anyway, launching into a monologue about me…  I’ve been out and about a fair bit in the last week with the housemates again and also sailing. So this week’s excursions have been:

  • Offagna: I really like Offagna – it’s a hill top town half an hour or so away with a big castle at the top. We (the housemates and I) went for a pizza at “Sotta la Rocca” – we had a lovely pizza and then wandered around the town a bit. Lovely, lovely, lovely. And the countryside around there is spectacular too. I could live there.

Offagna

  • Portonovo – I’ve been here a few times now and really like it. I’ve not been to the beach there before for a sunbathing/swimming session but we (still the housemates…) parked up and walked a bit around the corner where it was pretty much empty and spent the afternoon there. Portonovo is FABULOUS for snorkelling… the water was crystal clear and the rocks, though a bit perilous to try and get out for a swim, meant there was a lot of fish, crabs and other things to see.
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I snorkelled to that rock sticking out – turns out it was a long way (only realised that on the way back).

  • Croatia – Sailing was great! We had a little flotilla thing going on – 3 boats. There were 5 of us on ours – my friend Catherine and three really nice guys.  We left Ancona on Thursday night and did a night sail to Croatia which took 12 hours. We got there mid morning and headed to a Drogana (place where you take your passports – I hadn’t really appreciated before that you need to sort of check in when you sail places) in a place called Sali (I think) and then off in between some islands for lunch, a swim and some sleep.
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Sali (quite possibly) Only stayed here an hour or two.

  • Then we moored up in a lovely little bay somewhere else for the night – I’ve only ever been in marinas overnight so it was interesting! And there’s this well known wind (the Bora) in Croatia which is known for blowing boats off their moorings so we all anchored up next to each other and had ropes tied from the boats to some rocks and trees on the shore and then we tied ourselves to each other as well so all in all, it felt like quite a secure mooring! Or at least if it wasn’t, the plus side was we’d have all been blown away together (and would have taken half the Croatian countryside with us as a souvenir).
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We spent a good half an hour motoring around this bay looking for the ideal place to er, park (moor probably)…

  • Next day we headed to another bay (I wish I’d paid more attention to where we’d gone!) with a Caribbean style white sandy beach and crystal clear water. The people around there have a lot of money – we were amidst some very fancy power boats. I’m somewhat envious. Apparently they don’t have pirates in Croatia. I think there’s a clear niche in the market. I’m definitely going to consider becoming a pirate.
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Lovely bay… somewhere in Croatia. I recommend it!

  • So in summary, I had a great time and I think I’m more tanned than I’ve ever been, though also more bruised than I’ve ever been. I haven’t nailed walking in a straight line on a rocking boat. There’s not a bit of my thighs that I didn’t bang into something with. I look like a domestic abuse victim.

I’ve been doing a lot of drawing lately – I drew a lot of portraits on the boat but I need to practice more. I’m not good with my shading yet – everyone looks like they have beards. Apart from the people that actually have a beard and then it just looks like they haven’t washed. I’ve decided I’m going to set up a portrait drawing business in Marcelli (seaside resort where all the Italians go during summer) in the next few weeks so I need to get better (Piracy and Portraits R US Ltd?)! Portrait drawing doesn’t seem to be done much in Italy. And the Italian’s seem relatively easy to please on the portrait front so far (fortunately!) so hopefully if I can improve a bit, I’ll be onto a winner. I love doing portraits anyway so even if it doesn’t work out, it’ll keep me amused a bit whilst the piracy business takes off 🙂

I’m still frustrated as ever with the language but after a couple of pep talks from friends I’m slightly less depressed about it – apparently it takes a while! Anyway, the plus side of being inept at Italian is that some of my errors have had me giggling for ages, and still make me laugh. I asked one of the guys on the boat if he wanted his portrait taken… Only I asked him if he’d like to be blackmailed instead. “Portrait” and “Blackmail” are very similar sounding words in Italian!  The best thing was his reply “nah, not today, maybe tomorrow eh?”!

I’ve had two housemates leave and another one move in this weekend. I think I might have yet another soon too. Or tomorrow. Or next week. Who knows! Marco is not forthcoming when it comes to providing housemate information.

I failed dismally at my bureaucracy quest last week – I went back to the Comune armed with every document I could think of but I still require more. I’m less and less sure about this residency malarkey anyway –  the reason I’m questioning it again is that apparently I now have to buy private healthcare insurance because I’d be “resident” as a student. So this is my understanding: if I was working and therefore paying taxes then that would be fine, I don’t need to pay for healthcare insurance. But as I’m not at the moment, then I’d have to pay for my healthcare. But I let out a property in the UK so I’m already paying taxes which go towards healthcare and I shouldn’t have to pay for healthcare twice eh? And by becoming resident in Italy, maybe it means that rather than paying tax to the UK even though my house is there, I pay it to Italy but then I don’t want to pay tax here – the tax is a lot higher (who’d have thought!). So, to sum up – I’m thoroughly confused. The internet only adds to the confusion. So, next stop will be to email the tax folk in the UK and see if they’ll advise. Meanwhile, I’m very seriously thinking about flying back to the UK, buying a car and driving it back here.

This week’s ‘What’s a bit weird’: Look at this graffiti on the wall of my local school (below) – look past the “porn”… “Helicopter”! Isn’t it sweet? Some little ruffian has been practicing their English! Unless of course it means something entirely different in Italian…

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Buonanotte all!

x

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