Friday, 26 February 2010

The Football Supporters

Oof! This has been a hard week. It’s been tough getting back into the swing of things after a week doing very little and to top it off I haven’t been feeling well. I’m a little tired and in need of some non-teaching related adult conversation, which this week came from a surprising source.

Whilst on the bus to one of my schools on Wednesday, a hoard of Inter Milan supporters pushed their way on. Packed in on all sides I was trying carefully not to step on anybody’s toes and ensure nothing was stolen from my bag or pockets. The supporter nearest me asked me how many stops to the metro for the stadium. I answered I didn’t know, probably about 6.

She says about 7 or 8,” yelled said supporter to the rest of the fans.

You’re not Italian?” he asked.

No.” I said, hoping that he wasn’t going to start a conversation.

Where are you from?” he asked full of curiosity.

England” I replied shortly but politely.

Where in England?” he continued with enthusiasm.

London,” I said, seeing my subtle hints of wishing to remain in anonymity and peace were going ignored and hoping very much this man wasn’t going to turn out to be a nutcase/creep.

Wrong answer!

Are you watching the game tonight?” he asked.

What game?” I replied. This time it was his turn to look a little nonplussed.

Inter- Chelsea!” ‘Are you really from London?' was written all over his face. At that point I relaxed and we had a really nice chat about the promiscuity of Chelsea players and their wives and Ashley Cole’s imminent divorce all the way to Lotto. He turned out to be Southern Italian, which I think would explain his disregard for Milanese bus-riding etiquette.

Football teams are like mothers. You can only have one!” he shouted to his friends joyfully, neatly encompassing two Italian stereotypes in one go.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

A Week of Carnival

As the title suggests, this week is the week of Carnevale in Italy, and also in other countries, probably by now you've all seen some of the glittery photos from Rio de Janiero. In fact most of my students were away skiing in the mountains and not participating in the festivities in Venice. So far, carnival for the majority seems to involve eating vast quantities of bugie and fritelle - deep fried and sugared goodness. Thank you nonna B!

I did consider going to Venice/Parma/Florence but the persistent cold and wet weather has really dampened my enthusiasm for sightseeing. As my fellow work-free friend pointed out, it would be much better to go when its sunny. At least that way we can look up at the buildings without getting a face-full of water.

Jaunt cancelled, we decided to do a bit of indoor-sightseeing here in Milan to combat the developing cabin fever. Our first port of call was Santa Maria della Grazie - the church that houses the Last Supper in the refectory, but the tickets were all sold out, (you need to book) so we went to the Museo Civico Archeologico instead. It was small but quite interesting. Unfortunately we didn't have a dictionary but it was quite fun making up our own explanations to the displays. As it turned out to be a beautiful sunny day in the end we finished our touristy afternoon with more carnival deepfried sugary food, tortelli di cioccolato.

And to complete our carnival experience, on the way home we got covered in 'coriandoli' (not coriander but confetti, confetti in italian being sugared almonds). I'm still shedding it now...

Monday, 1 February 2010

Milano Nel Sole

Milan. It looks so much better in the sun. There’s a stiff breeze and rays of sunlight are warming the kitchen. It makes a nice change from the grey grey fog that has been hanging over Milan for the past few weeks. That said, they did stop the traffic in central Milan yesterday due to the air pollution being so bad.

Aside from blacker lungs I have also had the time to acquire a map and a metro card and I have news for you. Milan is growing on me.

When I first came here, I wasn’t impressed at all. January cold – these are the days of the merla and concrete concrete everywhere. The outskirts of Milan, where I live, are it must be said, a bit of a dump. No restaurants, no cafes, hardly any shops, (well there is a travel agent’s) and no green spaces. First impressions did go rather against it. My housemate got mugged on the dark and lonely path. There isn’t a bakery nearby. Oh, and the place is a building site full of cranes. However I would like to point out that if you squint when you look at the flooded pit in the building site in the sun it looks like a lake, the coop is not THAT small, and there are plenty of people walking dogs after dark.

As for Milan city centre, the Lonely Planet is right when it says at first glance Milan "can appear like one of the models gracing its catwalks: great bone structure... extravagant taste and no obvious soul.” The Duomo is undeniably breathtaking and the castle and parks are very lovely. However you’d be forgiven for thinking why on earth people live in this city when it’s freezing cold and damp in winter and hot and humid in the summer. It left me cold at first, but it really does have its plus points. Here are some things I’m learning to love about Milan.

1)The city is really multiracial and multicultural. People-watching in the park and on the metro is a very rewarding pastime here.

2)There are lots of exhibitions. Including for example the one I saw by Steve Mccurry. You know him because he took that picture of the Afghan girl with the green eyes for National Geographic.

3)People are open to meeting new people. I have met some people for conversation exchange several times already.

4)The public transport system is pretty good and it only costs a euro for a single on the metro, unlike another city I could mention. Ahem *London*

5)There is aperitivo. You pay seven Euros or something for your drink and can eat as much as you want from the buffet.

6)It’s very close to the lakes of northern Italy. A day trip to Lago di Como or Lago di Garda anyone? Or would you rather spend a weekend in the mountains?