Friday, August 12, 2011

"Breaking up is hard to do..."

A "Dear John letter" is a letter written to tell someone their relationship is over, usually because the composser has found another lover. They are often written out of an inability or unwillingness to inform the subject face to face. It pains me to do it, but, this is my "Dear John Letter" to Italy, (only I have not found another lover, just another country)

Dearest John, I mean Dearest Italy,

I know this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be done. Writing like this. But, it’s the only way I have left. I am constantly surrounded by you, looking into your food, wine and culture, my mind goes blank, my thoughts jumble, and I am left with nothing for you but tears.

Being with you has been wonderful. Being with you has taught me so much. And there is so much that I am grateful for, so much that I will cherish well into my declining years.

But the time has come to say good-bye.  We both knew that this would not last forever.

We were simply not meant to be, my love.

You have your ways, I have mine, and nothing in the middle seems to make sense, particularly driving habits.  So many things still baffle me about you.

I love you, still. But the carbohydrate intake that lies beneath my stomach lining, has become more than I can endure. More than anyone should have to. For me, and for you. We are too good to settle for something that will never be.

I wish for you, all the things you dream of. All the things you need, such as more patience while queing and a better understanding of customer service.

I wish for you, a happiness that will endure.

Good-bye Italy my love, you will never be forgotton.
"Io vi amo e vi ringrazio per i ricordi."


Gonzos Abroad

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Love and Loathing

Love and Loathing. I have discovered that it is actually possible to feel these two polar emotions at the same time.  As I think about leaving Italy, I am starting to reflect upon what I love and loath about this unique country.

  • Everything is ancient
  • LOVE the history, architecture, art, food; Italians respect their past and make an effort to cultivate others of their treasures
  • LOATH the hole in the ground toilets and the resistance to change for the better
  • The clothing tags are longer than the garments themselves
  • LOVE that washing directions are in several languages, feels extremely 'European'
  • LOATH forgetting to chop the tags off and feeling like I am shoplifting A4 sized notepads under my shirt or dress
  • Disregard for road rules
  • LOVE the fact that you arrive faster due to parking where you want, and not stopping when you have to
  • LOATH the fact that drivers do not stop when they have to, (stop signs, red lights or pedestrian crossings), and they park where they want, (footpath, middle of the road, double/triple park; as long as the hazard lights are on, "we are all good")
  • Ignorance of personal space
  • LOVE the innocence of people picking up my children for a cuddle and taking them to show their friends (I know none of these people)
  • LOATH my confusion between the two words friendliness and abduction
  • Random waiter in Florence that insisted we take a picture of him???
  • Food
  • LOVE it all, delicious, and you are EXPECTED to order first and second courses
  • LOATH the amount of carbohydrates
  • Coffee
  • LOVE that it can cost 80c for a coffee, and a coffee to go is at a bar, served within the minute and you can double park to get it
  • LOATH that you do not 'meet' for coffee, or it would be a 1 min 30 second outing, and a really quick conversation
  • Wine
  • LOVE that it is sooooo cheap and yummy
  • LOATH the looks we receive from fellow diners when we order our litre of wine with meals
  • Shopping
  • LOVE that twice a year EVERYTHING goes on sale from 50 % to 70% off
  • LOATH that everything is so expensive otherwise and nobody told me not to shop until July or January
  • Children
  • LOVE that people you slightly know, eg work colleagues, gym workers, shop assistants all request "meetings" with your children when they find out you have them
  • LOATH.... seriously, this a little creepy
  • Language
  • LOVE the sound of it; it really is a lovely language even if I do not understand it
  • LOATH that I do not understand it and am paranoid that I am being called silly French woman (I know, majority think I am French, bizarre)
  • Customer Service
  • LOVE that most of the smaller retail shops will greet you with an immediate "buongiorno", usually hollered from the opposite end on the store
  • LOATH the come down after the enthusiastic greeting. You will now be ignored, even while purchasing something, you take second place to phone calls from Nonna or a review of a co-workers choice of nail polish colour
  • Fashion
  • LOVE the quality, availability and application of high fashion.  A visit to the local post box appears to be an occasion, you would only leave the house (apartment) in your "Sunday Bests".
  • LOATH that imitations of the high fashion is sold on every corner displayed on a sheet or cardboard box.  Also loath that it is not socially acceptable to go to the local post box in my pyjama's (even if accessorised with a nice pair of kitten heels and a pair of over sized sunglasses).  Most are associated with Barbie in Milan, full of plastic and the face expression does not change much.
  • Perception of necessity
  • LOVE that on every corner there stands a church, (not a pub) that is older than the country that I was born.  Not often I passed a church without poking my head inside to see if there were fresco's, an organ, or any holy water in the font.
  • LOATH the development of my conscience in my time in Italy.  The more churches I visited, the more I felt it disrespectful to take photos in this place of worship, but I have been torn, as I feel that this is the haven for the worlds best art.  Also loath my children's discovery of echo echo echo in these tranquil places of worship.
  • Hand language
  • LOVE the enthusiasm and expression of emotions. Speaking simultaneously with hands and mouth is a given for young and old, (see hubby, it IS possible to do more than one thing at a time)
  • LOATH that arm flapping is a language in itself entirely.  A conversation can also be had with the hands and no words; yet another form of communication to be learnt.  (The only hand language I understood up until now was the middle finger for anger and rub your belly if you are hungry.... apparently there are more than 2 in the hand language index)
  • Italy
  • LOVE it entirely
  • Milan's Duomo
  • LOATH that it is time to leave

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Vercelli; amble, amble, amble

We managed to find another day trip destination under the one hour travel limit so here we come Vercelli! Vercelli is located between Milan and Turin close to the River Po and is an important cultivator of rice, (largest in Italy), so our view approaching this town was of rice fields as far as the eye could see.  According to many historians, the city was first founded around the year 600 BC, (long, long ago), and was one of the oldest urban cities in this part of the country.

There are said to be several ruins scattered around the city which date back to the Roman times like the amphitheater, the hippodrome, sarcophagi and several other inscriptions quite a lot of which are Christian.  We wandered the historic city, but managed to find none, I even got lost and failed at finding the information centre after following the signs.  Finding it a little difficult to further convince my husband of my mental GPS, we decided our day would be best unrehearsed, and we ambled aimlessly thru the streets instead.

Piazza Cavour and Tower dell' Angello

There were quite a few towers

The cathedral of Vercelli is the most important religious center in the city. The cathedral was built centuries ago, was remodeled and changed several times over the years, especially once in the 9th and once in the 16th century. The cathedral is ornately designed and has several very beautiful paintings made by local artists. There is also a library in the cathedral that has several important ancient manuscripts including the Laws of the Lombards from the 8th century.  The main cathedral is usually easy to find, you look up.  There is always a visible dome that screams "I am the centre of attention".  So amble, amble, amble; only to find the entire building under construction and definitely no portal.  So after walking the circumference on the building, we find a museum, that is open for another 3 minutes before three hour lunch break.  Gather we will not be going in there either?  Amble, amble, amble.

This was our view under construction

This is what we should of seen

The signature local dish of the city is a dish called panissa which is made with rice and beans. Probably should of tried a rice dish, but by the time we sat down at a restaurant, both of the children were both asleep in the pram.  I got flustered, in all honesty, it was more of a panic.  The children NEVER sleep simultaneously during meals, this is a rare occassion.  Goodness me, could this be like a date with my husband???  Should I apply more lip balm and shake out my hair? We ordered a seafood plate and some wine as fast and quietly as possible and relished in the fact that there were no princess toys being launched across the table by a flicking fork.  Just between you and me I was busting to go to the toilet, but I thought crying out "pee pee" while holding my crutch would of spoilt the date atmosphere.  It was a lovely lunch, just as we finished the food and the wine, the children awoke and so we were obliged to order more food, (and wine).  Now what... amble, amble, amble.

The historic center of the town has many narrow pedestrian streets that are lined with small shops that sell unique locally made items, clothes and trinkets. We took advantage of the good number of places for shopping, and managed to buy anniversary and birthday presents for each other.  As we were leaving the historic centre, we found the worlds largest pot plant and made our way to one of the best playgrounds we have taken the children to in Italy. The numerous slides, swings, climbing frames, flying fox, soccer field and skate park, kept us at play until hubby started levitating as the mosquitos were carrying him away.  Another fabulous day, but sadly no doubt, our last day trip out of Milan.
World's largest pot plant, (or smallest child)?

No I have not turned so European that I am walking around naked, it is a sleeveless top

Great park
IF - Interesting Fact
In 1228 the first puplicly-funded university in the world was set up here and still exists today.