venerdì 29 ottobre 2010


The other blog is newly updated, but just in case you are feeling extra lazy and can't be bothered to go over, the big news is that we're expecting a girl! Very excited, very busy and very fat is the best description I can give of myself at the moment!
A presto!!

martedì 21 settembre 2010

Shameless advertising

Having spent the best part of 5 years holidaying in Sardinia in their own little apartment, my mum and dad have decided to invest in something closer to me (now that they have a grandchild on the way!) and so are selling the place. If anyone is interested or knows anyone who might be, message me and I'll put you in touch! It's a private sale so there would be no agency fees - just the cost of the notary and the legal part of the process...

I'm having link trouble, so copy and paste the address below into your browser to have a look!!

giovedì 2 settembre 2010

Time for an update….. and some big news…

Well, here we are again folks – fading tan, 3 extra kilos and even less desire to return to work than money in the bank! Yep, it’s the “grande rientro”, otherwise known as “back to work after the holidays”….. and, mamma mia, it’s tough!
The holiday went without a hitch – we spent 20 days on the following schedule almost without exception: Beach – lunch – nap – beach – dinner – bed. Bliss!!! Sardinia was as beautiful as I remembered from when I lived there many moons ago (well, almost four years ago now!) and the sheer unadulterated laziness of doing absolutely nothing day after day was…. well, I think much deserved! And to be honest I’m exaggerating the horror of the rientro – for sure it was great to do nothing but eat, sleep, read and relax, but I have to say my brain did start to feel a bit mushy towards the end of the holiday. Maybe it’s better to be back in the overly-cerebral world of purchasing, if only not to forget how to work one’s PC and what a pivot chart is….
The best part of coming home though is the rather ginormous lifestyle change that awaits when we welcome our first child into the world, sometime around March 1st if all goes to plan! Yep, I’m joining the ever-expanding “mummy club”, not to mention the ever-expanding waistline club and ever-expanding bra size club!! It really is amazing how, with a foetus the size of a pack of cigarettes (not the best comparison I realize but the only dimension that comes to mind…), it is so easy to suddenly find 4 kilos of weight that weren’t there before! And by before I mean just last week….. uffa …
Obviously we’re super happy. Luca is like an 8 year old the night before Christmas, knowing that his parents got him a train set! And, since it was all hush hush until recently (I’m in my 15th week), if anyone’s interested in following, I already started a super secret pregnancy blog over at
Apologies if I repeat myself or make no sense over the next few months, but “pregnancy brain” seems to have well and truly got me – the gynecologist in Sardinia asked for my home address and I couldn’t remember it! Did I mention I have a new blog?

mercoledì 4 agosto 2010

Man's best amico?

Well, finally it’s here – that blessed month when the motorway is free from tailbacks, the boss is on the beach with his phone switched off, and you can find a parking space almost anywhere without getting into a fight in the middle of the street with a stranger…. Lovely, lovely August!!! It’s a shame I’m still stuck in the office with reporting and a presentation to finish before the big finale tomorrow, but then it’s no more work until SEPTEMBER! Woooooooo!! Ok, pulling myself together now….
On a much heavier note, there are still problems in our neighbourhood, and not just between us and the ignoramus couple downstairs, but it would appear, between just about everyone. Sunday morning at 8:30 we were woken up by constant, incessant barking from the neighbours’ dogs, who spend their days side by side in adjacent gardens, with just a wire fence to separate them and so, every now and then they decide to drive each other – and the entire neighbourhood – insane by barking, growling and generally throwing themselves at the fence. On Sunday morning, the larger, more aggressive of the two managed to jump the fence and as we raced onto the back balcony to see what was going on (the sound of animals fighting and injuring each other is unmistakable), we were greeted with the sight of the attacking dog’s owner attempting – and initially failing – to split them up. After what seemed like minutes, but was probably only seconds, the neighbor managed to drag his dog away, leaving the poor little other one bleeding, limping and terrified. We were immediately all on the scene (although the injured dog’s owner was not home) and, following a frantic call to the emergency vet, the dog was bundled into the neighbour’s car (still bleeding and shaking, poverino….) and taken to the veterinary pronto soccorso in Pavia. We later heard that he had a broken leg and some scratches, but other than that he was OK, and is now recuperating in his owner’s garage. This is the thing. Here in Italy the general opinion (and I heard this more than once that same morning) is that you can have a dog as long as you have a garden, regardless of how much time or energy you dedicate to it. They just don’t get it! Aside from the attack (which could have happened anyway), it breaks my heart that this little dog spends all day everyday by himself in the garden, is fed in the evening and put straight into the garage until the next morning. His owner is a lorry driver and so spends long periods of time away, during which time another neighbor carries out the daily garden-garage-garden ritual, but it’s not enough for an animal which has 1. The need for human / canine company, followed by 2. The need for space and exercise. Even when his owner is home, he never takes the dog anywhere and won’t keep him in the house. I just don’t understand this collective ignorance with regards to pet ownership. Where I come from everyone knows that leaving a dog for hours on end by itself is a form of cruelty; here even the most “enlightened” members of the community seem to stick to the old adage “as long as you have a garden to leave it in…..”. This issue really distresses me. Italians think that the English are “too soft” on their animals and treat them too much like human beings. So what?? Isn’t it better to do more than is necessary to improve the quality of life of a living creature than to do less than is necessary just to ensure that that creature has a basic quality of life? And don’t get me started on the abandonment issues here. Yes, I’m very excited to be leaving for my summer holiday in Sardinia next week, but I am also very aware that this area of Italy has a huge problem with abandoned pets, as – believe it or not – people actually take their animals with them from the mainland and purposefully leave them behind, knowing that they will be unable to find their way home! One hundred thousand dogs are abandoned in Italy every year, the majority during the hot summer months, when their owners have the chance to dump them far from home (or even on the motorway), in order not to have to take care of them for the rest of the year. I love August, I do, but I wish it could be a happy, carefree month for everyone – also for pets. If only the rest of the country – my neighbours included – saw it this way….

lunedì 19 luglio 2010

Chillin in the green vale

I’m working on another blog, which I am sure will prove to be more interesting than this one, but it’s not ready yet, and I’m not even giving any clues, so you’ll just have to wait!! Curious??? HA!
On Saturday we decided to take a break from our quasi-cryogenic air conditioned states, actually enjoy the hot weather, and – who knows – maybe even engage in social activities with friends and loved ones? It seemed like a good idea at the time, and well, that’s precisely what it turned out to be….
Luca’s brother’s mother in law (got that??!) owns a plot in a holiday village on Lake Garda called Villaggio Valverde, which is run by a cooperative and takes the form of a campsite, but where instead of tents there are little wooden houses, each with a little garden, and instead of foreign tourists there are local families who have purchased their plots and then pay a monthly rental fee all year round in order to use the pool, tennis courts, bar and other facilities. It was a first for me, as I’m more a “I’ll wait for you here on the sun lounger while you ask the cocktail waiter to bring me a drink” kind of girl, but it was fun to do something different and very cool indeed to spend the afternoon in the (albeit PACKED) pool, teaching the girls to swim without armbands.
The villaggio itself was well-kept, with clean toilets and showers (communal darrrrling eeewwwww!!) and a cute woodland area at the back with pathways and picnic tables – ideal for escaping from the hot midday sun! The evening was spent lazing in the garden with the whole family; the men doing their “Me – man – me – make – fire” barbecue thing, and the girls putting together the potato salad, gossiping and generally chilling out. It wouldn’t be my thing for any more than a day or two (tons of kids, acquagym en masse, communal showers, ballroom dancing in the evening…) but it was definitely nice to chill out with the fam and spend an entire day in a bikini and sarong, even at dinner… At one point, while we were in the super-crowded pool, with noisy children dive-bombing on all sides, disco music blaring out, and the “pensioners’ exercise corner” just a few feet away, I caught Luca’s eye and we both burst out laughing. Not our thing, but definitely a good experience and the perfect way to thaw out our air conditioned bodies and minds!

lunedì 12 luglio 2010


It’s Monday morning, back to school (or that’s how it feels) and I spent the entire weekend at home, lying on the sofa under the air conditioning whilst the outside world enjoyed 35 degree heat. Not sure that “enjoyed” is necessarily the best word for it – it was so humid that the 2 minutes I spent outside to move my car made it absolutely unbearable – although I’m sure that those thousands of people who hit the beach this weekend had a much nicer time of it than I did, all things considered. It’s not that I’m lazy or incapable of “making the most of things” (as my mum would say), but this weekend brought with it a rather unpleasant situation whereby constant nausea prevented me from behaving like a normal person, and if it wasn’t for Luca sticking by me and sacrificing his weekend for the sake of the common good…..well, I don’t know what I would have done. So, unfortunately I am unable to regale you with tales of exciting trips, new discoveries, run-ins with the local peasant community, or any of the half-readable stuff I normally like to write about. Instead we watched two films – ‘Wolfman’, which was scary but entertaining enough and another with Denzel Washington (don’t remember the title), which was set in a post-apocalyptic future and involved him trying to get the last surviving bible to a safe location. Very forgettable but we always appreciate Denzel, no? And that was my weekend. Two mediocre movies and a 200 euro electricity bill (that’s my estimate based on the 24/7 air con – and we didn’t even care!)… If anything more interesting happens in the near future, I’ll be sure to document it….

giovedì 24 giugno 2010

Dearest blog....

I have neglected you like never before.... But don't worry because from now on I will be updating you on a regular basis - and that's a promise!
So, what's new? We had a bust up. A big one. With Luca's family. So much so that we are not talking to his mum and dad at the moment..... It's a long story but let's just say that they did something very un-parent-like with regards to Luca's / our financial future and I don't think that I personally can ever forgive them. I hope that Luca can and that they sort it out - in his own words "it's not nice to feel abbandoned by your family at 30 years old!"... We'll see how it goes but it doesn't look good. Ah the joys of family politics!!
At the other end of the scale, my mum and dad came to visit 2 weekends ago and we had a fantastic time. I took them to Milan for a very milanese aperitivo with my girlfriends; they were shocked at the 8 euros per drink and didn't trust any of the buffet food! Bless...
Saturday we had a very nice lunch up in the hills in a little no-frills restaurant that we sometimes go to. You know, the kind of place where the people are rude but they make their own salami so you look past it.. All in all it was a fab weekend and we packed them off to Sardinia on Monday morning with lots of great memories. They'll be passing through again on their way home at the end of July, having driven down from England (yikes!) so we'll get to spend a bit more time together before the summer. That's the problem with being far from home and having little free time - the last time I went back to England was last Christmas and the last time before that was the Christmas before! Wow...
We're also off to Sardinia in August and I CAN'T FREAKING WAIT! 3 weeks of doing absolutely nothing sounds pretty nice, thanks very much. Having lived there for 3 years I have to say I'm not a big fan of the island in August, when it turns into a hotter, sandier, saltier version of Milan with traffic on the coast road to rival the tangenziale est on a bad day... But, working for an Italian company means taking holiday at the same time as everyone else, so that's what we'll do! We're also very lucky that Luca (despite working in a restaurant) gets August off too, so we're making the most of it!!
That's all folks! More soon.....

venerdì 2 aprile 2010

Bella della zia!

It’s holiday time, work is slow and I’m on a roll! You could say I’m on a blog roll….Hahaha…

Last Saturday was our little niece, Carolina’s 5th birthday, and so, being the generous zii that we are, we went and bought the biggest gift we could find (it would appear that the physical size of the package is of vital importance when buying presents for small children – we’ve slowly caught onto this over the past few years). Given the family bar/caffè/restaurant business, it seemed entirely appropriate to give her the latest in hospitality technology for the under 6s: the Bialetti mini-kitchen, complete with old-style espresso caffettiere and mini-vileda magic mop! It was a huge success, with Carolina and her younger sister, Maddalena taking it in turns to serve fake coffee to the whole family, taking care to fake-stir the fake sugar and fake-mop up the fake spills. Oh to have the imagination of a five year-old!
The other big success gift-wise was the princess dress you can see in the picture above (I couldn’t resist sharing)– personally delivered by Zia (Auntie) Concetta, who had made the trip from the wilds of inland Sicily, specifically for the occasion. I had never met this aunt before (Luca’s mum’s sister), and despite attempts to warn me, I wasn’t quite prepared… Imagine if you can the typical Zia Concetta – fat and jolly, who arrives in Milan unannounced on a one-way ticket, bringing with her two suitcases filled with home cooking, Sicilian cakes, oil, wine, ham, cheese and all those other items that people from the south are convinced don’t exist north of Rome. Booming voice, the tendency to hug the breath out of you and sloppy kisses on pinched cheeks… she had it all! When we asked her how long she was planning on staying, the response was a long, over-exaggerated shrug and that very Italian expression that literally means “no idea” – “boh!”. This, accompanied by copious eye-rolling by Luca’s dad and a combination of amusement and exasperation by his mum. Luca’s managing the restaurant on Easter Sunday so I will be taking myself off to the family lunch without him. No doubt I will come away with plenty of stories, a couple of extra kilos on the hips and enough leftovers to get us to ferragosto….


martedì 30 marzo 2010

Like drawing blood....

Since the expat blogosphere could obviously do with a few more long, drawn out tales of bureaucracy, frustration and system failure (note the teeny-tiny hint of irony..), I thought I would add my 10 pence worth. Don’t worry – this blog isn’t going to turn into one of those moan-moan-winge-winge Italy-bashing forums… Hell, who am I kidding? It totally is….Anzi, it ALREADY is!! Just kidding – it won’t. Promise.
Anyway, following on from my little visit to the lovely non-judgmental doctor (irony’s my thing today), I took myself off to the San Matteo hospital in Pavia this morning to get my blood work done, arriving at 8:40. I’d already warned my boss that I may be a few minutes late for work (snigger snigger), but even though I was mentally prepared for long lines, lots of paper shuffling and some potential high blood pressure moments, I didn’t realize that the lines would be quite so long, the paper shuffled quite so much, the blood pressure…..well, through the (public health system and therefore probably asbestos-filled) roof.
Here is what followed - in notebook format in order that you don’t fall asleep whilst reading:
8:40 – arrive and go to “Ticket Desk”, wait in line for 10 minutes before being told that this is the old ticket desk and they are no longer paid for here (despite the sign above the window) –“no, Signora you have to go to the other end of the hall and take a number”. In case you don’t know, the “ticket” is the “standard” payment you have to make prior to any kind of specialist visit, blood work etc. Prices seem to vary according to what you are there for, whether or not there’s an “R” in the month, and the usual exceptions to the rule.
8:45 – locate correct ticket desk and take a number. I’m number 74, and they are currently serving number 45. Ho hum…
9:15 – make it to the (I have to say, friendly and efficient) lady behind the window, only to be told “Sorry signora, you have to do a prelievo (blood test), and for those you pay the ticket afterwards. Go straight up to the 3rd floor and take a number”. Booooooooo
9:17 – arrive at 3rd floor to find another sportello (window), staffed by 2 very slow people, another numbering system. Take a number. 90. Currently serving…… 63. Sit, wait, snooze.
9:55 – make it to window to register for my prelievo. They take my details, make me sign a few forms, huff and puff a bit, and have me take a seat in the “waiting area”. So I waited to wait to wait, effectively.
10:05 - They call me in and do the scary needle bit with no fuss ( I will emphasize again that the staff were friendly and efficient despite my very low expectations!) and then they remind me to go back downstairs and pay the freakin’ ticket.
10:10 – Get back to the ticket line and it has HUNDREDS of people in it. OK, maybe not hundreds, but enough to make my already spinning head go that little bit faster. Ah, but there’s an automated machine over in the corner with just a small line (Italians hate technology) – I’ll go over there! It even has a credit / debit card sign on it, YAY! I – somewhat victoriously – join the end of the queue and just 15 minutes later it’s my turn. This is good news as I’m now feeling seriously queasy, having left my emergency banana in the car (who was to know that they would make me wait AFTER the appointment???). As I go to get my bankcard from my wallet, the old guy behind me – obviously an expert – points out that “Signora, non funziona il bancomat”. What? How do you mean you can’t use cards?? It’s written on the machine that you can! “Eh sì, but it just doesn’t work. There were 5 of us trying earlier and we all ended up going to the cash-point down the street”. Ever the optimist (haha) I try anyway and the machine almost eats my card, so I give up and head to the little number machine. I hate that bloody number machine! I take number 202; they’re serving 151. I’m already two hours late for work. I no longer care…. Sit, wait, snooze again (feeling green this time and dreaming about the cappuccino and brioches in the bar across the road).
10:45 - I get to the window, pay my 75 euros - which hurt more than the needle – and get out of there. I am obviously exhausted and vulnerable as a charity person with a stall outside the front door of the hospital stops me and I give him 10 euros just to stop talking. I’m lying actually – it was a charity close to my heart, they seemed legitimate, and there was no line so I got to go straight to the desk. That was worth 10 euros if nothing else….
I arrive at work (35 kilometers away) at lunchtime, and glance at the papers they gave me in the hospital for the ‘ritiro’ (collection of results). Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12:00 to 16:00. Marvellous….

lunedì 29 marzo 2010

Judgement Day...

I am insulted. And indignant. And slightly annoyed. I am not, however, surprised. When you live in a place like Italy – or rather when you live in the greater Milan area – you get used to being judged for your appearance, pushed out of the queue at the fish counter, harassed from a distance of precisely half a meter by the car behind you and forced to dodge the “doggy doo doo” that decorates every urban pavement. After a while you (almost) get used to it, put it down to experience, and get over it because, at the end of the day it’s not personal. People are what they are, they behave like that with everyone and you just can’t take it to heart.
Being humiliated by your own GP when you go to them for advice is another matter, and this is what happened to me last week. I needed to see the doctor anyway, and since I had to request a referral to get some blood tests done (which had been suggested by my Gynecologist), I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone. You see, here in Italy the system is as badly organized as they say it is. Going a little off-topic now, but I went to my Gyno to have a random annual check-up and we discussed the fact that I’m starting to maybe-possibly-sort of-think-about-starting-a-family-at-some-point-in-the-not-too-distant-future (before anyone starts getting excited!), so she ‘prescribed’ some standard blood tests, reminding me that I would, however, need the referral from my GP in order to actually get them done. A 120 euro an hour specialist is evidently not enough to physically refer you to the lab, so I paid my bill, left and, a few days later took myself off to see my new (and therefore never previously visited) GP. It was all going so well – the 12 people waiting to see her when I got there had dwindled to just a couple within an hour (the last time I visited a no-appointment doctor in Italy it took 3 and a half hours to be seen – this is how many of them operate). I took my turn, discussed the current problem and then pulled out the note from the Gyno listing the blood tests she wanted me to do. “And why do you wish to have these tests?” she asked, taking no prisoners, bearing down on me over her glasses like some kind of scary school teacher. “Because I just turned thirty and we were thinking we might look into having a family at some point soon, and I thought it best to make sure…..” “How long have you been married?” she positively snapped, cutting me off in no uncertain terms. “Ummm…..errrrrr…..I’m not married…. I….. ummmmmm…. live with my partner”. The woman gave me such a look it still haunts me a week later. She literally looked me up and down for 30 seconds, before pulling herself together enough to tell me that my Gynecologist has no idea what she’s doing, these tests are not the right ones, why do I even go to her, etc. etc. No querying my family history, my medical background – nothing. Great first meeting between medical professional and new patient. NOT. Ask me personal questions so that you’re capable of managing my health, Dottoressa; keep your personal marital status issues to yourself! I repeat, I am insulted, indignant, but not particularly surprised. Just another day in paradise!

lunedì 22 marzo 2010


Last night at around 8:30 I was busy organizing the house and clearing up following somebody’s great idea to paint the spare bedroom when my phone rang and, glancing at the display I realized to my horror that it was that time on a Sunday and there was no escape – the weekly call from Luca’s grandma in Sicily, except that I was home alone and she speaks only Sicilian dialect, making no concession for the fact that I don’t. It’s sweet that she called, knowing that Luca was at work and thinking that I have nothing to do while I await his return(!) but she speaks no Italian whatsoever and so what followed would for sure make a great anecdote in one of those cutesy “Under the Tuscan Sun / Driving over Lemons / Another freakin’ novel about the expat bella vita”-type books. In reality I immediately broke out in a cold sweat, knowing in advance just how much effort the next few minutes would require. She talked about the weather, the fact that her family have all “abandoned her” to live in the north, her work as the village seamstress, how she’s convinced she’ll be dead before Luca and I bother to pay her a visit, how I never call her and do I have both her landline and her mobile…..? How did I get all of this in pure Sicilian? Good question! Let’s just say that the 1 in 4 words I managed to pick up were enough to understand the subject, and for the rest I just kept up the “uh huh… sì…. mmmm… ho capito”, hoping that I was understanding enough not to respond “wow, che bello” when she told me someone died. Luca found it all very amusing when I recounted the story to him later on that evening, admitting that she had called him first and asked after me, and he had suggested she give me a call. That smirk was soon wiped clean when I told him that I had promised we would make a trip down to see her before the end of the summer, and to make sure that the aunts, uncles, cousins etc. would all be ready to welcome us… I don’t think he'll be giving out my phone number any more!

martedì 16 febbraio 2010

Happy new year, happy birthday, happy valentines…

Well, I am no longer a 29 year-old blogger. I am now a 30 year-old blogger. To be honest I don’t really consider myself a blogger at all, considering that I now update roughly every 10 years and take no notice whatsoever of the interesting cultural issues/ news worthy items / current affairs that real bloggers dedicate time to. We were talking the other day in the office about how you can understand a lot about a person from the way the use Facebook. I’m a big psycho-analyst of myself and others, and Facebook is my daily bread. If you think about it, you can group your friends into very distinct categories, and notice how their FB personality betrays who they really are – even though they may not know it.
Firstly, there are the people whose status updates are always something thought-provoking like “love is like gas – light, indestructible and always right in front of you, even if you can’t see it…”. YUCK! I tend to skim over these ones - it’s Facebook, guys - not the latest Coelho bestseller… Plus you can always SMELL gas and you can’t smell love so HA!!

Then there are those who constantly make comments about the latest big news items, politics, culture – all trying to out-do the next person for just how much intellect they can cram between a post and a poke….
Next come the needy updaters. “Sarah needs a hug” 13:01; “Sarah really needs a hug” 13:15; “Sarah really needs a hug right now or she might just cry” 13:21 etc. etc. Will someone please call up Sarah and ask her if she wants to get a coffee???? I haven’t spoken to her in 15 years and I live in Milan, so that’s me off the hook…
Then there are the self-promotion Facebookers. There are subtle ones and not so subtle ones – and I’m not sure which bother me the most. The subtle ones go something like this “Elizabeth is very tired from a long week of business meetings in New York, Paris and Rome”. Ah, poor poor Elizabeth – that must be terrible for you, dear. You have our deepest sympathies. Now go have a quick nap – you deserve it! This type of Facebook update – no matter how subtle - can really hit a nerve if you’re a bored housewife / new mum covered in baby sick / unemployed / have no life. The not-so-subtle ones (of which there are very many) are more like: “Katy is trying to decide whether to wear Gucci or Prada to the Business Woman of the Year Awards tonight. Gucci is more comfortable but Prada will look better when I go up to collect my award from the Duchess of Kent”. Now this is really annoying. More than anything because we all know that Katy is NOT trying to decide what to wear, but just couldn’t think of any other way to get the message across and so added that bit in at the beginning for good measure – desperate to overcome her insecurity by convincing other people that she’s worthy, even though she probably doesn’t really believe it about herself. We all know at least one person like this. I know about ten. Am I just unlucky or do I hang out with the wrong people?!
As for my FB personality… “Emma is wondering what to have for lunch today – a sandwich or a salad?”… “Emma is wondering whether it might rain later”….. “Emma is tired”…… Very boring, very predictable and the best way to avoid being psycho-analyzed by fellow facebookers!

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