Pecora Nera’s Italian travel tips.

I will try to make this a serious post, I haven’t managed it in the past so please don’t hold your breath; summer is on the way and you will be wondering how you can fit in with the local and not stand out like a tourist.

So let us begin with clothing.

No matter how much you love your own country, it is not a very good idea to go shopping in the local Italian market dressed in an ensemble of your countries flag… Leave the flag at home….. the locals will know you are an american without wearing the stars and stripes on your hat, shirt shorts and probably your knickers!!!

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The art of naturally blending in with the locals

I snapped this photo while Mrs Sensible was buying some clothes and I was attempting to look interested in life.

I am adding the following clothing rule, although I fundamentally disagree with it.  FLIP FLOPS are for the beach, I know this because every time I attempt to leave the house in my flip flops the fashion police (aka Mrs Sensible) stops me. It has got so bad I keep a spare set in the boot of my car.

Englishman in Italy

I know, this is just an excuse to feature two girls wearing bikinis

If you scroll down you can read about the Brick Fetish of Vignale Monferrato and here is a wonderful picture of a pair of Brick Flip Flops, probably originating from Vignale.

Brick Flip Flops

Great for improving the calf muscles

Here is an Italian man walking through the shopping area of Casale Monferrato, it was a hot sunny day in May, of course I was wearing jeans, T-shirt and flip flops.

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Note the lack of Flip Flops

He will have paid more for his shoes than I paid for my best suit, pay close attention to his scarf, the scarf is really a medical apparel, its purpose is to prevent Cervicale. So don’t worry about the weather, bring your overcoat and look like an Italian.

Moving swiftly onto food

When you are sat in the pizzeria or restaurant, sipping a glorious glass of wine, please remember not to ask for your favourite Italian food that you normally eat at Toni’s Restaurant, near your house…

Because Spaghetti Bolognese does not exist, bolognese sauce is only ever served with torellini, tagliatelle, or gnocchi, amazingly Heinz Spaghetti Bolognese has not yet reached our supermarkets.

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The first Italian food I ever tasted came out of a can like this.

And if you ask for Pineapple and Ham pizza, they might just ask you to leave the restaurant.

pineapple and ham pizza

I know, it is delicious! But not in Italy 

Also, if you want to make the restaurant owner laugh, ask for a cappuccino after the meal. Italians only drink cappuccino before 10:30 in the morning, after that you have to grit your teeth and drink an espresso, or if you must have milk in your coffee ask for  a Macchiato, or better still a have a glass of grappa.

Flowers

How can anybody make a mistake with flowers? Just imagine, you meet the love of your life, a very pretty signorina, you remember not to offer her a cappuccino, because it is after 10:30, the evening goes wonderfully and the next day you arrive to meet her with a bunch of flowers in your hand. Unfortunately you chose a bunch of carnations.

Carnations

I know its a can, but I couldn’t find a bunch of flowers

She scowls and tells you, today she has to wash her hair and is too busy. You are left stood on the doorstep with a can of a bunch of white carnations in your hand. Why? Because we give carnations at funerals.

Travelling

I really didn’t want to upset you over the trains in Italy and I don’t want to over complicate the problem because, well it is complicated enough. In fact, I will write a separate post detailing the fun and games of booking a train ticket.

Driving

Remember to drive on the left, or is it the right? I can only remember when I get in the car and notice the steering wheel is not where it should be. In the ten years that I have been here, I have only driven on the wrong side of the road once, erh! and tried to go around a roundabout the wrong way. Mrs S had forgiven me and only occasionally has nightmares about it.

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A quiet Sunday drive

It wasn’t really my fault, the car-park opened up straight onto the roundabout, and I asked which way we needed to go and she said left, she did mean around the roundabout, but I just turned left.

I will try to upload a guide to Italian Trains later this week.

 

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Vignale Monferrato / A Brick Fetish

Vignale is famous for its dance festival, the crazy Englishman who lives there and it’s obsession  with bricks.

Everywhere you look there are bricks, let me give you a quick example. This beautiful red bench was carfully positioned, in such a way that two bricks could be incorporated.


Some of you will be thinking that I have photoshopped the picture or I put the bricks there, let me assure you, this time I am not guilty.

So have a look at this next picture, you can clearly see the road repairers had to tarmac around the bench. They obviously couldn’t obtain permission to move the bench and disturb the bricks.


By now you will begin to see this is no little obsession, but a full blown brick fetish.

I don’t know when the fetish for bricks started, it is not as though Vignale makes bricks and has an excess of them, However a stroll down the main road and you can find strategically placed bricks under benches, just waiting for someone to put them to good use.

In a week or so, when enough bricks have been left under the bench, the brick fairy will stick them under one or more of the legs of the bench.

Did I mention the village it build on a steep hill…… ok it is. In fact if you spend any time stood sideways, for example looking into a shop window, one of your legs will start to ache. The clever residences have solved the problem


It is called A PorterBrick. With this ingenious  little device it is possible to stand  sideways on the hill without your legs hurting.

I think the local council give every new resident a brick when they move to the village and I think visitors can hire a brick, but it is important not to lose it.


Here is a brick that has been worn down by excessive use and has been left next to the rubbish bin waiting to be recycled.

So next time you are passing through Monferrato come and have a look at the village with the brick fetish and who knows, you might see me sat in the bar working hard on my computer.

Citizenship quest (part 2)

I have finally pressed the button and applied for my Italian Citizenship. Now all I have to do, is sit back with a glass of wine and wait to see if they reject my application.

Pecora Nera cats

Three wise cats, Micha, Headache and Liquorice.

My quest started in November 2016 when I applied for my criminal record check, I was a little worried how many misdemeanours and skeletons they might discover.

Maybe just one or two skeletons.

However they obviously didn’t dig too deep, for example they never uncovered the incident of the little girl who somehow lost a chunk of her ponytail during class, maybe they couldn’t prove the fingerprints on the craft scissors were mine.

Ok, so it wasn’t quite as bad as this, well maybe

With this minor hurdle over I procrastinated for just over five months, it was only when I realised the criminal record  certificate was due to expire, that I decided I needed to gather my documents and officially apply.

Applying on line means uploading copies of my birth certificate, residency document, criminal record and something called Richiesta di Iscrizione anagrafica. I will be honest, I didn’t know I had one of these and I still don’t know what it is or when I got it.

I also had to answer 30 pages of multiple choice questions, ok some of the pages only had 5 questions, but they were all written in Italian…

Multiple choice questions

To say I was a little stressed when I was finished is an understatement. I rechecked my answers and then pressed the button.

The Italian ministry now has 730 days to either decline or accept my application. If they don’t reply in time, I am granted citizenship by default.

Over a glass of wine, I suddenly had a cunning idea, if all the brits suddenly flooded the Italian ministry with citizenship applications….. they will be overloaded and won’t be able to cope!

Flood the Italian ministry with applications

and if they can’t cope, maybe my application will be overlooked and I will gain citizenship after 730 days by default.
So please help this black sheep by applying now

Nonnas are an important family member.

Every Italian house will have a Nonna, they are an invaluable member of the family, few decisions that affect the family will be made, without the approval of Nonna.

They are so important, that you can now buy a magazine to fully understand how to use them.

nonna

I have translated the cover for you.

There used to be a sister magazine called 3 Uses of a Mother in Law. But it didn’t sell very well so it was discontinued.

 I have a cunning plan. 

 I have a cunning plan. 

While I was quaffing a rather nice glass of  red wine at the local bar, I spotted a leaflet advertising an English Summer Camp, the experience of losing their kids for one week cost the parents  the princely sum of €550.

Wine and chocolate food aids the brain cells


I will be honest, the summer camp leaflet and time table didn’t inspire me. As the smooth red wine stimulated my brain cells, I suddenly had a cunning plan. 

Maybe I could run an English Summer Camp

Camping English Style


Obviously I can’t guarantee the traditional English weather. 

I have an American friend who was an English teacher and more importantly she owns a vineyard, who better to team up with?

Over a cappuccino (I know it should have been a glass of wine) I told her about my cunning plan, I explained that I teach seven classes of kids ranging from six to eleven years of age. And if we talk to the parent we should have enough kids to fill the camp. I also mentioned the kids we could veto, for example the class clown in year 3 and little Marco who always has his finger buried up his nose to his first knuckle.

Marco the nose picker

My American friend disagreed, she said these are precisely the kids we should invite…

In the interest of research I sent a message to Linda Von Grady at Expat Eye on Germany to ask her opinion and she replied “Ha, why do you do these things to your self?” 

My only excuse is the wine motivated me.

So in a little over three and a half months, twenty two Italian nose picking kids will descend on a vineyard for 6 days and 6 nights in a hope to improve their English and have a great and spiffing time. 

And if we survive the encounter, another twenty two kids will arrive the following week.

I think I need a grappa. 

TNT Express Service arrrghhh!!!

TNT Express Service arrrghhh!!!

In the 10 years that I have lived in Italy, I have learnt a few things. These include my inability to learn Italian and the Italians inability to learn anything about customer service.

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Italian Customer Service

In 2013 I cried into my cappuccino with the Fedex Farce.  and of course you know about the fun and games with Mr Cretino and my driving licence.

I hate to tell you but TNT Express are as bad if not worse than Fedex. Mind you I have just found out they are now part of the same organisation run by David Binks their CEO. I did write to Mr Binks, but he didn’t reply to me nor did his organisation answer my questions.

So here we go… a little story book for you.

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I am sorry this is not as funny as my usual posts, but I am still a tad disappointed with TNT

All the best Pecora Nera

 

Man Flu and the Injection

A couple of months back, Mrs Sensible was poorly sick and dying and horrors upon horrors, she phoned the school and told them she would not be teaching the little chilblains how to tie their shoelaces and how not to pick their noses.

No picking your nose in Mrs Sensibles classroom

I was immediately despatched to the doctors to pick up a sick note and deliver it to the school admin. I tried to protest by saying “it can wait until you are better” and “it’s flipping cold outside”.

Mrs S was having none of it, She explained that by law a teacher must submit a sick note on her first day of sickness. I was of course scoffing, tutting and raising my eyes to heaven. What if you are really really sick and your husband isn’t at home? What then, eh! Eh!

My doctors English language skills are about as good as my Italian. We can say hello, goodbye and the rest we get by with miming and a mixture of English and Italian words. 

If I wasn’t so good at miming, I might have to learn the language.

The doctor wrote out the sick note and then produced a fully functioning needle and syringe, I winced as he mimed how to give the injection into the upper arm. He showed me it should be injected at a 90 deg angle, not a 45 deg or even 30 deg. 

The first thing I did was made sure I was not the intended recipient of the object of torture, once I realised it was for Mrs S I started to relax. 

“You like I give needle to Mrs Sensible”

“It’s not difficult, just make sure you get the angle correct”

“Today!”

“No, it is to protect her against influenza, give it to her when her cold has cleared up”

“Sorry I no understand, talk again”

“Next week”

“Oh, Ok”

The weapon of mass destruction

When I arrived home I explained to Mrs S about the syringe, I said she had to drop her knickers and bend over so I could give her the injection. 

It took her a full 2.5 milliseconds to realise my bedside manner was not fully kosher, she looked at me in her school marm way and asked what the doctor really said. 

I think I would make a great doctor

So I told her what the doc said, or at least what I thought he had said and then added that there was no way I was going to stab her with the needle, I don’t like receiving injections and I am not going to start giving them…

It has since been explained to me that there is always somebody in the family who is a dab hand at giving injections.

To be honest, Italy never ceases to amaze me.

PS, Why am I writing this now and not when it happened? Because I have man flu and the syringe is still sat in our fridge, waiting for an aunt or needle friendly neighbour to turn up for a coffee and DIY hospital treatment.