Is it just me, or does Italy seem to be full of police? Almost everywhere you go, especially in the bigger cities, you will see what looks like an panoply of police forces of varying name and uniform. Coming from the UK, where police presence tends to be far more discreet, it is curious to see that a seemingly peaceful country like Italy feels the need for so much uniformed presence on the streets.
Among my fondest memories of my childhood in Florence are the cartoons that I used to enjoy watching. The majority of these, if not all, were made in Japan and dubbed into Italian. Every day, around 4pm, the kid’s TV programme Zap-Zap would begin on a (now-defunct, I think) TV channel called TMC. The two presenters were called Marta and Guido, and they would take us through an hour or so of kids entertainment. I loved it, and remember being really disappointed when our TV broke down and I wasn’t able to see it for almost a month. It felt like forever.
Go into any large stationary store or bookshop in Italy, and you will come across a section full of bright and colourful diary/organisers. There are those with plain or simple designs whilst others have specific themes or are based on popular films, TV shows, or cartoon characters (often Japanese ones). They are usually quite thick, with a page for each school day, and various sections of general factsheets, space for notes, phone numbers, etc. Basically the kind of organiser that is gradually being replaced by the inexorable rise of the smartphone.
It seems to be a rite of passage for many Italian teenagers to go on a school trip to London. At least that’s what it appears like when you live in London and come across groups of noisy Italian schoolkids making their way through the London Underground, together with their equally noisy teacher! Italian friends whom I have spoken to about these trips have told me about the fond memories they have of their first time in London. I’ll have to do a full post on the topic of Italians in London, but I have yet to meet an Italian who regrets coming to live and work in the UK’s capital city.
I remember it as if it were yesterday. Sitting in front of the TV late at night, watching the World Cup final of 1994, which took place in the USA. It was a match between the two greatest football nations, Brazil and Italy. Both had glided their way out of the group stages and into the final. Both had their star players. In Italy’s case, it was one Roberto Baggio, who had almost single-handedly carried the time to the final with a series of fantastic goals in almost every match.
I remember listening to an Italian radio news programme a couple of years ago on the introduction of whole body scanners to European airports. Apart from the topic itself, it was interesting to hear the commentators repeatedly using the untranslated phrase “body scanner” (pronounced in the Italian way). It wasn’t a one off occasion either. The use of English words and even phrases, particularly those related to technology, politics and entertainment, has become increasingly widespread in the Italian popular and mainstream media in recent years.
There is something special about a garden, be it small, large or any size in between. There are few things that can display nature’s power and beauty in perfect harmony with human design, creativity and hard work. Designing a garden is the only art form–for a form of art it is–that can stimulate all five senses. The colours of flowers and foliage work wonders on the eyes; the sounds of leaves, birds, and wildlife as well as the sound of your own feet crunching the gravel are a little symphony for the ears. The vast array of textures, from the smooth petals of a rose to the harsh notes of rough soil, never fail to stimulate the hands. Then the scents (oh the scents!) of well chosen plants can fill the air around you and instantly transport you to far off places. What about taste? Well, look no further than a fruit or vegetable garden and the produce of nature to satisfy that need.
When I arrived at the rented apartment I was staying at in Genoa last year, the landlady showed me around the rooms, including the bathroom. It was curious, as always, seeing the low lying sink-like pot nestling beside the toilet seat. I joked with the landlady about the fact that this is not something we normally find in an average British house. I remember her saying that Italians are indeed, and I quote, “obsessed” about it.
I remember being confused the first time I heard an Italian talk about his ‘paese’, having assumed that he was talking about Italy but gradually realising he was only really referring to his home village. What does this word actually mean?
Until relatively recently, I never quite understood the appeal in Italy of the espresso. It seemed a pointless drink. Barely a mouthful, it would be over before you’d even started drinking it. How could it possibly be satisfying? However, having an espresso in the morning (or at any other time of day, mind you) seems to be a national pastime of sorts. There is even (and I’m not joking) a National Espresso Institute in Italy, which defines the exact portions and temperatures for making an ‘espresso’.