Monday, November 28, 2011

Terni to Toronto

I recently returned to Toronto to visit my baby nephew who was born a few weeks ago. When I'm with him, I kind of forget that I now live in Italy. The love I feel for him is totally indescribable. I just want to kiss his cute little face every minute.



Since I'm only here for another 2 weeks, I probably won't be able to post for a little while. But for the few people who do follow my life in Italy and are curious, here's a quick recap:

I'm officially living in Terni (whoa).
I finally have a permesso di soggiorno (residence permit, phew).
I have fortunately found a job teaching English (another phew).
I have learned more Italian (including some words in Ternano! Che brutto!).
I have learned more Italian swear words (soccer match, obviously).
We finally got our kitchen (hallelujah!).
We finally bought a couch (but it won't arrive until 2012, boh!).
I finally baked my first crostata (Grazie a Samantha!).

.....and my biggest accomplishment yet: I drove. Yes, I drove. I drove far. I drove in those ridiculous rotundas. I drove on the autostrada (highway). What's the big deal? Just ask my fellow expats in Italy how proud a North American expat should be for successfully driving a motorized vehicle in Italy. So yes, big-ups to me.

Now, please tell me how the heck I'm going to leave these cutie pies behind in two weeks:


xoT




Monday, October 31, 2011

La Dolce Vita Series: La Fedina

I've really been wanting to participate in the Dolce Vita series the last few weeks, but it's been difficult finding time. Between getting the worst fever I've ever had, job hunting, furnishing our home, etc. it's been exhausting since I've moved to Terni just over three weeks ago.

I have to say, it isn't easy adjusting to a new life in a new country. I definitely have my ups, but I can't deny that there are downs. I miss my family immensely, I miss my calling up my friends to go eat soup dumplings and fried rice, I miss sitting at a table with friends understanding the entire conversation, I miss being able to drive my car knowing what street I'm on, I miss being able to express myself without having to think about how to get the words out of my mouth....you get the picture right?

But at midnight on my birthday, something happened that made me put all those things that I miss aside and remember why moving here was worth missing my life back in Toronto. I was given the most beautiful gift I have ever received. La fedina. It's basically a "promise ring". In Italy, you might notice that many Italian couples who are not married, wear rings on their wedding ring fingers. This is la fedina. It is a symbol to show that they are committed to eachother and that they are in love. If the couple eventually gets married, at the ceremony, they exchange la fede --wedding band (hold your horses people, we ain't there....yet =P). 


Without getting into too much detail about this very intimate moment for us, all I can say right now is.... Sono fortunata --I am lucky.

xoT

Toronto, November 2009


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Mangia!

This past Monday was my birthday. I've never really been a fan of celebrating my own birthday. I don't like all the attention and making a huge deal out of it. However, last weekend, I didn't really have a choice....and I have to admit, celebrating "Italian" style was fantastic. It was exactly what I would've wanted if I planned it myself. No fancy dinners, no crowded night clubs. No muss, no fuss. 

Friday night began with the usual aperitivo. I'm still learning how to stop myself from pigging out at aperitivo before dinner. Seriously, I don't know how Italians manage to control themselves by having only a few little bites here and there. By 8:30pm my stomach is having a full conversation with me. All I can do is eyeball the spread of mini salami sandwiches and breadsticks wrapped in prosciutto. After helping myself to a few bits and bites (and a couple extra before my last sip of spumante) we make our way to dinner. We had a table waiting for us at a charming little rustic restaurant literally in the middle of no where with about 16 of our closest friends. Maybe I should have held back at aperitivo? How was I to finish the enormous platter of antipasti, the mouth-watering gnocchetti with cinghiale and the assorted selection of roasted meats? To top it all off, a huge birthday cake (sporting the Canadian colours and all) stuffed with yes, Nutella. Thank God I wore pants with a stretchy waist!
























Picture a bunch of loud Italians celebrating anything. That's exactly how the night was. Bottles and bottles of spumante & wine, never ending servings of food, friends singing and clanking on bottles with their forks and banging on the tables, chanting things about "To-rrrron-tooo" and making every effort to embarrass me. Forcing me to say a short speech in Italian topped the night.....it was absolutely fantastic.

mamma in the kitchen
Sunday was dinner with la famiglia. After spending a whole day at Ikea in Rome picking out kitchenware, it was a great way to relax and end the night. Honestly, I don't know how mamma Masci manages to whip up a 4 course meal without even breaking a sweat. The best part? Her tiramisu. It is to die for. (Wow, now that I'm realizing everything I ate this past weekend, I really need to hit the gym)





I feel so blessed to have such wonderful people around me. I'm a total stranger from another place, yet everyone embraces me as if I were their own. I was even showered with gifts which was totally unexpected. But for me, the best gift of all was the the company around me. It really couldn't get any better.

xoT

Thursday, October 20, 2011

My Florentine memories

So what have I been up to the last month? Has it already been that long? Well, I finished up my 4-week TEFL certificate in Florence. I am pleased to say that I finished at the top of my class with an advanced certificate! I know, I know, it wasn't rocket science, but it was definitely much more intense and time consuming than I expected. Let me just say that I have a new appreciation for teaching English. If it's something you want to take seriously, I learned that you have to put a ton of effort into it. It isn't easy and it's not for everyone. Nevertheless, I am excited to see what opportunities open up and am hoping I can figure out just how good at this I can be.

Florence was a very interesting experience. I know I wasn't there for very long, but it was a sort of a roller coaster ride. When I first arrived, I kind of already wanted to go back to Terni. It was extremely hot, touristy and all my classmates were young American kids, fresh out of college wanting to find the closest bar. My priorities were totally different and I felt sort of like the odd man out. Assignments and teaching planning got so intense, I felt myself getting burnt out. Half way through, I realized that I needed to make the best of my time in this wonderful city. I mean, I was in Florence for God's sake! I lived in the most fabulous apartment in the most perfect location, had an awesome roommate (who was also a classmate) and turns out hanging out with young kids made me feel, well...not so old! I eventually made it to a YAWN (Young Anglo Womens Network) event where I met a new friend from Montreal (and eventually her hubby from Sicily) and I also finally met Christy! I managed to hit up a kareoke bar in Santa Croce to watch my roommate sing Bon Jovi on stage, make an attempt at going a club (but after 10 minutes of being squeezed into a crowd of sleazy dudes I had to leave!), eat late night kebabs, go listen to live music at some "secret" bar, have amazing aperitivo on the weekends, and climb up to Piazzale Michelangelo to see the most amazing view of Florence at night.


  

1am: waiting for the "secret" bakery to open to get a late night fresh-out-of-the-oven cornetto (croissant).  


Chillin' out at Piazza Santa Maria Novella after class
I had fun discovering places to eat and places to stroll around, but the best part was the little street that we lived on. Via del Sole is such a lovely and quiet street. Oddly quiet, since it is a street that has the beautiful and busy Piazza Santa Maria Novella on one end, and the famous Piazza Repubblica not far from the other end of it. My roomie and I took advantage of the crazy hot September weather in Florence and parked our butts in the grass at Piazza SMN to make an attempt to study, but really, just people watched. 

On Via dei Neri. My classmates meeting new people, waiting for their lunch. Cheap eats, generous portions and self-serve wine. Can't get better than that.
It was fun living in the city, but it was also nice to spend time in our apartment. A fully renovated pad in an 18th century old building...imagine that. Some nights, we would pop in a Sex and the City dvd (I know, can you believe I ended up rooming with someone who brought the entire set? I couldn't fit mine in my luggage!) and enjoy a home cooked meal. This was usually followed by an evening stroll to Ponte alla Carraia to the most amazing gelateria ever.  
My roasted rosemary chicken with a pear & arugula salad


Having had the chance to live in Florence is something I will always cherish. The last day of class was a bitter sweet ending --I was so excited to hop on my train back to Terni, but it was difficult to say good-bye to new friends and to a city that I had only begun to discover. I will definitely be returning hopefully some time in the winter when the tourists have migrated back home and the Christmas decorations are plenty.

Places I will miss (and that you should check out):

via del moro, 48r
First night in Florence, my roomie and walked over to the famous "Il Latini" restaurant down the street from our place. The wait was too long, so we decided to check out Garga around the corner. Neither of us heard of the place. Thank God we walked in. We had to wait about 10 minutes, but they gave us two glasses of refreshing prosecco to keep us company. When we saw the girl at the front cutting avacados, we knew we were in the right place (I have yet to find avacado in a supermarket here). Without a doubt, we ordered the veal smothered with avacado...heavenly. Oh and I can't forget to thank the waiter who knocked 10 off the bill when he found out we were students! Ottimo!

Moyo 
via de' benci, 23r  
Best mojitos! Delicious aperitivo, made for a great celebration drink spot after school was out!

Chinatown Restaurant 
Think it's on via degli strozzi (around the corner from Piazza Repubblica)
Original name, I know. Whatever. You can't even imagine how happy my roomie and I were when we found a decent place to get shrimp fried rice. The prices were good, they offer take-out and they have hot sauce! Definitely killed our craving for something other than Italian. 

La Carraia Gelateria
Right at the south end of Ponte alla Carraia   
The place where we spent way too much money, even though each visit only cost us 1.50 each. Just do it. I forget the name, but the creamy lemon flavour with cookies inside, oh mio dio....


via del sole, 23r
Unique and beautiful bronze pieces made by Patrick. Every day I would walk by his shop and drool over the pieces in the window on my way to school when finally, I couldn't resist it any longer. I spent over one hour in there trying to decide on a few out of the hundreds of beautiful rings! He was super friendly and you can even watch him working on his craft. With my broken French and Italian, I soon found out he moved to Italy 30 years ago and has been making jewelry since. He told me stories and showed me pictures of his beautiful wife and children which made my frequent visits that much more special. Grazie Patrick!

Aveda 
via dei Neri, 49r
5 for an eyebrow wax! Ridiculous. Ask for Emanuela, she's great. They offer 20% student discounts too.

Things I won't miss:
Having to walk our stinky garbage to Piazza SNM to dump it out.
Having to walk up 76 stairs to get to my apartment on the 4th floor, especially on a humid day.
With the constant walking, not being able to find a cheap place to get a good pedicure!

How's that for an update friends? My Terni update to come very soon....
xoT
(ps. sorry for the poor quality pictures, most were taken on my phone)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Florence trends.

If you know me, you know I absolutely love, love, love fashion. So you can imagine how easy it is to drool over the shops here in Florence. Since I'm on a tight budget, all I can really do is window shop. It's also a great city to get inspiration, just by looking at the fashionable Italian women on the streets. They are so effortlessly well put together and...is it just me? But why are most of them so damn gorgeous?

However....yes there's a however, there is ONE fashion trend I've been noticing here in the last week that I just can't seem to get over....



Yes, these are sneakers by Hogan. A luxury fashion designer who's outerwear I really admire, however I cannot stand the sight of these hideous things. It's really unfortunate because often, I see a beautiful model-like Italian woman in the street wearing such a beautiful outfit with the perfect accessories from head to...well ankle, I get to her footwear and I just cringe! And to make things worse, these eyesores go for a few hundred euro!

I know it's not just me. I know you're thinkin' what I'm thinkin'. These have a very disturbing resemblance to yes, the Sketchers Shape Ups. I'll let the picture speak for itself.




A presto tutti!

xoT

Monday, September 19, 2011

La Dolce Vita Series: Sweet nothings

My first day in Italia, I had this crazy craving for salty snack foods from back home. Pretty odd, since I was only in the country for probably 6 hours or so. I was so jet lagged that I took a long nap during the afternoon. When I woke up, I looked over at the pillow next to me and this is what I saw:




I immediately smiled to myself and thought, "I'm so happy to finally be here...". I know it sounds kind of corny, but if you're not in a long distance relationship, you can easily forget how to appreciate all the little things that happen in your relationship that can make you smile. These are the little things that I haven't yet had the chance to experience in my relationship with Emanuele since we were thousands of miles apart for two years. I really hope I continue to appreciate them.

To read other stories about la dolce vita, click the icon below.



xoT

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Amalfi, Capri, Positano...oh my!

Ah, finally....internet! I'm sitting here in my new Florence apartment which I'll post about next....but for my friends & family back home, or any of you that have been following my journey, here's some photos of my trip to the Amalfi coast. It's quite long, but it's hard to condense when every single spot was gorgeous!


Four nights in Atrani, a tiny little town next to Amalfi. So close to Amalfi that all we had to do was walk up a few stairs, cross under a tunnel and voila! There was Amalfi. I was very pleased where we stayed because there weren't as many tourists (in fact I don't recall hearing any other language than Italian) and Atrani has so much character. Not to mention, the locals were very friendly. The beach was tiny, and super rocky (so if you have sensitive feet, beware), but the water was so refreshing and clear. To be honest, I have seen white sand beaches with turquoise waters in the Caribbean and Thailand, so it was a bit of an adjustment to the rocky beaches in the coast. Nevertheless, it was still a spectacular place to be. The restaurants were rustic and enjoyable. I even got to taste my first white wine loaded with fresh peaches. And how can you go wrong with fresh seafood every night?



view from our lovely hotel, Palazzo Ferraioli

view from the beach up to the streets, can you see our hotel?



my baby polpo!
Love seafood as much as I do? The best restaurant in Atrani (although we could only find maybe 5??) was A' Paranza. Great service, nice ambiance, and of course, the best scampi (prawn) risotto. I felt a little guilty eating a baby polpo (octopus), but it was super tasty (except I couldn't get over the fact that it was looking at me --its eyes stayed on the plate). 
















As for desserts, everywhere in the coast seemed to have the delizia al limone on their menu. A wonderful little lemon cakelet in the shape of a dome, completely covered with the most refreshing lemon-cream icing. I assume because they grow the most enormous lemons in the south that lemon desserts are a specialty. This dolce was perfect after a huge seafood meal. Fluffy, lightly creamy and tart. If only I could learn how to bake!



 
romantic Amalfi at night (photo doesn't do it justice!)



Capri was as beautiful and luxurious as everyone told me it was. Definitely a place to splurge and stay if you have the funds to do so. For us, just a short day trip by boat. The boat gave us a quick tour of the famous grotti (caves) in the island. It even passed under a tiny arch in a rock that was part of the Faraglioni Rocks (famous in Capri) called the "kissing arch", where all couples were asked to kiss on the boat. Cheesy? Nah. Endearing to see couples of different ages and nationalities smooching!

Faraglioni Rocks: see the tiny arch our big boat went through?







Arriving on the island in the morning, we had the perfect amount of time to lay out our towels on a beach full of smooth white rocks and turquoise waters.....









......to enjoy a mojito at a bar right beside La Piazzetta (Capri's main square) with the most spectacular view....
















.....to window shop at the most luxurious boutiques and shops (or watch the rich people shop!)....







 



....to discover the most amazing little pasticceria and enjoy our budget-conscious, yet freshly made lunch....









....and just to wander around the island getting lost in the pathways to homes of the locals and gorgeous gardens. No wonder we passed out so early that night! What a memorable little place.



We had to save the best for last. Positano, a quick half-hour drive from Amalfi. There were obviously more tourists there, but it was still as beautiful as every picture I had ever seen. Our hotel was right on the beach with the most amazing rooftop pool overlooking the famous Positano landscape and waters. I'm going to let the photos do most of the talking here.









mornings on the beach
view from the hotel pool, Covo dei Saraceni

sunset from our hotel terrazza

why is every church in Italia so incredibly beautiful?

I know Emanuele will be reading this, so I have to give him a million thank yous. Mille grazie tesoro mio! This was my dream trip for the last seven years and he made the entire thing come true. Ti amo tanto!

While the food was amazing, the views were breathtaking, the weather was gorgeous.....to be completely straight up, we were so exhausted! Lemme tell ya, 8 days of walking up and down those dang steps and crazy inclines on the streets wore us out! I don't even know how these Italian women strut their stuff in their 4-inch designer pumps without even flinching. Mine stayed in my luggage the entire vacation. So to reward ourselves? Take-out pizza and fries that were eaten yes, wearing our 'jammies in the hotel bed. Best meal so far, hands down.




Still missin' home!
xoT


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