I never thought that being back in Italy this summer would have been such a positive experience. In these past twenty days I have experienced living once again in my country like never before since I moved to England two years ago. This is probably because I never came back for more than seven mere days and I never felt I had the chance to properly settle again.
However, this summer, in between my planned trips to and from the north, I had decided back in May that I had to dedicate at least three weeks to my home country. I had made the philosophical decision that I wanted to get my lost Italian-ness back. And, in some ways, I did.
I have never been patriotic to start with at all. Actually some believe that I have always been kind of anti-Italy for certain aspects. For some unknown reason I never properly fell in love with my country, despite the amazing reputation (Berlusconi and politics aside) it holds abroad. Maybe it is the positive way in which Italy is seen from Brits or Swedes that made me finally reconsider many of the amazing aspects of my country, starting from its everlasting culture.
As I always remind myself, since I moved to England I get the chance to live Rome and Italy as a tourist. In many ways, I get the best of both worlds. When I am back I get to enjoy the good food, the lovely weather and the amazing sights around the city; the friendliness of people and the delicious cheap coffee and croissant (“Cornetto” if you are in Rome). At the same time though I never get ripped off in central Rome like many tourists, although it did happen a few times that people in stores speak to me in English, but that does not really matter. Sometimes by walking around Piazza di Spagna or Via del Corso I realise how hard being tourist in a country like Italy could be since, apart from the areas of the main sights, not many people speak english and Italians do have the habit of taking advantage of tourists to make money. I have been told that a couple in central Rome was charged €30 for two Ice creams and I was charged €4,50 for a caffè latte only because I was hanging around with an american friend (hence speaking in English the whole time).
I do not want to blame only Italians though as I am sure than in many of the world’s countries people take advantage of tourists. Unfortunately greediness is part of human nature and it can be found in every man or woman regardless of nationality or culture, especially in a world where money does not grow on trees and in countries (like Italy) where many people struggle to make it to the end of the month.
Seeing my family and friends again was obviously great too, but I guess that goes without saying. I am now on my way back to Rome from Barletta, a town in the “Heal” of the Italian peninsula, where I came for a short trip to visit my 96 year-old grandfather. I hadn’t seen him for at least two years, so it was great seeing how incredibly autonomous and how mentally sane he still is regardless of his age. Long story short, my visit was made up of thousands of different meals and cups of coffee throughout the two days. The food in this country is particularly good as you all may know and in the south the tradition of eating well is even stronger than in other areas of the country. Meals are almost a ritual, and they have all the rights on this world to consider them so. All I was told constantly was “Gabriele MANGIA!” (“Mangia” is Italian for “Eat”), but I could not really manage to fit all the good carbs at every single meal. I have lost 12kgs since I moved to London and I am honestly not working on getting them back, although my family always underlines how according to them I look like a malnourished child every time I fly back home (for the record, I don’t).
On my way to Barletta I have met an american backpacker on the train; she was heading to Bari where she would hop on a 16-hour ferry to the Greek island of Santorini. Meeting fellow travellers is always amazing: they share your same experiences, passions and way to see the world. They always happen to be the most interesting people I meet (and also the easiest ones to meet as they aren’t usually shy and silent). She’s been telling me how she left New Hampshire in early June and will be heading back there in late August. Three months of pure travelling across Europe is nothing but amazing and exciting. Any other way to describe it?
Anyways, moving on, I must admit that one of the little things I truly love about coming back to Italy is that I do not need to make up some english/international version of my name. “Gabriel” and the much hated “Gabrielle” can be finally forgotten for a couple of weeks. No non-italian speaker can ever pronounce my name without reading the “e” at the end, therefore I introduce myself as “Gabriel” in order to be called with a guy’s name. There are “sadly” no Starbucks stores in Italy where I can go and say my name for the cup marking without reading “Gabrielle” or some other made-up version of it. I am sure that loads of other International people moving to London (99% of the capital’s population maybe?) deal with the same “issue”. It’s no big thing though, it just becomes a new part of your identity.
Apart from enjoying the delicious pizza, the coffee, the pasta, lasagne and spending time with friends either in the city or at the beach, I have surprisingly managed to find a real, amazing internship.
I have been working for a week as a full-time intern for the Associated Press in central Rome. As I am studying to become a journalist (a political or travel one), this experience was absolutely what I needed and it made me realise (huge thing!) that I am absolutely doing the right thing and that a job in this field is what I actually do want down under.
Definitely the free taxis around the beautiful centre of Rome and the location of my office (close to Piazza Venezia and opposite Berlusconi’s house) did contribute in creating in my brain a very nice image of being a journalist in today’s world; but I am aware that it is not just about that!
Eventually, I brought a taste of Scandinavia to Rome. I taught my american friend Francesca, who’s originally from Rhode Island but has been living in Rome with her twin sister for quite a few years, how to bake cinnamon buns (the famous kanelbullar I constantly talked about in the first posts). And, although I am usually quite modest, I must say they were an absolute success. They tasted just like the good quality ones I used to have as part of my frukost (Swedish for “Breakfast”) or Fika back in Sweden this June! Fracesca will be publishing the recipe and pictures on her food blog she updates weekly (www.pancakes-biscotti.blogspot.it/). Go check it out!
Anyways I am leaving for London tomorrow where I’ll be staying for a week before the most exciting trip of the summer will commence. Iceland, here I come!