Friday, July 27, 2012

Can I leave now please? Vorrei partire, mo!

This cinque cento ad among other things like the sightings of Italians, talk of booking flights, asking for recommendations and perusing of Pinterest's travel boards is the reason why I find myself longing to smell that Italian air as I sit in my caged room archiving away...

With FIAT USA breaking the waves in the United States, another reminder of the place I love is integrated into my every day life.  The only difference is FIAT USA is comprised of flashy new Cinque Centos with boring license plates. Where are all the antique cars that travel Italy's tiny roads, driven by oversized men sporting their dirty working clothes, mouth continually puffing on a cigarette? That is a sight that will always evoke a smile from my face. Sitting at my desk everday I stare at rough turquoise FIAT500, with a Roma square plastic license plate, parked on a lovely Roman Viale paved with cobblestones. Che miraviglia!. This is where I want to be and what I want to be driving and the newly launched FIAT USA commercial only furthers my desire to be ripping around the curvy roads of Amalfi in my own FIAT.

Another constant reminder of Italy has been my new job in Cambridge. This I am blessed for on a number of levels. First off, through riding public transportation I've been granted the gift of running into numerous Italians on the T.  The first time I did, I had just finished Happy Hour Cocktails with some friends after work so I was feeling confident in my language skills and actually stopped the girl to talk to her for a minute.  She spoke so eloquently and with certainty being from Milano, and I immediately became jealous of her accent and pride. Knowing I'll never be able to speak and present myself like her, it still made me beyond happy just to hear her rolling 'r's and how her sentences composed lovely strings of music in my ears. For the other encounters, simply hearing a mother chastise her kids, or a couple converse about which stop they had to get off, easily made my day.  There are many more Italians in Boston than I had expected to be vacationing at this point, and they keep reminding me how much I long to return to be perpetually filled with the beautiful language.

Finally, I can't count the amount of recommendations I've given since the start of the summer... It seems as though everyone, not including me, has made plans to travel to Italy for the Summer of 2012. How lucky!  Tina and Rod went to spend a week in a fantastic Villa outside of Florence and then to Rome.  My new co-worker Melissa was headed to Rome and Florence.  My parents arrived in Fontechiari this morning. My aunt Toni has been asking me questions to help prepare her trip. Fabrizia and friend head out August 3rd and I'm stuck here!  I can only hope that they will bring back tons and tons of pictures, maybe a few perugina chocolates and espresso from La Brasilera!

What's really preventing me from crying though is my recent success with getting through to the University of Bologna.  It's starting to be clear now that two years of Italy are within my future, so I can't really complain about not boarding a plane this summer quite yet.  My only regret is that the Summer is really the best time to be in Italy with the Festa every night, but looks like I'll just have to take this summer off to make next summer that much better!

All in all... Mi manchi, italia! Mi piacerebbe ritornare al momento piu presto!  Ci vediamo presto! Speriamo!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Sitting down in a restaurant, what's the first thing you expect to be brought to the table? Bread. The answer is always bread. You want fresh loaves that are still hot from the oven, a nice baked foccaccia sided with a delicious oil dipping sauce or hot, beautifully baked and golden brown rolls.  These things come with your typical Italian restaurant in America, a Bertucci's, an Olive Garden or perhaps a Carabba's. As Americans we expect at least that when entering an Italian restaurant, so finally when we pay the big bucks to get to Italy and eat at a real Italian restaurant we expect something to that standard if not better to greet you at the table.

Freshly baked grissini from Papa Razzi

Arriving at your first trattoria, you're shocked, because instead of finding freshly baked loaves of bread, the tall basket is filled with plastic packages containing what appear to be a poor quality breadstick snack, that resembles something you could potentially find at COSTCO.  My friend Lexi can attest to the feeling of having pre packaged bread crackers on her first real Italian dining experience.  Jaw drops open in astonishment at the plastic wrapped and factory manufactured contents of the so-called "bread basket".  There is no way she flew all the way to Italy to eat THOSE, and there is no way I paid my EUR2,50 coperto for factory manufactured bread products. No Way.  My first time encountering these, I think I refused to even eat them because I was so shocked such a thing would appear on the table of the trattoria.

But because I've been to Italy countless times, and have eaten in hundreds of different restaurants across Italy, it's not to say my first experience with the pre packaged breadsticks was my last. And ultimately, hunger overcame my stuck up thoughts about pre packaged, factory manufactured breadsticks. These breadsticks I soon learned to call grissini. 

Why I'm writing about grissini seems pretty pathetic, but Lexi can attest to their greatness.  Fooled by their pre packaged presentation, grissini, even in packages are sometimes better than freshly baked bread.  They are salty and fun to eat, and for some reason they make you feel skinnier because you're only munching on thin sticks of bread as opposed to large chunks of oil soaked bread. Thus this post is a forewarning to never underestimate the power of Italy's pre packaged options.  While most of Italy's freshly made produce is fantastic, sometimes their manufacture goods can compete with the Nonna's cooking in the wood burning stove. 

Grissini have floated to the top of my mind since a recent visit to Papa Razzi in Framingham.  They have a grissini maker on site, and their effect on our mouths was rather impressing, so much that our waitress did not hesitate to give us a doggy bag of grissini for home. Bottom line here is, think twice before you automatically reach for the freshly baked foccacia, you could be missing out on the most stupendous grissini, a breadstick whose appearance is non comparable to your basic loaf of bread, but after your first taste you can't put down, whether pre packaged or hand baked, I'll never doubt the deliciousness of a grissini again.

Friday, July 13, 2012

And the struggle continues!

After nearly a year of navigating the University of Bologna's webpage and asking multiple questions to different administrators, teachers and Italian students, I seem to have gotten some where, yet no where in the application process.  From being told as an Italian Citizen I have the 'RIGHT' to study and I can enroll up to the day classes begin, I quickly (or maybe slowly) have just come to realize a number of programs I was interested have already been closed for applications, and for the final program I am interested in I must complete the initial enrollment and sign up for the entrance exam by July 16th. THIS MONDAY. Che palle.

Scrambling to make contact with the proper people I was able to write a CV in Italian format, write a letter of interest in Italian, provide copies of my passport and carta d'identita, and potentially get around proving my Italian language ability, but I am stuck because of technical difficulties on the online enrollment webpage that is preventing me to sign up for the prova di ammissione or entrance exam.

Because everyone in Italy attends univeristies that are public and it's an Italian's "right" to study I figured that this process would be easier for me because of my citizenship. Apparently not. I also figured no fancy applications, GREs and writing essays for grad school, but I think that would have been easier at this point having already known the process from undergrad applications. SO..It took me weeks to contact the consulate (answering phones m-f, 2:30-4:15...seriously?) to find out that my diploma and transcript needed to be notarized at school, then by the county clerk, then by the state office to get the Apostille... a big thanks to Toni for running around doing that for me! Even after those steps were completed I recontacte the consulate, weeks later I don't know how to proceed.

Where to next? Who knows! I'm working on getting signed up for that test, then we'll see if I need to study for that... what's involved in studying and passing, what official documents are still required, how to pay for school, where to live in Bologna, etc.  Endless list of questions that somehow can't be answered in a time efficient manner. I'm on the verge of insanity here, but I can't quit!  Every few days I get a new piece of info and think I'm almost done, but then it takes me for another spin, to find another hint at something, but worry not! cause I WILL BE BACK IN ITALY. SOON! SPERIAMO!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Boston's T vs. Roma's Linea B

Almost a month I would have been living and working in la bella Roma if it were 2011.  Instead, it's 2012, I'm graduated, working in a file room, archiving studies and reports for a Pharmaceutical company.  It would be unfair for me to complain about having a July 2nd start date at a great company not even a month after my graduation date.  I'd say I'm one of the lucky ones to have found a job so quickly, but even so I'm longing to smell that particular fresh Italian air, fill my ears with roman dialect, stop at my local bar to grab a cornetto and cappuccino for 1.60 euro and be on my way to a day filled with espresso breaks. How I miss that hourly "Vuoi un caffe??"

What I've noticed over the first 2 weeks of commuting into Central Square is that the atmosphere of the T is very different than that of Rome's Metro Linea B. I arrive at Porter Square during the regular morning rush, roughly around the same time I was off to work in Rome. What's strange to me on Boston's T is that people seemed to be concerned with having three inches of air space between themselves and the surrounding people. People don't seem like the care if they have to wait for the next train, there seems to be no need to try and insert yourself into a train that appears full, but clearly could fit at least 10-20 more people if people gave up their 3-inch air cushion. Seems crazy, right?

I have to admit that I used to be hesitant before about getting on what seemed to be a full train. My first day experiencing the Bologna stop, an already full train arrived, 2 or 3 people exiting, upwards of ten ready to enter each door. I thought it silly to try and fit in the train, so I took a few steps back, and as the train sped off I noticed that I was the only person who did not get on the arriving train.  The next train arriving ten minutes later, making me late for my first day seemed just as full as the one before, again, tentively I walked up to the door, assessing the situation and thinking it impossible to fit on that one as well.  Again, I watched the doors close infront of me and again I was the only one who didn't make it on the train, stranded on the platform.  At this point, when train 3 came, no matter how full it was going to be, I decided I would shove my tiny 5 foot frame in the doors and show no mercy.  Train 3 arrived just as full, so I got up close and personal with the people surrounding me and shoved myself into the train as the doors closed against my back. I felt silly that I didn't try to insert myself into the already full train the first time and from that day on I always got on the first train that came because I knew somehow there was always more room. It'd be foolish not to try!

So now riding the T I sit there getting away with my extra air cushion, smirking at those on the platform because they did not even try to squeeze in. I'd gladly give up my personal space if someone hinted towards needing it, but since packed trains seem to frighten Boston, I can't complain about not being smushed into someone else's sweating back! It's really just entertaining to see how afraid bostonians are to touch each other. I miss the crowded train ride from Bologna and those aggressive Italians, even if I did have to uncomfortably close to a few along my daily journeys.

Enough said. I'm ready to go back. Presto per favore :)