Monday, 30 September 2013

Dio Aiutami!

Today was the day that University began in Firenze. It was also the day that I attended my first class. Archeologia e Storia Dell'Arte Greca e Romana. Come again? I walked in to the lecture hall at 12.55 for the 13.00 start, initially glad to see that there were at least over 50 people already in their seats. This was a promising sign. Now, whilst the lecture took place I began a transcript underneath my notes, a blow by blow account of what took place in the following 2 hours. Here we go.

More people coming into the room. Actually, a lot more. Probably double the amount that was originally in here.
More people still coming into the room. It's 13.10, the lecture still has not begun. I think there are about 200 people in here now.
This lecture theatre is pretty interesting. It has got like frescoes all over the walls. It feels a bit like a church. It's very Florence.
Can't get over the boy to girl ratio in this room. I'm pretty sure that there is 1 guy for every 9 girls.
Lecture has finally started. At last, its 13.20.
No idea what's going on.
A lot of people seem to be writing stuff down, the girl on my right is not however. This is making things difficult.
There has been a break down in communication. Lecturer thought that the projector above his head was working. It is not. He has started fiddling with his computer. Everyone is talking again. Time is 13.35.
Lecturer has now walked out the room. He's gone.
Now he is back with what seems to be the technician.
It's. 13.55. I think he is going to do it ad lib. Oh god, everyone is writing again. Girl on my right is still not writing. In fact, she seems to be packing her stuff up.
Please don't go! Don't leave me. The girl who was sitting on my right, whom I had hoped would be of some help so I could at least get an idea of what she was writing down, has apparently come to the wrong lecture. She has written anything for the first hour, has got up and walked out.
Lecturer continues talking. I am making out words. 'erodoto del 'elicarnaso. Yes I recognise that one.
Lecturer is sitting on a stage behind a vast desk with 4 computers on it. In fact he is almost completely covered by one so that we can only see his head. He is speaking into a mic. The Italians like speaking into mics.
Italian girl on my left asks me what the title of the book was that he just mentioned. I look at her. And in my best Italian reply: 'Sorry, if you do not know, then I do not know.'..... What book?!?!
Lecturer's mic has stopped working. He is still going, I don't think he has realised. No one from the tenth row back can now hear.
This goes on for 10 minutes. One guy has finally shouted out to notify him. Everyone leaughs. I look around.
He is going to have to do without the mic. Prof. De Tommaso Giandomenico, that is his name, is now leaving the stage and working his way up the ailses. He is still holding his mic to his mouth. I'm not entirely sure why, when we have just told him that it is not working.
14.45, coming into the home straight now. Lots of moving has started. People are getting up and strolling out. Lecturer is apparently ignoring them and continuing.
They're flocking out now. Nearly half the lecture hall has left and he's still talking. There are still 5 minutes to go. I'm still very confused
He's waving a book around. What's the title?! I doubt I will ever find out.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Zoomie Zoomayyy

So here is an update on events of the last week or so in Florence. The first thing I want to mention actually took place a couple of weeks ago, however, it was not till recently that I managed to get my hands on some footage (thank you Catriona) of our flat supper and more importantly a game of ‘Zoomie Zoomay’. I couldn’t not include this video clip, firstly because this game is a bit of a big deal in certain circles up in Edinburgh and secondly because it is quite amusing seeing a foreigner try and play this game when even we English find it a bit difficult after a few drinks!

There’s still a lot of work to be done but I am optimistic that come the end of my time in Florence I will have all fellow flatmates coming through ‘Zoomie Zoomay’ and even ‘Slaps’ with as little damage as possible.
Last weekend I received a nice surprise as my Aunt and Uncle happened to be on holiday down near Cortona on the border of Tuscany and Umbria. Since they were flying out of Pisa on Saturday evening they thought it would be a good idea to get me to come out and see them for lunch at VillaMangiacane just outside of Florence before they went on to the airport. It was incredibly kind and generous of them and gave me the chance to relax by a pool and enjoy a wonderful lunch whilst getting away from the thousands of tourists and general humdrum that is Florence at the moment. We enjoyed a lovely lunch and the hotel itself was in a fantastic setting looking out onto the rolling hills of Tuscany with Florence tucked into the hills not too far off in the distance.

One reason in particular as to why Florence is so busy this week is because it is currently the host of the World Cycling Championships of 2013.

Now most locals have found this an absolute nightmare because it has completely ballsed up their day to day routine. Roads have been closed, buses have been cancelled and cyclists and tourists have flocked from far and wide to follow this event. I for one have not been too perturbed by the whole thing as it has done very little to affect me. On the contrary it’s been quite exciting and my flat is also ideally placed for part of the course. Indeed I just have to leave my front door, turn right and then again and instantly I find myself up against the barrier of the track with only a mile or two until the home straight.

I have a few video clips of the event and even managed to see Bradley Wiggins race past on his way to a silver medal on Wednesday. Alas, my recording ability was not quite up to scratch as I manage to almost completely miss Wiggins as he goes past since I was much more interested in watching him myself. But I do assure you that it is him!  I'm really sorry also for the fact that I have not rotated the videos either. 

Watching all this cycling has got me all eager to get back on a bike again. You may or may not know but I along with two other friends cycled from Kent to Cannes earlier this year and I am very keen to conquer Italy as my next challenge at some point during my Erasmus year. Hopefully with the help from my trusty two companions from the last adventure!

I went to The Old Stove (Check) last night, an Irish pub, to watch the football. It was Inter v Fiorentina, so a big game for all the locals. The bar was absolutely rammed for the game and I luckily got there early and grabbed myself a seat. They have a good little set up with a TV set up outside the bar with lots of tables and chairs so people can watch the game outside. I was quickly joined at my table by a trio of Italian guys probably around my age with whom I had a few chats throughout the game. I even managed to follow quite a lot of their conversations with each other, even when one was absolutely incredulous that Neto, the Fiorentina goalkeeper, was only a 73 on the new FIFA 14 player ratings! I found this quite amusing.

Fiorentina sadly lost the game 2-1 despite taking the lead. It was a shame but it was still good fun watching the match, especially when surrounded by so many passionate fans. One man would shout, without exception, every ten minutes or so the word ‘VIOLA!!’ at the top of his voice twice when he felt the mood in the bar was getting too settled! Crazy.

In other news I am battling my way through the first Harry Potter in Italian. It’s actually more difficult than I thought it would be since I know the story line pretty well. But that is good I suppose and hopefully it is doing some good for my language. Uni starts on Monday which is also pretty exciting as after three weeks out here I am definitely ready to get stuck into more stuff and hopefully meet a lot more people.

My phrase of the day, I say day, it’s more like post, is: ‘Chi se ne frega?!’ ‘Who gives a damn?!’ Very nice.


Saturday, 21 September 2013

News from around the Peninsula

It has been an ever eventful week in Serie A and it is time to look back at some talking points from the previous days in Italy.

One thing that has really shocked me since moving out to Italy and getting a closer look at each individual club is Juventus' decision to not start new Spanish striker Fernando Llorente. So much talk and hype followed Llorente in the time surrounding his Bosman move to Juve and even I got excited at the thought of him playing up front for the 'Old Lady'. Yet so far he has hardly made an appearence. I can't see how a pairing of Tevez and Llorente up top for Juve isn't the best option for them. They would complement one another perfectly, one big, one small and even Llorente, brought up near the Basque region of Spain, isn't your simple 6ft odd lumbering centre forward. He's got great feet and fantastic instinct when in the box, I just do not see at this stage how Conte can put Quagliarella or Vucinic ahead of him.

It is the Rome derby tomorrow between Roma and Lazio and what better news for Romanista fans around Italy then to hear that club legend Francesco Totti has signed a new 2 year deal for the club. This deal will amazingly take Totti's playing career to the verge of 40 and is credit to his desire to win more games and his love of Calcio and of his boyhood club. Totti is currently second on the list of all time Serie A scorers and although it is unlikely he is going to get close to Silvio Piola's record it would be fascinating to see how many more goals he can bang in. Roma have had a fantastic start to the season too, with an 100% record so far in Serie A after 3 games and this will give them great confidence heading into this weekend's fixture with their arch rivals. It is sure to be a fiery affair as it is every year between these two teams.

The only other team this season still to maintain an 100% record is Rafael Benitez's Napoli. In all honesty the Neapolitan side have been nothing short of spectacular so far this season playing fantastic football and getting good results. This was epitomised by a 2-1 victory over last year's Champions League finalists Dortmund earlier this week. Anyone who thought a hangover was probable from last year's 2nd position finish has been proven wrong so far. As have those who felt that Napoli would not have a hope in equaling that feat because of the loss of star striker Edison Cavani to PSG over the summer. Instead Benitez has gone about his business in his usual no nonsense manner and has signed some very useful players with the money he got in return for the Uruguayan. Higuain,Callejon and Albiol have all joined from Real Madrid whilst goalkeeper Pepe Reina has quite unbelievably come on loan for the season. One of the deals of the summer in Serie A. Napoli also managed to keep hold of star midfielder Marek Hamsik which is vital for the club knowing that Cavani was already going to be leaving.

Looking ahead to Sunday's fixtures and my predictions:

Sassuolo 0-2 Inter
Atalanta 1-2 Fiorentina
Bologna 1-0 Torino
Catania 0-0 Parma
Juventus 3-0 Verona
Roma 1-1 Lazio
Milan 2-2 Napoli

Matches played today: Cagliari 2-2 Sampdoria, Chievo 2-1 Udinese and Genoa L-L Livorno

Tuesday, 17 September 2013


It has been an eventful couple of weeks since I moved to Florence. It would also be fair to say that a lot of things are done very differently out here than back home. Although, I am absolutely relishing this new found love for 'Aperitivo'. It's the 'done thing' in Italy and involves buying a drink/cocktail in a bar around supper time and then being allowed access to what appears to me an all you can eat buffet. It's great and sorts you out for the rest of the night. I was wondering why this isn't done in Britain and then realised that every person would be like me and go back for 3rds with the food disappearing in no time at all.

Aperitivi has replaced the normal so called 'pre-ing', which is commonly done before heading on out at British universities. This is then followed by a stroll over the Arno before ending up in Santo Spirito. A huge Piazza on the south side of the river which seems to be full every night of the week by 12, with no exception. It is a great hub of energy and people, mostly Italians, who gather with their mates wherever they can; on the church steps, around the fountain that marks the centre of the square, on benches and if that's all taken, then you park yourself on the floor. The only down side of 'Pre's' being thrown out the window is that drinking becomes that bit more expensive.

I had quite a surreal moment last week when strolling through the back streets of Florence in the San Ambrogio region at 3 in the morning with a couple of friends. The 3 of us were somewhat worse for wear after heading back from San Spirito. We came across this restaurant which was still open and before I knew what was happening we were inside with a table for 3. Including a multitude of bottles of wine being brought to the table . Now I don't have any idea what was said before we sat down, during the sitting down, and possibly after. But everyone was talking in Italian, the waiter's were talking Italian (shock) and wine was being sent back and forth with great shouting and hand waving before we settled on a bottle of...errr... white. A panino was placed before me. I tucked in. All the while talking continued around me in this deserted restaurant. It started to become apparent that the 2 guys running the place were turning people away at the door. Who turns up at a place like this at 3 in the morning beats me..... Yet they needed no encouragement to join us and they too cracked open a bottle themselves and sat themselves down at our table. This apparently is all very normal in Italy.

It was not until we stumbled out an hour later that I was filled in on what exactly had just taken place. I completely had got the wrong end of the stick thinking that these 2 waiters were chatting up my friends and for all they cared I could p*ss off. But, as was explained to me, one of them was gay and had in fact found a liking in yours truly. This too is apparently all very normal in Italy... This was all quite a lot to take on board, needless to say we have been encouraged to return the next time we happen to be passing in the middle of the night.

Anyway. I have had a fantastic time so far and with 10 days or so till University starts it will hopefully stay that way for now. Lunch today was hilarious too, taken in the San Lorenzo food market. A huge building filled with stalls and stalls of food sellers. We found a tiny cafe in the corner and proceeded to witness the most bizarre way to run a family food business. It seemed that Dad was in charge and also head of the pork baps. He had 2 daughters, one behind the counter with him. One front of house taking orders. And last but definitely by no means least was Nonna. The mum/grandmother. She made Manuel from Fawlty Towers look like 5* service. She too was front of house and whoever made that decision should be given the sack. Nonna was hopeless. Food was sent to the wrong table, cutlery was forgotten, coke was spilt, food was spilt. All the while the 2 daughters were screaming at 'Nonna' in front of all and sundry. Quite the experience.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Rossi Rossi Rossi!

The future's bright. The future's purple. So I thought it was high time to give an update on Fiorentina. I have now been out in Florence for nearly 2 weeks and I finally got to see the Viola in action on Sunday lunchtime whilst eating in a cafe with a friend. It was Fiorentina V Cagliari (a smallish team from the island of Sardinia just off the peninsula of Italy). The game ended 1-1 in the end and whilst it was not the most exciting result there was still much to talk about come the full time whistle. I decided not to go to the game because I want to save up for when the big boys come to town like Juventus, Milan, Roma and also for a night of European football.

Fiorentina had a fairly successful time in the transfer window bringing in some real quality like Mario Gomez from Bayern and also Joaquin from Malaga. This is combined with the long awaited recovery of star striker Giuseppe Rossi (the fella referred to in the title). Rossi almost comes as a new signing because although he was bought back in January he has been sidelined for a long period of time due to a knee injury. Rossi is a class act and a natural goalscorer. Big things are expected of him this season in Tuscany and paired alongside Gomez up front could make Fiorentina a force to be reckoned with in Serie A.

Now Rossi is one of those many players that Manchester United have let go without really giving them a chance. Joining this list are players such as Forlan (arguably given a good chance yet deemed expendable and the Uruguayan went on to fulfill his talent in Spain at Villareal and Atletico Madrid), Gerard Pique (let go by United very young after hardly any playing time and is now one of the best defenders in the World) and now Paul Pogba. Pogba left United for Juventus last year on a free and almost instantly became a prominent fixture in midfield alongside Pirlo with some outstanding ball play, dynamic runs and a lethal long range shot. Now hopefully Rossi can prove his full potential shown at a young age if he can just avoid injury.

Gomez and Rossi have both already scored 2 goals each this season for the Viola and it means that after 3 games this season they lie in 3rd place with 7 points. It certainly felt as 2 points dropped on Sunday when the Sardinians popped up in the 89th minute to level the score and take a share of the points. It felt like all the more of a kick in the teeth for Fiorentina as they lost Colombian Cuadrado to a shoulder injury in the first half before Gomez too was taken off with a knee injury in the 2nd half. Gomez's injury looks more serious and he could well be out for a month, maybe that exciting partnership between him and Rossi will have to be put on hold. Not only this but Pizarro was dismissed late on for talking back to the Ref and all in all this left a very bitter taste in the mouth of the Viola fans, not least manager Vincenzo Montella.

Anyway, it is still early on in the season and Fiorentina remain unbeaten. The bigger tests are to come with Napoli and Juventus visiting the Stadio Artemio Franchi in October where hopefully I will be looking on from the Curva Fiesole surrounded by a sea of purple. Until then I thought I would leave you all with a motto becoming increasingly popular among the Florentines. It is aimed at Spanish midfielder Borja Valero. The architect of all things sublime and beautiful in the Viola midfield and Fiorentina's goalscorer on Sunday.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Festa della Rificolona

So in a bizarre moment last weekend. On the night of Saturday 7th September to be exact. I found myself engulfed by what seemed like the entire city of Florence whilst wandering down the Via dei Calzaiuoli. After the initial shock of at least a thousand people walking towards me bearing lanterns on poles, I stepped to one side to let the front of the parade through before stepping out again into the middle of the throng to follow and throw caution to the wind.

It turned out that this was in fact the Festa della Rificolona. A Florentine tradition that dates back hundreds of years. Now I am not entirely sure what it is for or what they are all celebrating, maybe something to do with the Virgin Mary.... Anyway it was really lovely as all the little bambini (children) get to carry around these pretty lanterns and hold them high above the crowd. All the while other children bearing pea shooters try to break surrounding lanterns with an awful lot of huffing and puffing involved. Being tall and also stuck in the centre was not great as I too seemed to get peppered by various tiny objects.

The march weaved its way through the historical centre of Florence before finishing in Piazza della Santissima Annunziata where there was a stage waiting with lots of speakers and another crowd clapping in the parade. I'm not sure if the lanterns were meant to be set fire to but that did not stop a few going up in flames within close proximity to me causing a bit of a panic! Then, on stage, a man who I think was the Mayor spoke to the people gathered with great gusto and waving of arms, cue much clapping. They even got this old woman up on stage to present her with a prize of the best lantern. Bless. It was quite good actually. A mini model of the Papa. Cue more applause. Luckily I think mini Pope managed to survive the night without going up in flames!

So all in all a rather fun evening. Bit odd, but these surprises come hand in hand with living in a foreign country for a year.


Saturday, 7 September 2013

Via Maurizio Bufalini

I have arrived! Since I last wrote a lot has happened. Some good, some bad. But, and this is the most important thing - ultimately good. Because I now have a place to stay! As you can see from the title it is on a street called Via Maurizio Bufalini. Pretty ideally placed as it is both incredibly central and also close to the University etc so that's a big bonus.

I cannot begin to describe quite how stressful some moments have been when searching for a flat. 

Lets start at the very beginning. 

I flew out to Pisa with Nige (my Dad) on Wednesday morning. Immediately I was appointed team leader since according to Nige, and I quote, 'I have never been to Florence and I cannot speak a word of Italian.' He was certainly right about the latter. Nige constantly tried to order 'dos', two, of everything and simply replied with 'okay' whenever some poor person said 'Ciao', 'Buona giornata' or 'Buonasera'. Aaannd. Much to my annoyance Nige consistently could not get the name right for the Duomo. The huge cathedral in Florence which is just a stone's throw from my flat. Instead the name was substituted for any other word beginning with D, like 'Domingo', 'Domino', 'Dominio' and so on. Nige on tour below.

I could go on about dear Dad, like how he nearly didn't even get on the flight because of a lost boarding card (looks at me: 'Where is it Ollie? Me: 'How the hell am I supposed to know!?) But I shall not. In the end it was great to have him out here with me and the poor guy must be the first ever person to have gone to Florence for 2 nights and not seen or done any sort of cultural activity. 

So I eventually managed to get a place to live. After about 40 odd phone calls made to these various Italians, most of whom were adamant that it was a girl's room only, ('I assure you I really am a great guy!'), didn't seem to work, or that the room unfortunately was now occupied. However, Filippo and the gang have let me become their newest member of the family. I am living with 4 others. Filippo, who is head of house ad general leader, (Il Capitano), Catriona, who funnily enough is from Scotland, small small world, and she is basically fluent in Italian which is great, Elisa, from Finland who also speaks good Italian and finally Sitara.  

In other news I have become a daily 'reader' of the publication 'La Gazzetta dello Sport', it doesn't beat 'The Game' on a Monday, but still....

And to fully integrate myself I am sure it is only a matter of time before I start shouting 'Ciao Bella' out of my bedroom window.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Calcio: Mia Introduzione

All those that know me will also know what a massive sports freak I am. For example, if Granada are playing Celta Vigo on Sky Sports 4 on a Sunday night, I will probably be watching it. Or, at least checking up on the score every now and then. Probably because I can recall the days when Aleksandr Mostovoi and Valery Karpin used to pair up together for Vigo nearly a decade ago...when I was 8. Yeah, it's that bad. It does not have to matter what sport is being played, who is playing it, but as long as it is live on Sky and I am at home or at Uni then I will be in front of the telly. Much to my family's and sometimes even my flatmates' despair.

I use football as an example because it is the first sport I got hooked on. The day I received my first ever football kit was undoubtedly a special one. It was Liverpool and to this day I am not completely sure why. The person who gave it to me, my godfather, is a Leeds fan and even then the team I may have felt any sort of allegiance to as a fervent 3 year old would have been Chelsea due to our close(ish) living proximity to Stamford Bridge.

How things changed though!! Within a couple of years my family had moved to Suffolk and I had been to my first ever football match. A game played between Ipswich Town and Oxford United (I think), such is my hazy memory. Don't even think about asking me what the score was! But from that moment on Ipswich was our club, our team. I was to be brought up on a diet of Richard Wright, Titus Bramble, Matty Holland and Marcus Stewart. We have been season ticket holders at Portman Road since 1999 and in our first year of going to matches Ipswich got promoted. Our brief stay in the Premiership (2 years) and a couple of Thursday night European matches (including a 1-0 victory over Inter Milan) now seem a very distant memory.


Sadly, Ipswich are currently the longest serving members of the Championship and football of any reasonable standard has been hard to come by at Portman Road in quite sometime.

This all culminates in my burgeoning interest in Italian football. Which is partly why I am so excited about moving out to Florence for an entire year. Ever since I was given FIFA 2001 on the PC and signed Francesco Totti, Vincenzo Montella and Marco Delvecchio for my Everton team, I have had some strange affinity to Italian footballers. Whether it was the mesmerising skills they deployed to beat hapless defenders as I sat and watched James Richardson's weekly review of Serie A football on TV or their fantastic names like Fabrizio Ravanelli and Alessandro Del Piero, I was completely seduced. Even watching Gianfranco Zola play at Chelsea all those many years ago caught my imagination and only served to strengthen my interest in Italy. Totti especially was a real idol. His cool swagger around the pitch with his socks down below his shin pads was a real eye opener. Everything he did just oozed quality and silkiness.

So for the season commencing 2013-14 I will be temporarily putting on hold my love affair with 'The Tractor Boys' and instead taking on the mantle of ACF Fiorentina as my new local team. Also known as the Viola due to the team's chosen colours. I am hoping that the football will be a touch more glamorous and even the prospect of a few Europa League matches looks somewhat enticing! The purple kit, however, might take a tad getting used to!

Forza La Viola!