Identikit of an Italian Tourist


[Thoughts of an Italian Londoner on Italian tourists.]

I came back to London a few days ago, after a short break in Italy.

On the Ryanair flight, which, as usual, welcomed passengers on board with Vivaldi’s Spring (a melody that Ryanair has almost succeeded in making me hate!), I found myself once again sitting amongst a group of Italian ‘teenagers’ certainly beyond their 30s, acting like kids on their first holiday adventure with friends.

I always find it’s great fun to stealthily listen to conversations, except when the volume is so high that I am able to distinctly understand each word from the opposite end of the plane. Usually the conversations of Italian tourists on their way to London relate to ongoing themes:

  • Where to go…obligatory stop offs (according to the Italian tourist) are Piccadilly, Westminster, Tower of London. Other locations which are at least as much, if not more interesting, seem to go unnoticed.
  • How will it be possible to communicate with a school-level English? “Oh it won’t be a problem, it’s full of Italians over there”, “At school I had 8/10 in English!”, “I can even say swearwords, what else do we need?”
  • The weather…”do you think it will be raining?”, “the weather forecast is not that bad”, “have you got an umbrella?”
  • I might decide to move to London! Any advice? Ideas?

I find the latter topic particularly fun, because that is where urban myths and legends are big hits. Colourful stories are filled with improbably anecdotes told by those ‘who have the experience’ and are teaching others, who experience something in between fascination and perplexity. For example, on the Terravision bus from Stansted, a guy was telling his amazing story of London-life to another guy he’d just met (who appeared enthusiastic, up to the point when a house shared with other 6 foreigners, several mice and located in an ill-famed neighbourhood made their appearance in the story).

When the Terravision bus (company itself managed by Italians!) reached Liverpool Street, I was almost sorry to get off and abandon this microcosm of Italians abroad. But I didn’t need to wait long to find it again: it was sufficient to pop into Waitrose for my pre-New Year’s Eve shopping to discover that the stationary group in the cheese section, could only be a group of Italians abroad!

[My article was first published in Italian at http://parolesemplici.wordpress.com/2012/01/09/identikit-di-un-turista-italiano/  and I subsequently translated it into English. Unfortunately, many Italian expressions could not be translated into English with the same efficacy, but hopefully the translation conveys overall the same effect as the original one.]

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Identikit di un turista italiano

[Pensieri di un’italiana londinese su turisti italiani / Thoughts of an Italian Londoner on Italian tourists.]

Sono tornata a Londra da pochi giorni, dopo una breve pausa in Italia.

Sul volo Ryanair, che come al solito incomincia con La Primavera di Vivaldi (melodia che Ryanair è riuscita a farmi quasi odiare!), mi sono ancora una volta trovata seduta tra gruppi di ‘ragazzoni’ italiani di età certamente superiore ai 30, con l’aria di chi è alla sua prima avventura vacanziera con gli amici.

Mi diverto sempre moltissimo ad ascoltare di soppiatto le conversazioni, eccetto quando il volume è tale che riesco a sentire cosa viene detto dalla parte opposta dell’aereo. Solitamente le conversazioni dei turisti italiani che vanno a Londra riguardano alcuni temi fissi:

  • Dove andare…tappe obbligate (secondo il turista italiano) sono Piccadilly, Westminster, Tower of London. Altre mete altrettanto, se non più interessanti, passano inosservate.
  • Come si riuscirà a comunicare con un inglese scolastico? ‘Ma si ma lì è pieno di italiani’, ‘avevo 8 di inglese alle superiori!’, ‘so anche dire le parolacce, siamo a posto!’
  • Il clima… ‘ma secondo te pioverà?’ ‘ma le previsioni non sono così brutte’ ‘ma l’ombrello ce l’hai?’
  • Quasi quasi mi trasferisco a Londra! Hai consigli ? Idee?

Quest’ultimo tema fisso mi diverte particolarmente, perchè qui nascono le leggende metropolitane e storie mai sentite sembrano colorire racconti da chi ‘ha l’esperienza’ e che istruisce altri, che rimangono affascinati e perplessi. Ad esempio, sull’autobus Terravision da Stansted, un ragazzo raccontava la sua storia fantastica di vita londinese ad un coetaneo appena conosciuto (che sembrava entusiasta, finchè nel racconto non è comparsa una casa condivisa con altri 6 ragazzi stranieri, con topi, e in un quartiere malfamato!).

Quando l’autobus Terravision (gestito pure da italiani!), è arrivato a Liverpool Street, quasi mi dispiaceva scendere e abbandonare questo microcosmo di “italiani in trasferta.” Ma non ho dovuto aspettare a lungo prima di ritrovarlo: mi è bastato andare a fare la spesa di Capodanno da Waitrose per scoprire che il gruppo fermo a discutere nella corsia dei formaggi, non poteva che essere un gruppo di “italiani in trasferta”!


My First Guest Post!


Today, my first guest post on another blog has been published!

Unfortunately, I only had the time to write the article in Italian but I will post a translation here as soon as possible, so keep your eyes on this space. The topic is how Italians behave when they’re travelling (“Identikit di un turista italiano”).

Here’s the link:

http://parolesemplici.wordpress.com/2012/01/09/identikit-di-un-turista-italiano/

Enjoy!

UPDATE: English Translation of the article now available at https://littleexplorer.wordpress.com/2012/01/14/identikit-of-an-italian-tourist/

Bubbleology: the theory of tea-volution


(picture from Bubbleology’s website)

When my friend first suggested to meet to drink bubbletea in Soho, I imagined a drink tasting of marsh mellows or chewing gums.  I admit: I wasn’t feeling too excited about it. As we walked to the shop, we saw a long queue of people waiting outside or meeting in front of the shop. Interesting. The shop didn’t look like a coffee shop or a tea shop at all: rather, like a chemist’s lab. And there we were: right in the middle of Bubbleology! A new theory of Tea-volution!

(picture taken by me in the London Soho shop)

The queue was long, we had to make our order. But what were we supposed to order?? It took me a while to understand how it works, as I read through the ‘lab instructions’ on the wall above the counter. So, first you choose if you want a milky or a fruity tea, then you decide the size, and if you want to add something or mix more than one flavour. Confusing. I went for Coconut Regular Bubbletea. Would it be hot or cold? No idea! Turns out you can have it both ways but if you don’t ask they will make you a cold one. I got my ‘Regular’ that looked much bigger than normal, was given a huge straw and on the bottom of my drink I could see…BUBBLES!

As I drank it, I couldn’t figure out what I thought about it. First reaction: weird! Second reaction: it takes like milkshake but much lighter! Final reaction: WOW!

OK, apparently I’m slow at finding out new trends because apparently a lot of people have tried Bubbletea before in Soho in the Chinese shops or Taiwanese shops. Yet I was still puzzled by the bubbles which I could eat through my straw and were really chewy and some of them would burst releasing fruitjuice! Amazing! I felt like a kid! I was not able to finish my drink as it was way too big and probably too cold. While we were wondering what the bubbles were made of, a young-looking man sitting next to us working on his PC spoke to us and explained that the bubbles were made from potato starch! We were surprised about his knowledge on the subject, and he turned out to be the owner and founder of the shop – Assad Khan – a UK businessman, who was fed up of working for a bank in New York and came up with this great business idea. He’s opened two shops in London so far, one in Soho and the other in Knightsbridge and he’s about to open at least 3 by the end of 2011 (so he told us).

If you want to read more about Bubbleology:

http://www.bubbleology.co.uk/about.php

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/apr/24/bubble-tea-comes-to-britain

Want to listen to some new music while sipping your bubbletea? Try listening to Luca DG, a friend of mine with whom I tried Bubbletea! He’s an emerging Italian singer living in London – amazing voice! 😉

http://www.myspace.com/lucadg

Feel the London Vibe


You know your plane is landing in London when outside the tiny window you see pouring rain and a marvellously green landscape. Just about the time to wait for your suitcase, change into something warmer that you notice a few shy rays of sunshine peeping through the clouds.

 

You take a seat on the tube and no one appears to notice the girl with green hair who’s forgotten to wear a skirt. Nor is anyone bothered by the man taking up two seats due to his extra-huge size.  The newspaper read by the lady next to me reports in details the remarkably wrongful behaviour of two policemen who parked on a double yellow line to shop in Tesco’s. In Italy, this news wouldn’t even feature in a minor last-page column.

 

As you step outside, the wind makes any efforts to comb your hair entirely useless but gives you wings to walk. You soon smell food from the local Thai restaurant which blends in with the smell of McDonalds’. If you don’t like it, don’t worry because just round the corner you’re in Italy or, if you prefer, in France. But make sure not to hesitate while walking or you’ll literally get run over by crowds of people.

 

As you make your way through the crowds, you get a first glimpse of the vast green areas. Just a few steps, and you’ve stepped into the countryside – now you can just relax lying down on the greenest, cleanest and softest grass.

What Next?


It’s been a seriously long time since I posted on my blog. I’ve been missing it, but as other bloggers will know, once you lose the ‘rhythm’ with blogging, it falls out of your routine and it gets harder and harder to get back to it. Of course, the real reason why I didn’t post was that I was finishing my Master in Laws. Finally, after many sleepless nights writing my thesis, last friday I have graduated and now I have another qualification to add to my CV and – hopefully – a better chance to achieve my career goals.

Unfortunately, I am really not the kind of person capable to sitting back and enjoying my latest achievements. I am already busy and anxious – as well as excited, of course – about my next move. Getting ready to move back to the UK is a pretty daunting task as I need to find a flat and reconnect with my friends in London. It’s hard to leave home after having recreated a cicle of friends, being used to being close to my family and getting reaccustomed to the Italian lifestyle. This time, going to London, will be different as I am surely less idealistic about what I can find over there, but at the same time I feel prepared about what to expect. I suppose I am becoming more realistic. Does this mean I am getting old?! 😉

Sometimes I wonder if I will ever be able to settle anywhere. I think I am made to be constantly on the move. I am too curious (impatient?!) about things around me to settle anywhere and every time I move it is a new  – scary – challenge. Is it so hard to find a place where you find all you wish? I believe that travelling is rather a process of self-discovery. We move to find new answers, only to discover we come back with more questions and doubts. So, right now my question is: what next?

No Need To Be Serious


Even on a short work / study trip to Den Haag (The Hague) – generally associated with serious people, serious places and serious thoughts – you can find abundant occasions to smile.

While I was there, I found many things around the streets especially sculptures, which put a big smile on my face and made me laugh. Just perfect to get into the best positive mood while on my way towards a library or a tribunal!

In a street near Scheveningen, I saw a small house which had red gates oddly decorated with what looked like a ‘Winter Theme’ (yes, in June!): white owls, snowmen and other strange (fake) stuffed animals.

Now…what is t-h-a-t?? If you think this is odd, wait for the next picture. I was walking in the same area and, as I stopped checking my map, I felt eyes staring at me from a close-by window. As I turned to check who it was…this is what I saw:


Creepy, but funny! I think the shop-owner had a very good sense of humour, although I am not sure how well he was able to sell his products through this sales technique. But the best conclusion to my trip was this wise sign hanging in a chocolate shop in Brussels:

Have fun – wherever you are – and keep on smiling! 🙂

My first blog ever!


Hi everyone!

This is my first post. Since I have opened my blog two days ago, I had a lot of things in mind I wanted to write and post, many of which are already written and literally just need to be posted! However, despite being on holiday, time seems to get by so quickly and I am always busy or else it gets too late and I am too tired or lazy to get blogging.

So…I thought I should start from somewhere before this whole idea of blogging already falls in disuse even before starting! I will share with you my plan for this blog.

First of all, the name: Little Explorer. I spent some time thinking about the name I wanted to choose. I wanted it to express something about how I am, without revealing too much about myself. I wanted a name that would be short but interesting and curious. I wanted a name that would not bore me after one day or so, but most of all something that would make people think ‘I wonder what this blog is all about, let’s have a look!’. I am still not sure about this name I chose, but – hey! – I had to make up my mind at some point, so here I am!

Secondly, before starting with the blogging, I want to transfer to this blog a lot of materials I had posted on a website I created some six or seven months ago. I had initially opened a website to collect my writings and thoughts, however over time I realised it was not a very practical tool for my purposes so I thought a blog would be more appropriate, flexible and easy to use. Afterall, I want to be able to write when I feel like it, without having to think too much about structure and planning – so a website really was not for me right now. Once this process of transfer will be done, I will shut down that webpage to avoid duplication.

Finally, I want to blog about my amazing summer holidays, which unfortunately are about to end – however, there is so much I’d like to say about them as they have been incredible life experiences. I think saying I went to Israel and Denmark is enough for you to realise that recently I have seen incredibly fascinating places and met so many interesting people that I really feel the need to write about them to remember forever my feelings, impressions and thoughts.

Here is one picture from my holiday in Israel

…and here’s one from Denmark

Very different, right? But both special in their very unique way!

I feel so excited about starting this blog – does this sound silly?! Well…the reason I feel excited is because I think that blogging is a form of expression just like writing a book, a diary or even keeping a journal. It is a way of putting our thoughts ‘on paper’ while filtering them for the public we have in mind, thus it is a form of exercise for our minds that have to reason on what is important, worth, appropriate, relevant, interesting for a blog. Blogging, in other words, is an experience which I believe can be very enriching because it is not only a form of writing, but also an interactive platform allowing others to take part in the discussion, adding comments that keep the written text alive!

So, I guess this is the end of my first post. I will do my very best to post again soon and transfer all the contents of the old website to this new blog!