Italy: Finding Beauty Amongst the Chaos

As my time abroad is coming to a close in a couple of months (boohoo), I was thinking about the struggles i’ve faced during my year in Italy. In deciding how to approach this post, and it appeared to me that I could take it one of two ways. I could a) write about the truly big obstacle which everyone has experienced whilst living away from home – the fact that you are, in fact, away from home. Whilst that undoubtedly is the toughest part of my year abroad, it’s also the most obvious. So, that led me to b) the little obstacles that have peppered my time away – which I suppose could be summarised with my Study Abroad department’s beautifully clichéd phrase of ‘cultural differences’.

A world apart biggest obstacle

my Erasmus society getting a little confused (but still making it work!)

 

The lack of organisational skills possessed by Italy is simultaneously mind-boggling and impressive; impressive that there is still a country left to run underneath the mind-boggling lack of organisation. If you ever find yourself in Italy with something important to do, something with time constraints or an essential outcome at stake, I would urge you to go anywhere, be anywhere, except Italy. My German friend studying Medicine here quite frankly told me that should any medical emergency occur, I must put her on the first flight back to Germany and get her treated there. Coming from someone with firsthand experience of the Italian medical system, I’ve tried my hardest to remain healthy this year, however I did come down with a sore throat (I know, I know – poor me) in March. Thinking that a trip to the local pharmacy would suffice, I struggled down the street, only to be greeted with a sign that informed me that they are in fact closed from 12.00-16.30 every day. Whilst the notion of an illness which respects the shop owner’s need for an afternoon nap seems absurd to us Brits, one can only assume that Italian ailments are much more flexible with their scheduling…

 

It is a beautiful but shambolic version of a normal society, and while this chaos was what frustrated me beyond comprehension at the start of my time in Verona, I have to begrudgingly admit that there is something to admire amongst all the pandemonium. I’ve learned to worry less about tomorrow, and live in the moment a lot more. Whilst I’m prone to intermittent bouts of worrying (just like any good Englishman) and I’ll never be truly Italian in that respect, I do think that we can take something from their love of life and lack of anxiety. When Italians have free time, they really have free time – it’s a lovely thing to see them drinking and enjoying themselves at 11pm Sunday evening, just because it’s their Sunday evening. Work can wait, deadlines can wait and tomorrow can most definitely wait.

just your normal Sunday night drinks in Italy

 

 

Ciao Verona! – Italia: Take 2

So,

It’s been a bit quiet on the blog side of things recently  – but quite the opposite in reality. On 20th January I moved back to Verona for the second semester of my year abroad. Having had such a lovely four weeks at home in the UK, I (secretly) wasn’t 100% pumped up to be returning to Italy. However, much to my surprise, all i’ve really felt since i’ve been back is….happy!? Obviously every day has its ups and downs, but overall I have found myself feeling surprisingly pleased to be back here 🙂

On the 21st I had my first exam (‘Storia del Teatro Greco e Romano’/’History of Greek and Roman Theatre’). Oral. In Italian. Whilst the preamble was painstakingly slow and inefficient, the exam itself very much went my way, and ended with my professor telling me I had achieved 25/30, and then proceeding to give me a copy of his book for free. Bizarre. But much appreciated! Grazie mille!

Since i’ve been back i’ve been pretty efficient with my time (which might explain my inefficiency in the blog area of my life…), going out for pizza, earning money at work and, most pleasantly, visiting my two great friends Bettina and Mona in Bologna. I met them in Siena in August, at a month-long intensive language course for Erasmus students. We bonded pretty much instantly, and whilst we are all different ages (22, 24 and 28) and from different countries (England, Switzerland and Germany) something about us just seems to work. I appreciate their advice, honesty and life experience – they get me and I get them. It was Bettina’s final weekend in Italy and one of Mona’s last, so it was a great way to round off our six months in Italy together. We ate prosciutto e formaggi, drank Amarone, went to the Terme (underground baths and pools), watched movies,  draank some wine, shopped, went sightseeing and drank some more wine!

It’s amazing how just a month can bond you so tightly. Even though we have no idea when we will see each other again, we all know it will happen sooner or later…even more exciting is that we have NO IDEA where on earth it will be! True friends can be made over a lifetime or over a single month – when you know, you know

Mona, Bettina and me with the winning contrada's flag ('Onda', meaning 'Wave') at 'Il Palio' in Siena (August 2013)

Mona, Bettina and me with the winning contrada’s flag (‘Onda’, meaning ‘Wave’) at ‘Il Palio’ in Piazza del Campo, Siena (August 2013)

‘Latch’ing onto Berlin and Sam Smith

I’ve just booked to go to see Sam Smith perform in Berlin in March! Normally that might seem a bit extravagant, but seeing as i’m studying in Italy i’m already on the continent so it just makes sense….right?!

I AM SO EXCITED!!!

The man himself

I have seen him once before (in the Big Top at Bestival 2012) but he only came on as a guest in Disclosure’s performance to sing ‘Latch’. I say ‘but he only came on as a guest’, but he was the greatest guest i’d ever heard, yet never heard of before that moment.

He is truly incredible and has such a lovely voice as well as really soulful and gorgeous lyrics. Also, he just won the BBC Radio 1 Sound of 2014 Award, AND the Brits Critics’ Choice Award. I figure that with a voice like his, and exposure like that, he won’t be playing any more small venues like PrivatClub Berlin when his next tour goes around…and I suspect the tickets may be a litttttle more costly than €19 (roughly £15/$25).

The fact that i’ve never been to Berlin before just makes this all the more exciting. I really really really can’t wait!

If anyone has been to Berlin and can recommend some cultural points of interest/bars/clubs/restaurants for us, that would be very kind and much appreciated 🙂 Also, we were thinking of using AirBnb – has anyone used this website before?

The first time I watched this video I had just been woken up by my alarm to go to my 9am lecture and I just sat and stared at my phone in complete amazement. And then I pressed replay to make sure my ears hadn’t deceived me (and no, I still wasn’t late for my lecture!). I love all of his music but if’ you listen to one song, let it be this:

Don’t forget he also puts his lovely chocolatey vocals to awesome garage/electronic stuff too:

If you haven’t heard of him before I hope you have found someone new you might like to listen to in the future, and if you have…well, i’m pretty sure you enjoyed having another listen anyway.