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Postponing plans – see you in 6 months Rome!

18 Dec


So, a lot of developments have taken place since my last post. It never fails to amaze me how life can change course in the blink of an eye! So, what’s the latest news…

February Plans
I am no longer spending my month in Rome in February – fear not, I will still be there for 2 weeks starting on 2nd February, but instead of coming to study, I am coming to learn…there is still so much of Rome I haven’t seen and plan on spending the two weeks I have there exploring the city and the areas around it.

What’s 6 months in the course of a lifetime?!
The atmosphere at work hasn’t been great since the pre-Christmas redundancies were announced. It was that which was driving me to forge on ahead with my Italian plans, but I felt that it was time controlling me, not me controlling my time. Luckily, work is now secured until mid-July, and as much as it upsets me to postpone my Italian dream, logically, it makes more sense to stay here for the 6 months, work, save, rent my house, save more and then look to move mid-summer. It does make more sense that way (sorting pet passports can take MONTHS!) and in the course of a lifetime, 6 months is nothing! And I can rack up more air-miles flying to/from Italy in the meanwhile!

All work and no play make…..?
Work is always a tricky subject, especially when hunting in another country. About 2 weeks ago when I was looking for work in Rome, I was amazed at how much contact I had. I registered on a site called Au Pair World and had some great contacts from people in Italy, one couple that I loved the sound of, who lived in downtown Rome, looking for an Au Pair. I was ecstatic when I heard from them, we exchanged emails and seem to have a lot in common. It breaks my heart to say no to them – they were offering everything I wanted; downtown Rome is one of my favourite areas, a great apartment in a century-old building, a cat! I can only live in hope that similar roles are available when I make the move permanently.

Christmas and New Year 2012
So it’s a week today until Christmas day – and I can’t wait! I love Christmas and will be spending it at home with my parents and Aunt and Uncle from Cornwall! It’ll be a great few days and I love spending time with my family!
New Year’s Eve I am flying out to Rome to spend 4 days with the boy. Looks like 2013 will be brought in at at house party with lots of champagne and my home-made brownies…flown out there in my hand-luggage!

So, there’s not much left to say except a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all my readers!


Love in the Eternal City: Valentines Day in Rome

26 Nov

The clue really is in the name…’Roma’-nce. Is the Eternal City the most romantic place to spend Valentine’s Day?


Look through some brief history and it will tell you that Saint Valentine is a third century Roman saint associated with the tradition of courtly love who died on February 14th. Traditionally, it was mid-February that was chosen by Romans to meet and ‘court’ new people. It was the handwritten gestures of admiration that built to the red-tinted craze we now know as St Valentine’s Day.

There is no doubt that Rome is one of the most romantic cities in the world. Steeped in ancient history, you are offered a heady cocktail of day-long (and accepted!) wine drinking, seductive food and a backdrop of basilicas, monuments and ruins to add just some more drama and intrigue to February 14th. And, not forgetting, the divine charm of the Roman males, (consider this English girl sold!) who’s old school wooing techniques will have your heart racing in no time.

So where in Rome is best to spend the most roman-tic of days?

The Trevi Fountain
As obvious as it may seem, this is one of the most romantic spots in the city. Visit at night when the fountain is looking its finest, and throw a coin in together, guaranteeing your return to the city.

The Trastevere Neighbourhood
One of my favourite neighborhoods in the city, the Trastevere holds its charm in the ancient cobbled streets that haven’t changed for generations. The unique character of the area attracts independent artists and famous people alike. Strolling through these streets hand in hand is one of the most romantic experiences in the city.

Piazza Navona
In the heart of the city, this famous Piazza features 2 amazing fountains and a wonderful buzz from all those that are there. It has long been a meeting place for the inhabitants of Rome. Full of acrobats and performers, it is guaranteed a great place to spend part of your Valentine’s Day.

Pincian Hill
Personally, I consider the Pincian Hill as one of the most romantic places in the city, offering a breathtaking view of the Piazza del Popolo and all of Rome.
Pack up a champagne picnic and spend the day watching the bustle of the city pass beneath you.

Rome is a city perfect for Valentine’s Day. If you want to escape the city, visit Castel Gandolfo, a small Italian town in Lazio overlooking Albano lake, about 15 miles south-east of Rome (take the train from Termani – about an hour).  It is most famous for being the summer residence of the Pope.The town was voted one of the most beautiful towns in Italy. Walk the Albano lake, then walk up to the town to enjoy a great cappuccino or lunch, overlooking the tranquil beauty of the lake.

Roma-nce can be found within the city walls and beyond. I for one, cannot wait to experience a Roman Valentine’s Day in 2013.

Why I want to make Rome my home

18 Oct

I’ve made no secret of my love affair with Italy. I first went in 2005 and it was everything I’d hoped it would be. I stayed in a typical Tuscan villa near a town called Montespertoli and visited Florence (swoon!), San Gimignano and Sienna. I loved the place so much, I went back a year later.

It wasn’t until 2012 that I went back to Tuscany to stay with my parents whilst they were there. Cue another week-long stay in a perfect villa, drinking amazing wine for less than 3 Euros a bottle and eating some of the best food I had tasted. After Tuscany, I took the train to Rome, my first time in the Eternal City.

I can’t really explain what happened, but stepping off the train at Termani in the scorching July mid-afternoon heat made me feel at home. I didn’t feel like I was visiting or on holiday, there was more of a connection than that. The city was intense, hot and rich. I was in love.

I have been back 3 times since my first visit in July and have seen many sides to the city, and I have fallen even deeper in love. There is a strange comfort to be found on the cobbled streets, walking past church after church. There is something almost movie-set like about Rome, it’s exactly as you would imagine, and more.

So, I figured I would compile a list of the things that have helped me decide that Rome is the home for me…

1. The sunsets
I noticed this first when there in July. The sun setting over the city creates a rainbow of colours in the sky that you can sit and watch til they fade.

2. The cobbled streets
There is something almost energetic about negotiating the cobbled streets. As a girl who was practically born in 4in heels, it makes a scary yet refreshing change to have to spend the majority of my time walking about the city in flat/sensible shoes. I have observed many an Italian fashionista strutting across the cobbles with the grace of a figure skater and I guess that is something I will develop over time.

3. Nuns
I’m not religious and make no illusion that I am, but there is something very comforting about the constant reminders that Ave Maria is never far away. It seems like I cannot step off a plane or train in Rome without seeing one her her loyal representatives. It’s humbling and funny to see them, in groups, enjoying the gelato of the city!

4. Graffiti
I see a lot of graffiti in the UK, but there is something about the graffiti in Rome that always brings a smile to my face. I think its the combination of the modern work and the centuries-old walls it adorns that makes me realise the true beauty of Rome; it is old and new, modern and traditional.

5. Water Fountains
These are everywhere in the city and something that always captures me when I pass one of them. They range from basic to elegant and I was delighted to discover one 30 feet from the front door of my own palazzo.

What are your reasons for loving Rome?

Ciao for now,

Nina xx

Benvenuti a Roma!

10 Oct

OK, so I may have jumped the gun a bit and have already scheduled in my housewarming party in Rome for when I move there in February! But, I think that with all I will have to arrange between now and then, it will get forgotten so I am happy that’s now scheduled in! My lovely Italians and some of my English pals are also invited!

So, where are we at with the plans?

Finally this has been sourced and booked – I have liaised with a charming man called Valentino who I believe has single-handedly restored my faith in humanity…
Me: Shall I pay the 20% deposit to secure?
Valentino: Nooooo, I shall pencil it in, that’s enough for me! Once I pencil something in, nothing changes my mind!
Such a lovely man!

The space itself is beautiful, right in Rione Monti, practically in the back garden of the Coliseum, in a beautiful neighborhood. I couldn’t be happier about the location. I have a bizarre connection with the Coliseum (maybe I was a Gladiator in a past life!) and quoted various lines (“Father to a murdered son….”) from the film every time I saw it! So to be living in a Palazzo built in 1600 next to the Coliseum = one happy Nina!

I am now fully enrolled on my 4-week Italian course and can’t wait to learn more of this beautiful language. Somehow I seem to be picking it up well on my current 10-week beginners course so will be heading onto the ‘elementary’ course in Rome! Exciting! The school is a 20 minute walk from my apartment and I am there 4 days a week for 3 hours, which should provide good exercise to help burn off the gelato/pasta/pizza!

My first weekend in Roma!
I am very luck to have parents that are supportive of this move and want to do as much as they can for me to make this get off on the right foot! They will be traveling out with me on the Saturday 2nd February and staying there with me until the Monday morning, before flying off to Malaga to pick up their cruise ship (they are always on holiday!), which ironically docks at Civitavecchia (closest dock to Rome) on Saturday 9th February, so they will be spending that day with me too! As this is the day after my planned housewarming, they could be fortunate enough to be sharing my new abode with my lovely Italians!
I am delighted that they will be coming there with me that first weekend, it will help me with settling in and I know full well that waving me off at departures will not be enough for Mummy B! She will want to inspect the venue that will be the hub of her daughter’s crazy month in Rome with a fine tooth comb. As she is not as well adjusted to Rome as I, cue comments on the graffiti everywhere, rubbish, cobbled streets (not compatible with Marc Jacobs boots) and near death experiences whenever crossing the street! p.s – its these exact features that made me fall in love with the city the second I first stepped off the train in June this year!

Things I will HAVE to take with me for the month as there cannot possibly be a decent Italian equivalent! (or, things I’m packing!)
As I plan to make Italy my home one day, I think that I need to make this feel as less like a holiday as possible! So, factoring in some key items is essential in this quest!
1. English tea – I refuse to pay through the teeth for imported tea! 90 Typhoo tea bags should cover it!
2. Bold 2in1 Washing powder – yes, insane, but I love the smell and have to have it with me! (yes, I did partly fall in love with my apartment because it has a washing machine!)
3. Pictures of my family/friends/cats – because I want this to feel like ‘home’ these simply have to come along!
4. Pimms! – I introduced Pimms to my lovely Italians and they love it! Every time I return its with a liter of Pimms in tow! Luckily, with Mum and Dad’s suitcases, I can take far more in February!
5. My favourite DVDs – I am under no illusion that there will be nights when I am sat in at home like I am in the UK and these nights I want to be able to sit back with a bottle of vino and watch some films/TV shows that I love! Likewise, when my girls come to stay, these will be essential!
6. Docking station – I cannot live without music on so this will be essential!
7. Nikon camera – a ‘yet to be purchased item’ but totally essential to photo-doc my month in the Eternal City. This isn’t the time for 3,000 shabby iPhone pictures, this is the time to capture life-changing memories! My Dad’s Nikon is pretty decent so that shall be my weapon of choice!

Ciao for now!

Nina xxx

Things I will miss about the UK ‘when in Rome’

8 Oct

OK, so I am sat at my desk at work literally counting the weeks until I can live la dolce vita for a whole month, and I got to thinking about the strange things I would miss…of course there are the obvious things, but what about the more…less-obvious.

1. English TV
I know/have been told that Italian TV is some of the worst in the world. From experience I have encountered badly-dubbed episodes of ‘Friends’, films that only seem to have been made up to the 1970’s, and lots and LOTS of football! How will I cope without the Hollyoaks omnibus on a Sunday morning when my head and heart are feeling a little delicate from the night before? No Big Bang Theory…I know, I am not going there to watch TV, but it’s something that crossed my mind when thinking of this blog!

2. Driving…especially in the Mini!
I LOVE my car – red Mini Cooper and it’s just ‘so me’. I also adore driving and a whole month without it is a scary idea. I had contemplated hiring a car when in Rome, but a) I’d have more chance of parking it on the Moon, and b) I respect my life, and don’t feel like cutting it short! Italian drivers are crazy!

3. English Tea with FRESH milk
I can say that buying fresh milk in Italy has always proved impossible to me…you get what I consider to be stuff similar to our ‘long life’ muck that is sold on the SHELVES of stores in Italy, not the FRIDGE. That will take some adjusting to! Luckily, as my parents are helping me move in, I have the luxury of 3 suitcases to fill with Typhoo! Mum suggested opening an English Tea Room there – yes, but only with fresh milk!

4. Tescos…Sainsburys…Waitrose
The decent UK supermarkets do take a lot of beating and I happen to live close to all three above. I’m not saying I will miss them per se, because I don’t rate their fresh stuff or meat highly, and nowhere can beat Italy for the quality of fresh produce, but the ease of use is what I shall miss.  I dare say that on my return I shall miss picking out my own fresh of fruit and vegetables from the local markets like no-one’s business!

5. Reliable, fast internet
The Italians rush nothing and their internet is no exception. They have an attitude of ‘if it works, it works, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t’, which on the surface is an amazing attitude – we Westerners spend far too much time stressing out about things like ‘slow broadband’ when in the scheme of life, it’s not that important. It will take a period of re-adjustment to the much slower internet of yesteryear (they don’t still have dial-up, surely?!) but it will all be part of my readjustment to Italian life.

6. Cleaning products I know and love!
Yes, random I know, but it takes a lot for me to love a washing powder – I am so picky! After 7 years of living in my own home, I still struggle to find cleaning products that measure up to my fussy standards! I know the Italians have odd names for their cleaning products too…’Bum Bum’ dish soap and ‘Lady’ multipurpose cleaner…give me a bottle of Fairy Liquid over Bum Bum any day!

Ciao for now!

Nina x