Friday, 29 June 2007

Photo Update

I haven't posted any photo's for a while, so here's what we have been up to, in no particular order:
Remember the rain? Seems as distant memory now, doesn't it!

Open air concert in Piazza della Signoria for the Anniversary of the Italian Republic.
San Gimignano and views around. That's my husband below, with my son and daughter.
One of those mysterious midnight processions!! This is about 11.30 p.m. Not just in Naples!
My son, in red, finally doing that rowing course on the Arno!!
How cool to say you have rowed under the Ponte Vecchio - a bit safer than Tower Bridge, I think!

A view that, as a tourist, I always wanted to have taken. Looking up at those looking down onto the rowing club beneath the Uffizi. Drinks are really cheap too, but don't tell anyone!

I realise just how busy we have been when I look at our photo's. Sometimes I don't feel we do anything! But then it makes up for the busy periods.

Friday, 15 June 2007

Making Friends

Having moved around the UK several times I have come to realise how important it is to make contacts and from that new friends, especially when you have no family nearby. Here it is doubly important as, not only do I have no family here, I don't, as yet, speak Italian very well.

When we arrived I joined a group of English speaking mums Every week we meet up with our kids for coffee and a natter. This has been a lifeline to me. From it I am starting to make some good friends. It is a diverse group from the US, Canada and the UK, some married to Italians, others here on secondment or contract for a few years. What we all share is the same language and kids! What is nice to discover is that sometimes we have more than just kids in common. Similar interests, backgrounds but also that it is good to talk!!!

So, tip for the day: Wherever you move to check out societies, organisations, clubs anything that gets you out and meeting people, irrespective of the language they speak! In Florence I am just lucky there are so many things catering for English speakers from the above group to the British Institute and its amazing library. If there hadn't been I would have found something else - a playgroup, book club, whatever - anything to make sure I was out and meeting people. It's the best cure for homesickness! And so far I haven't really had much apart from when we first arrived and that was largely due to the dark, gloomy apartment we were in.

Sunday, 3 June 2007

Day out in the City

Since moving out to the other side of the Arno, in San Frediano, we have gone into the centre less and less. As the temperatures increased in May it was only too easy to just loll in the garden all day! Esselunga delivers food and drink, so why not? The occasional excursion for gelato is all we needed!

The end of May saw the weather change dramatically. For over a week now we have had rain, clouds, wind and thunder. But from how stifling it was becoming it was inevitable it had to break. It's still a comfortable 23C and I am wearing jeans and long sleeves again, but I'm used to it being British ;)! This is when you remember Italy is still in the temparate zone!

Anyway, everytime the rain has stopped we have ventured out and normally ended up in the centre. This also tends to be expensive as we just have to do a little shopping while we are there! Magazines and books are my big weakness and most days we have returned with some kind of reading material.

Yesterday was a big day in Florence for 2 reasons; it was the 60th anniversary of the republic and Games Workshop officially opened its first store in Florence! The former is fairly self expanatory and meant many places were closed all weekend, except in the centre, as it is a public holiday.

The latter only makes sense, if like me, you have an adolescent male, of any age ;), in your family. Games Workshop is the official retailer and owner of all things Warhammer. For the uninitiated, this is a combination of model making and wargaming, but with orcs and spacemen and Lord of the Rings characters, but not all in the same battle! The shop sells everything you need and even has special days when you can go and paint your models in the shop under the guidance of the shop assistants who are all fanatics as well. My son spent a good hour picking out a kit and chatting. Who would have thought plastic models could be a source of social entertainment? The shop was very busy, but then I have never seen so many shops dedicated to this type of wargaming in one city. There are at least 4 other independent shops I can think of and I am sure there are more. The best part about this shop is that it is virtually on our doorstep near Santa Maria del Carmine, so my son can pop in when he wants to!

Then we went into the centre for Pizza and ice-cream. We also visited the Bargello, which was free because of the Holiday! As it is normally €7 entrance each this was fantastic. I loved the della Robbias on the top floor. I know Majolica is not to everyone's taste but ever since seeing the swaddled babies above the arcade of the hospital of the innocents I have really liked it.

While we were out I started to think about tips for visiting Florence, or even for those just arriving to live here. This is my first:

Sitting at a table for a quick drink in Florence is expensive. You can pay €8 for a coke in somewhere like Rivoire, which if you only want to take a break, not people watch, is extortionate. The answer, in the centre, is the gelateria's, not cafe's that sell gelato, but the places like "Festival of Gelato", "Perche' No" that only sell gelato and, importantly, have inside seating. Here you pay for an ice-cream and a drink and can sit down without paying extra! Also the drinks are take-away prices, even if you sit down! Remembering this can save you a fortune! But it will make you fat:))

Friday, 1 June 2007

Films, lots of Films!

I made the mistake of walking into Ricordia Media, one of the city centres bigger music and dvd shops, during a rainstorm this week. The mistake was that a lot of good films I hadn't been to see at the cinema have now come out on dvd. I left, poorer, but with Marie Antoinette, The Departed and The Prestige. 3 very different films!

My 3 year old couldn't sleep because of a thunderstorm so the three of us, me, my son and Antonia, sat on my bed watching Marie Antoinette. What a beautiful film! My degree is in clothing design, but never used, so this was heaven to watch. My daughter is already on her 3rd watching of the "princess" film, as she calls it! We all know the story to some degree so this wasn't the most important part of this film. Just watch it and swoon!

Before getting the chance to watch any of the other dvd's we had an appointment with the cinema itself to see "Pirates of the Caribbean 3". Quite honestly, it made me laugh, it was better than the second one, but nothing on the first, and yes, whatever you have heard about Keith Richards' appearance, it is a funny cameo. The Odeon was absolutely packed, which, if you know it, is quite something. It is a huge, ornate cinema that has been preserved rather than split up like many in the UK have. If you liked the first 2 you will like this one. As usual the ending was left open for the next installment!

We also managed to acquire Aliens and The Beach from Blockbusters neither of which I have seen in a long time. I haven't seen a bad Leonardo film, except Titanic ;), so I can't believe The Beach can be that bad. I will soon find out!

The Prestige was the next on my list. This stars Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale and Michael Caine. As I had never heard of it I not going to assume everyone else has! A cameo by David Bowie as the scientist/inventor Tesla was good. It is a strange film and anyone interested in magic tricks will enjoy it. The Prestige is the name given to the climax of a trick. The story is basically about 2 competing magicians, one of whom is obsessed with stealing the secrets of the others most famous trick. It has many good twists and turns and keeps you guessing right until the end. This is not based on reality, so don't think you are going to see the "real" secrets of magic. This is about magic tricks based on magic, not trickery!!

Finally, I sat down and watched "The Departed". One word "WOW"!. If you haven't seen it watch it. If you don't like violence, tough, watch it anyway! This knocks anything Scorcese has done before into a cocked hat. I didn't like Goodfellas, because of the violence, but it just seems to be right in this film, maybe I have got used to it over the years. Jack Nicholson is great and very scary. I love Ray Winstone in anything and he doesn't disappoint here. The boys, Matt and Leonardo are on great form. This is a terrific film! I can't say anymore, it won the awards and deserved to.

If you wonder where I get the time, well watching until 1.00 a.m. kind of answers that one!