Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Romance in Rome

Whoa, it has been a long time since we have updated this blog. We have been incredibly busy with job finding (again) and running a Supper Club  and chasing after our now 2-year old son.

As we approach Valentine's Day here in Rome I thought it a good opportunity to share with you 2 exceptional blog posts :-)

Over on recently launched Can't Forget Italy, a digital diary of this incredible country I have written my thoughts on things to do on V-day if you find yourself in Italy, and more specifically in the Eternal City of Rome.

Elsewhere we have also included more recommendations for romance in Rome on our Supper Club website.

Hoping to have some more time this year to update this site, so see you soon!

Fontana dell'Acqua Paola, Rome, Gianicolo

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Tardi Tagliatelle Tales

The last few weeks have been extremely busy at Casa Wells, hence the quietness on the Tagliatelle Tales blog of late.

So to bring everyone up to speed, the highlights (in no particular order):

  • After a few ups and downs that always go hand-in-hand with job hunting, Fleur has secured a full-time position with St George’s School in Rome, starting in September. Needless to say we are "molto felice" and now we can feel more at home in Rome. 
  • We have had plenty of visits from the friends from the UK, including parents, brothers, godparents, fantastic friends (and now we have added to that roster, complete strangers, as we have started our own Supper Club, feeding local Romans and people from all over the world visiting Rome). 

  • Speaking of taking a while to get somewhere, after FOUR months of battling, we feel we have overcome a huge mountain in achieving the setup of fixed line Internet (up until recently we have been suffering from a dodgy dongle. It’s as nasty as it sounds). Italy, not exactly renowned for customer service already, reached a low-ebb on this front in the form of Fastweb. It was at the point when they (a “cutting edge” Internet Service Provider in a developed western country), actually stopped talking to me for weeks because they could not find a modem for me, and I was not allowed to use my own. Euuurrrgrggh. A colleague of mine who is English and who has lived in Rome for 12 years had warned me that anything that requires any admin or setup or general “sorting out” takes so much time and torment, headaches and heartaches, but the satisfaction after persevering is immense. We now are familiar with that immense. It has been said to us that in Italy, to “install a landline you need help from the Pope; to install Internet access you need divine intervention”. We feel blessed. 
  • This week we are to return our car to the UK. For me it is something of a pilgrimage, we will be driving from Rome to London via Sauze d’Oulx and Champagne on a 3 day road trip. Our British car has had it’s time on the continent and must return to the white cliffs of Dover. 

Now with our home set up, Fleur’s job secured for the autumn, Luca taking his first steps and all booked into Italian Nursery school from September and a list of many other accomplishments, both menial and significant, it will be fantastic to visit the our first home in Italy in Sauze and then the UK, with so much waiting for us back in Rome. Our car will be sorely missed but we are returning it to a place where parking is orderly, road laws are enforced and cars are cared for. 

Ahhhhhhhhh…. Organisation, how we (sometimes) miss you.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Rome's Secret Supper Club

A busy few weeks here in Rome, with plenty of visits from friends and family, job interviews and a new project we have launched.

A proper post soon, but for now please take a look at our site for our supper club in Rome here:

Carbonara, Roman Style, food from Rome's Secret Supper Club

Please share and spread the news, all very welcome!

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Rome's top 5 lessons

Top 5 things Rome is teaching us:

1. Eating a donut filled with chocolate or custard is not only acceptable at 8am, it is considered the cornerstone of a healthy breakfast.
If ever I had any doubts if Rome was the city for me, then those doubts are well and truly banished. These are not just donuts. These are packed-to-the-gills, fully loaded, nay bloated, bombas of unadulterated full fat ‘goloso’ donuts that will sit in your tummy for hours. One of these go hand in (sticky) hand with industrial strength espresso, enough to get you well on your way to work. Just don’t think about the depths of the sugar and caffeine low lurking around the corner, ready to clobber you around the head.

 2. There is no such thing as a refund here.
Once you pay your money, it’s gone. That receipt you have in your hand is not for “If you change your mind” no quabble policies you get in the UK and US (dreamy sigh), oh no, no, no. The purpose of the receipt is two fold, so far as I can see:
1.     It’s the chance to produce and circulate more paperwork
2.     To ward off the Guarda di Finanza, the police force who focus only dodgy tax bills.  These guys often carry out “raids” on restaurants or bars which have invariably been tipped off a few days in advance, usually by an insider. Like the Queen thinking everywhere smells of fresh paint, these guys presumably wonder where everyone goes out to eat.

3. Sunny days are the norm – all that snow business was a red herring. It is now only March and on more than one occasion already I have had to run for shade. The locals of course are still wearing scarves and chunky blue shiny puffer jackets (although we haven’t seen any more ill-fitting day-glo ski suits since the snow melted).

4. Forget that ‘Friday Feeling’, it’s all about that ‘Sunday Sensation’; Sundays are the highlight of the week here. We are now starting to get the taste for ‘Buona Domenica”. This, in my opinion, is one of the many positives of living in Italy. Post 3pm, I always felt that Sundays were the wind-down. Let’s face it: you can’t put lipstick on a pig. Sunday evenings are just plain horrendous, and no amount of Hugh Bonneville and Maggie Smith playing fancy dress in a big house is going to change that. Whatever you have lined up for your Sunday, be it a hangover, a lazy pub lunch, a cinema trip, a takeaway curry, or all of the above, it is all designed to take your mind off the pending brutality of the Monday morning alarm clock. Sunday’s here though, are starting to take on a new form for us. Sundays are when the city slips to a more relaxed gear, and Good Lord, does it need a breather every 7 days. At first we found it strange and inconvenient that everything bar the pasticceria shops close their shutters firmly outside Centro Storico. The Pasticceria is pretty much the only thing that I reckon you could get ahold of 24/7 (on a side note when you see a sign for “24 Ore, no-stop”, don’t believe a word for it. “No-stop” comes with a biro- scratched-A4-sheet-selloptaped-to the-window-caveat, usually something like: “No-stop *Except lunchtimes, Saturday evenings and all of Sunday. Closes at 6pm every day”).

So Sundays are about visiting your old Mamma or close friends (if you can get permission from Mamma) and everyone seems to look forward to it. People greet each other on Saturday, wishing a ‘Buona Domenica’ with enthusiastic gusto; it irks me a little – why would anyone wish their Saturday away for a Sunday? We’re not quite there yet but, if the custard stuffed donuts for breakfast are anything to go by, it won’t be long before we consider Sunday mornings the new Friday night.

5. ‘Sono eccitata’ (I am excited) is to be used only in intimate/erotic situations.
It should not be used to describe your enthusiasm about the prospect of meeting someone/going for coffee/starting a job. In all of such instances, and more, I have employed this phrase in the past 6 months. Note to Italians: correct us stupid English people when we get your language wrong. Grazie.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Our valuables on Valentines

Last week we were reunited with our worldly possessions, arriving as they did 3 days earlier than expected and on the ugly end of rush hour on Valentine’s Day.

Caught a little off-guard we were already fretting over whether or not to keep everything kosher and go through the various hoops and administration fees to arrange a space for our delivery lorry, or do as the Romans do (sorry!) and just park “freestyle”. The difference being we weren’t looking to double park a Fiat 500: We had Craig, our proud brummie haulage driver and his 20 metre lorry. This colloussus (the lorry) would need 7 parking spaces, all in a row. That just doesn’t exist in Rome, whether you go through the books or not. In any case the decision had been made for us: we were to be offloading our booty and keeping an eye out for the various police forces that sniff around these parts that evening.

on the prowl!
It was to be a stealth operation, under the cover of darkness, someone on lookout while a chain of runners: myself, Fleur and her mum (whose holiday-timing was unfortunate, meaning she was roped in to a few hours of lugging our things up and down two flights of stairs) brummie Craig and his cabin monkey.

Craig thought otherwise of our plan however, and thought the best thing to do was to take on the infamous traffic of Rome head on. And I don’t mean in his lorry. He took it on himself.  He picked up a stepladder and with it started goading the onslaught of traffic like a lion tamer. When they blasted their horns and started driving at him, Craig, stood his ground; he unfolded the stepladder and scaled it. The Romans didn’t know what had hit them. They actually started backing off. Impressed and flummoxed as I was, I doubted that he could hold them off for what would surely take a couple of hours to unload; maybe more if he was to be up the ladder doing his David Blane routine. And how long before the police were called and we get landed with a hefty bill? We needed him on the ground and fast.

There was only one thing for it and that was to park up the truck in the only space available, just a few metres outside of our apartment block. True, it was a crossroads and we would have the lorry straddling not one but two pedestrian crossings, this was the lesser of two evils.

 As Craig parked up and comfortingly told us “You’re bloody brave to live in Rome”, he started unloading, blocking the streets further, only this time with our furniture and broken crockery rather than ladders and audacity. The big man knew that he had to be quick, and quick he was. Within an hour he had unloaded everything and we had managed to get it to the relative safety of our condominium courtyard. He had us sign a piece of paper and went off in to the sunset on to his next job like a mysterious lonesome spaghetti western cowboy.

After a few days hard slog running up and down the stairs and pushing the Mussolinian lift to its limits with our variously shaped and sized boxes, being scalded in the nicest possible way whilst doing so by Nonnas (nonni?) who have been there since probably the lift’s maiden voyage, we were exhausted. But it really felt like a watershed moment for us. We really feel that we have arrived; it sounds horribly materialistic, but to see some of the things, albeit in a degredated and travel weary condition, around us, our new home became ours. We were in our home again for the first time in 7 months.

Since then, although not all Dolce Vita, we have definitely felt a sense of Rome starting to feel happy and ‘normal’ to us. Normality we have craved for quite some time now.

Who knew that a burly brummie called Craig, would bring us so much happiness. And to be called brave by a man who walks towards the oncoming rush hour traffic with nothing but tattoos and a stepladder is high praise indeed.

at home in Rome!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

What is a Crocodile Club?

Crocodile Club

A brief interlude to plug a newly launched english speaking holiday club for children in the Rome area, courtesy of a certain Fleur!

Details can be found following the URL below.

Please share with any contacts you think might be interested.

Thank you!

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Ma ... sta nevicando...

We have a very warm apartment. And warm it should be considering the eye watering contribution to condominium heating we have found out we need to fork out during ‘the cold months’ in Rome. That apparently is October until the end of April. This heating, comes barging in to our home whether we like it or not and makes its presence felt at the same time of day. Like a persistent and unwanted guest we’re just not sure how to get rid of it. On the other hand we don’t want to get rid of it since we are paying a flat fee for it. We are at a metaphorical all-you-can-eat buffet of central heating, and while we might not always fancy what is on the menu, we have already paid and we are going to make darn sure we have our fill.

Our radiators have two dials: one with a crudely biro inscribed ‘A’ and one with a ‘C’. One is for the apartment controlled heating (touch at your financial peril) and one is for the Condominium. Like everyone else’s here in Rome, while we are paying for it that dial ‘C’ is going to be cranked all the way to 11 and the ‘A’ dial is going to be soldered in to the closed most position. If you need to turn the heating down a notch – just open all your windows.

(We hope that logic prevails here and ‘A’ = Apartamento and ‘C’ = Condiminium. But something we are learning every single day is that logic is not always, if ever, the rule of thumb here. Let’s assume it has in this instance, or that the last tenant didn’t think it might be funny to switch the markings for a bit of a ‘game’. That would be fun…)

So yes, it is warm, very warm in the apartment as is every other apartment in our condominium, street and city. It’s not just the heating bills that keep the heating on either. If there is one thing that Italians live in mortal fear of it is catching a cold. Therefore, any type of precipitation or draft should be avoided; thankfully living in Rome means that one won’t come across these dark forces too often and the sub-tropical central heating is that extra layer of security. This week though is an exception, and the heating has been worth every euro. Starting with driving rain on Monday, right through to 50cm of snow that dumped on us on Friday, words cannot do justice to the havoc that a bit of winter has caused these parts. Un...believable.

We’ve all heard of a snow day – here last Thursday it was an official ‘pre-snow day’. All schools were to be closed on Friday purely because it ‘might’ snow. Today’s planned public transport strike (an almost weekly occurrence) has been ‘snowed-off’; talk about fair-weather activists. I can see their point though – why waste a day’s pay on striking for your rights if you can still get paid for a snow day and so not have to come in anyway? Schools are taking no risks either. We are about to go in to the fourth day of closures.

The recurring phrase this week has been “ma ... sta nevicando…”, a catch-all excuse for everything that doesn’t work. Not only spoken, also scribbled on the famous Italian impromptu panic messages that appear in public offices and shops and anywhere else that has a window. This lady here talks about this phenomenon more eloquently than I do.

At Piazza Spagna Fleur saw the Metro staff armed with bags of salt, but not really sure what to do with it. It’s like they were getting ready to season the Spanish Steps.

In my office, the facilities management team closed the building early (11 am, they only arrive at 9am) so that they could avoid the ice at night time because they didn’t have the right shoes. My question is this: what is a pre-snow day for if not arranging appropriate footwear for the next day?! Anyway, I am absolutely certain the fact it was Friday had no bearing on their decision, and of course we all know that ice is more slippery when it gets dark. Which is a good couple of hours after they usually knock off.

A high point has been watching people coming on to the street with actual ski suits. Presumably these are the only thermal clothing the Romans have, and judging by some of the garish colours and ‘snug’ fits of some of them, it hasn’t snowed here in a while.

I think Saturday I hit my biggest low since being in Italy. Rome had given up on pizza and, as a result I felt that it had given up on us, letting a bit of snow halt things in every conceivable way. “What is the point in Rome if we can’t get a bloody pizza?!”  I wailed to Fleur having returned empty handed on a fruitless quest trying to find one solitary establishment who might be open on, let’s face it, what was little more than a chilly night.

As the snow in Rome subsides for another 27 years or so, we are determined to make sure that we enjoy our heating while we can and with those windows firmly shut.

From our roof top