Archive for the ‘Humour’ Category

Moving to Italy: One Year In

Ok, after month number 8 of blogging every month, things were thrown up in the air for a bit with a few trips to the UK (one for work, one for fun) and a trip to Luxembourg (fun). Then another trip to the UK for an important person’s birthday. Then another trip to the UK for Yestival, the big annual festival of The YesTribe. So it’s all been a bit hectic in an utterly lovely way. But it does mean that I haven’t done an update in ages.



So Friday 2nd November was my one year anniversary in Italy. One year ago on Friday, I said yes to a completely new and unknown adventure – moving alone to a country I had wanted to live in but where I had to start entirely from the beginning. I left behind the people and life I had known in London (which was awesome, by the way) and went to somewhere where I had no guarantees about anything. I didn’t have a job, a bank account, a friendship group, anything. But bit by bit, things came together. I found a job I love after only ten days. The road to a bank account was slower and still not really resolved, but it’s workable now…ish. As for a friendship group, I spent the first two months wondering why anyone would want to be friends with a girl who can hardly say anything (I was having my struggles with the language at the time). In time (one month after my conclusion that I would never have any friends here), I started an Italian branch of The YesTribe, which went from strength to strength, especially when the summer kicked off and we spend long days climbing in the mountains around Liguria or stand-up paddleboarding in the sea or riding our bikes along the coast roads or walking on one of the many trails in this area or camping under the stars.


It has all been far more than I could have expected before I moved here. I would never have imagined it could all go so well. And perhaps because I had been through the process of upheaving my life and it had been successful, I decided to do it again.

Three days ago, on November 1st, I moved into a new apartment in a little village in the mountains above Genova. It started as a tiny seed of an idea and as everything fell into place, I followed my gut and took the leap. This leap has been interesting in many ways. No-one here speaks English, not really. The chef at the restaurant managed to tell me what his favourite music is in English, but really there is only Italian spoken here. I am the only native English speaker for miles around. And I love it. I’m now good enough with my Italian that I was able to look around the apartment and agree on the terms of the contract in Italian. I am good enough to have arrived at the restaurant, asking to eat dinner, and been put on a table with three locals as there was no other space for me, and to have spent the whole evening chewing the fat with relative strangers who had become my friends by the end of the evening.

I am not, however, good enough at Italian to have electricity or lighting at my new place! Thankfully, not a lot relies on it, as I have a gas cylinder for cooking and a wood burner for heat. And thankfully, I love pretending I’m in history so pottering around carrying candles is not a problem for me. I actually kind of love it.


And people are kind in the mountains. Goodness me, are they kind! The three people I sat with yesterday evening all knew about my lack of electricity. In fact, the whole village seems to know about it. Given that this village consists of 1 butcher, 1 cafe/bar, 1 restaurant, 1 newsagent, 1 mini-market and 1 focacceria (and a post office open on Monday and Friday mornings only), the news about the newcomer in town has spread like wildfire, made more interesting by the fact she wanders around her apartment by candlelight! One man at dinner yesterday lives opposite me and so got an extension lead and brought electricity to me through my front door so I could heat the water for a warm shower! Another local lady got together with some others and made me a little care package containing food they had made, some tomatoes, a warm fluffy blanket for the cold nights, a really nice waterproof coat that will be perfect for cycling, crockery for my kitchen as I don’t have much, teatowels, oven gloves and a tablecloth. All the things I needed to get set up here. Can I reiterate that I have been in this village for three days?!


                            My view 

Another awesome thing that happened is that on Friday evening, I had been down to Genova (I cycled, which is so easy, as it’s entirely downhill!) but came back by bus as it was raining in the evening. The next morning, I realised I didn’t have my purse. Hoping against hope, I cycled to a village called Torriglia, which is the last stop for the bus I took. I asked the men standing there if they knew whether a purse had been handed in. There was nothing. They discussed who might have been the driver for that bus, called everyone they could think of, said they thought it had been found, then said it hadn’t, then advised I go to the police and report it stolen. I was dejectedly cycling away, wondering what on earth I would be able to do without it. It had had everything in it. Everything. Without my bank cards, I wouldn’t even be able to get any cash to see me over while I waited for new ones to arrive. Nothing.

Then I got a phone call. The driver of that bus had found it! He wasn’t working but he would drive to Torriglia to bring it to me! O, the relief! I ran to get some thank-you-chocolates and left them with the guys who had spent so long calling around trying to find the purse, and cycled back to my village. Thank goodness for good people, hey? Thank goodness for good people.

Aside from the people, my heart is happy in the mountains. It was also very happy next to the sea, don’t get me wrong. But there is something lovely about the endless rolling green hills that puts a smile on my face and makes me want to go and get my shoes and hands dirty trying to climb over the next peak, and the next, and the next…


A good friend once said to me, in wonderment, “Every time you leap, you manage to land ok.”

And I replied, “It’s because I’m not afraid to leap, that the landing goes well.”

And it is true. By not having overly strong emotional attachments to particular places, I am able to focus on exciting things in the future, without dwelling on the wonderful places that are no longer my home. My home has been many different places and I have mostly always been ok. Therefore, I have an understanding that, for me, my emotional wellbeing is not reliant on places. Yes, being in places I love makes me feel fantastic and contributes hugely to my enjoyment of life. But they are not the foundation of it. Moving up to this village was done on a whim, essentially, an idea I had only a couple of weeks ago. I did it because I wanted to. Nothing else. Although I absolutely love the apartment that I have lived in for the past year, I knew that I could leave it and find a new place to love. And once I had unpacked here in the mountains and put up some pictures of my nephew, I knew I was home.

Here’s to the next adventure!


Moving To Italy: Eight Months In

This month has been very exciting. With the weather warming up more and more, I spend all my weekends outside – cycling, running, walking, swimming in the sea, climbing in the mountains, campouts under the stars. It is beyond lovely to have the Italian Riviera on my doorstep. I had no idea Liguria was so beautiful before arriving. Everyone knows about the gently rolling hills of Toscana and the sunkissed beaches of Sardegna but Liguria doesn’t get much airtime so, before arriving, I hadn’t realised quite how stunning it was going to be.

Here are a few pictures of recent activities –


The sunrise after a YesTribe Italia campout


YesTribe bike ride by the sea


Climbing in the Ligurian mountains


Liguria 🙂


On a run near my home. Just a casual relaxed pose, you know….

Another thing that has happened in the last month is that I’ve become more acutely aware of the manner in which I (and perhaps everyone) learns language and how much more holistic it is than I originally realised. When speaking a language that uses different muscles in your mouth, you find that your face also moves in a different way, to accommodate for this.

For example, the ‘r’ sound in Italian doesn’t exist in English. We say the letter ‘r’ using our lips, like when we say ‘red’. We push our lips forward and our tongue plays practically no part. This forward movement of the lips is not used in the Italian language so when I teach students how to do it, they look at me like I’m a bit crazy, while I tell them to pout at me! The rolled ‘r’ in Italian requires you to pull the sides of your mouth backward to create an open space for the sound to escape, as the Italian ‘r’ is made at the back of your mouth, with your tongue.

Using the example of the word ‘finestra’ (window), the fact of the rolled ‘r’ using the tongue means we also have to use the tongue to make the ‘t’ sound. Try saying an English ‘t’ then an Italian ‘r’ straight after it. It’s pretty difficult without adding a pause between the two sounds. So you also use the tongue to make the ‘t’ sound in Italian, then pull the mouth back and open to say the ‘r’. Which is all to say that your face and mouth are making shapes that are different to the ones we make in the English language.

While learning a new language, then, you are also learning new facial expressions. To add emphasis to the word ‘finestra’, for example, I would pull the sides of my mouth back even further, to make the ‘r’ bigger, exaggerating the way in which my mouth formulates the word, thus giving my face a different appearance to the one it would have if I were emphasising a word in English.

It was only last week that I realised that when I express surprise or shock, I raise my eyebrows, as one would expect, but the bottom half of my face does different things now. I often find myself pulling the sides of my mouth down and holding my hands up near my shoulders, palms forward, as though being arrested in a kind of ‘what am I to do’ type of gesture, that I had never used before living here. It’s interesting to see how exercising different muscles in my mouth have a knock-on effect on my facial expressions and what follows is an entirely new, learned body language.

I spontaneously used the praying gesture the other day to express exasperation. I’m sure you’ve all seen it in films etc, where your fingertips touch (but not palms) and you hold your hands near your chest and sort of rock them forward a few times, while your face is doing a ‘come on, really?!’ expression. I didn’t realise it was going to happen until I did it and I realised that, after seeing it a thousand times since arriving, I was bound to use it at some point, in order to make sure that my feeling was being understood by the person I was talking to. To use English gestures and facial expressions to someone unused to them is potentially going to be lost so, given that my linguistic skills aren’t perfect yet, I was bound to start adopting the gestures, to help me when my language skills fail me.

I am finding this process intriguing, as it helps me to understand how much more there is to learning a language, especially if you are also living inside that language every day.

As a side note, I forget English words with such regularity that it is becoming worrying. I have always prided myself on having a good command of the English language. I love words and I love what I can do with them, but I simply cannot find them in my brain sometimes. On Friday, I went on a campout with The YesTribe Italia and when the nighttime began to arrive, we saw lots of little tiny lights moving around.

“What are those called?” one of the guys asked me, as the only native English speaker in the group.

“Erm… um… I… erm…. ok, give me a minute. Erm. Light…. erm…. light….. lightbugs?”

Silence fell. I racked my brains.

“Fireflies,” said the Brazilian.

“Yes! Thanks! Yes. Fireflies. They’re fireflies. Not lightbugs. Thanks.”

Sometimes there are also situations in which Italians use a word or an expression that doesn’t have a translation in English, or the translation is clumsy. In those situations, the Italian word comes to my head instinctively, then later my thoughts switch back to English. It’s rather pleasing but also makes me slightly worry for my grasp on English. Being able to articulate myself effectively in Italian is still going to take a while so if I lose my grip on English in the meantime, I fear that I’ll go around speaking like a child, having command over neither language, simply resorting to gestures and facial expressions!

Moving To Italy: Seven Months In

Getting past the six month mark feels significant, somehow. Like I’m on the home straight to the even bigger landmark of a year. That I have survived thus far without any major mishaps is a good feeling. I was on the verge of a major mishap last week, however, while trying to put money into my account. The story goes something like this.

Day 1 – I take money to the bank to put into my newly-opened account. The lady there says that it is a bank which operates almost entirely online so doesn’t take money. But not to worry. I can deposit money into my account via a different bank, downstairs. I go downstairs. The lady there says I need to use the machine to do it. I go to the machine. The machine says no. The lady says yes. The machine says no again. The machine wins. I leave. (1.5 hours of waiting in queues.)

Day 2 – I try a different branch. ‘Yes, you can deposit money here,’ they say. ‘Do you have your passport and tax code? No? Bring it with you and we can put the money in for you.’ (20 mins of waiting in queues.)

Day 3 – Back to original branch with tax code and passport. I go to the desk. Lady says to use machine. I say machine won’t let me. She comes to do it with me. Machine says no again. Machine wins. Lady says she can’t do it. I go upstairs to the actual bank that I have the account with. ‘Can’t put money in,’ I say. ‘Is it your first time using the card?’ ‘Yes. It’s a new account.’ ‘For your first transaction, you need to withdraw money. You can’t deposit money for your first transaction.’ ‘Wait, what? How can I withdraw money, if there is nothing there to withdraw?’ ‘You need to go to the desk to put the money in.’ Back downstairs. Back to the desk. I tell the lady. She takes my passport and tax code and starts putting info into computer. 20 minutes later (no exaggeration), computer says no. Computer wins. I go upstairs to explain. ‘Yep, you just need the iban number,’ she says. ‘Ah, ok, thanks.’ I go back down with my iban number. Go to the desk, present my iban number. She is furious. ‘You can’t put money in, we already tried.’ ‘But I have my iban number now, I didn’t have it before.’ ‘Where do I put this number in? I can only use your account number, not this iban number. There is nowhere to put it.’ I go back upstairs. ‘There is nowhere to put the iban number,’ I tell her. ‘You put it in where it asks for the account number,’ she replies. I end the madness by going home, confused, frustrated and feeling hopeless. What is the point of a bank account if I can’t put money into it? (2.5 hours.)

To conclude the story, I called the helpline and they confirmed that no, with this account, it is not possible to deposit actual money into my actual account, only to transfer money from another bank account into mine.


In other news, however, I can now read books in Italian! Since I arrived in Italy, I’ve been going, with alarming regularity (multiple visits per day sometimes) to a huge bookshop in the centre. I try in vain to read the books that look interesting. I flip through the pages, sadly excluded from the magic worlds inside because of my linguistic constraints. On Monday, however, I didn’t realise that I had wandered into the teenage section and I picked up a book at random and the most amazing thing happened. I was able to read it and to understand it! 95% of what I read made sense to me! What a revelation! So I started reading and one hour later I was still standing there, transfixed, not only by the wonder of being able to read in a second language but also by the story itself. I was able to read fast enough for the action to move at a pace which was actually exciting. I was on the verge of being late to meet someone for coffee so I bought it and raced off, my nose stuck inside the book the whole way.


At my next Italian lesson, I excitedly presented the book and told my teacher, “Posso leggere in Italiano adesso!” (I can read in Italian now) and that evening, I tried a little experiment. Instead of translating into English rapidly in my head while I read, I tried not translating at all. I just read and I left the words un-Englished in my brain and tried to see how it felt. And it felt fine. I still knew what was happening. It seems I am beginning the slow process away from constant translation and toward operating only in the second language when necessary.


Everything else is going well too. I went to the opera at the main theatre in town to see Lucia di Lammermoor. It was fabulous but slightly gutting that, just one day later, Andrea Bocelli was playing the male lead (how can one marry one’s potential husband if we’ve never even seen each other in the flesh?!). The weather is heating up which makes me feel a bit like my flesh might burn away from my bones and drop onto the ground in blobs while I walk (apparently July and August get even hotter). I still have a focaccia addiction that would rival any cocaine habit. And I am still receiving regular visitors from the UK, which means I get to constantly show off and boast about my adopted home, which is still completely fabulous.

Moving To Italy: Six Months In

Here I am. It’s been half a year. It’s been a very good half a year, might I add. I have been to places I could never have imagined, seen and done things I had no idea about before and learned a lot about myself and about this country. I’ve learned that it is possible to point to a place on a map then decide to go and create a life there – and for it to be an enjoyable process.

From the outside, the decision to come here made no sense. I wasn’t even sure it made sense to me. Everyone I loved was in the UK, the life I had lived for 11 years in London had brought me a lot of joy, being a Londoner made up a significant part of my personality. What made sense, from the outside, was to keep doing the thing that brought me joy – running in London’s parks, having dinner with friends, cycling to work, being lucky enough to have lovely colleagues, working in fabulously interesting historic buildings, exercising at the crack of dawn with my favourite people. It was all fantastic.

But an itch was lingering below the surface and a feeling kept growing, a now-or-never feeling. After a few years of mulling over this idea, I decided to take the plunge and here I am. As soon as I arrived, I had this sense of calm. I was immediately able to call this new place ‘home’. I exhaled deeply. My schedule was alarmingly, yet pleasingly, clear. I had no friends yet so evenings were spent taking a huge step back and winding down from the frenetic pace of London life. It’s something you don’t even realise is happening, until you step off the treadmill and just sit for a minute. It’s really rather nice.


As I began to put together the building blocks of life here – job, friends, weekend activities, etc – I realised that a little of London will always persist in me. Despite enjoying the slower pace of life here, I created The YesTribe Italia, which fills up at least one full day a week, sometimes more. Sometimes I find myself hurrying from one place to another and think, with satisfaction, that actually, I quite like to be busy. So long as it’s balanced with enough free time to wind down. Thankfully, I seem to have that mix here.

April was a nice month as the weather really perked up so the Sunday walks with The YesTribe lot have been beautiful. On my birthday, we went for a lovely long (and quite challenging) walk along the coast from Camogli to Portofino. It was a haze of blues, aquamarines and greens.


The next walk was up to a little church in the mountains where there is a Sagra Dei Pansoti, when they make a load of pansoti (like ravioli) and a creamy walnut sauce that you can go and buy then sit outside eating with an unbelievable view of the mountains below and the coastline. So we trekked up into the mountains for about an hour and a half on the promise of pasta, which was was steep and sweaty but totally worth it! Especially when accompanied by red wine and finished off with chocolate.

This month I have also been better at getting out on the bike I brought out here (thanks, Ged, for lending it to me, and to Rod, for getting it down to London!). I have been cycling down to the sea to get used to it and, with more confidence, cycling around town a bit more. Earlier this week, we had a little Yestribe cycle out to a lovely part of town called Nervi and ate pizza. It was a good trip, mainly because of the pizza, if I’m being honest.

My Italian is now improving quicker than before, since I started getting lessons with a teacher. She’s genuinely fabulous and has unlocked two new tenses (the future and the imperfect) so I am now able to tell people what I am doing tomorrow/next month and what I did for a period of time in the past eg ‘while I was eating dinner…’ Prior to this I could only say ‘I ate dinner’ and couldn’t talk about the future at all. Small victories and all that.


I’ve also been super lucky with nice visitors from the UK, a surprise one being the wonderful Adam, from Project Awesome in London. He left the UK on a bike two years ago and has been on the move since then, cycling around the world at a beautifully chilled out pace. His decisions about where to go next are entirely based on what he feels he wants to do. He doesn’t steam ahead to the next country because he’s on a mission to cycle around the world and will do it at any cost. If he likes a place, he stays. When he feels ready, he moves on. I love it. His surprise visit for a few days was a breath of fresh air and reminded me of what life on the road is like. It made me nostalgic for long-distance human-powered travel. There’s a route in Italy called the Assisi trail, which I’ve got my eye on. I have no idea when I might do it but it’s only a month in total, probably so I might be able to squeeze it in somewhere.

Anyway, here’s to more time spent outside – more cycling, more running, more long walks, more Italy.


Moving To Italy: Five Months In

Month Five has been The Month of People! I’ve had visitors almost back to back for the whole of March and it has been thoroughly lovely showing my friends from England my new home here in Genova. It gives me a sense of pride to introduce people to a life I created entirely for myself.

I arrived without any real idea of what would happen and now I wake up every day with a job to go to (that I really enjoy, might I add), the knowledge of where to buy the best focaccia/gelato/pesto, friends to meet for lunch or dinner, a favourite part of town where I like to go and sit by the sea whenever I get the opportunity, an Italian teacher to help me navigate through everyday life, enough money to survive… All the things that a life consists of, built up from nothing.

If you do nothing else in life, build something up from nothing and see how it makes you feel about yourself (ps. I’ll give you a clue – it makes you feel amazing).

So the activities my guests and I have indulged in have been along the following lines;

  • Rediscovering hot chocolate. An old friend from university, Sophie, is entirely to blame for this. I always have the kettle on, making cups of tea but Sophie doesn’t really drink hot drinks. When I kept suggesting we pop in somewhere for a coffee, she would get a hot chocolate every time and was going on about how awesome they are so one time, intrigued, I also got one and o my! It has started me on a slippery slope that I can’t see ending any time soon.
  • Long walks and lunching for hours. Last Sunday, a group of us went to an area of town I’ve never visited and pretty much just walked sharply uphill for a couple of hours until we reached a church at the top, alongside a small museum about caving (!) and a restaurant which did good food and even better wine.IMG_20180325_130505.jpg
  • Discovering underground cellars under drinking establishments. A few weeks ago, after the usual fortnightly YesTribe Italia aperitivo, we wandered into the vicoli (pedestrianised area by the port) and ended up in a bar where there promised to be a music performance a bit later. It was a bit confusing to work out whether this actually happened but in the meantime, we were shown around an area underneath the bar which was quite eerie – a few empty rooms which seemed to have been built in Roman times, maybe to house the wine supply.
  • Getting focaccia straight from the oven. Now, I’ve had my fair share of focaccia since arriving, trust me. But straight from the oven? That was new… and utterly mindblowing! The texture was amazing. A lovely crunch on the top and so soft and perfect underneath with just the right level of saltiness and oilyness. Words just can’t describe what this discovery has done to my life. I’m thinking of spending my weekends just hanging around outside focaccerias until I see a fresh batch emerge from the oven then rushing in to purchase the entire lot.
  • Walks in adverse conditions. The first eventful walk of the month was in snow up in the mountains behind Genova. That ended up with a group of us (plus a dog) practically throwing ourselves down the side of a snow covered mountain to get to a train station to get home. The second was a super rainy day on the coast, navigating headwinds to round steep cliffy sections which really weren’t so safe. In both situations, we beat a hasty retreat and returned home, mission unaccomplished but friendships formed and stories ready to be told. As a Brit, I don’t mind going out in all weathers but those two walks really tested my resolve to the extreme!IMG-20180304-WA0008.jpg
  • Discovering new villages. Last week, I jumped on a bus to go and see a friend and spent an hour watching out the window as we wound further up into the mountains to a place called Torriglia. It was so nice to see somewhere new and go for a little walk and see an old castle and sample the canestrelli biscuits which are a speciality of the area.IMG-20180327-WA0002.jpeg

The weather got a bit wacky, with rain, a smattering of snow and very cold conditions (nothing as intense as The Beast From The East though) but it seems to have settled now so I can concentrate on all the cliche things that one associates with life on the Italian Riviera = icecream eating, running in the sun, eating lunch next to the sea, drinking aperitivo on a balcony with a view, exploring old ruins in the mountains. Bring it all on!



Moving To Italy: Month Four

Spoiler alert! Month Four has been amazing.

After organising a few walks that people joined me on, there seemed to be a recurring theme of people craving community, especially people who have moved here from other places. That got me thinking about the communities I had enjoyed being part of in the UK – Project Awesome (an early morning free fitness workout group) and The YesTribe (getting people outdoors for walks, campouts and general adventures). Given that I had already organised a few things that seemed to fit The YesTribe vibe, I had a chat with Dave Cornthwaite, founder of The YesTribe, and asked if he thought there was any scope for a YesTribe in Italy. He was wonderfully supportive and encouraging, as he always is, so I had the go-ahead. I just needed a plan of action. So instead I went skiing in an amazing ski suit from the 80s.


Once I returned, however, I was ready for action. After another walk and another chat about what the YesTribe might offer that doesn’t already exist here, I took the plunge and made a Facebook page, cause everyone knows it’s serious when you got a Facebook page, right?!

I set up a few more walking events (we have our third tomorrow) and a first social evening, in which a lovely bunch of people who had been on one of the walks came along and we spent the evening discussing the beauty of Slovenia and teaching me Italian slang and swear words, both of which make for a lot of fun, especially when you add prosecco into the mix.

So The YesTribe Italia now exists and setting it up has been a lot of fun. I can’t wait to see what direction it will take.

In other news, my Italian is improving enough for me to follow most conversations in a general way, if not always specifics. And I can read most things now too, which is very exciting, and am becoming confident enough with writing to send text messages without double checking everything first. I am getting an Italian teacher imminently, I hope, to speed up this process.

That’s it for me this month. Work is good – I’m lucky enough to love what I do and the teaching is starting to come more naturally as time goes on. This city very much feels like home too. The streets and bus routes and focaccerias are familiar to me. The museums still amaze me every Wednesday when I go to a new one.

This month, I have four visitors from the UK so it will be action-packed until my next check in! Bye for now, ciao ciao!

“How do you feel about being an ex-pat?”

“How do you feel about being an ex-pat?” the man across the table asked me.

“I… Um… I… What? A what? I have no idea. I just… I just, sort of, live here. I don’t know.”

Even now, this question throws me into a fluster. It just feels like such an alien concept to call myself that. I know, of course, that factually, I am an ex-pat. But the connotations feel all wrong. It has overtones of otherness about it, of ousider-ness. It reminds me of those people who move to another country and who make damn well sure that people don’t mistake them for a local. They like their separateness. They seek out others who are living away from their native country. They look for and cook food that reminds them of home. They still think of the country they grew up in as home.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this way of doing things. It’s only that it bears no resemblance to how I live, and engage with, Italy. Hence, this label, ex-pat, feels weird to me. I don’t feel like an ex-pat or a local or an anything. I’m just here, being me. And eating a lot of focaccia.

I’ve wanted to live in Italy for many years. Now that I’m finally doing it, I don’t want to spend my entire time being as English as possible. The Genovesi eat focaccia? Well then, I shall eat focaccia. The Genovesi go skiing at the weekend? Well then, I shall go skiing at the weekend. Admittedly, these are rather fun things and don’t take a lot of effort to decide to do.


There are other things, however, which are rather less fun but which also make up my experience of living in Italy. One is receiving letters. My dad sent me a letter over a month ago, even paid to send it airmail, and it has never arrived. How beneficial is moaning about it? Not at all. It’s Italy. I knew before arriving that things wouldn’t work perfectly. Just like they don’t work perfectly in England. But in my mind, that is exactly what I expect an “ex-pat” would moan about. And they’d let you know how things operate “back home”.

Even putting the label on oneself shows a desire to stand apart from the locals. Now, it might just be me but I love pottering about among the crowds and going unnoticed, blending in. I love knowing the roads and being able to walk around without needing a map. I love it when out-of-towners ask me for directions and I know straight away how to help them. I love imagining the day when my Italian is good enough to read the many books I see by Genovesi authors in my favourite bookshop. I love how well the Italians do museums (trust me, they’re amazing) and I love learning something new every week when I visit a different one. I love saying hi to the Moroccan guy who sells tissues in the underpass every day and having the mixed English and Italian conversations in which we slowly learn a little more about each other every day. I love that when I walk into my favourite focacceria, the woman starts cutting me the focaccia I want, before I’ve even opened my mouth. I love the variety I find here, both in the environment (the sea and the mountains are practically on my doorstep) and in the people (my friends here are Italian, German, Colombian, Ukrainian, Kiwi…). I love how the cost and style of living here affords me a work-life balance I could only dream of in England.


I also still love Italy, even when it’s taking forever to set up a bank account. I love Italy even when my right calf is tight like a balled up fist and hard as concrete due to the hills everywhere. I love Italy even when the wind blows and turns my nose to ice. I love Italy even though living here separates me from those I love most.

There is an advert that I see everywhere here that says “Genova fa parte di te,” which translates roughly as “Genova is part of you.” And, if I may be so bold as to agree, I’d say that that’s true. Genova is home now. And it is part of me.

Moving To Italy: Three Months In

Here I am, sitting on a bus, heading to the mountains, for a weekend of skiing with friends. And I’m super excited.

But I’m also excited about life, in general. Life in Italy is good. It may sound like a rather obvious statement from a girl who’s lucky enough to have both mountains and sea on her doorstep and be living out her dreams,  but favourable external circumstances do not always indicate inner happiness, as I found out when I first arrived and everything sort of overwhelmed me. I was intimidated by how much I didn’t yet know but wanted  to know and didn’t have the patience to recognise that it would all take a while.


Thankfully, however, my brain seems to have pulled itself together and things are flowing much easier (talking of flow, I am reading a book right now, which is called Flow, about the science behind how and why we are able to find happiness, I can’t recommend it enough!). The language struggles I had before Christmas are not bothering me so much anymore. I’m not fluent by any stretch of the imagination but I’m less stressed about it now. I study every day, I talk to people, I ask questions – all without the frantically nervous edge of desperation that tinged everything before, thankfully.


Sometimes I tell myself I have successfully passed for a local eg by giving directions correctly or completing a transaction in the focacceria without having to ask for something to be repeated. I had one of these occasions yesterday while waiting at a bus stop. A lady approached and asked if I knew whether the number 44 bus stopped here. The young man next to me said he wasn’t sure but I, in an impressive display of local knowledge said that the 39 and 40 stopped here but I didn’t think the 44 stopped here. She thanked me and walked away.

“My goodness, Laura,” I thought to myself, “you handled that like a pro! Your Italian was on point, your local knowledge was expert. Maybe, just maybe, you’ve got this living-in-Italy thing nailed.”

What’s that saying? About how pride comes before a fall?

It must have been ten minutes later, when the number 16 bus arrived, that I realised my mistake. The numbers 39 and 40 serve the other side of town. The stop that I was at was for the numbers 16 and 17….. O well. Such is life.


Another exciting thing happened this month. I decided it was time to have some friends! After a chance encounter in the mountains a few weeks ago, I went to an event organised by an online community called InterNations. It was a meet up at a bar near my flat so I pottered along, said hi to a few people then, sure enough, the guys I had met in the mountains were there.

This turned into a whole evening of blabbing, exchanging phone numbers and promises to meet again. This then led to sharing my Sunday walk in the mountains with new friends, which led to a gig on Wednesday evening with said friends, which has led to a lot of loveliness and the reminder that life is better when there’s people in it. Because I enjoy my own company and would happily spend days running and walking alone when I was on my run in 2016, I sometimes forget how freaking much I like people. This month has been an excellent reminder of how much better a person I am when my life is full of other people. This reminder has since become the early rumblings of The YesTribe Italia! Watch this space – we’ll hopefully be up and running by the time I write my next update!

To conclude, Italy is everything I hoped it would be and right now, I couldn’t be more happy with my decision to move here.


How Andrea Bocelli Helped Me Fall Back In Love

I don’t know if any of you picked up the vibe in some of my posts, but I wasn’t progressing very well with my Italian. Not through lack of effort, not through lack of knowledge but due to fear and nerves. People would speak to me, the words would float into and around my face but the forcefield of nerves surrounding it wouldn’t let anything penetrate. I heard words I knew in rapid succession – “stata, subito, sotto, fu, neanche, comunque, finche, cinquanta…” – and I wouldn’t, for the life of me, be able to piece together any meaning from what I was hearing nor translate the words quickly enough to then formulate responses. Beyond anyone’s wildest imaginings, I had been struck dumb. I found I was just watching people’s faces silently, hoping I could get away soon. I had turned into a right scaredy cat, often just burrowing down at home, madly trying to study and thinking that more knowledge was the key to success.

I liked the Italian language, I had moved to Italy to improve it so of course I knew I liked it. But I wanted to do so well that my frustrations at not being completely fluent yet had rendered me speechless and annoyed. I wasn’t allowing for the inbetween period, where you have to spend a fair amount of time trying, getting things wrong and learning.

Then, a few days before Christmas, I stumbled across a song called Perfect, by Ed Sheeran and Andrea Bocelli. Now I’m a bit of an Ed fan and hadn’t really paid attention to what was playing so I was singing along because I know the version with just Ed, when this beautiful, authoritative voice burst onto the scene, declaring that I was his woman.

“Sei la mia donna!”

If you haven’t already, go and listen to the song and brace yourself for the point, mid-song, when everything changes to Italian and Andrea Bocelli sings this first line. It is stirring. It makes me want to stand up and sing on a stage.

On he goes, “La forza delle onde del mare” – the strength of the waves of the sea.

“Cogli i miei sogni, i miei segreti, molto di piu” – take my dreams, my secrets and more.

I was in my room, getting ready to go somewhere and I just sat on the bed and let these beautiful words float over me. One of my favourite words in the Italian language was discovered in this moment – “sussurando” – which means, whispering. All plans went out of the window as I googled the lyrics and played the song over and over again, trying to learn the words. For the next 24 hours, I listened to it whenever I could. In the shower, in the morning, while walking somewhere, before bed and by the time two days had passed, I knew all the words, was obsessed with the song, was in love with Andrea Bocelli and was learning new Italian words.

I realised that this is how it had felt when I first holidayed in Italy and overheard Italians speaking. I loved the obsessive use of vowels, how 99% of words end in an ‘o’ or an ‘a’ or an ‘i’, I loved the musicality of the language, how it rose and fell, how some words were clipped, creating a sort of mid-word pause with the double letters, as in, ‘capello’ and some were no-nonsense and commanding, as in ‘cio’. I love the immediacy of the language, how two of the most common ways to greet another person are with ‘pronto’ on the phone, which literally means ‘ready’, and with ‘dimmi’ in a shop, which means ‘tell me’. I love how the ‘ci’ sound is like an English ‘ch’ and how it gives such character to a word when it makes an appearance – in ‘cucina’ (kitchen), for example, or ‘decidere’ (to decide). I love learning how to roll an ‘r’, such an alien concept for an English speaker and a bit of a tongue twister when faced with two, as in ‘correre’ (to run). I love how the ‘g’ sometimes takes centre stage, as in Caravaggio, but sometimes hides away, distorting other letters near it. When a ‘g’ comes before an ‘n’ or an ‘l’ it is silent, but it is not actually silent. It gives the other letter a sort of ‘y’ sound to it that I am yet to master. I’m always wandering around the house muttering the words ‘gli’ and ‘li’ to myself and trying to make them sound different.

I loved all of those things when I first listened dreamily to Italian speakers and I held onto it until I got here in November. Six weeks after arriving, however, after finally living out my dream, I was silent. I wasn’t speaking, I wasn’t practising, I was annoyed at myself.

Then Andrea Bocelli played and I remembered those things. I remembered how even the simplest ordinary word can have an inherent beauty to it (‘cetriolo’ is one of my favourite words to say and simply means, cucumber). I remembered how certain ideas expressed in Italian lose their magic when translated – ‘inside our music’ is a woefully inadequate way to communicate the loveliness of ‘dentro la nostra musica’.

In essence, I remembered why I had moved to Italy. Thanks, Andrea.

Moving To Italy: Two Months In

There’s been a bit of everything in the last month – some ups, a down, lots of uphills, one fall downhill and a lot in between.


My little Monday and Thursday routine of walking along this pathway on my way to a little pebbly beach called Boccadasse is now well established. I work about an hour’s walk out from the centre, so on my way back, instead of going directly to the centre, I walk down to the waterfront, down little alleys and side streets, always hugging the water’s edge as closely as possible, until I arrive at Boccadasse, where I sit down with a good book and my lunch and just enjoy the moment and consider how lucky I am to live next to the sea. If I’m feeling flash, I’ll also get some gelato from the ice cream shop next to the beach to start my walk home with. My current favourite flavours are panna cotta and marron glacé.

I then potter along the Corso Italia, a lovely spacious path alongside the water, back into town.


My weekends usually look like this – on Saturday I go to one of the museums in town where I can use my annual pass and on Sunday I walk either up into the mountains or down to the sea.

I’ll say this much, if there’s one thing Italians do well, it’s a museum! They know what they’re doing, trust me. I always want the museums and galleries to be packed because there’s so much great stuff there, I want more people to be seeing it. But at the same time, one of the things I enjoy is the utter peace and tranquility I often find in these places, only disturbed every so often by a few others. My latest great find in Genova is the Galata Museo, the museum of the sea. It was seriously fascinating. On two of the floors, they have built full size ships which are representative of the period in history that that floor deals with. It is fantastic. I was able to go on board both boats and have a really good poke around. On one of them, a guy on a recording was “talking” to me and, although I knew it was for kids and he couldn’t see me, I still felt sort of like I should answer him and so did! I was in the museum for over three hours and only got around half of it! I then rushed the end as they were closing but really should visit soon to do the last half properly.

Two big things have featured in my life in Italy in the last month. The first is my ability to wind myself into a frenzy by my frustrations about not being fluent immediately upon arrival. I recognise that I haven’t been there long and I should go easy on myself but it’s easier said than done. Sometimes I’m fairly at ease when talking to someone and then my words will just eat each other up and I end saying something jibberish then fleeing in horror. Let me explain.

I went for a run down to the sea the other day. I was on my way back after about an hour. I was running up the final set of steps before arriving home. An older couple were walking down the stairs past me.

“Complimenti!” they said, applauding my audacity in running the stairs.

“Sono stanca! Ma ho finito adesso. Il mio appartamento è qui!” – I’m tired but I’ve finished now. My apartment is here – as I indicted just up the road to where I live. Now, I know that’s probably a bit off, I will have conjugated the verb ‘finire’ incorrectly, I’m sure. But my basic meaning was communicated to them.

They said I must be very strong and fast to run in Genova. I guffawed at the “fast” and assured them that no, “non sono veloce,” I am not fast. It was all going swimmingly.

Then as they started to move off, I wanted to say ‘have a good day’ – buona giornata – but realised it was late afternoon so ‘have a good evening’ – buona serata – would be more appropriate but at this moment they were just wishing me good luck – buona fortuna – for the rest of my run. So the thoughts and words got jumbled up and I opened my mouth and came out with “buona ferata” which means….. nothing. It means nothing. A ferata is not a thing. Certainly not a “good” ferata. Silence fell momentarily. Our eyes caught. We immediately looked away, saving the embarrassment for everyone, and I fled up the stairs at a speed I would never have thought possible. “Buona ferata,” I spent the next few hours muttering confusedly to myself. “It doesn’t even bloody mean anything.”

At the moment, language-wise, there is still a disconnect between my brain and my mouth when conversing with Italians. They speak Italian to me. My brain madly sorts through possible replies, limpingly says something which is inevitably wrong then backs out fearfully and leaves my mouth, abandoned and empty of content, fear in my eyes as the silence falls and I know, somewhere, that I have the words I need, they just refuse to enter my mouth. As I depart from the conversation, I will be able to conjure up exactly what I should have said in reply, just not at the time when I needed it.

A couple of weeks ago, I had a bit of a meltdown, along the lines of “how can I ever survive here if I can’t even make my brain tell my mouth what to say in real basic conversations?!”


The day after this meltdown, in which I had convinced myself that I was cursed to a life of silent nodding so long as I stayed in Italy, I woke up and just didn’t feel that way anymore. I’ve never been that worried about meltdown days as I know they serve a purpose. Every meaningful positive change I’ve ever made in my life has consisted of a turning point, which was usually a meltdown day. So even while feeling down, I knew I had to go through that phase, to push me to change things. Since then, I’ve made a few language exchange links with other Italians and started doing Skype calls which are half conducted in English, to help them, and half in Italian, to help me. It is helping to build my confidence with speaking.

It’s still very early days and learning a language does things to you that are unexpected. For example, as a generally chatty confident person, to have that natural instinct whipped out from under your feet is strange. There are words flying all around your head, everyone is smiling, laughing, raising voices, disagreeing in a friendly way, discussing something interesting…. and you can do nothing. You can’t join in as you’re not completely confident what is even being discussed, even if you do know what everyone’s talking about, you can’t formulate answers in your head to contribute, you can’t do a witty joke because a) you can’t think of the words fast enough and b) even if you could, would the humour translate well? Thus, the completely alien situation of being a rather shy, quiet figure in a crowd, with the very real possibility of being considered boring. This was unexpected, this new facet of my being, the boring wordless version of me. Hopefully, when I write a month three update for you, I will no longer be boring.

The second thing has, thankfully, been more upbeat. I was finding that the downtime I first loved when initially leaving London, had started to stagnate a little. I wanted to move again. Sitting around for hours on end with nothing to show at the end of the day wore thin and I decided that the hills would no longer scare me and I would get back to running.

After a few brief excursions out, just little runs of twenty minutes, I have started in for some longer routes. Down to the sea and back takes about an hour, depending on my route. Up into the hills and around can be anything from thirty minutes to an hour. I am running every other day and discovering new places with each run so it is also nice for exploration of my new home. I did, however, recently, fall victim to the uneven surfaces that are all over Genova and about which I am constantly conscious.


Sure enough, they claimed me on my last run before returning to England for Christmas. I lost skin, dignity and part of my knuckle in the fall but I am recovering well and have barely told anyone about it nor expected sympathy or kept showing off my wounds. Honest.

Christmas and New Year in England have been lovely and very mince pie filled, given that mince pies aren’t sold in Italy so I’ve had to get my fill while here. It was awesome seeing my nephew, easily the best conversation being the following:

My sister-in-law: “What’s the largest planet?”

Nephew: “Jupiter.”

Sister-in-law: “And what’s the hottest?”

Nephew: “Mercury.”

Sister-in-law: “And what’s the smallest?”

Nephew: “Mars.”

Sister-in-law: “And what planet do we live on?”

Nephew *thinks for a moment*: “London.”

All in all, month two has been shakier than month one, less of an exhilarating high because I live in Italy now and more of a realisation that if I want to say more than ‘hello, how are you’, I’m going to need to really put in some hard work and effort.