Monday, September 24

Cultural Full Immersion

They often ask me if I ever missed home, felt homesick during the time I was abroad. Strangely enough, I doubt I ever did. Inevitably, there were times when I missed my origins, 'what it's good about the land of my nativity', our unique way of 'doing things', 'living life'; times of slight frustration over occasional lack of cross-cultural-communication abilities. Other than that, maybe due to both my flexibility and the British tolerance to coexisting realities, I have always comfortably felt like a cosmopolitan, a citizen of the world. My return to Italy it's a big surprise for everyone - me included. Nonetheless, it is a rather comfortable surprise, fluid, 'flat as a pancake'. Currently, it feels like when an exchange student goes abroad and experiences the culture and folklore of a different country. That's a very similar experience to my 'Italian Full Immersion', with the added value that this time it is not a holiday, it is lasting and it is mine. I like that. The always filled with busyness life of the Wee Italian Chick, has not chased to be so. As a result, the past few weeks have been oozing with Italian-ness.. Based on a 2003 novel by Antonio Pennacchi, Il Fasciocomunista, "Mio Fratello E' Figlio Unico" (literally "My Brother is an Only Child"), it's a fresh and refreshing product of contemporary Italian cinematography I had the pleasure of watching on Monday night. Directed by Daniele Luchetti, starring the now super-acclaimed, by both public and critics, Riccardo Scamarcio (the hottie off generational movies such as "Tre Metri Sopra il Cielo" and"Ho Voglia di Te"), tells the story of two brothers growing up in the immediate post WW2 and, in doing so, with incredible irony,acumen,lightheartedness, narrates the story of a changing country from a political, cultural and social point of view. Another movie I recently watched about a changing Italy it's leftwing genious director, Nanni Moretti, latest work: Il Caimano.Il Caimano is an open accusation of Berlusconi's politics, corruption and popularity.Nevertheless, in Moretti's words, 'Il Caimano ' is not only a political film. He stated that the film deals mainly with the cultural vices of Italian people, and also the story about the dissolution of a common family. Is this the sign of change?

Friday, September 21

The Fashionist

At uni, I got a heck of a lot of nicknames. One of the most ironic ones was "the Italian Stylen" - me, the only Italian who can't dress!? I am not much for fashion, though I seem to have a strong sense of what I like and what I most definitively don't like.
I remember laughing hysterically as I used to look through my mom and dad's old photos wearing big 'hear-dos' in the 80's, flared jeans in the 70's and so on. Me and my little sister would laugh and laugh and remark we would never ever wear flared jeans. Liers. By the mid 1990's we two were shopping obsessively for the most flared pair of jeans. By last year, we two were wearing those hideous buffooned fringes and leg-warmers. Not funny. That's why now I am a little weary to be too judgemental about the ever so comfortable as ever so ugly footwear of the year, the crocs. So I would like you to make up your own mind on the matter, maybe with a little help from our Canadian friends (see video below)

Sunday, September 9

Stereotypes (part I)

On one of my last flights from England to Northern Ireland, I came across an article in the Easyjet magazine about the stereotypical differences amongst European men and women. After all, it is a 35 minute flight and at 6 am I am rarely in the mood for profoundly intellectual thinking - so trashy magazines normally do the trick. The writer presented a blatantly over-simplistic description of moody-ever-super-slim Parisian women, never-failing-punctual German men and overly stylish Italian ladies wearing big sunglasses even after sunset. When it came to Italian men, they were described as impeccably stylish, perfectly groomed and possessing the irresistible charm of a thousand Casanovas. I inevitably giggled. I am often amused when people abroad have these mental images, stereotypes, fantasies, dare I say, about foreign citizens. In E.M. Forster's novel, "A Room With A View", the gentle ladies of England are warned against the brute, passionate nature of the Italian males. I just love that book. It is like the much cheekier, more raw, even kinkier version of Jane Austen! What causes me hilarity is that, from personal experience, I am not entirely sure on whether the Italian male is raw passionate, incurably romantic or merely arrogant and sleazy. Even though I have always known it to be in my nature to be an observer of people around me, how they behave and interact with each other, I have noticed this inclination has increased ever since I made a return to the Homeland. In Notting Hill, Anna Scott recites the lines "Rita Hayworth used to say: ' They go to bed with Gilda and wake up with me'." To which William replies: "Who is Gilda?" and Anna Scott says: "Her most famous part. Men went to bed with the dream; they didn't like it when they would wake up with the reality." I wonder if often it is the same with stereotypes. Many people dream, fantasize about others in the hope they will be better than what they have, often forgetting that it is what we are intrinsically that makes us unique, not or national identity...right?

***To Be Continued***

Stereotypes (part II)

***Continued from Part I***
In part one, we have explored how stereotypes may often be the result of over simplistic analysis and unrealistic fantasies, which are unlikely to be met in real life. In this new chapter, I would like to assess the nature of the Italian men and how they can be categorized. Specifically, we will analyse the Neapolitan men as they are my prime source of observation. Like Neapolitan ice-cream, they come in three flavours: Lo Scugnizzo, il Macho Latino and il Figlio di Papa'. The fist category is what we will call, for ease sake, the "Scugnizzo"literally rendered into English as "Street urchin"; traditionally this term acquires a completely different meaning, however, we shall utilize the word "scugnizzo" to describe a category of Neapolitan men characterized by the following qualities: scugnizzi are incurable 'grown up kids' who generally tend to despise higher education, people in authority and all that law and knowledge encompass. They make a cult of their outward appearance: all of their clothing items are carefully selected in the respect of the latest trends and their hairstyles modelled upon the newest fashion - paying no attention to whether a certain style will suit them or not, neither to if the cost of the item may cause them to go in debt or even steal. Their image is identifiable amongst many: gel hard hair, structured like an engineering master piece (ideally sleek flat side parting and spikes at the back); piercings (generally one diamond on the left year); over-powering after shave fragrance, big labels tops, trousers, shoes, coats. They drive brand new scooters (most likely stolen) and listen to neo-melodic Neapolitan music or techo/house - loud. Tendencies to chauvinism, violence, rudeness, sleaziness and illegality. Expressive and extroverted emotional outbreaks to be expected. However, it is to be highlighted that the "scugnizzi" can be tender lovers, respectful sons and responsible parents, able to live by "honour"...whatever it takes.
The second category is every foreign woman's dream, il Macho Latino, the super hot, perfect body, sexy talking bold, daring and reckless ultimate manly man. Il Macho Latino, like his scugnizzo cousin, places a great deal of attention to his outer persona. Every item of clothing is indeed chosen with maximum attention to detail, tailored like a fitted glove to accentuate and valorize every secret of manly charm. Labels and brands mean very little compared to how something is supposed to make him look. The Macho Latino's, like their Barbie sisters, do not give much importance to their "inner beauty" - they may read about philosophy, history and poetry but that's because, of course, history has proven that it always works to pull. Jewelry is worn like a winning prize, with pride and arrogance, the more the better. The gym becomes a real sanctuary of beauty and beauty parlor's their weekly confessions. The Macho Latinos are witty, handsome, proud, self-confidence yet often lonely, shallow and dissatisfied. Commitment is,for obvious reason, not an ability on the Macho's list. Does it need to be?
Last but definitively not least is the "Figli di Papa'" category, the "Daddy's boys". Life has been fine and dandy for them: they come from a good, often excellent household. They have attended the best schools, lived in the best homes, eaten the most delicate foods, travelled the globe, speak several languages, wear fine clothes, go to university. Their summer attire consists of white linen trousers, striped white and blue shirt, blue pullover over their shoulders, designer trainers, big sunglasses, golden tan, golden Rolex, soft long-ish hair gently blown away by the sweet sea breeze as they sit onto their boat. Characteristics? They have everything, but rarely comprehend the value of what they have. They can be sleezy strong of daddy's money ~ not knowing that money doesn't always buy everything.

Friday, September 7

When Stories and History Meet

"Aurevoire, Big Luciano!"

By now everyone in the global community has been bombarded with images of the, undiscussedly, greatest Tenor of all times, "Il Maestro" as he was known, "Big Luciano", the Italian opera singer Luciano Pavarotti, sadly departed yesterday morning in his villa in Modena, Italy. From the BBC, to La Repubblica, Le Monde and other news agencies from all over the globe have grandeously celebrated and reverently mourned what El País describes as "A divine voice that has been silenced" . I get the impression most people expect us to mourn. After all we are Italians, right?: we are bound to be emotional, extrovert and overly expressive. I have sometimes tried to detach myself from the stereotype, but as I heard the news yesterday and re-watched some footage of Pavarotti's career several times, I became sad. Pavarotti represented, with his voice and international involvement, a positive image of what is beautiful, precious, rare, unique about our Land. He was an icon, a pillar. Like "the Olympic Torch", carrying the flame of sportive spirit across the world; like the Eiffel Tower in Paris reminding the French about their heritage, the "Big Ben" in London, Clocks in Switzerland, Clogs in Holland, Guinness in Ireland, "Big Luciano" was an institution for my country, and we all loved him like as if he was a member of each one of our families. We grew up watching him singing at every significant event of our lives - every new year's day, at midnight, the opening of the Olympic games, the "Pavarotti & Friends" charitable events. Music was his life and his music accompanies every Italian like the soundtrack of our lives, passionately stroking the most sensitive cords of our spirits, pride and love. Now that he has gone, exactly two days after Gigi Sabani, an iconic representative of Italian comedy and television for over thirty years, it's like as if a brick had been taken out of an old castle. Even though its base stands strong of ancient values formed and reinforced throughout history, it's most intrinsic beauty has been robbed of a precious element and we sure will miss you, Big Luciano!

Saturday, September 1


Meet my friend, Ruth.

She is petite, but has got the heart and the fierceness of a giant. She is the one and rare example of a woman who lives by ideals, abides by heartfelt morals and loves unconditionally. She does her utmost for people, infuses passion and enthusiasm in every job and cherishes friendship in a way I have rarely seen anyone do. She is the kind of friend who makes sure you get a card in the post on your birthday, who rings you from a coach in Croatia to check up on how you are doing, who cries when you tell her you are moving on somewhere else. I love Ruth. Ok, she does talk A LOT and she is a wee brain-box, but I wouldn't change her for the world. She is our Ruth. That's why I feel so terrible I forgot a very important birthday of hers! Ruthy, if you are reading this: HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY! I know it's a little late, but it's truly heart-felt. Love you lots, buddy. xx