- Leonardo Da Vinci
Simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication.
- Leonardo Da Vinci
Back in Canada, when I was practicing pharmacy full-time, I felt like my life mainly consisted of working and buying things with the money made from the former. I thought I was pretty darn sophisticated actually. Blessed for sure, but also blissfully unaware of how ignorant we can become from living this kind of lifestyle as if it's the norm. I suppose it's not so much the norm, but rather a twisted expectation of young professionals. We studied hard and paid a good sum to a university, so we should get to reap all the benefits, it's only fair right? And it was so easy to get trapped in the dizzying cycle of consumerism and materialism. Admittedly, some of us are more cognisant than others in this respect, so I should be clear that this is more me judging versions of myself in two different countries than anything else. Italy helps me get back to the basics and I think I love her for that reason alone. In Canada, I had a personal trainer. In Italy, the hills and valleys dotted with vineyards is my gym. In many ways, that says it all. Here, you don't have to spend $50 minimum for an excellent bottle of wine (as often is the case on the other side of the pond), in fact €5 can get you a pretty darn good wine and you can even enjoy it whilst drinking in an equally impressive view (because drinking in public is allowed, yipee!). Most times, I am happiest with a view like the one above- a plate with warm bread and a milky ball of just-made mozzarella. So I think Leonardo had it right saying simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication, although for some of us, it takes changing countries to realize it.
I just had to share this newest ad for Baci chocolates (my favorite) that was obviously strategically released just in time for Valentine's Day. In case you've never had one, the best part about these chocolates is that they come with a hidden love note, usually a quote about something that, depending how much of a romantic you are, will either make you sigh, cringe, or if you're me- even cry. Evidently you can now custom-make notes (kind of like personalized M&M and fortune cookie proposals). Anyways, here's the jist of it in English:
This little note will take you
...to the place where we first met,
...to where we had our first kiss,
...to where we had that fight,
...to where we then made up.
This kiss will make you mine forever.
*collective sigh from all the ladies please!*
Awhile back, I entered the Trafalgar Photo Incentive and was beyond pleased that they chose a food photograph to use as part of their marketing material. They are an excellent travel company and took myself and my mom on a whirlwind tour through Italy's highlights on their "Italian Glory" itinerary. Highly recommended for any Italy first-timers, especially helpful should you lack some language skills because they organize everything wonderfully from hotels to restaurants. My tour guide was Anna (see us in the photo below) and she was spectacular, impossibly energetic despite our jam-packed days, and so enthusiastic about her country and Italian roots. Anna, should you happen to read this- grazie mille di nuovo!
Keep an eye out for this photo on the Trafalgar website and catalogs and let me know if you see it!
The Unofficial List of Household and Clothing Items You Never Knew You Needed Until You've Lived in Italy.
1. The bidet- ah, instant freshness and assurance you won't go the whole day with pieces of toilet paper (or worse) stuck to your backside.
2. Chilly Gel- see previous post all about this glorious invention.
3. Bathrobes- while they exist back home, I never used one habitually but the Italians love them and will use them post-shower in place of a towel which I find slightly annoying because I can't wring out my hair properly with one.
4. A food scale- necessary because the recipes here don't use cups and tsp, so you have the great pleasure of weighing each and every ingredient.
5. Collared shirts under sweaters- Italian men might be allergic to wool or have a phobia of sweater to skin contact because anytime they wear anything resembling a sweater, a collared shirt must go under it.
6. Bottled water- actually quite a waste and not good for the environment at all, but I'm impartial to fizzy water now. I have absolutely no idea why few Italians will drink tap water, it tastes absolutely fine in my opinion but I've heard some whisperings of excuses like it's too high in calcium and will cause kidney stones, or to never trust anything provided by the government. At least this is what they say in Rome, maybe there are better reasons here in Bergamo.
7. Stovetop espresso maker- that little Bialetti is probably as important to an Italian household as their first-born son.
8. Felce Azzurra and Ultra Dolce Garnier products- can't get enough of these. We have the shower gel and the bar soap of Felce Azzurra while I love Ultra Dolce for all the inventive shampoo/conditioner scents like Tesori di Miele (Honey treasures? Not as intriguing in English I suppose).
9. Timberlands- I don't know who decided that these would be qualified as fashionable footwear since I was most used to seeing them in rap music videos or on construction sites back home but yes, feel free to stomp all over Milan with these.
10. Starch for ironing- do people still use this back home?
11. Slippers- due to abundant carpeting in my old house, I bounded about with barefeet all the time. Try doing that on tiled floors here and you'll soon realize that slippers are your best friend.
12. Cesto di frutta (the fruit basket)- to be filled with fruits of the season and coerced onto anything with a mouth after meals and in-between meals. A great way to get your daily servings because for me, it's always a constant reminder right in front of me.
13. Door nubbins- I don't know what to call these but 'nubbins' seemed appropriate. You attach them to door handles to prevent them from banging against the wall. Genius.
14. Toothbrush covers- yes, we also have these on the other side of the pond but I rarely used them. Instead here, it's like they're mandatory and no one wants to see the top of your toothbrush all exposed and stuff...
15. Camomilla- The Cure. For everything. Stress, insomnia, upset stomach. Comes in a powdered form, ready to use and sweetened to perfection.
16. Borotalco- Old school, a true classic. What I imagine Italian nonni (grandparents) to smell like and currently what Massi smells likes. Not sure if that's a good or bad thing. Basically just a talc powder for absorbing sweat and acting like a deodorant; used like American adults use baby powder I suppose.
Got any others to add to the list? Let me know!
Bloglovin' is essentially a place where you can sign-up for all your favorite blogs across the board and find their updates and posts all in one place instead of having to visit each site separately. I've even made a new fancy link button (above) that you can click on to go directly to my Bloglovin' page and you'll find it at the end of my posts as a constant reminder that you should add me. Do it, do it now.
I had another interview recently go live so please pop over to ExpatsBlog to check out how I answered their questions about life as a Canadian in Italy. Here's a quick sample:
Ciao! I've recently overhauled the blog's categories to make it easier to navigate, as well, don't forget you can use the 'Search' box option to find whatever you might be interested in. The categories are pretty straight forward, the only thing that might require explaining is that quotes and Pinterest-type graphics are now under Inspiration and Motivation. Under Interviews and Features, expect to find interviews or features with friends and other blogs or sites. Anything that my blog is featured in on other websites (ex: expat interviews) will be under Blog News. Clear as mud? Awesome. And these banner graphics don't really have anything to do with this post but I just put them here because they're cute.
Could this photo BE anymore stereotypical? One night in Tuscany, I happened to be wearing a red dress and stumbled upon this beauty. I then felt obliged to take a photo next to her and what resulted was the most quintessential 'me in Italy' photograph ever. Please note the shoe choice as well, all those expats trying to convince you that flats are the way to go are deceiving, I walked the entire night in Siena in those babies and the best part is, you avoid any discerning looks from fellow Italians who are wired to judge your shoes, they can't help it.
One thing that is nice about being an expat anywhere in the world is that you get to give yourself a hypothetical pat on the back (or celebratory glass of wine) for just about any minuscule accomplishment during your day. What I mean is that at the beginning, you get to be justly and superfluously happy for achieving a small victory of daily life such as taking the bus without ending up in the outskirts of town or ordering your coffee and having it arrive exactly the way you actually wanted it. Don't even get me started about surviving a trip to the Questura. Anyways, my small victory of today is that I helped an older Italian signora find her way to Albano S. Alessandro on the bus. I'm not sure why, but I always get asked for directions or for general advice here in Italy- it happens almost every time I set foot outside, I've been asked in Rome, Milan, and Bergamo. First off, there's the observation that I clearly do not look Italian. But for some reason, I MUST look like I know where I'm going no matter which Italian city I'm in! The other strange thing is that people always ask me in Italian, as if it's blatantly obvious or written on my forehead that I actually speak the language. I guess you can argue that we're in Italy so it makes sense to try the language of the country you're in first but still, I'm always baffled and pleasantly surprised.
Sometimes I wonder what's going through someone's mind when they seek me out for directions:
"Let's see who we can ask...hmmm, oh look, a generic looking Asian girl- she definitely speaks Italian and is a local here in ______(insert random Italian city)"...WHAT? What kind of logic is this?!
Other examples are when you manage to not have an awkward staring contest with a salesperson or cashier, like when you can actually have a mini conversation while simultaneously getting your money out/bagging your items. Or ordering gelato without having to point. Or pretty much doing anything without pointing.
Jasmine is a (former) pharmacist turned freelance writer, foodie, and fashionista from Alberta, Canada living "the sweet life" in Bergamo, Italy.