25 March 2007

Grow plants, grow!

Until not too long ago I considered myself as being quite green fingered, however lately instead of "green fingers" I've earned the title of “death fingers” in the house due to the plant situation. Every plant in my care turns yellow and eventually goes to that big garden centre in the sky. I can't think what it is, over watering, under watering? Time of the year? Who knows. Maybe I need to talk to them more... Would they understand me though?

I've even got a cactus which isn't doing too well. Aren't cacti immortal? In the right hands maybe. I'm considering getting some artificial plants, although I've never been too keen on those. I think you can get some which are convincing though.

...Poor plant. Forza!

On a brighter note, I bought a new cactus last week with a flower on it which is looking good. I can't decide if the flower is real or not, especially as it's still alive.

Also I've planted some basil seeds which are doing well. The first few weeks they seemed to be growing each day, but now they seem to have slowed down... Fingers crossed. Here they are:

Hopefully it won't be too long until they're in the ragu. Sssshhh! Don't tell them that.

23 March 2007


I'm off on my travels next week, to England precisely. I'm coming back on an early Gatwick flight so I've been trawling the internet this week (all week) for a suitable hotel near the airport. Mamma mia! It's enough to drive a person round the bend. Well, it could be just me, you see I can be indecisive at times... Or not? Mmmm I can be. But not always. Or am I? What do you think? ;)

I even called one of the places up. It was interesting to see how customer services ("Reservations" to be precise) jumped straight into action; After they answer you have to wait a full minute at least until you can actually speak as they have to say their whole spiel "Good afternoon, welcome to blah blah blah etc etc." In Italy customer services hasn't really caught on, so there's none of of this; Consider yourself a customer served if they even answer the phone.

So in the end after reading every review on every site - probably quite a few wrote by the owner's parents and arch-enemies, I finally made my booking today. Woo hoo! I decided on one!!! (I can cancel up to the day before though, so I am still "safe")

It really drained my internet time too all that searching.

Ps. I'm not going to say where I'm staying just in case someone has stayed there and tells me it's carp. I opted for one of the biggies though, so even if it goes wrong they might send me some vouchers and an apology letter to compensate.

21 March 2007

Snow 'ncopp o' Vesuvio

It's the first day of Spring today, and ironically I woke up to a white Naples. Brrr! It was more like hailstone rather than snow though.

There's lots of snow on the top of Vesuvius today. Here's a photo, I was hoping it would come out better, but alas, no. I took it with my phone you see. It's rare to see snow on Vesuvius and when you do you know it's *cold*!

18 March 2007

Happy Mother's Day

It's Mother's Day today in England. I'm not sure which other countries celebrate Mother's Day today - if any, I know that Italy and the US don't.

So this post is to say happy Mother's Day to my dear lovely perfect Mum. My parents don't read my blog on a regular basis as they're not online unfortunately - maybe some day...For now they just read when they can, which is normally when they visit friends or relatives. We talk lots on the phone, but having a computer makes it so much easier to keep in touch. GET ONLINE! :)

Mum loves Italy and just the other day she was saying that one day in the future they'll sell their house in England and buy a house on Procida. Procida is the one of the three islands off Naples – the others being Ischia and Capri. Procida is one of their favourite places in Italy. Last October we got the boat over and spent a day on the beach. It was a perfect beautiful day because the peak season had passed, so just a few people were on the beach and it wasn't too hot. It was so peaceful and relaxing. I'm not sure if they would really move to Procida, especially as my Dad is very attached to home. But maybe they could have a second holiday home there, or do as the very fortunate Italians do and rent a place for 3 months in the summer. That would be fantastic!

Happy Mother's Day!

Procida 2006

16 March 2007


This morning I got to the pedestrian crossing, the little man was green so it was safe to cross. Ok, it should have been safe to cross.

Two old ladies started to cross the road but the cars weren’t stopping. One car did stop, and as it did one of the women put her arms in the air and angrily shouted to the stopped driver “Can’t you see it’s red??!!” The man shouted back out of his car window “Yes, but don’t take it out on the only driver who stopped!”.

It made me smile. Poor man, he did the right thing by stopping, and he still got shouted at.

Sometimes you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t.

15 March 2007

More bureaucrazy fun

I'm wondering if it's too late to declare this week bureaucrazy week at Delinissima?

Following on from my last post, I went to the Ufficio Anagrafe today. "Anagrafe" translates as "registry". So where I went was the registry office. I didn't realise that before I went. Now I know, and it makes things a bit clearer.

I arrived at 8:45, fifteen minutes before kick off. There was a crowd of people already outside, all "persone per bene" as they say here. This is a commonly used term to mean the "good people" - rather than the bad people mmmmh. Expats, think the questura crowd but power dressed. I was a little surprised by this as in most government offices don't you get a mixed bunch of people? However now that I understand I went to the registry office, I know that these people were likely to be lawyers and commercialistas there to register various contracts and the like.

Anyway as soon as the doors swung open in they all pushed in, elbows out to be the first in the number queue. They knew the drill alright. I was carried along with it all, Ufficio Anagrafe rookie that I am. I got my number, 24 this time. There was a board which displayed different booth and ticket numbers, so you really had to keep your eye on the board as the numbers kept moving up and down. Eyes down looking. I'm not sure if it felt more like bingo or "come on down!" today. As soon as 24 showed I waved my number in the air and ran on down to the booth. Woo hoo!

It was a simple procedure once at the booth. Filled in a form and was done.

But, there's always a but, today's public office hitch is that even though the woman at the health office place said she hadn't authorised the sending of my health card, she actually *had*. This means that my health card is now on it's way to an old address, ie to someone else's house. The man told me today it will be there in about 20 days, but from the comments on my last post I'm not sure I believe him.

13 March 2007

Now I can take up some extreme sports.

About 5 years too late, I've finally been and got my tessera sanitaria today. This health card allows me to register with a doctor and use the health system.

As always when attempting to do any kind of bureaucratic procedure here, I went armed with every document I have which could be vaguely related to signing up with a doctor, plus photocopies.

First, I went to the wrong building, no surprise at all there as it's not easy to understand exactly which office deals with what. Just a 10 minute walk to the right place though; I was soon back on track.

As soon as you get in these kind of places, the first thing you need to do is to spot a ticket machine and get your all important number. I headed straight to the first machine and took a number, but soon realised it was the wrong one. Frantically looking round for another machine I noticed one with a group of eastern Europeans around it and immediately knew that was the ticket machine for me. So I got my ticket, only 10 numbers to wait. They called my number...Come on down! In I went, and I had all the docs they needed. Miracolo! I was in there for no more than five minutes, mister timbro stamped my spanking new health card and I was done.

Well, so I thought, he told me to go down to room 23 so they could organise for a credit card style health card to be posted. However, when they inserted my tax code another address came up so I have to go to another office to get that changed. I didn't have the energy left to conquer another bureaucrazy hurdle today, so I'll put that off for a while. I kind of knew in my heart that it wouldn't go entirely to plan today, nothing like this ever does here. At least two trips are always involved. I will still consider today a success though as I have at least a doctor now and a lovely tessera sanitaria (see above).

8 March 2007

Happy Festa delle donne!

Did you get/give your mimosas (or other flowers)?

The mimosas flowered about a month ago here so I was interested to see if the mimosa street sellers had their stalls set up today, and sure enough they have! I wonder where they got their mimosas from? The tree near me hasn’t got a flower left on it.

I heard a suggestion on the (UK) radio yesterday which was for men to stand up on public transport and offer their seats to any standing women today. I like that idea even if it didn't happen to me this morning whilst riding metro Napoli. Though in defence of my fellow commuters, I doubt any of them listened to BBC Radio2 yesterday as I did. No one even offered me a bit of bar to hold on to today (boo hoo) so I strategically balanced myself out for the journey, hoping that the train wouldn’t make any sudden movements causing me to loose my balance. City life eh.

If I’m not wrong the Italians celebrate women’s day more than most other countries. Most people say “Auguri” to the women they know and some give/receive flowers. Some celebrate by going out with their girl friends in the evening. I’ve never done that though.

I think there’s still away to go in the way of women’s achievements here: For examples see the number of women in managerial roles here or the portrayal of women on TV (both worthy of their own posts :) ).

To the people who ask if there is a man's day? Yes, every day is man’s day, especially in Italy :D

6 March 2007

At the market - A guide

One of my aims with this blog is to prevent visitors or non Napoletani (-they know the rules from birth) making the same mistakes as I have made in the past.

So here is my guide to shopping for fruit and vegetables at the local market.

1. Make sure you know the price of what you’re asking for. If you don’t you could be in for a nasty surprise when it comes to paying. Prices are often illogical here. For example it’s 5 euro for an aperitivo (and I don’t mean the Milanese all you can eat aperitivo) whilst you can pay 10 euro for a complete meal (primo and secondo) plus wine and water. So don’t assume you know more or less the price of a kilo of zucchini. I asked the price of a pineapple once and the furbbacchione said “9 euro”. I laughed and said "I’ll leave it thanks". Then he reduced it as I was walking away, but too late! Too late! Let him learn.

2. When they pick your kilo of, say, tomatoes, if they are one of the not very honest fruttivendoli and think you are on holiday and won’t be going back, they will try and hide what they’re putting in the plastic bag or the much used newspaper cone. So whilst they have their back to you they will be filling the cone with mushy or rotted tomatoes with just a few good ones on top. Or you can end up with a load of leaves in the case of clemetines etc. Be very suspicious if they nip out to the back to get your goods or if they're overly chatty so as to distract you.

3. They will always say they’ve gone a bit over the weight you asked for. But this need not be a problem. You see, if you are prepared in advance you can win them at their own game and ask for a bit less. So when they say it’s a bit over, you’ll think “bingo that’s just what I wanted”. You have to be più furbo than they are.

4. Be prepared for them to try and sell you three lettuce for a euro when you only want one. Not really unique to Naples, or Italy this one.

5. Check your change – again not unique to Italy or Naples.

6. Check that you don’t find a World War2 hand grenade in your potatoes. I'm not joking. This happened to one unsuspecting shopper in a Neapolitan supermercato recently.

If this all sounds like a bit much you could just go to the supermarket and pick your own.

4 March 2007

Sweet Sweet Sunday

I've been a good napoletana today, it started with me making an old lady style ragù with paccheri for lunch. A good ragù takes at least three hours to cook so they say. It's not difficult, it just takes ages.

Then I went out for a walk. The weather was beautiful today, it made me think that spring is on its way. Or will we go straight to summer...? I hope not, I love spring time, where as summer time - here at least - becomes unbearable due to the heat and humidity. I didn't even wear a coat today which shows how warm it was. I'm thinking I might have even caught a bit of sun too!

Continuing the good napoletana role, I picked up some mignon dolci (mini cakes) for dessert (see above). These are a must at Sunday lunch in many homes. Some might argue that they all taste similar...I think they're nice every so often, as long as they're not al gusto di caffè. Blee! Lemony ones are my favourite.

It's a real test of my Italian when I buy them as I have to tell the pasticceria person what I want putting on the little tray and there's normally a queue on Sunday so no time for forgetting the names of cakes - or even worse, not knowing the names. Pointing doesn't always work as from behind the glass an optical illusion occurs and they inevitably pick up the one next to the one I really wanted. Sometimes when I'm not feeling up to it I just say "Mi fai un misto" ("give me a mix"). This is potentially dangerous though as they might try to give you the stuff they can't get rid of so don't take your eye off pasticceria person for a second or you'll end up with a tray of caffè flavoured cakes or even worse, babbà.

Hope you had a buona domenica!

2 March 2007

Today is quite a monumental day as it’s the first time I’ve cooked melanzane aka aubergines aka egg plant (sorry if you thought monumental would mean something a bit more spectacular). I’ve always steered away from them in the past as I’d heard there was some soaking involved which sounded a bit complicated and so I chickened out. But as they are a mediterraneo staple I knew that before long I’d have to try them out. Anyway, today I braved those melanzanes, I wanted to get a recipe or some guidance off the net, but at the time my OH was configuring our fourth router in around 8 months – he’s a prize geek you see, so I couldn’t get online (It's a Mac router now, very nice). So, I thought about all the tips I’d ever been given when I’ve said I’d like to cook melanzane.

First I diced them, soaked them in salted water, then fried them. Then I did a tomato sauce (garlic, oil, basil), added the melaanzane, added the cooked pasta plus a bit of cheese, è voila. Very nice. I was impressed with my first effort.

Though, I must say, the preparation of the melanzane was a bit long. Next time I might be tempted to buy a vassoio/tray ready done from a trattoria or similar take away place.

Soaking away....

Buon appetito!