The Emigrant’s Luggage

The emigrant’s luggage still holds the function it used to have when it was made out of cardboard, held closed with twine and no one at the gate of the transatlantic checked that they had just one piece of luggage, because they did not pay for priority! The emigrant’s luggage is filled with pieces of home that will make the leaving less traumatic and will bring comfort in those moments of homesickness. Because we all agree that nothing is more comforting than a nice bowl of pasta, it will come as no surprise that the emigrant’s luggage is often filled with food!

Here is a list of the victuals that found a spot in my bag after the Christmas break. I shall warn you, it is representative but by no means complete.

  • Pasta, obviously. The lack of variety in the pasta aisle of British supermarkets breaks my pastafarian heart. In this cruel world of spag-bol, I rebel by filling my luggage with trofie, spaghetti alla chitarra and bucatini. On top of these more exotic shapes, I also carried spaghetti and linguine Garofalo, which, I admit, I can find also in London, but they were so much cheaper in Milan, it would have been rude not to.
  • Cured meats. Prosciutto crudo holds a priority spot in the emigrant’s luggage. It’s always purchased fresh from a butcher, packed airtight and it brings me pure joy in those grey days when I bring it as my packed lunch in the office.
  • Passata Mutti. It’s, in my opinion, the yummiest on the market and I have never seen it in a British shop, so whenever I travel with a fancy checked baggage I bring a couple of cans.
  • An assortment of other edibles that I cannot find in the UK and that, as soon as I see them on the shop shelf, I need to taste them again, that very moment. If you ever find yourself wandering in an Italian supermarket, pay attention to Più Gusto crisps, or the vast biscuits line by Mulino Bianco, which are the main part of many Italian breakfasts.

A month after Christmas, the stock of Italian groceries is greatly depleted. There won’t be an trip to Italy until May so, until then, my lunches and breakfasts will be sad!

cibi italiani da portare a Londra, Mulino Bianco e Barilla , pastasciutta e passata Mutti per tutti.
Part of the packing process is taking pics of the food!

The Limbo

Being (sort of) bilingual, there’s a question that anguishes me whenever I commute between my two homes: when are you supposed to switch? On the plane? At the Italian airport? Right when you step outside your London flat, because in the end you are Italian living with Italians and travelling to Italy, duh! The thing is, every time I feel differently about this conundrum and I have to assess each journey as the first one.

Is my seat neighbour Italian? If he reeks of ancient ashtray, probably!
Should I give a signal, like talking with a very thick accent or eat a homemade panino col prosciutto as a plane snack?

And what if they’re Brits? Do I want to keep my hard-fought English fluency as a badge of honour or do I feel like showing off, we are going to my country, I’m speaking Italian while you are just sad and clueless?
What about the queuing etiquette? Do I sneakily jump in front of as many people as possible or do I line up with the civilised and shoot judgemental looks at the barbarians that clump instead of queuing?

So many questions! Usually, a good place to let go of my Italian-in-London self is after passport control: the officer deserves a smile and a loud Arrivederci! And off I go to the cab station, as quickly as possible and you better get out of my way or I’ll make you trip on my wheelie bag, there’s prosciutto waiting for me at home!

And what happens when you travel from London to a different country, say Portugal? What culture should you conform too? Keep the English cool that you absorbed for the past five years, or let out your Mediterranean-ness in all its friendly and loud glory?

As I said, so many questions and, even after all these years, so few answers.

Funnily enough, Milano’s flag is the same as the English one, the Cross of St. George

Five Years

It is again the time of the year when I go through my life decisions and the milestones I accomplished in life: my London anniversary! This year I reach the gloriously round number of five, and as a five-year-old Londoner I can:

  • Remember my address and phone number. In fact, I still remember all the four east London addresses I’ve changed in these five years, all their flatmates and their mould spots (the addresses’, not the flatmates’).
  • Name at least four colours. I could name eleven, and I’d use them to indicate the tube lines, except I’ve been living here for five years, I’m over that phase.
  • Purposefully make an effort to please and be liked by my friends. Most of the times I make tea for my colleagues and I even learned how to carry more than one cup per hand. Sometimes, though, I’m cranky and cannot be bothered to do the jugglery show and I make coffee just for myself and it’s mine, you can’t have it!
  • Understand the basic concept of time. Basically, everything in London is forty-five minutes away; unless you want to take the bus, in that case don’t forget to pack a toy.
  • Understand what household objects are used for, such as money, food, or appliances: unfortunately, the money is never enough, with these extortionate London rents, but the food is generally good, despite its reputation. I also learned to use appliances such as the iron and the diffuser, because I’m a big girl now!

Next year will be even more exciting, because I turn London-six. If Brexit interferes, at least I’ll be able to say I’ve never fallen into the trap of growing up!

London skyline
One happy evening, when everything looked pretty and even the Thames looked less toxic!

Caffeinism pt II: An Italian Tries Pumpkin Spice Latte

I’ve been living in a Starbucks-ised country for four years now and yet I waited until last weekend to try a Pumpkin Spice Latte. As I have explained before, we Italians are reactionaries when it comes to coffee, which is a very valid excuse for taking so long! From what I know, the PSL mania originally comes from Starbucks, but because their coffee is frankly quite bad (I have non-Italians backing this up, too!) I also wanted to explore some other, independent and possibly better tasting, options.

That’s how I ended up at Blighty Coffee, in Finsbury Park, which got me hooked with the promise of a Baileys Pumpkin Spice Latte. Need I say more? I entered this cute coffee shop quite sceptical because I like my coffee to taste like coffee, but then, surprisingly, it was love at first sip! This special concoction was delicious, the perfect drink to enjoy on a crisp autumnal stroll, so perfect in fact, that I had to play the part of the basic white girl at my best and take pictures of my paper cup on a bed of fallen leaves. It has to be said, though, that it tasted of many delicious flavours, but coffee wasn’t one of them, so really, this is an autumnal alternative to hot chocolate!

Surprised and satisfied, I approached the Starbucks PSL with much more openness and oh, how naïve I was!

What in the beginning tasted like a watery version of the mighty Blighty beverage, soon turned into an odd combo of extremely sugary first taste, followed by a slightly bitter aftertaste. I drank the whole thing and I paid with a tummy ache that put me off my lunch and PSL in general.

You can extract two morals out of this modern fable: if you fancy an actual coffee, you might wanna stick to coffee-tasting coffee. If you crave a dessert in a cup, do try PSL but, for the love of the coffee bean, do it at Blighty coffee, not Starbucks!

A very cinnamon-y PSL
It doesn’t get any more basic!


The Many Things You Can Do on a London Bus

The red double decker bus: a London trademark and almost my second home.

If I can avoid the tube I will, for a number of reasons including me being slightly claustrophobic and the tube being just horrible. I just prefer buses. To be fair, buses can be horrible too, especially when they make you wait forever in the cold London nights or when “the destination of this bus has changed, please listen for further announcements”.

Once you are on it, though, you are quite likely to get a seat and you’ll have an average of forty-five minutes all to yourself. I invite you to enjoy the ride with some of the activities listed below!

  • First, my favourite one: read a book. I don’t work in publishing for nothing! I am almost happy when the bus gets stuck in traffic, because I can finish the chapter!
  • Do your make up. This has been a stable part of my morning routine since the early days. Why would I waste fifteen minutes of sleep when I still have fifty minutes to spend idly on the bus? I call this “efficient time management”.
  • In case you are not a make-up person, just sit next to one of us make-up artists in action and marvel at the transformation happening!
  • Take a nap. A ten minutes snooze on your commute back from work will get you to after work drinks fully recharged!
  • Write a blog post. Yep, if you’re wondering, this post was first drafted on a bus ride!
  • Just look outside! My Inner Tourist loves watching the different areas of London unfurling in front of her very eyes and the city changing drastically. Some of my favourite panoramic routes include the 76, especially the bit from pretty residential De Beauvoir Town to trendy Old Street and through to magnificent St. Paul’s, and the 38, that goes from semi-rough, semi-hipster Clapton down to very sexy Angel and Farringdon, trudging through the touristy hell that is Piccadilly Circus and over to the West.

That being said, if you are in a rush, please do take the tube!

selfie, bus, London
Oh, go on then, take a selfie!