Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Naples

I had heard that Naples had the best looking Italians and the best pizza in Italy. So when my classmate Valeria from the Ukraine recommended we go on Sunday, I did not hesitate. Pizza and ragazzi (men!) sounds good to me. So off we went on the morning train.

Naples or Napoli is only about an hour an a half on the express train from Rome. We had been told to expect less English speakers in Rome which suited us just fine. I am finding that whenever I try to use my limited Italian in Rome, everyone just responds in English. It is like they are too busy to be patient with my very limited vocabulary.

We arrived at the central station after lunch time and headed straight for the waterfront in search of good pizza. Valeria wanted to find the pizza shop in Eat, Love, Pray but I was way too hungry. Any pizza would do really. I still do not understand how the guys can be so fit with all this amazing food - we finished our Napoli pizza with some gelato. It is very hot in Italy at the moment. I love heat - plus it is dry heat. My tan is amazing - I look so dark!

Everyone was right. The men here are even hotter than Rome. I think they are more Italian - more Mediterranean. They are definitely younger - and the fashions were different to Rome. A lot of rolled up jeans shorts - tight t shirts and chains. If the guys weren’t making out with girls, I would swear that they were GAY! They had beautiful hair - great eyebrows...perfect skin and beautiful eyes. What’s in the water? or the pizza...Valeria and I wondered.

We passed several beach towns on the way to Napoli. The view was that of a postcard. My feet were sore when I came back from Rome. Maybe I’ll burn all of those pizza calories with all this walking.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Roma

It has been a week since my last post. I know. I’ve been slack. I guess instead of writing about my life, I’ve been living it. I’ve spent the last week, walking around this amazing city. I think I know why Romans do not gain any weight even though they consume large amounts of carbs....walking.

The public transport in Rome is not very good. They are building a third subway line, but like everything else in Italy...it is delayed. They are taking their time. So everyone walks...and I get to walk to the Colosseum or to the Vatican.

I take long walks around sunset which here is late. I have been going to the Colosseum pretty much every day. I just sit and watch it as the sun sets. It is amazing. I am not bored by the city at all. Everyday I find a new building, a new water fountain or a new lane or cafe. I’m trying different neighborhoods.

I went out on a semi date with a lovely Italian guy who had lived in Barcelona. He wanted to practice his Spanish and I wanted to get to know some real Roman areas - away from the tourists. He took me to San Giovanni, a couple of metro stops from where I live... not tourists! We had aperitivo - Italian happy hour. You buy one drink and get free food...for hours.

I realise that italians take time...their time for everything....you can spend an hour at the post office getting stamps..or you can spend four hours having dinner. No one sleeps yet the country somehow operates...the important things are food and communication. Time is such a luxury in some countries.

Andrea has not contacted me since our last meeting. I guess that Italian men are a bit like Sydney men. It’s ok.

Ironically, I’m spending a lot of time on my own..on long walks...at cafes....in bookshops. I loose myself in the city...walking. And It is ok. I left Sydney to find my great love but I’m starting to find myself.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Italian

I met my first Italian ragazzo (guy). And no that is not a picture of him. That's a hot Italian model.His name is Andrea. We met on GRINDR. He works in the area and he agreed to help me with my Italian. We met for aperativo (after work). This is the Italian version of happy hour. Italians never serve you alcohol without feeding you. So you pay for drinks and you get free tapas. It is a student’s dream.

He is tall, dark features and has a small beard. He looked just as cute in person. Hello....Pronto...Prego!!!

His English was much better than my Italian. I learned that I could actually flirt in Italian...specially after two glasses of vino rosso. Italian gay men are so masculine - it is a real turn. Ok, I’m generalising but the ones I have met are so masculine in comparison to camp old queen in Sydney.

So we chatted. His name is Andrea and he works in communications - marketing. He likes to travel a lot but has not visited Australia...only America. He’s 33 and lives with his sister in northern Rome. Meeting guys is somewhat difficult for him as he can’t bring them home. It is actually an issue for a lot of guys in Rome as they all live with family or with flatmates. No one can afford to live by themselves.

It was a perfect Roman date. Wine, a kiss and a bit of Italian here and a bit of English there. I saw him again on Friday night. We met at Villa Borghese - Rome’s very own Central Park. This used to be a bit plantation and palace back when this part of Rome was the countryside and it took a day or two to arrive to Rome. It is an amazing park now which is open to the public and home to a number of museums. Inside there are lovely gardens and a large lake where you can rent boats and paddle around waters filled with ducks, swans and turtles.

My Italian took me there - and we again made out in the bushes. Villa Borghese becomes a beat after dark - I guess gay men back 2,500 years ago also needed a place to hook up. It was a lovely spot -a perfect summer night - not too cold or warm and a bright moon.

We ended up going back to my place and we had sex like students - on a single bed. It had been a while since I had sex in a single bed. I think it was back when I was in college. It is not comfortable - but it was fun...hot...and sweaty. His sexual vocabulary was limited and so was mine...so we just used non verbal communication.

I have a suspicion that the Italian may be married or leading a secret life. I told him my bed was really uncomfortable and that we should go to his place next time. He said he could never bring anyone there - a wife maybe? mother? who knows.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Villa Adriana

I met my language exchange buddy Sergio for the first time today. The school I go to teachers English and Spanish as well as Italian. So they try to pair the Italian students with the foreign students; they get to practice their English or Spanish and we get to practice our Italian.

Sergio suggested he take me near to where he live in the town of Tivoli, about 25 km from Rome. He figured I would see a lot of Rome so best to see the outskirts. Tivoli is home to the Villa Adriana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site built in the 2nd century. The villa was used as a retreat from Rome for the Roman Emperor Hadrian. He did not like the palace in Rome so he liked to leave away.

The villa was impressive - with a swimming pool, theatre and rooms to fit a large court. Not a bad place to get away from Rome. In the 2nd century it took 10 days to get to Tivoli, today it is only a 30 minute bus ride away.

Sergio has been studying Spanish for four years now. His Spanish is so much better than my Italian. I suggested we speak Spanish for our first lesson. I figured I could do with a bit of practice of Spanish as well. We walked around the villa. Sergio was very proud of his hometown. He is still studying at University as well, hoping to one day be a diplomat. I too studied international relations at University - so we seemed to have something in common.

He told me about his girlfriend and his life in Italy and his interest in traveling around the world including Australia. He asked if I had a girlfriend. It is always a tricky question, coming from someone you just met.

Italy seems conservative to me. Maybe it is the fact that it is home to the Catholic church. I guess in some ways it is liberal - lots of female nudity on TV. But when it comes to family - and homosexuality, it seems they are conservative. I guess I need to do more research into this!

My flatmate who is American-Italian and gay says many Italians are still closeted about homosexuality. The gay scene is very underground here as well.

“I’m single,” I told Sergio. I figured I was still being honest - I am single.

We ended the day with a full three hour sunset meal. If he had not told me he had a girlfriend, I would have thought it was the most perfect romantic Roman date. There was a first plate, two plates of pasta and dolce! The sunset was amazing and the whole place was a scene out of Under the Tuscan Sun. Now I felt like I was in Italy - having an Italian feast with a Roman Sergio!

La Dolce Vita!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Italian Melody

My Italian teacher Marco says Italian is like a song...you need to have a melody...there’s a certain sing feel to it. Today was my second day of class. There’s about 12 of us...all from different parts of the world. There are the two American guys doing their study abroad, the token Asian girl from Singapore, two Dutch, three Mexicans, 1 Brazilian, a German lady, one from Iceland and me.

We had to introduce ourselves on the first day - in Italian say why we decided to study in Rome. I wanted to tell them that I was hoping to find love, to meet my Italian husband who would take me away to Tuscany to feed me pasta and wine. But I only learned the words for “my name is and I’m from Australia. I study Italian because I like it.”

I realised it is actually hard to study another language. I forgot how hard it is...it has been a while since I learned a different language. Knowing Spanish helps. I feel sorry for the Dutch girls. They have no clue what the teacher is saying - and have the most terrible pronunciation. The Americans are not doing any better - they speak Italian with no melody as though they are trying to speak Spanish like gringos!

In Italian, like in life there are a lot of rules to remember. This article follows these words, except when they start with a vowel. The grammar part is the part that I find the most boring....I like when we do our role play. Yesterday, we learned how to ask someone about a bus stop.

Scusi, e questa la fermata de l’autobus centotrentra?

no, debe andare in fondo a la estrada a destra.

I used this the other day - and I was understood. The person on the street did not respond in the same way I learned. But still it is progress.

I am having a bit of culture shock. It is normal after all. I am in a foreign country - trying to learn a new language and culture. Rome is just as I expected but it is a bit pricey. Everything here is double the cost of Australia. If only my savings were in Euro. But then again, it is hard to put a price on this experience. It is an investment in me...and I should not be cheap with me.

I love to sit in a piazza and just hear and see people go by - Italian men are very attractive and well dressed. There are arguments on the street - couples kissing; lots of hand gestures and loud speaking. You are never alone in Rome even if at the moment I am feeling a bit lonely.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Bella Roma

Sam and I arrived to Roma on Saturday. I’m home. It feels like a dream. I started my Italian course today.

My teacher said Rome was built for the outdoors. There are piazzas everywhere....cafes, wine bars, music playing...at all hours of the day. Great city for a single guy ...you are never alone no matter where you go in Rome.

I’m living in a beautiful four bedroom flat with four flatmates. One American guy - Joseph. He’s here for a few months just traveling. I suspect he’s gay. There’s Filippo who is a 22 year old computer student. He mostly spends his time in his room. He speaks very little English so we never talk. There is a Ghana guy who I have yet to formally meet as he is never around. And then there is Giovanni...a 32 year old Italian student. He speaks a little bit of English and is my crush. He’s beautiful. I share the room next to him.

My room faces a very noisy road (but Rome is noisy) and I have a wonderful window and room with high ceilings. I suspect the building is 500 years old - very much what I expected. It is hot.

I start formal classes this afternoon. The school has over 200 students - Americans, Russians, Germans, Dutch, Chinese. I am the only Australian in the beginners class.

I live in Termini near the station - this is an odd area full of migrants - lots of Chinese. It is strange to me to see Chinese people speaking fluent Italian. I know it is normal as this is Italy but just a bit odd.

Sam and I have been walking..a lot. We’ve seen the Vatican and Colosseum. Sam goes back to America tomorrow. Then my real journey will begin. I’m just doing the touristy Rome for now. My school has a full schedule of activities planned - we did also check out the gay scene which is a bit underground.

I realise this sounds like a post card - just not enough time to write! The food is amazing - I have already gained 2kgs on this trip!

But Rome is beautiful in summer - la dolce vita!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Endless Summer

Yesterday I visited Greece for the day. That’s the amazing thing about Europe - in an hour you can be in a different country. Sam and I took the ferry to Kos, an island about 1 hour from Bodrum. It was a beautiful summer day. The sun was out and the Mediterranean just looked amazing - like it does in the movie.

We decided to go bike riding around Kos - there is a large cycle pathway. I felt like I was 16 again. I had not ridden a bike in that long. I remember when I was in school, the summers were the most amazing time of my life. Those were the carefree days when the days were long - you could play until late and there was not need to wake up early for school. I was reliving my summer days again as an adult - and biking my way around a Greek island.

It has been a month since I left Sydney but I felt years away from that life. I have a sold tan and I feel like a kid again.

Sam needed this vacation as well. He just finished a three year course in the states and this was his first overseas trip in a while. He and I are very different but we travel well together. We’ve only had one minor argument - over our political views. Never discuss politics or religion.

So we end up talking about sex and relationships. We’re both romantics at heart but we have different views on gay relationships - based mostly on our gay life to date. I came out at 22 and have had two long term relationships. I’m pretty out in life - with family, at work and with friends. Sam really did not come out until after he turned 30 and he’s probably still somewhat in the closet. He’s not as comfortable in the gay..gay world. Many people would not believe he’s gay - he’s very masculine and butch. I feel like the girl in the relationship - and I think he brings out my feminine side. It’s like I need to balance his masculinity.

In many ways though, Sam is more “gay” than me. It’s a common dilemma with gay men. How to be gay without being too gay. “Straight acting” and “masculine” are generally seen as positive qualities in a potential partner. “Queeny” and “camp” and “girlie” are seen as negative ones. We all try to be butch..to be tough...to go to the gym and get big muscles. We fear being the camp ones who get picked on.

In high school, I survived by trying to be non gay. There was a really gay guy at my school. He always had a hard time. He dropped out before graduating as he was being bullied. He was just himself. He was not trying to be feminine. He was just the way he was...the rest of us gays were acting...straight acting....masculine acting. I wish I had stood up for him. In truth, he was the strongest male at our school.

Gays come in all stripes....butch, camp, feminine, girlie... sometimes opposites do attract...sometimes likes attract likes. Through diversity there is strength. Maybe that’s why I looked forward to summer so much...it was my chance to be free...to stop acting...to be myself. Summers were about being me - not worrying about being too gay or having to pretend to like cars, sports or beer.