Bell’Italia, a wondrous, beautiful, romantic and sometimes baffling country. Here are some of the more interesting/strange things which I encountered during my semester abroad!
Number 1: Coffee vending machines
Yep. As in, a vending machine which makes coffee for you. Right in front of your face. And you can watch it all through the glass pane. Oh yeah, and it costs 50-75 Aussie cents per coffee.
You cannot imagine how happy this amazing piece of machinery made me during study periods/late night cravings/every morning! Nor can you imagine the devastation felt by everyone living in college when our beloved machine broke and was out of order for a day.
Number 2: “So you speak Australian, right?”
Call me egocentric, but I was quite surprised at the number of people (and I mean, young people, students my age) who were completely unaware that the language of Australia is English. The question of whether I speak “Australian” was alarmingly common – and by “Australian”, they did not mean Australian English or Indigenous Australian languages (trust me, I verified …)
Number 3: The beer is HUGE!
Literally, huge! As in, the smallest bottle available in the supermarket was longer than my face.
To demonstrate (excuse the poor quality/blur):
Number 4: Aperitivo and 1-litre cocktails
Aperitivo refers, traditionally, to the Italian custom of relaxing with an apéritif and digestif before going out for a a meal. But what it now translates to in many bars and restaurants is paying a small fee (generally around 7 Euros) for a beverage (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) and a buffet dinner.
The best bar in Pavia by far was Manà, which offered a fantastic range of delicacies and copious amount of food for only 7 Euros! Or, you could pay 10 Euros to upgrade to a massive cocktail (which was literally the size of my face)!
Number 5: A bar dedicated to shots
Sorry mum, the alcohol theme continues! (Last one, I promise!) Carrying on with the tradition of free-pouring and generally massive servings of alcohol, Pavia follows with this cute and incredibly amazing bar, which specialises in shots and only shots. Even before the lockout laws, it would have been pretty hard to get something like this up and running in Sydney, and as an Aussie, I was awestruckby the fact that I could pay 2-3 Euros for a shot with cherry or mint or coffee or raspberry or chocolate or one of over 100 other flavours available.
Aptly named Shot Me Down, this bar is incredibly cute, is decorated with bright green straws hanging from the roof, and is (interestingly) located right behind the Duomo!
Check it out here: https://www.facebook.com/ShotMeDownPavia/timeline
Number 6: Packing my own bags in the supermarket
Yeah, this is a thing in Italy, as it is in many countries. I didn’t mind actually having to pack my own bags, to be honest. But the sheer velocity with which the cashiers scan the items and then demand payment while you are still packing is just overwhelming, and then you are struggling to juggle change and groceries and before you know it the next person’s shopping is careering into your own – it’s stressful!
Number 7: Safety regulations
Stopping at pedestrian crossings? Yeah, nah.
Reacting to the fire alarm? That’s not really necessary either.
Implementing emergency aid in case of a fire? I’ll just leave this here …
Number 8: Sushi
I was seriously not prepared for the intense love of the Italian youth for all-you-can-eat sushi lunch specials! It was the go-to for the mandatory one-hour university lunch break (yup, everything actually stops for an hour for lunch) and it was sooooo yummy!
Number 9: Croissants and coffee
Oh my gosh, wow. I was not ready for the sheer amount of croissants I would consume. And I’m talking 2am croissant cravings dragging me out of bed! And I mean jam/chocolate-filled croissants, sometimes with sugar on top – you can’t ever accuse the Italians of being plain!
Each day, we were able to grab a free coffee and croissant during breakfast hours, meaning that I started many a day with a *healthy* dose of sugar.
Having the coffee machines constantly on standby and the kitchen cupboard constantly stacked with coffee was also quite dangerous. Flashback to the time I thought putting four espressos in my giant cup was a good idea:
I may have gotten the shakes for a couple hours afterwards …
Number 10: Chocolate
Chocolate is everywhere in Italy. I dare you to try to find cereal which doesn’t include chocolate. Though in a country which is home to Baci and Ferrero and Kinder, and in which chocolate is of an equal or greater cost than alcohol, what can you expect?
Chocolate markets, Easter eggs bigger than my head, multiple chocolate aisles in the supermarkets, hot chocolate as thick as cream, and a massive range of chocolate products that don’t exist in Australia – I was in chocolate heaven! Needless to say that my luggage was filled with delicious treats and that most of that which I brought home for my family was chocolate-themed!