Archive for February, 2011

Il Calcio

The Olympic Stadium of Torino...and icy rain

It was only about ten minutes into the second half of the Jueventus soccer match against Udinese when, all of a sudden, Juventus scored a goal! One of the players did a complete backflip and, with a thunderous rainbow kick, rocketed the ball into the net. With this, the relatively quiet stadium exploded into one of the wildest celebrations I’ve ever seen. People yelled, sang, or did both. Sirens blared and the announcer went berserk yelling electrifying statements into his microphone.

Ever since I signed the dotted line to study abroad in Italy I knew I needed to go to a soccer match during my time here. I had heard all the stories of fanatical football fans and the craziness of the matches, but I don’t think I really had any idea. Nothing you hear in America accurately portrays how crazy they are! Europeans really, really love their football.

My first clue to how misinformed I was came in the form of police in full body armor and equipped with riot shields. Brandon and I both laughed and said “that must just be for show. No way its that wild.” Boy, were we ever wrong.

Things seemed calm until the game started. We were in the middle part of the oval stadium where things were pretty subdued. But the ends of the arena, where the curves of the oval are, were completely nuts. As soon as the game began the fans there began singing fight songs that lasted the entire match, no breaks, the ENTIRE time. In fact, when something exciting happened the singers would almost double in volume as some sang while others directed choice words the referee’s way. They also had massive flags that they fanatically waved the whole match. My arms would have been ready to fall off after ten minutes of waving those canopies around, but these guys somehow did it for over two hours.

But the craziest part was the open flames in the stands. I kid you not, the fans used flares that made a bang like a cannon to start “controlled” fires in the back of the bleachers. At random parts of the game deafening booms made

Me in my newly purchased Juventus scarf

Brandon and I jump ten feet in the air. These mini explosions didn’t coincide with any of the games action, just whenever the blazes ran low. The police didn’t even react to this, they just sat by and watched as though this was completely safe and normal.

And, of course, there was almost a brawl in the stands. When Udinese began pulling away on the scoreboard, their fans began directing taunts to the Juventus followers. In retaliation, the Juventus supporters began clambering over the bulletproof class partitions that divvy up the stadium into sections, to attack the Udinese devotees. This is when the police came to life as about thirty fully armored officers began appearing from out of nowhere to suppress the budding riot.

Meanwhile, in the middle, things were fairly low key. Everyone sat under the awning, out of the rain, and watched the match. During slow parts, a lot of people would go and find the “no smoking” signs so they could stand underneath them and puff on their cigs as they chit chatted about the game. On a side note, I’ve discovered this is a very Italian thing to do. Non-smokers are in the minority here, and all the smokers are inexplicably drawn to smoke underneath non-smoking signs. Everywhere you go, you find this phenomenon. I think its pretty comical, and I wonder if the people who hang these signs ever use reverse psychology by putting the signs where its ok to smoke instead of the off limits areas.

This laid back attitude didn’t last too long though. Whenever there is a score, the stadium literally erupted. Brandon and I were completely submerged in a sea of screaming and hand waving Italians. Everyone in the stadium would leap out of their seats, or run from under the signs, and begin yelling, hugging, kissing, jumping, and running to the field. Some cases even included crying. When there was a bad call, this commotion still ensued, though the diction and hand gestures carried a slightly different meaning behind them.

I loved this though. It was so loud no one could even hear themselves yelling, which gave me a chance to pretend I actually am Italian. I would jump up and over react with them and begin stringing together the random Italian words I know and pulsating my hands wildly. No one else could actually here what I was saying, so why not? It was definitely fun. I wish American sporting events were more like that!



Mia Barba

For those of you who were unaware, the past three weeks I have been working on my travel beard. Inspired by the lead singer of the Zac Brown Band, I had decided “eh, why not. Its cold here anyways.” However, today my tune changed a bit. As I trumped through the streets of Torino on my way back to school I realized how annoying my beard had become.

For starters, its already starting to warm up here in Torino so the facial fuzz was beginning to itch a wee bit.  Second, it was quickly degenerating from a quaintly backwoods outdoorsman beard to a face carpet one would expect to find on a homeless vagabond. I don’t have any sort of trimming tools here with me so I was at the mercy of Mother Nature for keeping my beard in shape. Finally, it was just a nuisance when eating or drinking. I had to make sure to eat small bites and daintily sip milk in order to keep my facial hair from smelling foul.

So I treated myself to a hot shave at an Italian barber shop this afternoon. I stepped into the shop as the last customer was walking out the door and did my best to ask for a shave in Italian. Well, I barely had to say anything because immediately when I pointed to my face the barber knew what I needed. He said “Ohhhhhh tu barba, eh?” (Ohhhhhh, your beard, eh?) and ushered me to the chair. While he got a new edge on his razor and began mixing the hot lather he and I had a tentative conversation in Italian. At first he assumed I was Italian and asked where in Italy I’m from. It appears my basic conversational Italian of hi, how are you, I would like, etc. has become passable enough to be authentic. He was just thrown by my accent and was wondering which part of the peninsula it hailed from.

I laughed and explained “No, no, no. Mi no Italiano, sonno Americano. Abito in New Jersey.” He looked at me funny and asked where in the world is New Jersey in America. I told him the north and apparently that was good enough for him and he said “Ohhh, si! The North.” And asked why I was in Italy. So I explained I am a student of communications and art here at the “Universita Degli Studi di Torino” down by the river. At this point my Italian ability ran dry, and I really struggled to understand what he was telling me so I did a lot of smiling and nodding. It didn’t really matter though because he was ready to begin the procedure.

I spent the next 20 minutes staring at the ceiling, smelling the faint aroma of the cheap cigarettes he smokes in the shop. He carefully gave me a hot shave, followed by a cold shave, then applied some ointment to treat the little bit of razor burn on my neck, and finally slapped some aftershave on. It was pretty amazing; I’ve never had such a close and reinvigorating shave. He apparently got a kick out of it too. I’ve never seen anyone get so excited over shaving as he practically danced around the chair and wielded the razor like I imagine Van Gogh wielded his paintbrush; with a lot of eccentrically waving the tool around while choosing a spot to attack. Typical Italian, even the most mundane activity needs to be approached with pizazz and abundant energy.

At some point during this excitement my barber’s buddies stopped into the shop to talk about the evenings activities. I was thrilled, not only did I get a show but I also got to eavesdrop on a stereotypically loud and emotional Italian conversation. From what I could decipher they at first debated going to see a French film being shown in the local cinema, that got thrown out the window though. One of the mysterious chit chatters suddenly exclaimed “Robert DiNero!” and either hit the newspaper or started waving it around in the air guessing by the sounds. That appeared to seal the deal as all the guys got excited about seeing a Robert DiNero film. Not too long after this my face was successfully deforested and my barber friend asked “Va bene?” (Good?). I retorted by waving my hands around and saying “Va bene! Bellisimo!” (Good! Beautiful!).

What an experience. I’m already contemplating starting a new beard just so I can go back in three weeks.


My first “Real Italian” Song

Well, I have finally heard my first legitimate Italian song. Sadly, I wish I hadn’t.

Friday night Brandon and I decided to try out a pizzeria we found during one of our walks around the city of Torino. It really is a nice establishment with posh table cloths and expensive looking interior decorations. Despite this, they had the “disco” radio station on which blared not real disco music but the inevitable garble of lady Gaga and Usher. Then, out of the blue, a song intro in not English; but Italian!

Was this it?! Was I finally going to hear the most beautiful language in the world warbling poetry in unison with a mandolin?!* Of course not.

To be frank, I know understand why American music is all the rage here and not Italian music. This song may possibly be one of the worst songs I have ever heard! Over half the lyrics are simply “rap futuristico” or “tranne te”. I’ve included a link to the so called official music video for the song. Although I’m pretty impressed with all the breakdancing, the song and its popularity dumb found me. The best way to describe it is a mash-up of Katy Perry and Enrique Inglesias gone horribly, horribly wrong. For those of you who are unaware of who those artists are or what a mash up is, just imagine the voice box in an action figure getting stuck on the same two phrases over and over again. Even when you’ve had enough of this nerve fraying repetition and have smashed it with a hammer because it is driving you insane; it keeps going.

As the song came to a close Brandon and I both said, “well I guess we’ve now heard our first legitimate Italian song” closely followed by “that’s disappointing!” That must just be us though, Italians love it. Since Friday I have heard this song multiple times a day, so now of course it is stuck in my head. I’ll admit its kind of catchy due to its simplicity, but this is still a problem.

*for those who do not know, a mandolin is the Italian version of a guitar/ukulele. It’s the melodious, high pitched stringed instrument associated with gondola rides and the introduction to The Godfather series.