When is an Aussie really Italian?

I have lived in Italy half my life this year which had me reflect on how Italian I have really become. There are definite Italian traits that I have picked up that are true signs of my Italianisation and I thought I would share some of them with you:

Coffee shopCoffee:   I never have a cappuccino after 12 noon! No Italian does and it’s so obvious when tourists order a cappuccino after dinner, the waiter is always smiling….to himself!Clock

They say it’s to do with not drinking milk after a certain hour, as it’s better for your digestion. Who knows if that’s true? And I always stand up at the bar counter to have my cappuccino, but then that’s because it’s cheaper and the cappuccino is lukewarm so I can drink it quickly.

Italian sunglassesSunglasses: I am addicted to wearing them all year round and sometimes even indoors. What?! Every Italian does, it’s considered ‘figo’  (cool). And Italy produces fantastic sunglasses that are not so dark as to black out the surroundings. Even my prescription glasses are photosensitive to darken as soon as any light hits.


Driving: I drive like an Italian and am proud of it, as I think Italians drive so well. For Australian standards it may seem a little cheeky and daredevil.Itaian Ferrari Fortunately there is no road rage, a go with the flow attitude so the 60 million cars on the road can keep moving. It can seem dangerous for tourists at pedestrian crossings as while the rules remain the same, no one seems to stop until you actually step out. A suggestion is to cross as a group and just keep walking, honestly we (Italians ) don’t get bonus points for running over tourists and will respect your decision…but we may still drive in front or behind you! I only drive a manual and know how to touch park as there is little space to do anything else!

Italian umbrellas

Is that rain?: I am one of the first to open an umbrella at the smallest drop of rain, as do most Italians. I can only put that down to not wanting to mess up our hairstyle; gel, mousse, hairspray or whatever else is keeping it in place. And that goes for men as well as women!


Hand gestures: Italians are very expressive and communicate passionately with their hands.Hand gesture I love it, and while I waved my arms around wildly in Australia, I certainly feel more at home doing it here. Quick gestures communicate so much more than words and books have been written on the subject. Easy enough to learn when living amongst Italians.




Kissing: Italians – men and women alike, kiss all the time, mostly on the cheek, and are forever hugging or giving a friendly touch on the arm or pat on the shoulder. It’s wonderful, and I do it myself. It gives warm fuzzies and can only be good for you! Smooching in the park is common practice too.


Bidet: And I have definitely picked up the habit of using a bidet and hate living without one. No…don’t go asking what, when or how to use it, I will leave that to your imagination, wiki how and what is a bidet!Kissing

So a good half of me is definitely Italian and appropriately recognised by my dual citizenship in 2006. The other good half still remains Australian so I can laugh at myself from both points of view. Although I admit that some Italian traits are best used only in Italy!





Persepolis – the Pompeii of Iran

Persepolis bulls

Persepolis would have to be the highlight of my trip to Iran. The Pompeii of Iran, and far more impressive. Founded by Darius in 518 BC it is a massive archaeological site boasting beautiful capitals, fantastic animal friezes and a thousand impressive figures from various areas of the Persian Empire bringing gifts and paying homage to the Shah at New Year. We are fortunate to still see it as during the revolution Khomeini threatened to destroy it and locals lay on the street in front of the bulldozers in protest.


Seen from the tombs above, it looks like an enormous factory sight, a large shady forest leading up to its doors, which also houses our bungalow accommodation for the night.View of PersepolisTomb Persepolis







Nearby is another magnificent archaeological site of Tombs elaborately  sculpted with Victory scenes.

Tomb 1TombTombs of Naqsh-e Rustum

Persepolis panorama


This is not the only gigantic site in Iran, as can be seen by the Isfahan main square – 500m x 150m, the second largest  in the world  after Tiananmen square. It is awesome, absolutely magic, and the photos hardly do it justice!Isfahan main squareIsfahan main squareIsfahan mosque





Isfahan square


From luscious garden squares, more elaborate mosques and palaces surrounded by locals picnicking we move on to our hike amongst the desert castles and salt lakes of Kerman.Kerman Castle desert


Kerman desert

Kerman desert




Kerman desert and me




Salt lakes – Kerman

Salt lake Kerman salt lake




Hike to the Maiden CastleQal’eh-e-Doktar

Maiden castle

Maiden castle

Maiden Castle


Back into civilisation to stop for lunch in the market

Yadz  Hotel

Our Yadz hotel

Caravanserai bedrooms

Caravanserai Bedrooms







And onto explore the various Caravanserai – traditional roadside inns, some of which will be our accommodation.

Our Kashan hotel

Our Kashan hotel


Local girls



Local girls are embarrassingly attractive. Super made up, and as our guide  related often retouched with plastic surgery that is cheap in Iran. Veils sit well back now on bouffant hairstyles and their long sleeve jacket cover ups can be flashy colours, very slinky, like a second skin hugging leggings  or over stove pipe stretch jeans.

Forty (40) is used to mean lots, as Italians would use ‘mille’ (thousand). The old fable of Ali Baba and his 40 thieves or the Palace of 40 columns only means there were lots of them….columns and thieves!

Young men are required to do military service, or they will not be given a passport. There is no access to Internet products as there are no credit cards linked to any external banking system. Tourists pay in local currency, as it is rare to be able to use a credit card, and Euro or other foreign currencies are generally exchanged in the black market. School

Children learn at least 1 language at school, and if studying overseas need to leave a deposit ( approx Euro 4,000) to guarantee their return.

Local Sport centres continue to train athletes in the traditional method used to train ancient warriors.

And martyrs from the Iran – Irak war are encased in tulips (Islamic emblem of self sacrifice) or on posters in each village.Matryrs


Athletes tarining

Pahlevani and zoorkhaneh Sport rituals








Iran is a very genuine country, well preserved, feels completely safe and the people give a warm welcome. It has an extraordinary mix of architecture, old and new and very refined with an eclectic cultural flexibility that reflects the ancient Persian Empire, one of the oldest and richest in the world.

Belt makerKashan mosque(2)







If you get the chance to go there, I guarantee you will not be disappointed!



Iran – flowers, fountains, mosques and more

Iran was definitely a place of surprises! “Hello, how are you? Where are you from?” Iranians everywhere stopped us in the street to chat, or waved from their cars or tooted their horns as we crossed the street. Tehran tulip gardenA favourite pastime is to picnic anywhere; in the luscious gardens, next to archaeological sites or along a desolate road to nowhere. And they were more than happy to share their home cooked meals with us.Esfahan bridge




Water is the source of life and fountains bubble and spray in the squares and garden settings, as locals sit nearby enjoying the music of the water.Wind tunnel Yadz

Garden KermanReligious leaders rest from their teaching in the shade of orange blossom that saturates the air and inebriates us.Religious leaders


Shiraz kidsKids play in modern sculpted furniture, while we play with the mannequins outside the Fortress of Shiraz.


Fortress ShirazShiraz fortress





After some relaxing time we move amongst the crowds to explore the labyrinth of corridors in the bazaars and catch a glimpse of local foods and handicrafts.

A pick me up of street food – falafels, samosas, kebabs,rice stew, or a simple fruit or vegie shake keep us going for a while longer.Street stallFruit shakes







And lead by our faithful guide we begin the first of our many mosque visits. Geometric and floral decorations are spectacular, as are the stained glass windows which pour a magical light inside as well as help to keep the mosquitoes at bay. Shiraz sanctuary of light

Shiraz mosqueAnd between mosques we visit local bath houses – Hamman, also elaborately decorated.

From the smallest rural mosque tended by nomads to the glorious Sanctuary Of Fatimah in Qom where the Khomeini revolution began, each had it’s own charm and splendour.

A dazzling wealth of gold and silver blind us in the sun, a vivid contrast to the simplicity of the rural mosques and local lifestyle, and we stand out like sore thumbs, struggling to keep our chador from slipping off as we try to photograph the massive Sanctuary.Sanctuary of Fatimah

Cahdor - Qom





And this has only been part of our adventure as we put our feet up in a local tea house in Shiraz.Shiraz tea house

Shiraz Tea house

Shiraz Tea house






Later we take a sunset stroll through the Poet Hafez (1310-90) garden and tomb mingling with locals who revere him as a Saint.Poets tombPoets garden






Poet Hafez tomb

Poet Hafez tomb

Some curious contemporary facts shared by our guide:

1 in 3 marriages end in divorce.                               Most are not practicing Muslims.                               The Supreme leader wants to double the population so abortion and contraception are only available illegally.                                                    Most have a parabola to see outside news, which every so often is confiscated.                                 There is an active black market to access alcohol                                                       And apps to  access facebook and twitter which are publicly blocked.

Tehran Freedom tower

Tehran Freedom tower Designed by 23yr old local architect

There is still so much more to tell about Iran – of amazing Archeological sites, hiking in the desert and to the Castle of the young maidens, the gigantic square in Esfahan, the caravanserai……but that will have to be in another post!