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World Cup Winners 2006
  
Open quotesItaly, the land that time remembered, but did not dare disturb.Close quotes-Me
 

Urbino, Le Marche


The only reason I donít have more pages on the site dedicated to Italy is because the many pictures I took there are saved on my computer in the UK, a little beyond my reach. And yet, grossly under-pixelled, the home of da Vinci, Raffaello, Ferrari and Fabio Grosso still remains a great comfort to me. Most bad days nudge my compass needle spaghettiwards and I must admit to keeping a curious eye on the state of the teaching market over there. Itís not that I plan to go back just yet, but the green, white and red flag travels with me everywhere.
I worked in Italy for two and a half years, learned the language, got to know the people, their way of life, ways of studying (!) and ways of just being. I said Iíd never leave, and I meant it. But then I did, two days after we, and I say WE, won the World Cup. In many ways it seemed there was nothing left to do there. How can you top the World Cup (Iíve been reminded gently once or twice that I didnít play, although nobody has ever dared point out that Iím not even Italian)? No, from there the only way is down, isnít it? Or, east to Kyrgyzstan. I had other things to do, and we donít always get a second chance at some things.
I was lucky enough to live in different regions, and it's true what they say, the south is very different from the north. But not as much as the Milanesi maintain. The south is far more open, excitable, welcoming. The north is more orderly, reserved and relaxing. The central regions are a blend of the qualities of their northern and southern counterparts and for this reason remain my favourite part of the country today. Fano is my favourite place, anywhere. That town is a dream, if Iím not in the mood for whatever life has for me at the given moment, I sometimes go to Fano, if only in spirit. And as I say to people, if I had to trade in my career today for a house anywhere in the world, itíd be there.
 

Fano, market day


I never lived in Fano though, my time was shared between Andria (Puglia), Crotone (Calabria) and Verona, famous for its Roman arena and satellite village of 1,800 people with a Serie A football team. Oh, and Romeo met Juliet here. Itís a great place to base yourself if you fancy a holiday there, and the city itself will keep you busy for several days ahead of your trip to Venice, just down the road. Thereís also a good judo club where after a long break from the sport I finally got the blue belt I felt was mine by right after club politics forced me to drop back to yellow when I turned senior aged 16. And then thereís the hill. THE hill. A three mile hill worthy of the 2005 (I think) World Cycling championships which I took on myself to cycle up against the clock several times a week. I loved it.
The World Cup victory was for me the climax of, so far, the best few years of my life and in some ways I do still wonder why I left, and why I donít just go back. And times when I have been back as a, wait for it, tourist (!) have reminded me how big a part of my life it has been.
 

Prettiest street in the world


I donít often tell people this, but when I was about 5 or 6, I defaced a library book, quite without reason nor intention, and to be honest I donít even think it was a conscious act. With a big black marker, across a map of Europe, I wrote a single word... Italy.
 

More photos

 

Le prove che io ho veramente

 

We were proud