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‘I’m alone’: How I’m finding friends in Italy during the pandemic

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Breaking into a new social circle is tough pretty much anywhere in the world once you get beyond university exchanges and gap years.

In your 30s, people are settled and busy with their own families, established friendships and demanding jobs. Throw in a new culture and language and there’s an extra challenge you have to face.

But face it you must if you’re going to make the most out of life in Italy and especially as, for me it seems, I’m in it for the long haul as I’m marrying an Italian.

READ ALSO: ‘We’re exhausted’: What it’s like planning a wedding in Italy during the pandemic

Finding your own friends and people you can call on is as important as registering with your local town hall and all the other seemingly endless bits of bureaucracy you need to do to live in Italy.

The pandemic has been a test of mental and emotional strength and my wellbeing has undoubtedly taken a hit after months of restrictions, unable to either leave the apartment or not stray very far from it.

And working from home, or ‘Smart Working‘ as the Italians dub it, has only increased my isolation further.

READ ALSO: Not just teaching: The jobs you can do in Italy without speaking Italian

Once Italy opened up again for the summer season, I was ready to get out and live again. But then I felt blocked when the realisation dawned on me: I’m alone. What friends can I call on to go out for a drink or a wander?

So, I was determined to take charge of my social life and finally take the chance to create my own support network.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

I’m usually outgoing and sociable – and have lived in many places around the world, normally making friends fairly easily.

But after months of being cooped up, I recognised I needed to push myself back out into the world before I became a complete grouch.

I’d got used to this new life of relative solitude, unable to travel to see friends and family, but I knew it was neither healthy nor sustainable for me.

READ ALSO: ‘I’m going crazy’: Why international residents in Europe will travel this summer despite Covid

Another problem was I had no established social life in Italy before. I arrived six months before the pandemic hit and so I’d only just about managed to get going with a job and start receiving invitations to aperitivo nights or a passeggiata.

But with various lockdowns after almost two years here, I’ve been in stasis and I have to start from square one again.

I scoured Facebook for meet-up groups around Bologna, as it’s the bigger of my two closest cities.

That’s another problem you might face if you move to Italy. For whatever reason, by accident or design, you might live in the countryside, which narrows your options even further.

So you have to accept you’ll need to put a bit of extra effort in to see new faces and make connections.

Turns out there are plenty of online groups for meeting new people in my nearest city and, after months of suspended activities, it seems people are coming out their shell again to mingle and enjoy Italy once more.

Friends wanted for frolicking in sunflowers. Photo by Antonino Visalli on Unsplash

I clicked ‘going’ on a Facebook event I found for women in Bologna, called ‘Girl Gone International’. That’s it, once I’ve committed I don’t back out so it was my own insurance to force myself to make the 40-minute journey after work.

We met in the park in the centre of the city for a chat. It was really informal, relaxed and everyone was curious about each other.

The usual social dynamics of new people all together for the first time came into play and I did my usual fretting of whether I spoke too much, asked others too many questions or revealed too much too soon.

Everyone there was intelligent, had interesting jobs and stories of how they’d ended up in Bologna. I found out new restaurant recommendations from long-term residents and tips for hiking spots.

These are the gems you miss out on if you stay in your own bubble.

A few weeks passed in between and I wasn’t very proactive in asking people if they wanted to meet up. Between work, planning a wedding and buying a house, the spirit was willing, but the flesh was too hot and tired.

Another opportunity cropped up though, and I was back in the city on a Friday night, meeting more of the group and getting to know them better over a glass of wine and a plate of Italian bread snacks called taralli.

Turns out I just might have found people I have lots in common with. They love the outdoors, trying new food and do litter clean-ups.

Plastic-hating, nature-loving foodies? Jackpot.

Sometimes, just knowing there are people who are keen to meet up is all you need.

Making true friends takes investment and I expect it’ll be a while yet before I have that person in my life I can call anytime and be fully myself with. Politeness is tiring, after all.

But for now, I’m a little less alone and a bit more me. And after a fairly rocky start to my life in Italy, having something to look forward to, at last, is enough.



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Rotunda to lift restrictions on partners attending appointments

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Restrictions on partners attending appointments at the Rotunda maternity hospital in Dublin are to be removed from the beginning of November.

The Rotunda said it was planning to return to “pre-Covid” access to appointments for patients and their partners as the country enters the next stage of living with the disease.

It said that from next Monday partners would be able to attend booking visit appointments and appointments in the hospital’s high-risk clinic. From November 1st, the hospital would “remove remaining restrictions for partners for other antenatal outpatient appointments”.

The hospital said it reviewed and risk assessed its Covid-19 safety measures each week, while taking into account rates of infection in the community, vaccination rates amongst patients and the hospital’s “unique infrastructural challenges”.

“We have already restored access similar to pre-pandemic levels in most areas of the hospital, including early pregnancy scans, anomaly scans, the emergency and assessment unit, and our inpatient wards,” the hospital said in a statement.

It said many of the Rotunda’s outpatient areas were “in older buildings with very small waiting areas” and in order to manage potential overcrowding in those areas it “strongly encouraged” patients to attend outpatient appointments alone. It recommended that women only bring partners for “occasional visits, such as if you have a complicated or special issue to discuss with your care team”.

The Rotunda said that at times when there is high footfall, partners could be asked to “wait outside the building until called to the consultation room”. It dded that it was important to remember that Covid-19 “has not gone away and is in fact endemic within our community”.

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When will face masks no longer be compulsory indoors in Spain?

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With Covid-19 vaccine campaigns in their later stages and infection rates generally lower, several countries around the world have eased their face mask rules.

Such is the case in England, where masks are now not required in shops and even on certain modes of public transport, or in the US, where fully vaccinated people don’t have to wear one in most indoor settings. 

Spain on the other hand has been strict on its mask-wearing policy throughout the pandemic and its citizens have willingly complied in general.

Many people are still wearing masks outdoors, even though they’ve not been required by Spanish authorities since June, as long as a safety distance of 1.5 metres can be maintained.

So when might it be possible to remove face masks indoors in Spain (other than for eating and drinking) ?

In early October, Spanish media reported that Health Minister Carolina Darias had said that the use of masks indoors would be required until the spring of 2022.

On Wednesday at a press conference after Spain’s Interterritorial Health Council, Darias stressed she never stated that the mandatory use of masks would end in spring next year.

“The face mask has come to stay, at least while the flu virus or other possible viruses are present this autumn,” she reiterated.

“Spain was one of the first countries to regulate the safety distance in outdoor spaces to not have to wear a mask outside, but we know the importance of its use indoors where transmission by aerosols is proven”.

“Let’s take it slowly,” Darias concluded.

READ ALSO – Calendar: When will the Covid restrictions end across Spain?

As usual, Spain’s regional governments have their own views on Covid-19 rules.

Madrid president Isabel Díaz Ayuso, the regional leader with the most liberal take on Covid restrictions during the pandemic, has again taken a different approach by actually offering something closer to a date for when mandatory mask-wearing indoors will be scrapped.

The end of indoor masks should come “after Christmas,” stated Ayuso in late September. “Total” normality and “pre-pandemic” life should not be delayed beyond the spring of 2022, she added.  

Castilla-La Mancha president Emiliano García-Page has also suggested February 2022 as an end date for mandatory masks indoors in the central Spanish region. 

Are regions relaxing any mask-wearing rules?

Catalan Education Minister Josep González-Cambray said on Wednesday that “We will get rid of face masks in schools as soon as we can”. 

According to González-Cambray, the use of face masks in schools is a “health measure” dependent on epidemiological criteria, which is why it will be down to the health departments to decide.

In Valencia, the Generalitat government has said that it will scrap the requirement for children to wear a mask in the school playground. 

“We are working every week with the Health Department and in the next few days the protocol will be updated” because the numbers have been very favorable,” said Valencia’s Minister of Education Vicent Marzà on Saturday.

However, in the Balearic Islands, the regional government has decided the use of masks in the school playground should continue, causing an outcry from many students and their parents.

Balearic  Minister of Health Patricia Gómez confirmed yesterday that the use of masks will continue to be mandatory in school playgrounds “until the situation improves”.

READ ALSO – Going out in Spain: What are the rules for bars and nightclubs?

Why wait until after the winter if the numbers are good now?

The epidemiological situation in Spain is currently the best it’s been since autumn of last year, with a 14-day cumulative incidence of 40.85 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

This means that the country is currently at very low risk for Covid infections according to the categorisation used by the Spanish health ministry.

In addition to this, almost 80 percent of the total population has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, a percentage that’s higher still if focusing only on those who are eligible for the vaccine (people aged 12 and over).

According to César Carballo, deputy emergency physician at Hospital Ramón y Cajal in Madrid, Spain is in a good epidemiological situation now which should allow to at least remove their masks outdoors.

But flu season is on its way, government leaders and health professionals are keen for the use of masks indoors to continue until after the winter.  

“There is talk that we may have more cases of the flu. We do not know. Last year the flu disappeared completely. We will see this year,” Carballo told Spanish TV channel La Sexta.

“Health personnel are exhausted … to suffer a wave of flu this year would be a severe blow,” he added. “If it were up to me I would maintain that mask-wearing indoors should be required until January or February, accompanied by hand washing and distance”.

READ ALSO: Getting the flu vaccine in Spain in 2021: What you need to know



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‘Million Years ago’: Toninho Geraes vs Adele: The latest plagiarism case in Brazilian music | USA

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Legendary jazz guitarist and composer Pat Metheny once said that Brazilian pop music “might have been the last in the world to have a sophisticated harmony.” Metheny, the winner of 20 Grammy Awards, is one of many international artists to have fallen in love with the Brazilian music of the 1970s and 1980s and incorporated the sound into his own songs. Another example is Greg Kurstin, an award-winning music producer who studied Música Popular Brasileira (or Brazilian Popular Music) in New York, and now works with superstars such as Paul McCartney, Pink and Adele. Now Kurstin and Adele have been accused of plagiarism: singer-songwriter Toninho Geraes, who has written hits for the likes of Zeca Pagodinho, Diogo Nogueira and Martinho da Vila, among others, has claimed that the producer and the British singer almost completely copied the melody of his song Mulheres (recorded by Martinho da Vila in 1995) on the single Million Years Ago, which was released in 2015 and featured on Adele’s album 25.

This dispute over intellectual property coincides with the pre-launch of Adele’s new album following a six-year hiatus. The singer, whose new album 30 is due for release on November 19, felt compelled to mute comments from fans on social media after being inundated with messages from Brazilians on her publications and live transmissions asking her to respond to the accusations of plagiarism. For the time being, both Adele and Kurstin have made no public comment on the matter.

I only wish to protect my musical legacy

Brazilian singer-songwriter Toninho Geraes

“This silence is an evasive strategy,” says Fredímio Biasotto Trotta, Toninho Geraes’s lawyer, who last February sent two extrajudicial notifications to Adele, the British record label XL Recording, Sony Music and Kurstin. In a press release, Sony stated “the matter is currently in the hands of XL Recordings [which owns the rights to the record] and of Adele herself,” explaining that it had only been responsible for the distribution of the single in Brazil and that its contract had expired. XL Recording, for its part, has not made any statement. “We are gathering evidence to file a claim in the British courts, where judges tend to be meticulous in cases like this,” says Trotta, who has been working in the industry for three decades and has been a musician since the age of 11.

What has not yet been revealed, however, is the amount of compensation the lawsuit is seeking. The documents from Trotta ask Adele and Kurstin to provide details of the income derived from album sales of 25 and the profit generated by Million Years Ago on streaming platforms. Martinho da Vila’s album Tá Delícia, Tá Gostoso, on which the single Mulheres is included, was a hit in Brazil and sold 1.5 million copies, according to data from Columbia Records. Toninho Geraes, however, does not want to take legal action and will settle for his name appearing on the writing credits for Million Years Ago, his lawyer has stated. “I only wish to protect my musical legacy,” Geraes says.

Geraes found out about the surprising similarity between the two songs through Misael da Hora, the son of Rildo Hora, who wrote the arrangement for Mulheres and who has worked with the greatest Brazilian samba composers. “He told me about it, thinking it was an authorized version in English, and I was stunned,” says Geraes. The expert analysis requested by his lawyer identified 88 identical, similar or slightly varying bars in the two songs, as well as identical parts in the intro, chorus and endings.

“Brazilian music is very well known, it is a reference point and it is studied wildly everywhere in the world, especially that of the 1960 and 1970s, but generally all of the melodies up to the beginning of the 1990s,” says Trotta. Perhaps one of the most famous cases in this sense was that of Brazilian singer Jorge Ben Jor, who in 1979 sought compensation from British rock singer Rod Stewart for plagiarism of his song Taj Mahal (released five years earlier) in the chorus of the star’s hit single Da You Think I’m Sexy? Stewart publicly admitted the plagiarism in 2012, describing it as “overstepping the boundary” in his autobiography.

In keeping with Trotta’s claim, bossa nova musician and multi-instrumentalist Edu Lobo filed at least two international claims for plagiarism of songs he wrote in the 1960s: one against a French songwriter whose name was never revealed and another, in 1994, against Japanese songwriting trio Tsukasa Yamaguchi, Eiji Takehana and Yasuhiro Nara, who copied his song Ponteio Numa Outra and rebaptized it as Beatitude on their compilation album Multidirection. The case was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.

More recently, the heirs of songwriter Luiz Bonfá, who died in 2001, accused Belgian-Australian artist Gotye of plagiarizing a small part of Bonfá’s instrumental Seville on the hit single Somebody That I Used to Know, which won two Grammy Awards for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance and Record of the Year. Gotye reached an agreement to credit Bonfá as a co-writer of the song, a credit that has even been registered with the Australian Copyright Council.

Lawyer Caio Mariano, a specialist in copyright and intellectual property, says though that cases like this are not that common. “At the end of the day, there are also coincidences in music, so it is necessary to prove mens rea – the will and the intention to copy something – to be able to accuse someone of plagiarism. Something that happens a lot is the unauthorized use of musicians such as Tim Maia and Arthur Verocai, among others, who have a rich body of work. In the genesis of genres like hip-hop and rap, for example, there was the culture of sampling in songs. The problems arise when it is done without proper authorization, without worrying about whether it is a violation of copyright,” Mariano explains.

On the dispute between Toninho Geraes and Adele, Mariano opines: “There is a very striking similarity in the harmony, tempo and structure of the songs.” The lawyer points out that Brazilian legislation follows international copyright conventions and that cases such as this one tend to be resolved out of court, via agreements and negotiations. It remains to be seen if this is the path Adele and Kurstin choose when they decide to break their silence.

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