Utrecht is home to many nationalities. Every week, DUIC features an Utrechter with a different background. The concept was inspired by ‘180 amsterdammers’.

Boot camps in Italy were competitive; in Utrecht they’re fun!

Photo: Robert Oosterbroek

“In the Netherlands, they only serve the classic Italian dishes”, says Irene Ciampi (38). “It’s like going to Italy and getting a frikandel. There’s actually much more variation in Italian food!” She wanders around her home in Nieuw Engeland, passing the huge framed poster of pasta with the text La pasta del buon appetite hanging above the fireplace. The house is beautifully furnished, but what else would you expect when two architects live in the same house? Plants everywhere (particularly cacti “They’re my favourites, ciao cactus!”), a floor-to-ceiling bookcase (with books ranging from Bauhaus to The geometry of pasta) and lots of yellow (even Irene’s necklace matches the cushions on the sofa).

Irene thought she’d fall for a man with a Mediterranean temperament. But during a student exchange at TU Delft, she met Thijs. “A pale Dutchman with ginger hair”, she laughs. They fell in love and Thijs followed her to Italy. After living together in Milan for ten years, in 2013 they decided to move to the Netherlands. “The pay in Italy is bad. Lots of highly qualified young people are leaving the country; all my university friends live abroad now.” They went to live with Thijs’ parents in the Utrecht Schilderswijk with their son Jonas, who had by then arrived.

Although Irene had spent 18 months studying in Delft, the transition to the Dutch way of life was more difficult than she’d expected. “I was in social shock at work.” In Italy, it’s normal to form friendships with colleagues and invite them to your home for dinner. “That’s not done here.” She also had to get used to the different hierarchy. “In Italy, you and your workmates join forces ‘against’ the boss so that you can gossip and moan about him or her. Here in the Netherlands, you talk to your boss as if he or she were a colleague! Not that I’d want it any other way now.”

Boot camp

After a year in the Netherlands, Irene suffered a burn-out. Looking back, she’s glad she did. “It’s considered weak in Italy; a sign that you’re not strong enough. It’s much more acceptable over here and people are more aware.” The burn-out got her thinking about how she really wanted to spend her time. She started working freelance and now has more time to cook, cycle and of course, attend boot camps. This is her passion. Grift Park is her favourite venue, as the other sportsmen and women who train there are more ‘open minded’. Where most boot-campers suffer the tough exercises in silence, Irene often dissolves into laughter: “Shit, this is killing!” She did boot camps in Italy too, but it was very competitive. “I always had a bag full of plasters; it’s much more fun here.”

She’s glad that she and Thijs decided on Utrecht rather than Delft. “There are so many events and green parks in Utrecht! And everything’s more hipster, which I like too.” She buys her favourite Italian products at Bigoli in Schoutenstraat or Tutti a Tavola in Burgemeester Reigerstraat. What does she buy? “Olives, ricotta and stracchino to make the very best piadina.” She smiles: “I have to teach my son to eat properly!”

Name: Irene Ciampi
Date of birth: 7 November 1978
Place of birth: Prato, Italy
Motto: “Swallow your frog first when you have something complicated to do and laugh about it” (When faced with a difficult task, never put it off until tomorrow what you can do today)

Allemaal Utrechters is a series of interviews with people who moved to Utrecht from another country. We ask them about their background and their impression of Utrecht, revealing the true diversity of our city. The ‘Allemaal Utrechters’ series is a collaboration between DUIC and Culturele Zondagen, and has been made possible with help from Stichting Dialoog and the Municipality of Utrecht. We hope to showcase every nationality in Utrecht.

Click here to view the other articles.

Article by Annabel van Heesbeen.