Friday, 25 October 2013

Thump! Real life hits!

After past trips I have generally bounced back fairly quickly. Not this time. The first two days home I have had jet lag quite badly. Yesterday I went to bed at 5 pm and slept until 9 am today, apart from the occasional toilet break. Today is the first day I have really done anything. But what?

Read on....

Firstly, my home telephone was on the blink. This is the third or 4th time this has happened in the last few months, and the nuisance value does nothing to lift the spirits. I rang my telecom firm and they promised to have it all fixed by the end of today, advising me to unplug all phones except one. Late this afternoon I rang to check progress, using my very unsatisfactory mobile, and they said it would all be fixed by 7 pm, that they realised it was an ongoing fault (too true!) and I would be given credits (?). So far the telephone is still not working.  I am not happy.

I rang to check the insurance on my damaged glasses. Naturally the telephone service is located somewhere far, far away, ie in a foreign clime, and there is no actual bodily person, upon whose kind and possibly generous bosom you could fling yourself on and weep, and be told 'There, there.'They promised, from the far, foreign clime, to email me forthwith a claim form. It has not arrived! Oh well, I thought, I will drive over to the optometrist and get a replacement organised.

The car would not start. Flat battery. Not merely flat, but completely dead. This after a month's inactivity, sitting in the garage. I rang the car insurance organisation (using the mobile). Now I have to confess that I bought a very cheap mobile this year, and it is awful to use, so I feel I do penance for all my faults whenever I use it. The organisation forthwith sent around a man in his van, who agreed that the battery was very kaput, and so I chose to get a new one. So he left, having called the battery replacement man. He turned up, and replaced the battery, and told me all about his time in the army (didn't sound at all nice).

They hold your keys while they do the replacement, I suppose, just in case you get any funny ideas, and yes, the battery having been replaced, he drove off with my car keys in his pocket. Fortunately I had his telephone number on my mobile, as he had sent a message to announce his imminent arrival, so, having agreed that 'Oops, yes, so I did,' he drove back and returned the car keys.

This fortified, I drove off to the optometrist. Who took my spectacles to her machines, did this and that, changed the nose pads, and made it all better. So at least something went right today. Then I bought something for dinner, and came back home, and waited for the phone repair to be completed.

Eventually I phoned them, and they said all sorts of reassuring things, and said it would definitely be fixed by 7 pm and that they would ring me. But nothing so far, at 7.45, and thus I feel aggrieved. Added to which the doorbell keeps going off. I think it is tuned to the same frequency as next door's, and vice versa) so I keep peering over the balcony to see if there is anyone actually there. There isn't.

Nor has there been any further information and result about my home telephone.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Jiggedy jig

What a long way home it is. Kind Jenny and Graham walked with me to the station, Graham pulling my bag. I had managed to buy the train ticket the previous day, so did not had to use a Machine. Going by train is easy and pleasant.

My airline is not all that comfortable. Hard seats, and by no means flat. Even though the flight departed in the early afternoon, food was served as soon as possible, and then shortly after, the crew  pulled down all the blinds, turned of the lights and left us all to it, and who knows what they all did in the meantime.  At 4 pm I did not want to sleep, especially not in daylight, so had to turn on my inadequate little light in order to finish my novel.

The transfer in Bangkok went smoothly, unlike on the journey to Rome, where we all had to run as fast as possible and then go through transit and security, even though you would not have had time to do a single thing which might possible and conceivably have affected security or otherwise endangered and person, aircraft of thing. However it was better than the trip across, as fewer passengers were about.

Once in the lounge, I sat near another woman, who looked distressed and had a problem. She had dropped her wallet, containing her passport, somewhere, probably in the security area and did not notice it straight away. The Thai staff were good: they notified everyone possible, and a man came and took her away to do more checking. When I had boarded the plane, and was settling into my seat, she passed me. Someone had found the wallet, and handed it in, and they were able to get it back to her. With 15 minutes to spare, and of course, her luggage already loaded. They said to her to run, get there as fast as you can. Whew! Happy endings are good!

Home. Sweet home. Late last night. I managed to get into my house, to unpack at a basic level, fell into bed, and slept. Today I have done more unpacking, loaded my photos onto the computer and looked cursorily through them. (Some are very bad. Others, quite good. They all tell a story. In fact, lots of stories.)

Memories are rather like volume by displacement. Having been away from the usual environment, I have trouble finding the previous memories of what I did, where things are kept, where I put things. It is all most disconcerting.

There is something about travelling for about 24 hours, exhaustion perhaps, which makes you exceedingly glad to reach the destination, and to replace the realities of the past month with the everyday ones.  Even tedious things like recalling the passwords of the stay at home life, and collecting the mail, all of which was stuffed into my letter box, along with some mail for three other people whose addresses are not anywhere near my house.

An Italian class started again this morning, but I did not wake in time to even think about trying to get there. I had trouble remembering what day it was, or how much time had elapsed since my arrival home. Then there was checking the email. And discovering that the home phone was completely dead.

Aargh! That meant ringing Telstra. How tedious a process this is. They want to know how many telephones I have. Then they say to unplug all but one. They ask about line splitters or other such ilk. Finally they tell you that Yes, they have detected a fault in the outside line. This fault appears to occur at regular intervals, but having to deal with such nitty-gritty the day after arriving home feels like being slapped in the face with a wet and spiky fish.  I had to do all of this using my exceedingly basic mobile phone, which was only half charged. Look, I have no intention of trying to fill my ageing and not very technically competent brain with this sort of stuff. What I want is for someone to come to the house, come inside and tell me how the phones should be plugged in, and fix it all up, leaving clear printed instructions for any future catastrophes, all as part of the service, but No, it seems that you would have to pay extra for this.

The trip home was not too bad and I did get a small amount of sleep. I also felt faint at one stage, and the crew gave me some oxygen. But once we had landed, Customs and immigration were very efficient and pleasant, they come around and ask the relevant questions as you wait for your luggage, tick you off, and out you go. A taxi was readily available, on the journey I heard about the fires, and then arrived home.

It seemed too soon to go out and do a proper food shop, so I ventured out locally to buy milk and a couple of things, then decided to have coffee and a sandwich at a local cafe. All I wanted was a sandwich in brown bread with cheese and salmon, nice, plain and not large. what arrived was a large toasted bun with too much in it. I could not bring myself to complain and send it back, but I asked why they had given me it toasted when I had not asked. Oh, said the waiter, it is because we use frozen bread. Oh, I said, blankly.

Never mind. It is good to be home.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Last day in Rome

As this is my last full day in Italy, there was much to do. Firstly to talk to my son on Facetime.It is almost time to go out for dinner. Yesterday at breakfast I unexpectedly encountered on of my friends from the Italian classes, here with her husband. She recommended this hotel, and also the apartments in Reggio Emilia, where we stayed. We had not known each other's travel dates, and we just happened to arrive at breakfast at the same time. So we spent yesterday together, and today met for dinner. In the morning we went to Testaccio, to look over the food market, and to note how much more common it must be to eat offal. (I avoid it, myself.)

Quite often I do not make specific plans for the day, but set off, and see where I go. Today I went to the Doria Pamphilj gallery. This is still privately owned. I have been there before, but cannot miss the opportunity to see Velasquez's portrait of Pope Innocent X, and the Bernini bust of him, as well as many other famous paintings, including several by Caravaggio.  I hired an audio guide, but this covered only a small number of the paintings. Although the artist of each painting is on each frame, there are no titles, and nothing sbout the artists. I spoke to one of the staff afterwards. His explanation was that the family has maintained the building/gallery as it was and there was no room to displsy any other information. This does not seem to me to be good enough. Surely people who visit should be treated with respect, and given information.

After the Doria Pamphilj I visited Palazzo Venezia, from the balcony of which Mussolini used to appear and wave to the crowds.  I did not visit the main collection, but instead went to a large exhibition of an Italian sculptor, Venanzo Crocetti, who worked mostly in bronze. He made the sculptures decorating the doors of Saint Peter's. I liked his work very much, and there was a very interesting film about him.

I headed off to the Vatican, to revisit Piazza San Pietro, not all that crowded, but with lenghty queues wanting to enter St Peter's. I crossed the Tiber via Castel Sant'Angelo, such a grim, vast and impressive building. The bridge was almost impassable because of pedlars and their wares, none of which appesred to be made in Italy.

There are heaps of pedlars  selling what I can only describe as splat toys, soft plastic clumps which when hurled on the ground go Splat. Really weird!

The bus trip back was totally packed, just like yesterday's, with the strike. Impossible to move, or validate the ticket, stuffy and rather claustrophobic..  I have done most of my packing, had a very pleasant dinner with Jenny and Graham, who insist on escorting me to the station tomorrow, to catch the train to the airport. Then the wait for the flight, snd the long long way back home, to arrive late at night, and hoping to find that all is well.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Transport strike

Yesterday on the train an announcement was made at regular intervals that there would be a transport strike the next day. I did not get the full gist as there was a certain amount of crackling combined with various large gaps  in my vocabulary. In due course the train arrived in Rome and I walked to the hotel and settled into a room which is slightly larger and more comfortable than the one they gave me when I was here the first time.

Today when I set out I came across a very large gathering of striking unionists, handing out leaflets, with lots of banners, but I have not managed to find out more except that they are protesting against government cuts to services. I tend to be on their side, especially after having endured an incredible crush of bodies on a bus on the way back to the hotel. The world needs good public transport. I had a free ride as it was impossible to validate the ticket. But at least I paid for it. Lots of other occupations were not striking. The police, the carabinieri, the guards and all such occupations were hanging around in large numbers, looking terribly smart and well groomed in their beautifully cut and elegant uniforms, their elegant hairstyles and general personification of la bella figura.

I wish my Italian was much much better, as I am not understanding much of the political news. There has been a lot reported on the death, at the age of 100, of the Nazi soldier, named Priebke, who was in command of the reprisal executions of three times the number of German casualties from the attack on them in Via Rasella  in October 1943 - 70 years ago. Those executed were shot in the Ardeatine Caves, the entrance to which was concreted over, but some time after the war the caves were reopened and the victims properly buried. There had been a dispute about the burial of Priebke 's body.

Wars and atrocities followed me around today, as when I visited Palazzo Braschi,  there was an exhibition of photographs by Robert Capa, a Hungarian war photographer who  became an American citizen. He followed the American forces after the US  invaded firstly Sicily and then mainland Italy, and he also wrote about his life and experiences. He died years later, I think in Vietnam, after treading on a land mine.

Apparently there will be further strike action tomorrow and thus I must work out addresses and directions tomorrow. I went out for dinner tonight, at a very pleasant restaursnt down the road, which was recommended by the hotel. It is obviously recommended by many nearby hotels. At the adjacent table there was an English couple, pleasant and interesting, so we enjoyed our conversation. We may see each other again tomorrow night.

Having eaten very little all week because of this  little germ, or whatever, tonight's meal was too large a serve. This lovely restaurant charged me only half price. How kind! I hope I am on the way to recovery. There is a lot to do tomorrow,  and I hope to investigate whether there is a little boat trip on the Tiber.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Killing time

Tomorrow I leave Udine, and will travel all day to return to Rome and from there will fly home.
Most places are closed now, for the long Italian middle of the day break. Cafes are open, but not much else. The city is very quiet.

I am sitting on a bench outside the cathedral, waiting for a bookshop to open, and then will return to the hotel. There is probablynot much more I can fit in.  This morning was spent sdmiring Tieoplo paintings, wondering all the while how they managed topaint such wonderful ceilings and walls so high up from the floor. Is there a study of working conditions for builders and  painters?

Mostly Udine is quite flat but in the middle it hasa very steep hill, upon which  an impressive castle was built. The other day I walked up there from Pazza della Liberta, and today I approachedit froom the other side. Access was just as steep and difficult, leaving me quite puffed out. Many of the roads and footpaths aremade of small blocks of stone, placed in appealing fanned out patterns. Sometimes stones fall out or break and repairs can be good, bad or indifferent. Pedestrian  crossings use large white blocks of stone, which seem an improvement on white painted strips.

But back to the Castello. There is an art Gallery, and archaeological museum, and anotherone, seemingly still being created, on the history of Udine, concentrating on from Napoeon onwards. After Napoleon!s eventual defeat, the territory was given to the Austrians, until such time as Italian unification. The art gallery was interesting but not wonderful. The archaeological museum is terrific. You cannot do anything around here without digging up things from the very dim dark past,
It seems knee deep in objects. There do seem to be vast numbers of tombs, bones, cswords, knives, bits and pieces, glass, intricate jewellery and pottery. I wonder what future archaeologists will make of all our vast and numerous rubbish dumps?

Wednesday, 16 October 2013


Yesterday I travelled by train from Venice to Udine. The hotel, which is just down the road from the station, is pleasant, the room is large and comfortable, the staff incredibly helpful, and it is so much better than the hotel in Venice. I must try to put up a critical review, to discourage others.

I quickly realised I was not in a tourist heaven. The resturant did not accept credit cards, only cash, and the total for the enjoyable food was half  that would have been charged in Venice. After settling in I went for a walk, but still got lost. Still, I did get there and back.  With some help. In Udine you pass supermrkets all the time: in tourist heaven they are difficult to find.

This city is closer to the mountains, and I was told that the Friuli is lke being in a different country. I wonder how true that is. There are a lot of Germans around , but there were plenty in Venice.
Last night at the restaurant i was sitting next to a couple from Argentina, whose family had originally come from the Friuli. They had very little Italian or English, and I have forgotten most of what little Spanish I knew, but we tried, and talked quite a lot. Then the food arrived and silence fell.

This moring I had intended to visit both Castelmonte and Cividale, but did not set off in time due to a  tricky tummy. So I travelled by trin to Cividale, a small town which appears pleasant and prosperous, and found my way to the Duomo, the archaeological museum, an old convent,  somewhere ehlse, and a cafe where I sat down and drank tea.
There are regular regional trains to and from both cities, only two carriages long, and it took only about 20 minutes for the trip. Lots of young people, presumably students. Goodness me, they all smoke such a lot. They chuck the butts all over the place, just like in Australia. At one time it was not done to smoke while walking along the streets, but things have changed. I felt that I had to get inside somewhere in order not to inhale smoke.  

The BBC TV keeps us informed about the financial struggle between the President abd the Congress, and I cannot believe that the right wing ratbags are willing to bring their country to the brink of financial disaster. Incredible!

After.returning from Cividale I set out to explore Udine a little, so as to make my whole day of visiting churches and galleries easier, and not to waste so much time trying to find out both where I am and where I want to be. I walked up to Piazza Liberta, very impressive with colonnades and lovely stone, and broad open spaces, with many plaques commemorating who did which great things and when. Then I walked up to the Castello, high above the rest of the city, with commanding views, and a very defensible position, but it was a little too late to tackle the museums. Instead I sent to the Duomo and then to the Baptistery, where I talked at length to the woman who was providing information, and we talked at length. In such places one feels that all these events have only just happened.

This city is very good for my Italian, as when I speak it, no one breaks into English, and I am inordinately delighted to receive many compliments. My teachers will be pleased too.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Last day in Venice

Here I sit on the bed watching BBC news, which occasionally giveis a snippet of Australian news, so that I lnow Bill Shorten is the new ALP leader. There has been much coverage of the refugee boats sinking in the. Mediterranean, and thrre seems to be more sympathy for.their plight than is often  given in Australia.

 Owing to the thin walls in this hotel, I slept intermittently  and badly then the milk I poured on the muesli had soured, and thus so did I.

 This morning I went to the sung Mass in San Marco again. Had I stayed longer I would have heard singing by an Austria choir. I lnow this only because late this afternoon I went to S Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, to see the church itself, Titian's huge painting of The Assumption. I also wanted to see Monteverdi's tomb, the bust, and the open score of his Vespers. There is always a flower placed on the tombstone. I love Monteverdi's music very deeply. At the tomb a man joined me. He is a singer, singing teacher and conductor from Austria. It was good to share our love of this wonderful music.

I speny a few hours at the Correr museum - it is a long time since I have been there, and there is plenty to see and learn. Lots of statues of Canova, many many portraits of the numerous Doges, plenty of religious art. What. Has been striking me is the absence of women in much of the art. Unless you count Mary, the mother of Jesus, and various other saints in crowd scenes you see the women on balconies or in reserved spaces. As I have been watching a documentary on the Pakistaini victim, Malala, who was shot by the Taliban because of her outspoken support for the education of females, it often seems that in the struggle for women's rights there is a long way to go. Imagine commiting murders in order to deprive women of basic human rights and to keep them oppressed.

Tomorrow i. Go by train to Udine  which people say is very pleasant. Nora and John will help get me and my suitcase to the train. They have been very kind, snd it has been a lot of fun, despite the rather awful hotel, and I wonder how it will feel to be on my own.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

How infrequent sunshine can cause feet to ache

Deispite having had a veiry wakeful night, I have been out and about inthe sunlight. It is warm, the raincoat is back st the hotel and I am sitting on a stone  bench on the edge of Dorsoduro, opposite Giudecca, almost back at the hotel. Not that I am in a great hurry to returnto that stuffy and uncomfortable shoebox.

The schoolchildren are coming home from school and there is a lot of excited chatter, along with the yapping and barking of far too many dogs. I don't know what has happened to all the cats, but Venice is teeming with dogs of all sizes and shapes, and one of them sat on my feet yesterday on the ferry.
Yesterday we went to the Giardini, at the end, so to speak, of Venice. We tried to find the statue ofVerdi, with the nose hammered off by some loutish vandal, but could not find it. It was a very pleasant day, wandering around open pace with large trees and parks, and although there were plenty of us tourists, there were lots of people who live there. It was washing day, so clothes and sheets were drying on lines suspended between windows. We noted a very leaning church bell tower, and found a little restaurant where we had lunch.

Getting around Venice is not cheap, although obviously the city feels that havibg 20 million tourists a year ought to render them some profit, as well as helping to pay for the continous costs of infrastructure. After the Giardini, we took a ferry to Murano, where I bought a little decorative bottle. And we visited the Duomo, a building splendid in its simplicity and ferviur, and with am amazing floor made from matbles and semiprecious stones. It was taken up some years ago, the foundations fixeud up and strenghtened, and the floor relaid. It is wonderfully decorated and very harmonious.

Venice is visited by huge cruise ships, and I gather that the waterways have had to be dredged to allow the ships to grt in and out. Opinions vary as to whether allowing these ships to come in and out is a good thing. One person atgued that an aircraft crash over the industrail area of Marghere would have far more devastating consequences, but of course the big ships have effects each day.

Nora and John are returning their hired car to Milan, so I have been left to my own resources today. I went to the Guggenheim, which is very close to my hotel, and while I enjoyed a lot of it, Itdid seem to me that  much modern art is junk. There was another exhibition on, which included works by Odilon Redon, and I do love his art.

After all that I went to San Marco where I soaked up some more sun and beauty, then wandered around and got lost. That meant I did not get to where I had planned to be, too many wrong turns, map print size much too tiny, not to mention my poor navigational skills. But I did find a hole in the wall, to replenish my cash, and they are remarkably difficult to find. The holes, that is.

Many of the shops for both leather and glass are now owned by Chinese and  the shops at Murano have a lot to say about the imitation Venetian glass and other Italian products.

The number of pigeons is less  and the government had prohibited feeding these birds - not thst this stops a lot of idiots from doing so. Apparently the government paid large sums in compensation to those who sold pigeon food.

I am sitting here wondering at what time the huge cruise ship down at the edge of the fondament might begin its departure, as it would be auite pleasant to gawk at it and take photos. Yesterdat our ferry and a ship passed each other, and there they all eere, on the decks, and the skies were full of the flhes of cameras

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Vicissitudes of vaporetti

 I am sitting in Campo san Vio, surrounded by pigeons which have just been illegally fed by women disposing of their dry bread, and while I wait for myfriends (having escped from the dim light in my room, i amstartingonrecounting yesterday's events. We travelledbyvaporetto. Nora and John have special tickets. Alltickets must be validated before embarking. Mine was,so was John's, but Nora's got an incomprehrnsible message and allaroundus shrugged in either ignorance or indifference.the worst happened:ticket inspectorsgot on and  Nora was adjudged tobe guiltyof filing tovalidte her ticket.the animated discussion that ensued between the three of us and the two inspectors (from a Modena firm) wasvicariouslyenjoyed by all the other passengers, and ofcourseno one else'stickets werechecked. Nora had to pay afine, on the spot, of E59' which we allfeel was a bit stiff, as absolutely no  one could explain what it all meant or what she should have done.

Resolutely we pressed on. At thestation, like the myriad other passengers, we queued for our train tickets,bought them, crossed theCalatravabridge, a most disappointing and visually disturbing structure, and  headed off for the Gesuiti church, far, far away. Westoppedforlunch,T arestaurant John knew about, and proceeded to drink and dine well, and entertain the  restaurant staff and other diners with our experiences on the vaporetto.  The chef came out to listen and give his opinion (only speak English, and other diners all offered their opinions. We all had a very good time, and one of them gave me his email address for when I am in Udine.

Having yarrived at the gesuiti while it was het to reopen, we filled in the time by helping a newly wed couple from Taiwan tofind their honeymoon B and B.they wereexceedingly confused by house numbering system in Venice, which takes chaoticleaps  with nospparent sense of sequence. John took their phone and rang the B and B so that the owner came around and fetched them. We hope they have a wonderful stay.
 In our turn ee enjoyed the gloriesof the Gesuiti church.
It istime to meet nora and jogn and embark on who knows what i cannot see what I am typing. So. Tanti auguri a tutti voi.

A hint of blue

Everything looks better in sunlight, especially Venice. This morning when I peeked out of the window of my shoebox, there were blue spots in the sky, so I took a photograph of it. Having breakfasted, and back in my room, I looked out again, and lo! there is no blue sky to be seen.
I was prepared to stay in the miniature breakfast, room, but another couple came in and there were no tables free, so I gave them mine, and am now perched on the bed near the window, and while composing this, another essay is running in my head, which is a detailed catalogue of the manifold deficiencies of this hotel, along with a scathing analysis of my feeble character in not doing anything about it - either the room or the character. My excuse is that typing on the iPad gives me more than enough problems to be solved, such as removing the full stops which appear despite my finger having been nowhere near the fullstop key.

Yesterday we went to the Querini Stampalia museum, which was quite fascinating. The entry has been refurbished, the staff were very helpful, and even gave us stickrrs permitting us to take photographs of the artworks. However the very modern entry area, replete with lockers, bookshop (excellent) and cafe,  cleverly obscured the how to get into the museum question. On our way we were confronted by a video of an Australian artist discussing aboriginal art.
The last member of the Querini Stampalia family bequeathed everything to Venice, and there are many portraits and paintings of  Venice, including a whole room with floor to ceiling paintings placed right next to each other. The original furniture and furnishings are still there, all roped off so as not to allow anyone to rest their weary limbs and indulge in beautiful thoughts and artistic apprecistion, so that after a few rooms I was desperate to sit down.
After our visit we tried to find the hotel where my sister and I stayed many years ago, but to no avail. My map reading skills and lack of a sense of direction did not help.

However the first thing I did yesterday morning was to visit the Accademia. Nora had advised me to go early, before the crowds hit, and so I did, and managed to wander around for a couple of hours before being swamped by Other Tourists. I did ask the staff/watchdogs a couple of questions, but they were really very little help, quite inlike the staff at the Pitti Palace, who really knew their stuff and much more besides, and had great enthusiasm and courtesy.
The previous evening we went to a meeting of the Circolo, which seems to be a group of mostly British aficionados of Venice, and the UK ambassador gave a talk on EU, British and Italian issues, all very interesting despite the long walk there and back.

This morning  we. Are going up tothe station to organise train tickets.

Monday, 7 October 2013

More of Venice

This morning, being Sunday, I went to the sung Mass at San Marco. When i got to Piazza san Marco, there was water all over it, more than enough to soak both shoes and socks. Although there were planks placed strategically to get people to San Marco, it was not possible to aboid getting feet thoroughly soaked. It was raining steadily, and the hotel provided me with an umbrella. Modt prople had opted for plastic raincoats and plastic covers for their shoes, but I strode gamely on.

San Marco is an extraordinary experience. What an amazing building. How did the Venetians manage to build this superlative masterpiece? Although I have been there before, its spendour is absolutely stunning. The church was crowded, with those who wanted to go to the sung Mass and those who wanted to look. I managed to get a seat, right on an aisle, with a direct view of the altar.  The choir was excellent, but I could not see where they were. After Mass had finished, like many others I took photos of the interior. Once outside, getting from the planks above the water level was a bit tricky. I asked a young man to give me a hand. We stretched out our hands to each other: they did not reach and so I jumped and we managed to reach each other's hand. However it did not seem possible to get across Piazza San Marco and so I wended my way around and found myself headed for   the Rialto, and hoped to get back to the Accademia. This did not work out and it took a long long time to get back to my hovel room. Naturally I got lost. Still, not as lost as the previous night when it took five pleas for help, before a kind man escorted me to the door of the hotel.  oh dear, I do wish  hadp a better sense of direction, and memory for instructions. Never mind, tonight I got back to the hotel wthout any problems.

I met my friends and we went to a lovely concert, but despite their being very familar with Venice, they too got lost and we were late for the concert. This cheered me up somewhat. Venice is not easy to find your way around.

After the concert we went back to the apartment they rent and had a pasta dinner and a good talk. Tomorrow promises to be easier, and with a due measure of concentration, studying the maps, and lucks, perhaps I might not get so lost.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Not lost, but there? But where? And back.

This morning I went out for an extensive walk to try to get my bearings. Happily, I got there and back, and did not get lost at all. At all! But i did get smitten by a migraine. Not impressed. I have not had one for quite some time, and cannot say I needed one.  Having ventured cautiously to sit up, here  I sit, posting.

When  I got ready to go to bed last night I discovered that there was no blanket on the bed, so had to go down the two flights of steep stairs to ask for one. This hotel did not give out such information aas what number to dial for reception. Sigh.

I contemplated  trying to find another hotel but it is probably too hard.  I still cannot work out the TV. Somehow nothing happens when I press the buttons. Sigh.

However I have been talking to the woman in charge, who offered tea and pills. But I had my own.

During my walk I came across an elderly man who was fishing and he showed me his catch of three tiny orate. I had orata for dinner last night, and it is  a nice fish, but mine was considerably larger than the ones he had caught.  Talking to people I encountered is very pleasant and good for my Italian, and here I preen and note that I have received many compliments. Most gratifying! It gets one out of total tourist mode.

 The weather is worse than in Cannero. It is raining softly and is quite a lot colder.  Sunshine would be lovely. There are absolutely hordes of tourists. On the Allilaguna ferry yesterday I translated. Between an American man, and an Italian woman. She told us she had been laid off from her job in a department store, owing to the fact that following its takeoveir by an Austrian firm, the manager had embezzled the money and fled the country and so far had not been found. She says inemployment here is very high, particularly amongst the young. If things are bad in tourist dominated Venice, I wonder howthe rest of the country is faring.

It s probably my civic duty to go out and stimulate the economy, possibly by starting with a respberry gelato.

At the end of the day

It is late and I have just returned to the hotel after dinner. What a long day it has been, driving for most of it, from Cannero to Venice. The car has benn parked on the long term parking near Venice airport, and we took the Allilaguna ferry into  Venice. This took quite some time andj ours was the last ferry stop.
 I am back in my hotel room. It is tiny and none of the remote control buttons for the TV did anything at all. Nor was there anywhere to put my suicase, and all the lights were dim. Such things teach one to be more assertive, so I returned to the hotel desk and asked for stronger light globes and for something to place my suitcase on. On my return from dinner the man at the desk told me he had changed on of the light globes and he has also put a small table in the room upon which to place the suitcase. If you do not ask, you do not receive, and I now unabashedly plead age, decrepitude, bad eyesight, etc.

We had a good dinner and my friends collected me and returned me to the hotel. Tomorrow  I need to see it all in daylight and to memorise the way, and generally get my bearings. I do have some vague memories but have not stayed inthis part of Venice before, so it may take me a little longer than it should.

Driving across Italy is interesting (just as well) and the contrast between the plains and the mountains is dramatic. In Australia the mountains are low in comparison.  The mountains seem to appear quite suddenly. The vegetation seems very uniform, and to my mind the Australian Bush is far more interesting, but we do not have such dramatic waterfalls cascading so copiously and dramaticaaly down precipitous mountains. Nor do we have buildings and bridges of such antiquity. The country is so beautiful, with such great contrasts.  The buildings have fewer storeys, and there tend not to be
roofs with eaves, as though you do not need to design with regatd to the orientation of the sun, or to protect from the heat of summer.

It is very cool here and still not a hint of the sun. This dull weather must surely cramp the photographic style.

The extent and excellence of the road system is most impreesive and the traffic moves swiftly. Every so often a toll point will say Arrivederci, and we reciprocate. And so say I: arriverderci.

One of the many good things about the iPad is the Facetime and this morning I held up our departure by talking to my daughters and grandchi,dren. How fortunate we are so be able to use such marvels of technology, albeit, in my case, somewhat timidly and hesitatingly.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Islands and gardens

My friends and I are staying at Cannero, on Lake Maggiore. It is a very beautiful area. Very steep, with the road edging the lake hewn out of the mountain and very busy. It is an area where the tourists all seem to be very well-heeled, and the hotels far from basic or ordinary. It is close to Switzerland, and tomorrow we might drive across the border and take a peek. Lots of German spoken around here, and road signs are in German as well as Italian.

The weather has been very cool, misty, and still. The mist has not lifted at all, and it is not possible to see the far shore of the lake clearly. Not a leaf stirs all day. I want to see the sun, to see the water sparkle, to feel some breeze on my face.

We spent the days visiting the Isole Borromeo,  walking around gorgeous gardens on Isola Madre. The climate is so mild that a great many exotic and tropical plants flourish. Huge numbers of camellias,  and banks of azaleas, taxodium trees, magnolias, and a huge Kashmir cypress. Most of the soil had to be brought to the islands and plants cannot put down deep roots. The Kashnir cypress was felled some years ago by a tornado - and tornados would be rare events in this part of the world - but immense efforts were made to replant and save the tree, and it gas been saved, although itremains attached to huge cables.

We encountered an Australian goup, from Sydney, which was doing a garden tour of Italy.  We visted the sumptous villas and palaces, and visited a room where Napoleon slept during his Italian campaign. Then we chatted to one of the attendants, and caught up on the latest in Italian politics,Berlusconi  having tried to force his party to topple the coalition government. as some of his party refused to vote with him and thus it turned into a vote of confidence in the government.

So what with that drama, the Repblicans in the US  in effect refusing supply, and the Senate vote in the Australian election being almost completed with some pretty weird and anomalous results, there does seem to be a certain amount of pazzia spluttrring and fizzing around the wirld. And here I am, just having fun, eating lots of prosciutto crudo,  and the world is still turning on its axis.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

After many hours

 After many hours on the road we reached the small town of Cannero, on Lake Maggiore. We left Reggio Emilia early, and drove past Milan, then to Como, where we had coffee and visited the remarkable cathedral, and then searched for toilets. Maps indicated various locations, but none of them were to be found until we reached the railway station. There ensued severalmore hours of driving. I am fine. I sit in the back seat and take absolutely no responsibilty at all.

The italian road system is something to be marvelled at. In Australia the distances are far greater and the population smaller, and it takes years, it seems, for roads to be built. In Italy there are remarkable autostradas, with many lanes, high speed limits, and trucks must stay in the one lane except when overtaking. The toll stations are numerous with many lanes to get cars through.

Near Reggio Emilia there are three remarkable bridges/overpasses, and unfortunstely I was unable to grt good photos of them, as the car's GPS tended to get very confused when getting us into and out of Reggio. What with the trillion roundabouts and exits, it was not possible to ask for the car to be stopped in order to take a photo.

However I thought i recognised the srchitect, and googled it, and I was right. The bridges were the work of Santiago Calatrava, an amazing and original architect and engineer.I did get some bad photos as we whizzed by this morning and  they will have to do.

We drove to Verbania where we took a car ferry across the lake, then went to Stresa, and finally arrived at Cannero. The hotel is rather more posh than I am used to. We had an enjoyable dinner and then went to a Bar where there was a pianist and a kind of sing song.

 It bas been a long day, through parts of Italy I have not been to previously. The countryside is fascinating, with thick woods and forests, lots of brambles, and so many trees do not appear to have loser branches. I am not surprised Hansel and Gretel could not find their way home. After being on the pianura for a week, with unrelenting flatness, and with low skies for the past few days, to travel through the hills and mountains has been fascinating. Such steepness, sheer rocks, and such incredible engineering. Sometimes we have driven along winding roads, and on other routes, if there is a mountain in the way, why then, just excavate snd put a tunnel right through. I look  at the roads and think of the ancient Romans.
 I am not sure what we will be doing for the next few days. Not eating too much, I hope.