Winter peace, Spring weather at Cinque Terre

View of Vernazza, Cinque Terre How I love this time of year at the Cinque Terre. The peace and quiet of the Winter, the striking colours of the villages against the clearest of skies and the bluest of seas. It does not get any better and a real enticement to be out there hiking around on old familiar trails.

And encouraged even more so by the unseasonal warm temperatures indicating an early Spring. The fruit trees are already in blossom as is the Mimosa wattle so sought after for International Women’s Day.View to Monterosso from San Bernardino

My hike began from San Bernardino with a view towards Monterosso in the distance  Defibrillator along the trailacross terraced vineyards. Who could get ever get tired of this view, Nature at its best, coming out of hibernation.

This year, thanks to the National Park, Vernazza Council and two local non profit organisations, we have defibrillators in various strategic points in the villages and even along the coastal trail at the halfway point of Prevo. A great idea since many tourists start the trail, often not realising that it can be quite strenuous, especially in the Summer heat. The National Park has also just introduced a fine on anyone wearing thongs/flip flops on the trails as it is an expensive and time consuming business to rescue injured people from the trail, often requiring a helicopter.

Trail landslideBut today the trail between Vernazza and Corniglia was quiet as it is still under maintenance as more dry stone walls have crumbled during the Winter. It is a never ending battle in this fragile territory and hurts just to see the devastation, be it small or large. Memories of the 2011 landslides during the flood never go away.

Olive nets glistened between the trees stretched out until next Winter, lemon trees were heavily laden with fruit and wildflowers were squeezing out of every nook and cranny under a splendid sun.

The fishing boats are still parked in the main square of Vernazza, safe from any stormy seas, creating a postcard image across to the Church, and a few locals are sitting chatting in the sunshine.

Corniglia is even quieter, and without tourists the souvenir shops are closed and only Corniglia main squarethe local café and delicatessen are open for essential local needs. But it still has a good feel about, very homey, as if everyone is resting before the tourist crowds swarm in at Easter. And not everyone is resting, as it’s time to prune the vines, repaint the facades, and clean out the cellars, in preparation for the new season. Everything has a quiet order to it, and a comforting security of belonging to a culture where some things just never change!

And this year I have decided to rent out ‘A little piece of paradise” at San Bernardino so I can welcome tourists to my little village away from the crowds. So keep that in mind if you are coming over to the Cinque Terre and take a look at the link here.


 

 

 

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Wine tourism in Victoria

Baileys wineryIt’s always such a delight for me to visit the various wineries on my travels around Victoria, from those along the Mornington peninsula like Red Hill Estate, Wolseley winery near Torquay, Gapsted wines on our way home from Falls Creek and Seppelt at the end of our Silo tour. I admit I am not a great wine connoisseur, as I only drink bubbles or white wine yet adore the lay back atmosphere over a light food platter or even get my dancing shoes when there’s music. Wine tourism is the norm at most Australian wineries, offering tastings, cellar tours, delicious lunches and special cultural events. In Italy unfortunately this is not the case, and only the big,important wineries offer such attractions and others by appointment only. So I was ready to take up every opportunity on my travels around. These are just a few examples.

On the way to Falls Creek we ventured into Ned Kelly territory at Glenrowan to stop for lunch at a little family run winery known as Baileys. While specialising in fortified wines, they still had a great selection of light refreshing white and red wines to compliment great dips, cheeses and pizza, in a pretty courtyard garden  setting with a view across the vineyards.

On the way back from Falls Creek we travelled through the old Tobacco growing area with the curing kilns still dotting the countryside, but in disuse as wine production has now taken over. Since I live not from a tobacco growing area on the Tuscan/Umbrian border I was interested in learning of its historical development here in the Wangaratta King Valley area.tobacco kilns

Production began in the 1850’s by Chinese, Americans and Europeans lured to the area by the Gold Rush. In 1917 the introduction of the ‘modern’ kiln for curing the tobacco leaf in an enclosed structure contributed significantly to the boom of tobacco production. Soon after the Italians arrived in the area and by the 1960’s were the major growers – 793 of 1025 growers. Various dramatic climatic conditions – heavy frosts and floods seriously decreased production over the years and it eventually it became too expensive in comparison to other producers like Brazil, China, India and East Africa.
Wineries began to take shape in the area in the 1980’s and ‘90’s as the area was recognized for its ideal cool climate, high rainfall, abundant fresh clean water and ‘buffalo breeze’ that provides natures air conditioning in the hot Summer months.

Gapsted winery entrance1996 Gapsted winery was founded by 7 families, two of whom are Italian, producing aromatic white wines, elegant, complex reds and lovely sparkling wines….how could I go past their Tobacco Road prosecco!? Gapste Tobacco Road prosecco

The winery is very enticing both inside and out, offering special events with live music, theatre and even guest chef appearance of Italian Stefano Manfredi. You just can’t get away from Italians!
We were there at the Big Shed sale and I can only say I have never seen a Shed so HUGE and bulging at the seams with wine bargains. The parking area expects sophisticated clients as they have two Tesla charging connectors!?Gapsted winery

Instead on our return from the silo visit we explored the historic winery of Seppelt. We have all grown up with, and am sure celebrated special occasions with many a bottle of Seppelt Great Western. On our tour of this historic winery we were almost shocked to discover it is no longer producing, having changed management and mergers, although our guide was hopeful about its return to production on site in the near future.

The Great Western winery was founded by Joseph Best in 1865. He commissioned local gold miners to tunnel the underground cellars that became known as ‘The Drives’ (over 3 kms, making them the longest in the Southern hemisphere). The winery was later purchased by Ballarat businessman Hans Irvine, who began the tradition of Seppelt Sparkling wines in 1890 when he employed Frenchman Charles Pierlot from Champagne to commence Methode Champenoise sparkling wines in Australia, that became legendary.”

Above ground boasts manicured gardens and historic Cottages, including the original cottage of founder John Best, all currently available to rent. Our guide was passionate about the winery, having worked there for over 40 years, and the tour full of fascinating information as well as many anecdotal stories.

Back closer to Melbourne, Wolseley winery near Torquay is always a favourite for me, as Will, the owner, organises live music on Sunday afternoons through the Spring/Summer months. A mix of rockabilly, jazz, blues and foot tapping stuff. Very lay back and no sophistication in front of the tin shed housing the band, yet good pizza and wine flows all afternoon. Check the website to get a feel of the ambience.

And while visiting friends on the Mornington peninsula, there is an embarrassing number of wineries in the Red Hill area that need little presentation. We were driving on one of those scorching hot days where even I dreamed of air conditioning in a beautiful setting. How could we go past the view of the bay at the Red Hill Estate winery, exquisite food and delicious wines.Red Hill Estate

Wine tourism is a great way to see the Australian countryside as well as pass some very relaxing hours over a glass or two. I miss the good life that Australia has to offer but know I will be back to explore new Decor Red Hillwineries and new places next time.                    In the meantime I will drown my sorrows with a lustrous spritz and/or bubbly prosecco as I pour over my thousand photos!

 

 

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The Silent tales on silos

Silos in VicWhile I am back to the cold Winter of Italy now, and welcomed back with a dose of flu, my memories of a superb Aussie trip remain vivid. I have been submersed in the endless Australian outback for most of January; experiencing its wildness, drooping under its heat, forever stimulated by its quirky elements, blown away by its beauty and entranced by the monotonous countryside that make it so typically “Aussie”.

Having read about the relatively new development of painted silos we were on a mission to explore these unique artistic sites along the Art Silo trail. We drove more than four hours from Melbourne through miles and miles of dry wheat lands, dotted sparsely with gum trees that offered little shade to the occasional herds of sheep seeking shelter from the harsh sun. We had come all this way, lured by the tales of the  wheat silos now boasting magnificent murales spread over 200 kms in 6 locations by 6 different artists. We were on the lookout for silos looming 30m tall mostly built around the 1930’s and now no longer used for storage for transport by rail. Lured also by such fanciful Aussie place names with Aboriginal heritage like Patchewollock,  – ‘putje’ meaning plenty and ‘wallah‘ meaning porcupine grass, Rupanyup meaning ‘branch hanging over water’, Brim signifying ‘spring of water’Patchewollock General Store

Patchewollock was to be the start of our Silo trail and having seen the relative remoteness of the town and its limited services we opted for the charm of an old weatherboard church converted into a B&B at the nearby town of Sea Lake – probably taking its name from the salty Lake Tyrrell, a desolate mirage of a Lake!

Patchewollock Art SiloOur first silo was painted by a Brisbane artist Fintan Magee in Oct 2016 and depicted a local farmer ‘Noodle Hulland‘ seemingly chosen for his slim build appropriate to the narrow silo and with such a classic farmer look. The striking blue of his shirt and jeans sitting so comfortably against the crystal blue sky.Preparation Patchewollock

 

 

 

 

Our next meeting with local characters – Geoff and Merrilyn Horman, was at Lascelles silo. The faces of the couple appear like enormous photographs, homage to a proud couple whose families have farmed the area for four generations. Painted by Melbourne artist Rone.

While these grain silos are now closed, in the past they were a place for the farming communities to come together during harvest, exchange news and stories and re-connect with old friends while the grain was loaded. Strengthening community ties just like Italians do at grape or olive harvests. To now see these people captured for real for all the world to see, must be a point of enormous pride, a great tribute to the farming community.

Rosebery SiloAnd we were still only at the beginning, our next Silo was at Rosebery by artist Kaff-eine. Highlighting the young female sheep farmers now so much a part of the local farming scene alongside the more traditional stockman image. Look closely and you will see me  propped between the silos to give an idea of the scale of these monsters. The video clip below shows the small community of Rosebery and what this Wimmera Mallee region is all about.

 

 

Moving on to Brim where the whole movement began in 2016 with the first mural by Guido Van Helten. A quartet of multi generational male and female farmers.Brim Silo

As the blazing sunshine  and cloudless sky continued we ventured on to the Sheep Hills silo depicting Aboriginals from the Barengi Gadjin Land Council, painted by local Mebourne artist Adnate.

And finally our last Silo at Rupanyup painted by Russian artist Julia Volchkova. This time featuring two local teenagers dressed in their sports gear – Ebony Baker and Jordan Weidmann. They will certainly have something to show their children when they grow up!

In between these Silos we found many still waiting on their murals, so there are sure to be more in the future as well as across the other States which have already taken on Mallee Fowl sculpturesboard the same idea. The experience for us has been  awesome and a real eye opener on life in this wheat farming area, where hearts and souls are as big and hard working as the Silos themselves. And it’s not only the Silos that are enormous, even the Mallee fowl get pretty huge!

It’s time for us to drive into our evening stay at the Horsham caravan park to relax after the gruelling heat of the day.The sunset over the river a perfect end to a superb day on the Art Silo Trail.


Silo map with Sea Lake


 

 

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Happy Festive Season

Christmas lights FlorenceHow time flies, it’s almost Christmas again!

May this festive season sparkle and shine, may your wishes come true, and may the joy of it all continue throughout 2019. Merry Christmas from Florence …..which has been sparkling already for the past few weeks and delighting us as we wander amongst the Christmas lights and festive shop windows.

I think Via Tornabuoni, filled with designer shops takes the cake for its Xmas lights; long delicate strands interlaced with baubles creating a fairly like scene which the photos hardly do justice.

 

And while I dislike the cold, a freezing -4 degrees this morning….brrrr, I love the Christmas atmosphere, time for hot chocolates, Xmas bootspanettone or my favorite – pandoro, lightly dusted with icing sugar.

And who could go past these Xmas boots?!

Or refuse an aperitif immersed inside this Xmas lit café?Florence Xmas lights

 

 

 

I will be back in Oz for the Summer, catching up with family and friends, and  finding some good Aussie stories to blog about next year.

Xmas David

So thank you all for following my blog and enjoy yourselves!

Buon Natale e Felice Anno Nuovo!

 

 

 

 

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Da Vinci’s CodeX in Florence

Florence at the time of Da VinciThe sound of water flowing, amid digital images of Florence at the time of Leonard da Vinci welcome visitors into the stimulating exhibition of Da Vinci, The Scientist – ‘Water as Microscope of Nature’ The exhibition is a temporary one in the Uffizi Gallery  till the end of January 2019, and one not to be missed.Leonardo da Vinci studies the manuscripts of san Marco convent

The exhibition displays original pages of Da Vinci’s Codex Leicester written between 1504-1508 focusing on water – “investigating its elementary structure, vortex movements, and mechanical and optical properties, as well as the technical solutions for exploiting it to the benefit of humanity…….exploring the analogies between water and air, and between the movements of fish and birds.” (Info at Exhibition)

Scribbled in Da Vinci’s unmistakable left handed scrawl from right to left, that exudes an intensity of concentration and precision. Meticulous designs of water flows, rock stratifications, light reflections, birds in flight and more.  Precise drawings of machines – Da Vinci's invention to dig canalsan odometer to measure distance, a centrifugal pump for draining marshes, underwater foundations for bridges and weirs, solutions to regulate the quantity and velocity of water drawn from siphons,  riverside constructions to combat erosion….the list was endless and fascinating.

He takes the human body as the model for elucidation of the physiology and dynamics of water and blood observationsthe Earth…. he speculates on the dynamic balance of the earth’s gravity….and offers practical advice to seamen from his understanding of hydrodynamics’

The digital presentations of his various machinery are mesmerising in their originality and creativity, providing us with the basis of many modern machines. He was interested in, and obsessively drew, the bit by bit analysis of every moving part in the machine and its contribution to the transfer of motion. The man was a true genius!

He invented a centrifugal pump for draining marshes, a man-saving device for digging canals, studied bird flight and wind currents to create our precursor to flight machines….

His theatrical mechanisms for court pageants, ‘allowing actors to rise and descend and float as if they were flying’ (Walter Isaacson) and from his studies of physics he truly believed that it was possible to build a winged mechanism that would allow humans to fly.

He was known to always carry notebooks which hung from his belt, constantly collecting ideas and scribbling observations of his surroundings from a technical, scientific and artistic point of view. His notes were transferred to the various manuscripts – Codex – of which more than 7200 pages exist today, considered to be only one-quarter of what Leonardo actually wrote, and which he had intended to publishing. “The most astonishing testament to the powers of human observation and imagination ever set down on paper” (Toby Lester “Da Vinci’s Ghost”)

Da Vinci's studies influence his artHis paintings elicit his geological theories on rock stratification as seen in the background of the Mona Lisa, and his studies of the impact of solar rays on the tint of the sky or secondary light he uses on the cheeks of Ginevra de Benci and The Virgin.

Leonardo was known to be slow and methodical in his artistic life, leaving many works of art, as well as machines and instruments unfinished or never started beyond a few draft etchings in his notebooks. After all, he took 16 years to finish the Mona Lisa, carrying it with him on his travels outside of Florence and Italy, constantly adding finishing touches!

Uffizi proudly displays another masterpiece, his unfinished, ‘Adoration of the Magi’ 1481-1482

Da Vinci Adoration of the Magi

Having just finished reading Walter Isaccson‘s biography on “Leonardo Da Vinci” the exhibition was in perfect timing to explore more and see the real documents of the Codex Leicester. An exhilarating experience and a super presentation of the Scientific mind and genius of Leonardo da Vinci.


 

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Getting the Good Oil

It’s one of my favourite times of year – picking olives and more importantly savouring the new extra virgin olive oil. A time to catch up with old friends and share our aches and pains as the days pass and the garage fills with crates of olives.

Besides I am lucky enough to be picking olives in Pienza in Val d’Orcia which in any season boasts fabulous views, rolling hills and cypress lanes, and towers guarding valleys filled with fluffy clouds and evocative morning mist.

Picking olives - Aleardo Paolucci designStaying with my artist friend – Enrico Paolucci, is always a pleasure and despite his father’s passing in 2013, Aleardo’s presence is still strong. From the muraled garage wall denoting country life, and the house filled with Aleardo’s works of art, to Isabella’s fond memories recounted as we pick olives together.Aleardo Paolucci - painting

We have been lucky with the weather, unlike some areas in Italy still battling flood levels and muddy landslides. A few brief showers gave us reprieve over lunchtime and the light breeze dried the trees and olives quickly so we could continue the picking.Picking with battery operated rake

An ingenious local, Giuliano, developed a home made version of ‘leaf and olive separator’ (seen in action here), in recycled material, even including the fan. A true Maker! Since we are not all hand picking, the battery powered raking system pulls more leaves and twigs with olives still attached and the less leaves in the pressing the better. The Olive mill also has their own similar separator system but in the meantime we are doing our best to send them to the mill in the best condition possible.
Separator - leaves from olivesOlives ready for the mill

 

 

 

 

Blessed with some sunshine, and spreading even larger olive nets under the trees meant we were soon down to T shirts only…..and my beloved overalls! The garage quickly filled with crates of Olives ready for the Mill – Frantoio Simonelli Santi in the nearby town of San Quirico d’Orcia. 

Surprisingly the mill is in the historic centre of the town using the traditional method of pressing – stone grinders pressing olives, pips and all, automated machines spreading the olive paste on mats, mats stacked into the presser which is raised, pressing out the liquid – oil and water and finally the centrifuge to separate the water from liquid gold extra virgin olive oil. Strictly cold press and bio!

 

Extra virgin oilive oilThe air is filled with a buzz of the various rake and shake systems as batteries power along until sunset, and our backs say they need a rest. Gloves are worn thin between the thumb and forefinger as we strip the branches of their produce.

In a week we picked 761 kilos of olives and came home from the Olive Mill with 125 litres of fabulous liquid gold. What could be more satisfying!

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Nature gives us another belting

 

Rapallo, Liguria

Photo credit: Regione Liguria

Two days of dramatic storms has brought Italy to it’s knees again, with terrible damage from North to South and miraculously only 14 people killed. The Cinque Terre and the whole coastline of Liguria has suffered and there may still be repercussions with landslides as the heavy rains soak in. The weather forecast remains gloomy and Liguria and Veneto regions are still under ‘Alert’, as we slide into the normal November rainy period.

And while Italy is not the only place taking a belting, it seemed appropriate to remember the flood of 25 October, 2011 in Vernazza and Monterosso and even the distant 1966 flood, 4 November  as the Mayor of Venice is saying the high water level may reach the same peak of 1.90 cm!

Vernazza sea storm

Photo credit: Paolo Lazzarotti

Unlike the flood of 2011, caused by an exaggerated downpour, on Monday/Tuesday  the storm provoked colossal sea swells with waves leaping over the entire village of Vernazza. As you can see in the video here the water in the main street is battling in both directions, from the sea and the rain!Cinque Terre Mud Angel

Locals are already doing the clean up of the sludge and mess that has flooded in, their own Mud Angelsas the clean up, at least in Vernazza, is not at the level of 2011.

Tourists were caught by surprise and made hurried exits of the coastal villages, dragging drenched trolleys to trains before various railway lines were closed.

I still wait with bated breath to return to my holiday haven at San Bernardino where I hear the wind was so strong the rain came horizontally. However it is not wise to travel over by car for the moment, if it can be avoided, at least until the weather settles and the weather alert is off. The road from San Bernardino to Vernazza is off limits for the moment, with access only by train or on foot.

The Cinque Terre is such a fragile territory, it breaks my heart to see it ‘battling’ yet again, especially in the current climate of stringent political and economic policies that limit resources and organisational capacity to recover quickly. Locals take it in their stride, fully aware that these natural disasters are just part and parcel of living on the coast…..and after all it could be worse!

Is this yet another message from Mother Nature to say we have gone beyond the limits? It certainly comes as a great reminder of who is really in control, demonstrating how vulnerable we really are.

Some of you may well remember enjoying Santa Margherita Ligure on tour and  this video of the recent storms…. ends with a positive “It will come back to being wonderful”.                            These Ligurians are a tough lot, and hard to beat!

Rapallo, Liguria

Photo credit: Regione Liguria

 

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The Giraffes of Florence

giraffe gift to MediciOn a visit to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, my first in some years and to be one of many during the course, I took time out to visit the temporary  Exhibition – Islam and Florence and bumped into my first giraffe – stuffed!

As I was about to take a photo, the staff leapt on me to say “No photos allowed” but to not leave you disappointed ‘this official video’ has captured the giraffe together with many of the fabulous objects on display.

The Mamluk Sultan of Egypt, probably not unaware that a “camelopard” had taken part in Julius Caesar’s triumph in Rome, sent a giraffe as a gift to Lorenzo the Magnificent, which made a spectacular entry into Piazza della Signoria on 18 November 1487. The exotic beast is reported to have been so greatly admired and to have caused such a sensation that even the cloistered nuns were eager to see it. As portrayed in the affresco of Giorgio Vasari in palazzo Vecchio. Unfortunately the giraffe did not last long, breaking its neck in an accident in the stable specially built for it on 2 January, the following year.
The second giraffe, also stuffed, came as a gift from Egypt in 1835, to Leopoldo II and lived in the Boboli gardens for about a year and a half.’ (Uffizi  brochure). The photo above of the affresco shows a mixed reaction amongst the locals and one can only imagine their astonishment at seeing a giraffe in the piazza…..even today! The giraffes sadly came to a sorry end.

Various generations of Medici‘s, from Lorenzo the Magnificent to the Islamic objectsGrand Duke Cosimo I were known to be lovers of the exotic and major collectors of precious items from the Orient together with other private collectors and  antiquarians. The exhibition was split between the Uffizi Gallery and the Bargello museum with a stunning range of exquisite carpets, gilded containers, magnificent jewelled ornaments and arms and delicately carved ivory chests. All beautifully displayed before a background of a thousand and one Oriental stars under soft lighting. ( This photo taken from the brochure does not do them justice).

In amongst the exhibits were also some paintings, indicating how much this exchange of culture influenced artists at the time. A period when Florence was powerful; economically, politically and culturally. A city of rich bankers and merchants ‘wheeling and dealing’ with the world and wanting to boast about their wealth and perhaps, book a place in paradise by commissioning works of art like this one.Gentile Fabriano Adoration of the Magi

Palla Strozzi,  the richest banker of Florence commissioned Gentile da Fabriano to do The Adoration of the Magi’  (1423) a theme often repeated, as many, including the Medici, identified themselves as ‘the Magi‘ of the time!  Heavily dosed with gold and sumptuous costumes in a luxurious ambience with some cheeky non religious details – the page kneeling to remove the spurs, monkeys playing and Palla Strozzi and his father prominently featured in the red hat and with a falcon!

Aureale Arabic Gentile da FabrianoTo show the Islamic influence you need to zoom in on the aureole to see Arabic scripts embossed in the gold.

In class we were told that the Roman elite delighted in eating exotic animals at their banquets, giraffes and zebras included….Possibly even the one in Julius Cesare’s triumphal return?

The ‘Adoration of the Magi’  by
Domenico Ghirlandaio (right 1482-90)) and ‘Procession of Three Kings‘ by Andrea del Sarto (left 1510-11) show in the background, yet  another giraffe as part of the procession. The fascination with these leopard style camels continues….!

As seen in the video, the exhibition had an eclectic mix, making a fascinating tour of past splendours and confirmation of the appreciation, consideration and integration of Islamic culture.

And to keep the kids interested the Uffizi provide a quiz and games of which I have stolen just a couple of examples which I thought you might like to tryCountries of the Orient: Fit the colour to the country and …….how could I go past this join the dots!Kid's stuff

 

 

 

 

 

So enjoy yourselves!


 

 

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Wine, all for a good cause

The grape harvest is well over now as are the Wine Festivals in Italy for 2018, yet they are not solely an excuse to party:

Manarola volunteer Associatiom

The Cinque Terre can be proud  as at each village festival the donations gathered raised enough money to buy a new ambulance, 4 x 4 wheel drive, BUT ….not for the Cinque Terre. In January 2019 it will be sent to a remote town of Senegal!

Grape Harvest festival Cinque Terre

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tourists contributed enormously, maybe not fully understanding where the donation was going, but reassured by the sincere smiling faces. After all, with only a total population of 4500 residents in the Cinque Terre it would have been difficult to raise all the money from residents alone. Besides what a festival in Manarola! Glamorous mermaids and pirates came from the depths of the Mediterranean to join farmers with their  ‘lively’ grapes and vines, parading together amidst lots of fun and laughter. Wine flowed as the band played and locals danced and sang all the way to the Church for the blessing, such a fruitful day.

Volunteers from the “Just for a Smile” Association, who regularly serve on the local ambulance service, worked hard encouraging everyone to donate, no matter how small. They made good use of the party atmosphere and the tourist crowds explaining in their best ‘Italish’ the reason for the funds as well as their fundamental role in providing an emergency health service to both residents and tourists.

So when the final tally of donations is done, the “Gocce di Sorriso” Association hopes to also have enough to fill the ambulance with essential medicines, gauze dressings and disinfectant creams.The ambulance will be loaded onto a container in Genoa provided, almost free of charge, by the shipowner Messina, and sent to Senegal. A great show of solidarity and humanity by all.

While in Florence  we were treated to the presence of the ‘Carro Matto’ – crazy cart  from Rufina. A tradition that goes back to the time of the Florentine Republic in the XII century when a huge pyramid was built on September 29th for the new wine. After receiving the blessing from the church the wine was brought to Palazzo Vecchio where the authority of the time toasted to the governors of the time – the Priori – and to the health of the Florentine people.

A  crazy cart – carro matto  loaded with 2000 fragile flasks of Chianti, masterly loaded and well strapped, pulled by oxen, and in this day and age aided by a truck! An unbelievable spectacle of balance and precision accompanied by an historic procession in the city.Chianti Wine cart on its way home

Crazy Wine Cart RufinaNothing like wine to bring out the best in us, Cin Cin!

Photo Credits: Francesco Zagli

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Standing room only

Lunchtime queues FlorenceFlorence council has issued new legislation to deal with the ‘continuing degradation‘ of the city from mass tourism. Action has been taken and, in particular, aimed at the top rated snack bar ‘All’Antico Vinaio‘ in Via dei Neri just behind the Uffizi Gallery. Over the past 5 years it has seen a boom in trade, largely produced via social networks. It rates so highly on TripAdvisor that tourists queue for up to an hour for the scrumptious  ‘schiacciata’ (Florentine salted and oiled flat bread) filled with delicious local produce of salami, prosciutto, vegetable and cheese assortments. Lunch

But having finally acquired the sandwich, tourists line the entire street sitting on the footpath. All’Antico Vinaio has 2 snack bars and 1 restaurant enjoying a roaring trade, while the remaining shops that line the street are suffering as food scraps lie about, pigeons swoop in, tourists visually block their passing trade, turning the street into a pretty disgusting site most of the day. Florence lunchtime police patrolSo it’s now standing room only! Council police are on patrol for a few hours each day and evening but I think it will be a lost battle. The retailers in via dei Neri were already paying for 4 vigilante to dissuade tourists from sitting along the street but it had proved largely ineffectual.

Antico Vinaio has now placed staff outside to advise clients where they may find a public bench to sit on to avoid the €500 fine, although they are relatively sparse. As my hairdresser is in the same street I did a quick reconnaissance of the area and found a lot of tourists sitting now on the steps in front of the Old Courthouse or uncomfortably standing in a grotty side street. A pity since there are loads of places to eat sandwiches in Florence but obviously not with such a high profile that social  networks have created of All’Antico Vinaio.

Previously the same Florentine Mayor, Dario Nardella, had introduced washing the steps of the churches at lunchtime to dissuade tourists from lunching at the church and to restore some sort of ‘decorum’. As the temperatures rose in the Summer the steps soon dried out and the tourists returned! No more Street food licenses are being issued in the city and none can be revoked, so the problem will continue.

The solution? Who knows? It is something of a clash of cultures as well, since Tripe stand FlorenceItalians don’t usually eat on the street, even in a hurry they sit on a stool at the tripe stand (when tourists haven’t beaten them to it!) or stand inside their lunchtime bar/cafe. Social networks have created a totally new phenomenon and the obligatory ‘selfie’ of lunch or dinner.

The mass tourism of today is difficult to manage, not just in Florence. Cinque Terre, Venice and other major cities are overwhelmed and all struggling to find solutions. I fear many tourists have now gone ‘feral’, treating Italy like a Disneyland, behaving in a way they would probably never do at home….or maybe they do!

We have had monuments and statues damaged, fountains being used for a cool dip, and recently a tourist leapt from the vaporetta in Venice into the Grand Canal as she had no ticket when Inspectors got on board! In the Cinque Terre tourists Olive tree nets 5 Terre
treated olive tree nets used for picking as hammocks, unfortunately tearing the nets as they are not meant for 80 kilo bodies! Climbing in the same fragile territory has often caused rock slides and/or injuries to the same to be saved by a voluntary health service and sometimes employing helicopter rescue services at Italian expense. Florence Council police

 

I suspect many tourists are oblivious to the damage they cause, and Italy incapable of visualizing and implementing measures for sustainable tourism.Florence dinnertime

 

 

 

 

So be warned and avoid the fine as the Council Police are out on patrol now so it’s standing room only!  And while I can highly recommend the schiacciata sandwiches from All’Antica Vinaio I don’t think any meal deserves to be queued for….

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