Being a bookworm at Mantua



The Renaissance charm of Mantua  is the perfect setting for a 5 day literature festivalpalatial buildings, cobble stoned streets, elegant porticos and spacious piazzas. It becomes a abuzz during the festival with people attracted worldwide to listen to words of wisdom, heated discussions, poetic readings and relaxing music.

  Mantua residenceA mini Verona, where it would not be a surprise to find Romeo and Giulietta hand in hand gliding across the piazza or furtively meeting in a secluded garden declaring their long lost love.

Are you bored? Open twitter. Are you bored? Open facebook. Are you bored? Open the fridge. Are you bored? Open a book. You'll not be bored anymore

Are you bored? Open twitter. Are you bored? Open facebook. Are you bored? Open the fridge. Are you bored? Open a book. You’ll not be bored anymore











There is something for everyone; bookworms meeting their favourite writers expounding the virtues of their latest book, to seminars discussing more current issues like immigration, the sharing economy, world hunger, and climate change to name just a few. Even something for the kids!Child's playRichard Flanagan

Joseph O'Connor






As my godfather said recently, “Curiosity is the Noblest form of Intellect, and the best way to keep the brain stimulated.” My 5 days at Mantua were a constant stimulation, a teasing out of ideas, a confrontation of opinions,  a dialogue between experts and the public and  a marvellous opportunity to meet one of my old time favourite writers – Richard Flanagan. The program was extensive, and interpreters  translated with artistic perfection, giving due emphasis even to the asides. Beautiful palazzi, churches and courtyards for the presentations, regular book readings in the garden and crooning music in the piazzas to relax to at the end of the day.

Ducal palace

Ducal Palace

Standing in the queue for the presentation on the ‘System of Corruption’ a fellow ticket holder politely asked me in English if I was in the ‘right’ queue as the presentation was very much an ‘in-house’ argument! When I responded in Italian and explained my years of stay in Italy, he added “Well then, you know we have some real experts here!”Mantua

Nonetheless I was not deterred nor disappointed. Each of the various socio – political – economic presentations that I had selected gave food for thought on a positive note, rather than wallowing and going nowhere with problems that seem unresolvable. And a varied international and well informed audience had their own questions and contributions to share at each workshop.

Mantua piazza

Wole Soyinka






The power of the African voice came from Okey Ndibe talking of the stories that must be told. Wole Soyinka Nigerian playwright, poet, and political activist spoke of the need for global policies which recognise the ‘Dignity of Existence’ to avoid the tragic deaths during immigration.


A revered Stefano Rodota`, University professor, jurist and politician with Luigi Zoja, psychoanalyst and writer, discussed ‘Solidariety’ which Europe appears to have put aside, and how the new social networks have anaesthetised our sensitivity to the current dramas in the world.

Acclaimed scientists and researchers on atmospheric changes, debated the increasing efficiency of renewable energy and the need for the decarbonisation of society. Naomi Klein and Jeremy Rifkin had been here in 2014 to present their new books (both of whom I follow with great interest) and some of their protégés were present, continuing their line of thought.

But it was not all intellectual stuff, although I crave that sort of intelligent debate, I was also very entertained by a sleazy crime book reading by author Massimo Carlotta accompanied by a blues guitarist/vocalist and jazz saxophonist/flautist. Massimo CarlottoCarlotta had made good use of his time in prison to write florid accounts of eccentric characters using ‘The Alligator’ private detective to delve into rather dodgy stories.Mantua theatre




And then there was Mantua to explore: a theatrical tour of the old and new theatres,  and a must do visit to the Ducal palace, the prestigious residence of the Gonzaga family.

And Prince Gonzaga’s ‘playhouse‘ ,Palazzo del Te, where he found ‘intellectual restoration’  offering lavish banquets and recreational activities! And last but not least, a personal tour by the Gallery Director of the Ligabue exhibition.


I came home from Mantua with a stack of  treasured books with personal dedications and a new yearly appointment to pursue so I never lose my curiosity.

Mantua bus

“Better crazy than boring!” Written on the side of the bus.



Summer sets on the Cinque Terre


VernazzaSummer sets on the Cinque Terre and I have had my last swim for the year. There will still be some mild sunny days ahead but the hubbub and chaos of the Summer is starting to wane and we all breathe a sigh of relief.

Two tourists make the most of the more lay back atmosphere, dancing to an old time classic ‘Volare‘ at Monterosso. Passer-by’s hardly give a second glance as though the event is something normal. The busker is honoured.Cinque Terre dancersBusker Monterosso








Monterosso beach

Monterosso beach

The Beach umbrellas have been taken in and for the moment the stumps remain, with only memories of the hordes that gathered in their shade, slathering sun screen lotion and rolling over to toast the other side.



As in so many other beautiful coastal spots in Liguria, like Camogli.Liguria - Camogli








A local girl returns from Milan to be married in her hometown, Vernazza and is paraded proudly through the tourist crowds to the antique church of Santa Margherita. It brings reality back to the little village, as tourists trip over themselves to get a quick snapshot.

It has been a long hot Summer and a very busy season again. Day trippers and cruise passengers have added dramatically to the general crush in the main streets of the tiny villages of the Cinque Terre straining the local services to the limit. Long queues outside snack food and gelati shops, some anxious faces waiting in similar queues for a toilet and rather exasperated gasps as the crowds pour out of the ‘cattle truck’ train carriages. Mass tourism is this and more all over the world, where some locations cope better than others and are able to manage the ever increasing flow. Cinque Terre is not one of those places, it is a fragile territory and far too small. And while it is understandable that the world wants to visit, we hope it can be limited, to not spoil what we have, for us and visitors alike.

The authorities responsible spend hours discussing the matter but till now noCinque Terre overcrowded significant changes have been made. To stir them along a petition was launched recently to Save the Cinque Terre from mass tourism. If you know and love the area please sign.

Daredevil hikers continue to ignore the ‘No Entry’  signs to the coastal trails closed between Riomaggiore and  Corniglia, scaling spiked fences and boasting to friends of their escapade. Little attention being paid to the fact that they may aggravate further landslides as they hike through the areas, putting their lives at risk and necessitating a rather expensive helicopter rescue if the land slips away beneath their feet or a rock fall knocks them off the trail!

Sunset Corniglia

Yet as the Summer sets on the Cinque Terre it’s a magic time, hiking the trails is a joy that regenerates my heart and soul. Nature at its best, villages bathed in a soft pink glow which deepens at every step.


Corniglia sunset

I stop to enjoy the colours on Corniglia and hear a whisper in the stillness that says it’s time to head for home before the sun slips away completely.

Cinque Terre sunset