Above me a velvety night sky full of stars. Concentric circles shimmer. I’m in a vortex. Static but giddy. Drowning in light. It is a beauty that knocks me off my feet. For days now, I’ve been standing, head knocked back at a curious angle, neck cricked, staring up at apses and arches, mesmerised by sparkling, spangling bits of coloured glass. The mausoleum is small, … Continue reading Ravenna: Meals and Mosaics.
We almost missed it. Just slightly off the beaten track. Huge and labyrinthine. We searched for the way in, while people on the inside looked for a way out. Once a Carthusian monastery. Now a cemetery. Colonnades. Cloisters. Loggias. Mausoleums and monuments. Marble, mosaic and wrought iron. Wealth and luxury. Art and beauty. Haunting, heart-stopping, jaw-dropping and even a tad horrifying. Our legs gave out … Continue reading The Charterhouse of Bologna.
I have a list as long as my arm of places I’d like to go someday. Bologna was on that list because of Rick Stein. Rick only had a weekend, but we had a week. We walked and walked and fell in love with the city a little bit more each day. Portico after portico. All a little bit different. Colours and textured stone, hiding … Continue reading Reasons To Love Bologna.
We stepped into a courtyard past a colossal seventeenth-century wooden door. Silvia poured water into pretty coloured glasses and started talking and laughing immediately. ‘We have a meat dish that’s very traditional to this area. The story goes that the Roman soldiers of long ago had nothing to eat – except for wine and garlic – people always had wine and garlic, even if they … Continue reading Cooking at Lake Orta.
These are the two basic staples of life. There is not much else. A friendship that endures is special. To know someone who really knows you – who knew you when you were young, and still knows you when you’re old. ‘I cannot imagine you all as young lads’, said Val. There is photographic evidence of course. We see what they looked like: long hair, … Continue reading Food and Friendship in Orta.
Shelley likened them to ‘moths of which a coffin might have been the chrysalis’. Travelling down the Grand Canal on a vaporetto is wonderful, but the gondola is the ‘crème de la crème‘ of the water craft. To simply sit in one of those beautiful hand-crafted vessels is to feel like royalty. In the sixteenth century there were ten thousand gondolas in Venice. Today the … Continue reading The Gondola.
‘She would go to the piazza from where the doges had once set out to wed the sea with rings’.* Like Miss Garnet, we headed first for the piazza. It seemed the natural place to begin. A public space so grand that no other square in the city was thought fit to bear the name – all the others are campi or if they are … Continue reading The Piazza.
Byron swam home along it, George Elliot’s husband fell in it, Robert Browning lived in a palace along it, caught a cold and died by it. A hawker once towed a dolphin up and down it; and in the fourteenth century an earthquake drained it and left it dry for two weeks. The Grand Canal, at two miles long, and seventy-six yards wide at it’s … Continue reading The Grand Canal.
Ponte Ruga Vecchia, 1446, was our destination. Billed as ‘room apartment in Venice heart’. We wanted to live among the locals, away from tourist thoroughfares. Ten minutes walk from the railway station, down narrow calles and over hump-backed bridges. Shops, a beggar woman with outstretched hand, crumbling bricks, and pale rippling water – it passed by in a blur. But it’s beauty struck deep. I … Continue reading Our House In The Middle Of Our Street.