Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Italy in a nutshell

Back home from Italy.

Apart from having packed totally the wrong clothes (for some reason I thought it would be warm, more fool me), and feeling the cold a lot of the time, the trip was a great success.

Milan - Casa Mia our hotel turned out to be a real find. On the edge of the Giardini Pubblici in the centre of Milan and within walking distance from everything we wanted to see, it was spotlessly clean with a very relaxed atmosphere. I can highly recommend it if you're heading that way.

N and I did all the touristy things, Duomo, Arts Centre, Castello Sforzesco and many more. We ate at a lovely restaurant the first night, a crap one the second, found out that many bars do what's called Happy Hour, which is 100% different from what we expected. When you buy a drink you get as much as you want to eat from salads, to freshly made sandwiches, to crisps, to pasta - in fact you name it as an hors d'oevres and it was probably on offer. The bar we went to, Bar Cin Cin was wonderful. Sadly we went there just before we had our worst meal (at Osteria del Trana - probably great if you like meat, but awful choices for veggies and pescatarians, and our food was not good at all) and I was very abstemious as we were going for dinner. Should have stayed in the bar and ate there. Live and learn!

We were so lucky with the weather as the one full day we were there it was sunny and bright, just right for walking around. On the day we were leaving it became very overcast and apparently had a thunderstorm not long after we left.

View from the top of Duomo

Extraordinary trees in Guardini Repubblica where the branches grow upward

A relaxed trip from Milan to Venice by train and arrived to wet weather. We had no problem finding our hotel, La Residenza, which was between Piazza San Marco and Arsenale in a beautiful, quiet Venetian square. Although lovely, it wasn't nearly as relaxed as our hotel in Milan, and the owner, known to us a Mr Breakfast for his bad mood and inability to serve more than one person at a time at breakfast - we're talking a basket of croissant and roll, a juice and tea or coffee. Not exactly taxing, but he made it an art form for all the wrong reasons!

La Residenza - our room was on the 2nd floor (2 windows from the balcony with the drape) to the left of the photo
Our first day it pissed down and us, along with what seemed like everyone else in Venice that day, decided on a visit to the Peggy Guggenheim collection. A very well worthwhile experience though.

That evening we were joined by the rest of our group (13 of us in all) and the next morning we awoke to incredibly sunny, blue skies. It was cold but joyous.

Then off to the Biennale. We spent the day at the Giardini. Interestingly the pieces I liked the most were the Tintoretto's and not much of the modern stuff at all. The next day we went off to see our Scottish representative, Karla Black. Ok but not really my cup of tea, then to TRA museum. If you get to Venice during the Biennale it is a must visit place. They only open it for the event and is unbelievable. I could have spent the whole day there. This was followed by an afternoon at San Giorgio Maggiore, where the Anish Kapoor offering was housed. I can't really explain it to do it justice, but trust me it was truly wonderful.

Anish Kapoor 'sculpture'
A few of us decided to go up the tower and take in the view, which was magnificent, marred only by the siting of 3 huge liners (each housing over 2,000 people) which had blasted into the city for the day, and were on their way out while we were up there. I can't tell you what it was like seeing these vast floating cities powering their way past Venice, but it reminded me a bit of War of the Worlds.

View from San Giorgio Maggiore tower

one of the 3 liners on it's way out of Venice

San Maggiore from Arsenale
Our last day was spent at Arsenale part of the Biennale and had some fascinating pieces. My 2 favourites were by French photographer Jean-Luc Mylayne, who has only taken approx 150 photos in 30 years. He apparently lives with the birds for years until they trust him implicitly and he then waits for the one photograph. They were truly extraordinary and I know the following photos don't do much for them, but maybe gives you an idea.

And finally, Christian Marclay's The Clock. A film of film clips on the concept of 24 hours, and is done in 'real time' so whatever time of day it is it's depicted in the film. It was mesmerising and in fact won the Golden Lion at this year's festival. I urge you to see both of these two artists and the Anish Kappoor if any of them come your way.

Our last day was hilarious. N and I left our key at the desk with Mr Breakfast when we went to buy rolls for the journey, and when we got back our key had disappeared. Mr B made us empty our pockets and our bags to prove we didn't have the key. It turned out that one of our guides had picked it up by mistake, but this was only found out at the last minute, when she fessed up to her crime. Anyway, we thought it was very amusing. Luckily we'd already paid before the hiatus, so we weren't bothered.

The only thing that marred the trip was coming home to 394 emails. God alone knows how many I'll come back to from South Africa where I head in just over 2 week's time, but I'm trying not to think about that. Oh yes, and I seem to have picked up a slight ear infection, but am off to the docs to get sorted so that I'm up and at'em in time for my next flight.

And I end on a question: can anyone tell me why the sky in Venice is the most unbelievable shade of blue? We have a fab day here in the Borders, but the sky is pale in comparison. Just asking....


  1. I've come back from Oz with the same question!

  2. I enjoyed reading about your trip to Italy (although I did miss your blog while you were away!)
    I've just started learning Italian and you've whetted my appetite for a trip next year.

  3. Lizzie... you're back! Funny old thing sky isn't it.

    Karen... thank you for that kind comment, as I sometimes do wonder whether people get anything from my blog at all. As to the Italian, I'm determined that next time I go, I know more than the number of my room and please and thank you. I did have this very weird thing that happened when I was there (and this is the 2nd time it's happened) and that is that I seem to speak unbelievably fluent French! C'est la vie I suppose!

  4. It's a funny thing with blogging as you're never quite sure who you're writing for. I think blogs are fascinating though. Like a window on a person's world.