Posts tagged italy

The monastery of S. Francesco,

Fiesole, Provincia di Firenze, Italy

A weekend in Florence to visit a friend. A city that never ranked as one of my favourites but I saw a different side to it this time. Staying in an apartment on the other side of the river, away from the year round hordes of tourists hoping to glance at David’s penis, sardining themselves onto the Ponte Vecchio, or just blocking your way on a narrow pavement whilst you desperately seek respite from the perpetual drizzle. Yes, tourists! Damn you!

The other side is much nicer, much more local. And home to the Boboli gardens and the Palazzo Pitti. We made it up to Fiesole, just outside the city, perched on a hill top. The views of Florence from there are simply breathtaking. And I happened upon this monastery. Serene and minding its holy business as any good ole monastery should. And home to quite a few dishy monks…

Palms in a courtyard, Palermo

Well, hello there. Fancy seeing you here! I must say it’s been a while. What have you been up to? Tell me…

Well, juggling about a million projects and building up those air miles! If I never saw Charles De Gaulle Terminals 2D, E and G again I’d be a very happy man. Modern travelling requires that you plan your outfit prior to your departure:

– What shoes to wear? The Acnes have those lovely metal bits on the shoelaces that set off the scan. Mmmmm, will most probably have to take them off. Which brings me to the sub-question:-

– What socks to wear? Make sure they’re decent (its almost like going on that first date where you’re hopeful that something might happen later, not that you’re that kind of girl but you never know what state of mind you’ll be in after a few too many GT’s, so best to prepare and pop on the “shag pants”, just in case.)

– Do I pack the shoe horn in my hand luggage just in case there isn’t one available? Those Acnes do need breaking in and thus require some amount of effort to put on. Decisions…

– Fuck it. Just go for the all white, All Star Converses then.

– What about beltage? Not the Margiela’s then. Those beautifully hefty buckles…

See what I mean? It’s hard work. And that’s before we get to what I refer to as Traveller’s Waltz, that pre-security striptease that separates the men from the boys, the experienced traveller from the novice. Simultaneously sliding off belt and jacket whilst elegantly urging hand luggage forwards with a gentle kick-push. All this done with the swanlike grace of Naomi Campbell doing one of her notorious nineties catwalk turns…

Ah ya yay! Drama!

Cefalu, Sicily

Anyway, I digress. I went on a proper holiday for the first time in years this summer. After much umming and ahhing we decided on Sicily — a week in Palermo and the Gulf of Castellamare followed by a week on the island of Pantelleria, which is part of the Sicilian province of Trapani and is the closest point between Italy and Africa, sort of bang in the middle between Sicily and the coast of Tunisia.

More on Dirty P ,as I like to refer to Palermo later. For now, let us focus our gaze on that other P — Pantelleria.

Languidly stretched out in what seems to be a perpetual sunbathe, gentle waves lapping at her feet and cool winds providing the occasional respite from the scorch, Pantelleria is quite small and it takes about forty five minutes to travel around it by car. The island is all that remains of a sunken volcanic rift resulting in a starkly beautiful landscape of rolling rivers crumbly black lava rock, vivid cactus greens and an endless oceanic stretch of azure. Exotic and strangely lunar.

We stayed in what is called a “dammuso” — traditional huts crafted out of local volcanic rock that belie the north African influence — that overlooked the spectacular Lago Specchio di Venere, a huge saltwater thermal lake in a now-dormant crater. Its a jaw dropping sight the first time you see it, a turquoise disc glimmering in the sun. The lake is also famous for mud bathing – i fanghi . Slathering yourself in the dark, pungent, nutrient-rich clay and sunning yourself until you resemble a not-so-lithe Giacometti sculpture is at once hilarious and deeply soothing.

You will eat well. Very, very well. The local capers are a revelation when paired with tomatoes, potatoes, onion and olive oil. You will also sleep well. The island’s hard to reach location and lack of any real beaches means that it isn’t a tourist trap. Not, perhaps, ideal for a young family but perfect for a group of friends or couples looking to get some QT.

So, if you want to totally switch off, read a few books and recharge your batteries its definitely worth the visit. Oh, and you might get to spot Giorgio Armani going for a stroll in the town centre — he is one of the many celebrities that have summer homes there, attracted by its splendid isolation.

One that never quite made it.

This is  from a few months back when I was going through my Silent Period. But I kind of like the images so I thought I’d post it. I’d been reading in Fantasic Man magazine that dining alone was all the rage. And there I found myself in my usual Italian haunt doing just that. Incredible as I’d stayed at that hotel more times than I can remember and never ventured into the restaurant.

A revelation. Simple, traditional food alla Cucina Reggiano but done well. Tortelli di Zucca, tortelli verdi, erbazone, vedure alla griglia. The classics. And just the sort of trouble free, comfort food you want to eat when you’re away from home and had a long day at work. The whole process sort of felt strange at first. Not having to make conversation, not having to decide between fizzy or still water, feeling like you stuck out like a sore thumb… Billy No Mates. But that only lasted moments, until the glass of Prosecco kicked in. Nobody cared – the restaurant was almost empty anyway. And I was fussed over a lot more than if I’d been with company. Being a Leo we like our egos massaged. Purrrrrr. Fuss all you like, darlings!

I read the entire contents of ID magazine (the issue that profiled Nicholas Ghesquire – I can’t remember which exact one it was) from cover to cover. I haven’t done that in years. Oh, Nicholas, you so pretty. And you make a lovely dinner companion. TTFN. LFN

Remember the Love Cats from my Christmas post? [Click here to view it] Well they GOT HITCHED! It was quite possibly the most beautiful wedding ever. I mean, Italy, sunshine, prosecco, friends, an incredible castle… what more could you ask for? The groom wore Prada and the bride wore YSL – flowing, white and just gorgeous. With pockets too. Oh, Mama, you and your pockets! She wore a crystal embellished Sportmax bolero over  the dress for the church and Jimmy Choo heels. What I loved about the dress was it’s lightness and the modern draping at the front which made it less formal.

I loved the way each table at the reception was named after a fashion house or a breed of cow. Lucy’s a fashion designer and Mattia comes from a family of dairy farmers who breed cows for the local Parmesan cheese industry. Prada or Aberdeen Angus? Witty. The gorgeous flower arrangements were a collaboration between Mr Eric Bremner and the Willow Shoreditch. Another match made in heaven!

At the end of the night… well, take a look at the pictures below. Now that’s what I call a modern, if slightly sozzled bride! HAPPY TIMES! CONGRATS Lucy & Mattia!  Happy safari.

[That isn’t Mattia in the pic, btw. Don’t ask!]

Northern Italy. I’ve always liked the view of this square through the portico. It’s really hard to photograph but I’ll keep trying. It’s even more special at night time when the Duomo is lit up. It almost feels like a stage set. The way the curve of the arch is echoed on the pebbled walkway gives a nice symmetry. Italians seem to love their rucksacks, or “zaino” as they refer to them. The kids all have these fondant-fancy coloured ones that they personalise. I thought it was quite funny that the old man in the foreground was carrying one like the kids in the background.

Just had a lovely supper with an old friend in a restaurant in the Emilia Romagna region in Italy. A novel way of presenting a menu – literature classics. I got Tolstoi and she got Shakespeare. The grilled scamorza cheese with honey was very good. As was the swordfish. V. delicate. I also liked the way the wine glasses were placed on the table, lying atop a napkin.

Post dinner we bumped into La Boda, a local transvestite of a certain age. She’s friends with Grace Jones from way back. She bought us some beers whilst she knocked back the camomile! Something to do with Shiva. When I asked what La Boda meant she regaled that it was Spanish or Catalan for “bride” or “wedding”. Quite a character, she is. Wants me to bring her some Stilton the next time I’m around. Her Stilton Macaroni is apparently legendary. Oh, La Boda also means bream, the fish, in another language that I can’t remember. Hilarious!  OK. Tipsy. Knackered. Bed. Early flight. LFN

Mornin’, folks. Just had breakfast. A lot of American ladieeees downstairs. A teachers convention. Time to pack up, daily grind an’ all dat.

Gomorra 1

I’ve been to Naples a few times and it is one of my favourite places in Italy. There really is no other place like it. Taking a taxi is taking your life into your own hands! There’s an amazing market on the outskirts that many fashion houses and vintage store-owners go to get their fix. Everything’s piled high and you’ve got to dig deep. Found the most beautiful sun-bleached nappa blouson there. However, you’re warned to leave the moment the market finishes for your own safety. Now I know why…

Gomorra 10

I really don’t want to say too much about this film. Watch it. It took me a while to get round to it. Perhaps you’ve read the book. I haven’t but I’m planning to. It’s one of the most powerful films I have seen in ages. It centres around the Camorra, an organised crime network based in the Province of Napoli, in Southern Italy. Whereas a lot of “maffia”  films tend to glamourise crime this is as hard-hitting and realist as it gets. In fact, there is a scene where two twentysomething “knob heads” reenact scenes from Scarface that’s very tongue in cheek.

Gomorrah is an incredibly violent film albeit done with a solid dose of realism – nothing is gratuitous. You really feel like a fly on the wall. Incredible acting. The whole thing is done so matter-of-factly that at the end of the film I found myself thinking: God, people really do live like this.

The author of the book, Roberto Saviano, is under police protection. He seriously pissed some people off and Umberto Eco’s called him a national hero.

For me, as always, I was drawn to the powerful imagery in the film. Take a look…

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