Countries, Culture, Europe

Here’s to the next 1600 years, Venice

Up there with those to avoid in life, like taxmen and Ed Sheeran, are those who say Venice is dying… well, on this, their 1600th anniversary year, here’s to the next 1600.

Firstly, the world’s most famous city on a lagoon, has thrived for 1600 years already through plague, foe and the elements.

And despite the doom mongers’ prophecies Venice is actually better placed for the next 1600 years than any of the 1600 before.

No, not because of that picture of that dolphin returning to the Grand Canal which proved the effect of climate change.

No, that was a fake. But because, surprise, surprise, the Venetians know more about preserving their unique way of life than anybody else.

The celebrations have been in full flow since late last month and will run until March 25 next year.

So plenty of time to plan for Veniceophiles (OK I made that term up) to return to a city we have been away from too long.

We return too to the Chronican Altinate (no, me neither) and diarist Marin Sanudo for detail on Venice’s beginnings.

Sanudo referenced the San Giacomo di Rialto as being the first church, begun on March 24, 421.

These days, of course, we have the internet to go to.

And as mia moglie will tell you I’m always happy to let someone else to do the heavy lifting.

Just follow the Venezia calendar on their site for a host of cultural and historical events which you can follow.

And our breakaway party from our trip to Padova

And per tua informazione Venice I’m free pretty much the rest of the year.

Heck, it’s Venice, I’m free l’intero anno.

MEET YOU ON THE CANAL

Adventure, Africa, Countries, Culture, Deals, Food

Holiday Snaps – Capes of good hope

And, yes, you read that right. I’m talking of the Eastern and Western Capes of South Africa and the Good Hope of returning ine day.

TV chef Gregg Wallace has been conjuring up memories of the Eastern Cape foe me in his ITV travelogue series, sponsored by Saga Holidays.

Where last week he went on safari at the Amakahla Game Reserve, just north-west of Port Elizabeth, and this week goes west to Table Mountain et al.

Chin chin: Gregg Wallace in South Africa

Of course Gregg got stuck into biltong, the dried cured meat they all eat out there.

The promo video shows Gregg toasting us with a South African white you can almost taste.

But a piece of advice, Gregg, if you really want to go native then you need to put ice in the wine.

Bergamo stands alone

Bergamo Molamia: Stay strong

Mola Mia… and I’m glad to see that Ryanair is giving Bergamo back its name in its latest tranche of offers and not just aa an appendage of Milan.

They flag up the medieval jewel of Lombardy at up to €30 off which takes you to their €23.99 one-way deal for Milan Bergamo.

Bur hey, Bergamo wasn’t built in a day… and I’ll share all its history and how it has rallied from being the doorway for Covid in Europe.

Una ciocolatta di calda densa: In Bergamo

Book foe Bergamo and a raft of destinations by January 13. Travel between April 1 and October 31.

Ryanair helpfully shares where you can get a Covid test near you.

Sandals in the sand

Blessed: Saint Lucia

Or more accurately on the runway. Actually the plane on the runway but then my hour in Saint Lucia just whetted my appetite.

My Saint Lucian pal Jerry, the Big Rapper, from my G Adventures tour of Jordan had given me the skinny on his island.

And how he had plans for writing a guide book.

Look out for that when you’re out in Saint Lucia at Sandals who have a January sale on.

They have seven nights at the Sandals Regency La Toc with travel dates in September and October.

Fly with British Airways and stay in a honeymoon luxury.

Now I’ve experience of a couples hotel in Barbados and a Sandals on the south of the island too,

While, if you want to island hop, Saint Lucia is the stop-off for another prize destination Tobago.

Africa, Caribbean, Countries, Cruising, Europe, Flying, Ireland

Christmas cards on the table

Joyeux Noel, Feliz Navidad, Buon Natale and a Happy Christmas to you all.

And merci, gracias, grazie and thanks a lot to all my friends who have sent me Christmas cards this year.

I’ll even let you off cancelling your Christmas parties and not sending me a Christmas hamper this year.

So here are a few of the Christmas cards I’d like to show off to you…

Christmas in my Sandals

Open-toed: In Barbados

And yes that’s just how they roll at Sandals and in the Caribbean.

Where what they lack in chimneys and fireplaces they make up for in mango trees.

And Santa can soothe his feet in a Sandals swim-up pool.

My old friends in Ireland

Top point: Harvey’s Point

And while my Dear Old Mum will be spending her Christmas in a Glasgow care home, a nod to her homestead of Donegal.

Donegal, in the north-west of Ireland has all the warmth of the peaty sod and will be wonderful this Christmas.

So here’s to all Donegallers everywhere and thanks to the award-winning Harvey’s Point.

Scandi Claus

When I was thinking of going to Sweden this year my first port of call was my old Irish pal and Scandiphile Alan.

Happy Christmas… in Swedish

And a God Jul to you too and destination specialists Hadler DMC.

I got a tantalising view of Sweden on my MSC Cruises trip from Kiel, Germany through Denmark and up to Norway.

Cruises WILL be back in the New Year and of course that means river cruises too as well as the big seabreakers. Anyone for MS Arena?

Another year younger

And how long they look: Ethiopian Airlimrs

I’ve told you once or a hundred times about the lifegiving qualities of Enkutatash, Ethiopia’s New Year.

Because they live by the old calendar.

Back in the day an invite came through for Women’s Day from Ethiopian Airlines and a trip to celebrate womenhood in Ethiopia.

From where Lucy, the first women we have bones for derives.

I offered to drag up. But in the end I sent a colleague.

Bohemian wrapsody

Prague rocks

Of course we know who looked out on the Feast of Stephen.

Only the bustling Wenceslas Square will be empty this Christmas.

The Czechs are the most wonderfully resilient people, situated as they are between Europe’s great powers.

They will be back and so will we… Urquell in hand by the beautiful Vlatva River.

We wish Wu a Merry Christmas

Panda-monium

And isn’t it just like that? You get a card in and you panic that you haven’t sent them one.

So to Wendy Wu and the two Johns thank Wu for everything this year, particularly the legendary Chinese New Year lunch in January in Dublin.

And I know you’ll look after The Son and Heir when he heads to China next year.

And a Felice anno nuovo too

These Italians have style

And in the most fallow of fallow years I will always treasure my Autumn trip to Bergamo with Omio.

Miei amici have gone back into the strictest zone as they predicted when I visited but I’m sure it will all pay off.

And we’ll all be eating stracciatella gelato soon in Citta Alta.

Countries, Culture, Europe, Food, Food & Wine

A boy named Tiramisu

They’re the kind of fingers I like.

Ladyfingers, dipped in coffee, layered with a whipped mixture of eggs, sugar and mascarpone cheese, flavoured with cocoa,

And something to keep my mind off my own broken fingertips and nails.

Our friends at Travel Weekly and The Italian Tourist Board have been regaling us with the charms and i cibi of Il Bel Paese all week.

And yesterday the Veneto region laid out everybody’s favourite dinner party dessert for us.

On Zoom (because we didn’t have smellavision).

Tiramisu it transpires has been with us for rather less time than I had thought.

Being served up for the first time at the end of the Sixties.

By chef Roberto Linguanotto at Le Beccherie in Treviso on Christmas Eve.

Whose Tiramisu is it anyway?

And I wasn’t going to be the one to raise with the good people of the Veneto region that our Zoom hosts for the previous day Friuli Venezia Giulia had a claim.

From the Vetturino restaurant in Pieris from 1938.

Anyhoos, as they never say in Northern Italy, tiramisu is celebrated all the world over.

And it’s not just between the regions that it gets competitive with some believing it goes back way further than that to Siena in honour of Grand Duke Cosimo III.

The World Cup

And there is even a Tiramisu World Cup.

The winner of which is uno Fabio Peyla.

Fabio generously treated us all to his creation on our meeting.

Unfortunately though we could not reach into the screen and taste.

Prosecco, another Veneto favourite was.

Just the ‘pick me up’ as Tiramisu means in Italiano for someone who has just broken his fingertips.

You want to make your own, then my go-to baking site is BBC Good Food. Who am I kidding she’s in the kitchen!

Venice is, of course, the jewel of the Veneto region but in truth it is just the most glittering in a crown that is embedded with other gems I’ve found such as Padova.

While Treviso, Verona and Venice’s piccolo fratello Choggia should all be explored.

 

 

 

Countries, Culture, Europe

The Joyce of Trieste

Dublin’s most famous son (move aside Bono) famously chronicled a day in the life of an everyman in the fair city.

But he, of course, fell out with its burghers and went into exile in mainland Europe, falling in love with Trieste.

Where he is still remembered with affection as much as in his home city.

Mediterranean Man: Joyce in Trieste

So much so that they erected a statue to the Great Man there too while for a step by step guide of Joyce’s Trieste check out this site.

And dander over to the Joyce Museum in the famous old town to get up close and personal.

Of course the best place to channel your inner Joyce at the Cafe Stella Polare.

Joyce’s bolthole

Be sure you take your pen and pad for your Ulysses (or write it on your iPad).

While you should also check out the titular Caffe James Joyce.

So what is it about Trieste and coffee?

Well, it was only the gateway from the East Indies and the Middle East to the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Say again.

Well, Trieste was a Habsburg port back for centuries before the empire broke up after the First World War.

Which means Naval Captain Von Trapp’s town was actually an Italian and that was key to him getting out of Nazi Austria.

Which you know already from my Austrian travels but here’s a reminder.

Anyhoos Trieste is the jewel of the Friulia Venezia Giulia whose joys I have been enjoying, from mountain to woods to sea in the Virtual Italian Zoom Week.

I’ll be bringing you more in tomorrow’s Hungry and Thursday and all your favourite features.

MEET YOU IN THE CAFE

America, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, UK

Holiday Snaps – Forte forte and Italy

Me and Sir Rocco Forte are taking on the world.

Bit by bit.

The international hotelier shared his thoughts on Italy, Covid and how we should get tourism back in track.

He reported that the holiday experience is seemless in Sardinia at his Forte Village Resort where the health and safety measures are not invasive.

And but for the staff wearing masks and the regulations we are all getting used to follow you wouldn’t know things were any different.

Sir Rocco has been lobbying government throughout the crisis.

Put it on a pedestal

And the news of airport testing, at £80 with the results within an hour, being introduced at Heathrow for flights to Hong Kong that opens up an opportunity for Italy.

Before I flew to Bergamo last week I had to get a home test from a pharmacy, pay £150, courier it £10) and await the test’s return 24 hours later.

All within a 72-hour window before departure which Italy requires.

I asked Sir Rocco if he had lobbied the Scottish Government too.

My cup of ciocolatta: Bergamo

‘The First Minister is determined to make it more draconic than the rest of the UK,’ he told me.

‘I’m not very confident she would listen. It would fall on deaf ears.’

Perche? I can vouch that Italy, the entry point for the virus, is coping better than us with it now.

Forza Italia and Scotland and the UK, I mean Mamma Mia!

Balearic amigo

And word comes to us too of how our friends in the Balearic and Canary Islands are being proactive and inventive too in trying to get us back to their shores.

It is something of a bug bear of mine that a special case was not made for the Spanish islands.

But that was then.

The Spanish Government has put forward this protocol and it is worth reading.

The taskforce suggests a test pre-departure, funded by the visitor, and a test prior to their returning to their home country. At no cost to them.

If visitors are requested to self-isolate while they are away accommodation would be provided.

Me and my pals Lizzie and Mathew In Tenerife

If any additional medical costs is required this would be covered.

Today the accumulated infection rate in the Canaries was 35.29 per 100,000 are (based on the last 14 days).

In the UK it is 329.2 per 100,000.

Drink up and Kissimmee quick

The Margaritaville cocktail king

And after all that I was ready for Happy Hour with some of my favourite people in the Travel world, Experience Kissimmee.

They sent me a hamper with Margarita glass, can… and Covid accessories, branded mask and gel.

And a very helpful Floridian cocktail king from Margaritaville showed us how to make them.

And the king cocktail drinker himself

I’ll share all their news as soon as… Happy Hour extended into Happy Evening.

And, of course, you know how I love Florida and Disney World, Universal Orlando, Busch Gardens and the cities, Miami and Fort Lauderdale.

MEET YOU ON THE ZOOM

Adventure, Countries, Culture, Europe, Food, Food & Wine

Bergamo – time to say goodbye

Time to say goodbye, Paesi che non ho mai, veduto e vissuto con te, Adesso si, il vivro, con te partiro, su navi per mari che, io lo so, no, no, non esistono piu, it’s time to say goodbye. – Andrea Boccelli

Una ciocolatta di caldo densa at Balzer in Bergamo

Ciao Bergamo e grazie mille. Molamia, miei amici, stay strong my friends.

It’s time to say goodbye, although on my terms and not Signore Johnson’s.

I have made it my mission to come to Bergamo since the start of the outbreak to find out why the pandemic came here first.

What it was like for the Bergamoschi to live through.

And something a little stronger

And how they are living today and how they see tomorrow.

Peace to Bergamo

The overriding feeling I have found is one of peace (except for the raucous ragazzi e ragazze outside my window at midnight although this is how the young should be.)

I spend my last afternoon reading the stories on the picture boards in the piazza they are using as a testing centre.

And, of course, nothing tells a story quite like a picture, or a photograph.

Mars, Venus and love in Accademia Carrera

I wish mia moglie, the long insufferable (sorry, suffering) Mrs M was here to put her award-winning photo skills to work.

A work of art

I have come too from the Academia Carrera where I have been enjoying Titian, Canaletto and trying out Lotto (no, not the lottery, but the artist.

I have just enough time to treat myself to my Italian guilt pleasure, una ciocolatta di calda densa, a hot chocolate that wants to be a dessert.

Una fotographia di Bergamo in Covid

At a Bergamo institution Balzer cafe. Near my 4* Hotel Excelsior San Marco.

And here’s to beer

And then a Grumge IPA at Gate 11 in the airport.

I plan to have molti.

I am going back to a madhouse. And Britain is not much better.

Adventure, Countries, Culture, Europe, Flying, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Bergamo – alta e bassa

What’s Italian for phew’ I’ve been walked off my piedi today in Bergamo Citt’alta e Citta Bassa (City High and City Low).

And phew too… Johnson, Schnapps and Co. are too late to quarantine me on my return. I was always flying back tomorrow evening anyway, so Sunday is troppo tardi, idioti!

David and Goliath: The Basilica

That’s if I don’t decide to quarantine myself anyway with the Bergamoschi (the people that is, not the local sheepdogs who share their name. Although…!)

La Prima Citta

Bergamo, as we all know by now, is where Covid-19 entered Europe.

To the greater glory of God

But they have taken the worst it can offer and are coming out the other side, and will prevail.

Or as they say here ‘Molamia’ (stay strong).

Chin-Chin

The Bergamoschi have done just that since Covid visited in March and shut the town off from the rest of Lombardy, Italy, and the world for four months.

To the greater glory of beer: With Matteo

But not from each other… or not in the ways that matter.

Matteo, my tour guide volunteered to help out the old and infirm.

Restaurateur Niccolo the same with his original ice cream and food.

Stay strong: The Bergamo credo

And model citizen Emmanuele, who lives in a palazzo on the hill too, as a volunteer.

All are heroes… and all Bergamoschi are an example to us all

La Storia

Perhaps it is in the blood. It is certainly in their history.

I am standing in the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Ciitt’alta.

The Bergamo bear: With Matteo and Atalanta Bear

Where the Bergamoschi built a new church after they were delivered from the plague in the 12th century.

And filled it with frescoes, magnificent paintings and special picture boards of other scenes where humanity prevailed over adversity.

Noah anyone?

Pasta Basta

Ma mi scusi. I have just eaten my own weight in food and drunk today, a small lago di vino and must now repair to my bed in the Hotel Excelsior San Marco.

I scream for ice cream: With Niccolo

A Domani.

And if you want to slip on the Italian Boot to follow in my footsteps, here’s my Via Francigena, into Rome

While as the Veneto region is just over the horizon to the east, here’s the City of Frescoes Padova.

INCONTRA A VOI NELLA VIA