Posts Tagged ‘Italy’


August 24, 2017

Italians do it better?


Italy is famous for quality coffee.

Italy is infamous for its disgusting undrinakable coffee.

Which statement is true?

Sadly the latter.

It was with trepidation I visited Bar Italia in Soho. I was expecting undrinkable coffee. To my pleasant surprise, one of the best coffees in London, but this was the exception not the norm.

The reason Italians have this misplaced reputation for coffee is that they invented the espresso machine (though the French may beg to differ), but not a clue how to use.

It says all there is to be said when the average Italian barista is worse that that employed by tax-dodging Starbucks.

Coffee is not to be downed in one gulp then on ones way. It is a drink to be savoured.

At one euro a cup, cannot expect quality coffee.


Rescue of a wolf

July 15, 2014

A wolf dragged half drowned and near frozen to death from a mountain river.

A man who encountered the wolf near death, desperately stuck in an icy river in Italy, called the Monte Adone Centre, a volunteer organization that rescues and rehabilitates injured wildlife.

The wolf, later named Navarre, was undernourished, paralysed in his hind legs, and had 35 lead pellets lodged his body.

After two weeks of intensive care, the wolf regained his ability to walk.

Navarre was then transferred to an enclosure that would allow him to fully recover before he could eventually be released back into the wild.

What is surprising, is that the wolf lets his carers look after him. Did he realise they were looking after him?

Paulo Coelho in Duomo di Milano

October 27, 2013

Talk given by Paulo Coelho in Duomo di Milano, 23 October 2013.

Paulo Coelho onorato presso il Duomo di Milano, pieno di appassionati, per raggiungere 10 milioni di libri venduti in Italia.

On Sunday, ie today, The Alchemist marked 275 weeks in the New York Times Best Seller list, not bad for a slim volume first published 25 years ago.

Monte Grappa

April 7, 2012

Montegrappa is a company in Bassano del Grappa that makes high quality pens. They recently celebrated 100 years 1912-2012 with the launch on St Joseph’s Day of The Alchemist pen, a collaboration between Montegrappa and Paulo Coelho.

Montegrappa launch The Alchemist pen
Launch of Montegrappa The Alchemist pen

Monte Grappa is a mountain, 1,775 metres (5,823 ft) high, not far from Bassano del Grappa.

Bassano del Grappa is very popular with cyclists, Monte Grappa is no exception. Cyclists on mountain bikes like to make a rapid descent of Monte Grappa.

Top Story in The Digital Mission Daily (Saturday 7 April 2012).

Ristorante Alla Corte

March 31, 2012
Ristorante Alla Corte

Ristorante Alla Corte

shellfish and spaghetti

shellfish and spaghetti

Mio expert with spaghetti

Mio expert with spaghetti

I had intended eating out, but there was nowhere nearby, Bassano del Grappa was half an hour walk away in the dark, and so I ate at Ristorante Alla Corte.

Not that I am complaining, as the food was excellent, and as I was to later discover, there is nowhere worth eating in Bassano del Grappa.

Many places claim to be gourmet restaurants, but few live up to the claim. Were Ristorante Alla Corte to make the claim (it actually does not), it would be well deserved as the food and service excellent.

Wherever possible, the ingredients are sourced locally.

Ristorante Alla Corte is popular with locals, which is always a good sign. Regulars were greeted as old friends.

The locals or regulars seemed to eat off menu. On my first night, a table of ten was served a leg of roast pork. I inquired and was told it had been slow roasted for ten hours.

I was then asked would I like to try.

I said yes, and was served a couple of slices of the roast pork with small, diced roast potatoes. It was excellent.

Roberto and his chef clearly took a great pride in what they served, and were very happy to sit and talk about the food if you showed an interest and they were not too busy.

One evening Roberto showed me two photo albums of cultural events where food was served, one location being the Villa Bianchi.

I was very much reminded of Nicolas Tavern in Protoras in Cyprus where Nicolas takes a great pride in the food served.

One night Roberto told me he had something special. I assumed he was going to tell me of a special dish and ask would I like to try. But no, Monetegrappa had booked a table for ten and had as their guest of honour Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho.

A great honour indeed for Roberto and Ristorante Alla Corte.

On the evening everyone was spruced up, but sadly it never happened. One hour before they were due to dine, Montegrappa called to cancel, Paulo Coelho’s flight had been delayed and he would not make it in time for dinner.

I ate there every night, not Monday as it was closed. Monday night I ate at a medieval Venetian castle at a St Joseph’s Day party, guest of Paulo Coelho.

My last night I did not enjoy. Roberto was absent and I do not think the chef was there either. The service was not as good and I did not enjoy my meal (though it may have been because I was not feeling well). My Japanese friends said their meal was good, shellfish with spaghetti. I barely touched mine. I emptied my plate onto Mio’s plate, she ate it and said it was good.

On my first night I was treated by Roberto to a glass of grappa, from Poli, a local speciality. I did not like it, and spent the rest of the night politely sipping.

Slow Food, as an alternative to fast food, was founded in Italy by Carlo Petrini in 1986.

Slow Food has expanded to become the all embracing Slow Movement, which includes Slow Money, Cittaslow, Slow fashion, Slow music.

Slow Movement embraces local, seasonal food, local culture, local seed varieties.

Although not part of the Slow Movement, what Roberto and his colleagues were doing was something similar, cultural events that celebrated local food, local customs.

Sadly we did not see Roberto to say goodbye. He was in Brussels helping to prepare a Gala dinner for over 700 MEPs!

Fleeting visit to Venice

March 23, 2012






sad farewell in Venice

sad farewell in Venice

I had flown in to Venice, was about to fly out. I had seen Venice from the air. Could I really pass through and not see Venice?

I was on the train from Bassano del Grappa with my Japanese friends on the way to Venice. Me to alight and catch a flight, they on to Venice.

I decided to risk it. I stayed on the train with them to Venice.

The train passed over a causeway across the lagoon to Venice.

We alighted from the train. Eurostar trains in the station.

Most unexpected sight, out of the station and there was a canal, there was Venice.

We walked along the canal dragging our luggage.

Then sad farewells, me to catch the airport bus, they to find their hotel.

But at least I saw Venice!

Paulo Coelho’s St Joseph’s Day Party at Castello Superiore di Marostica

March 21, 2012
Venetian soldiers with flaming swords

Venetian soldiers with flaming swords

Hosted by Montegrappa, Paulo Coelho’s St Joseph’s Day Party was held at a medieval Venetian Castle, Castello Superiore di Marostica.

Following the launch of The Alchemist pen in the afternoon, followed by a tour of the Montegrappa facilty in Bassano del Grappa, a party was held in the evening to mark St Joseph’s day.

The party was held at a medieval Venetian Castle some half an hour drive outside of Bassano del Grappa.

On arrival, after passing through a road block checking for unwanted gatecrashers, we were met on arrival by Venetian soldiers holding flaming torches.

Some sort of pageant was taking place. Food and drink was served outside, though it was a cold night.

We were then ushered indoors where a guitar of Rudolf Schenker (lead guitarist and founder of German rock group Scorpions) was being painted by Christina.

Then we were ushered upstairs, where tables were laid for dinner.

Paulo Coelho explained why he celebrates St Joseph’s Day with his friends. He said this was a very special party as it was a Silver Anniversary, ie 25 years. It was also a Silver Anniversary of the publication of The Pilgrimage.

Paulo Coelho was born dead, strangled by his umbilical cord. His mother prayed for a miracle, that life be breathed into his dead body. He recovered. She promised she would mark St Joseph’s day, but never did. God is forgiving. God is not the God of hate, who damns us for all eternity, that Francis Chan portrays in his evil book Erasing Hell.

Paulo now marks St Joseph’s Day to give thanks for his good fortune.

Wine is mentioned several times in the Bible. All but one involves Joseph.

As always, the dinner started with prayers. First Paulo in Portuguese, then many languages, including German (The Abbot of Melk Abbey) and Japanese (Yumi Crane).

Glorious St. Joseph, model of all who are devoted to labor, obtain for me the grace to work conscientiously by placing love of duty above my inclinations; to gratefully and joyously deem it an honor to employ and to develop by labor the gifts I have received from God, to work methodically, peacefully, and in moderation and patience, without ever shrinking from it through weariness or difficulty to work; above all, with purity of intention and unselfishness, having unceasingly before my eyes the account I have to render of time lost, talents unused, good not done, and vain complacency in success, so baneful to the work of God. O patriarch St. Joseph! This shall be my motto for life and eternity.

Yumi Crane spoke of the Tsunami. It was one year, one week, one day. It was very moving. She was in tears. Mio, with who I was holding hands, was in tears. I was in tears.

The Narrow Road to the Disaster Zone
Songs From Tokyo

For Mio, it was a dream come true to meet Paulo Coelho.

A Japanese girl’s dream come true

There were many courses, several were on the table when we sat down. I had no idea what most of them were. There was long gaps of half an hour between courses, which gave people plenty of time to wander around and chat to people at other tables, exchange gifts.

I gave Paulo Coelho Fusiones, signed by all members of the group Ensamble Dos Orrillas, who I had seen live at an excellent concert a couple of weeks before in Puerto de la Cruz in Tenerife. A fusion of music from South America and the Canary Isands. I am only sorry I did not get the opportunity to take a picture of Paulo Coelho with the signed album. Hopefully this album will be available for download from bandcamp in the near future.

On the tables was also a special gift from Paulo. A bottle of perfume, The Alchemist. I assume specially commissioned for the occasion.

Many people came up to me and chatted who I had no idea who they were but for some reason they knew who I was.

One was Dasha Balashova, a remarkable Russian artist, who I learnt is now living in France in or near the Pyrenees. I have Dasha to thank for my original contact with Paulo Coelho. Until the night of the party we had never met.

A firework display!

Presents for Paulo: A silver tray to mark 25th anniversary of The Pilgrimage, a special chair to sit at when he writes.

Ken Crane was called. Where was Ken when needed? As a special gift Ken had brought five pairs of boxer shorts with his graphics and quotes from Paulo Coelho. Paulo handed these out to named individuals.

A few minutes before midnight Paulo Coelho announced eating was over, it was time to go downstairs and dance.

In the early hours of the morning we were treated to Rudolf Schenker and Paulo Coelho (on guitar and vocals) performing Rock Like a Hurricane, Still Loving You, and maybe a couple of other numbers. It was unbelievable. I do not think the group who were playing could believe their luck playing with Rudolf Schenker and Paulo Coelho. For Time they were joined on vocals by Rudolf Schenker’s girlfriend Tanya.

Paulo Coelho e Rudolf Schenker

Sometime in the early hours, Christina and I were dancing centre stage.

Then book signing.

On the edge of the light I noticed armed guards!

All good parties eventually have to come to an end.

We finally got back to our hotel at 3-30am in the early hours of the morning!

Many thanks to Paulo for the invite and putting on such a great party and to Montegrappa for generously hosting the party and for providing the transport there and back.

Paulo Coelho has posted a shorter version on his blog.

Montegrappa launch The Alchemist pen

March 21, 2012
Montegrappa Alchemist launch - Montegrappa/Susan Kime

Montegrappa Alchemist launch - Montegrappa/Susan Kime

Montegrappa The Alchemist

Montegrappa The Alchemist

Montegrappa The Alchemist - Montegrappa

Montegrappa The Alchemist - Montegrappa

I acknowledge the immense power of the pen. It is with the pen and the written word that I have been able to give life to my thoughts. Montegrappa has forged the most beautiful writing instruments in the world. — Paulo Coelho

Montegrappa’s exclusive creation celebrating Paulo Coelho’s best seller, The Alchemist.

The collection was officially launched in Bassano del Grappa on St Joseph’s Day 19 March 2012. VIP guests from all over the world joined the launch and then attended Paulo Coelho’s St Joseph’s Day Party that was held in the Castello Superiore di Marostica that evening.

We were there as guests of Paulo Coelho.

We arrived as the launch started at 3am, dripping wet as it was pouring with rain. We squeezed in at the back.

The launch was the first time Paulo Coelho had seen the pen. Montegrappa would not let him have a pen before the launch just in case he was tempted to show it to anyone.

A man talked about alchemy, but went on and on and was eventually cut off by Montegrappa. Strange we thought as the expert on alchemy was Paulo Coelho.

The pen is heavy with symbolism. A work of art and a delight to look at.

The cap and barrel represent circles or spheres, which stand for the seven alchemical processes. The chain of elements links the Sun with gold, the Moon with silver, Mercury with quicksilver, Venus with copper, Mars with iron, Jupiter with tin and Saturn with lead. They are represented through sculptural representations, with engraved symbols and ancient names.

The Alchemist pen is a limited edition of less than 2,000.

The Alchemist Pen will be issued in an edition of 1,987 fountain pens and roller balls in total, in honor of the year (1987) The Alchemist was originally published. The series will consist of 71 in solid gold (38 fountain pens and 33 roller balls), for the 71 languages into which it has been translated. Nine hundred pens will be offered in resin and sterling silver (450 fountain pens and 450 roller balls) to represent the number of copies in the first edition print run.

One thousand more pens will be produced in sterling silver with accents in translucent enamel. There will be four colors of enamel, representing the four elements: air, fire, earth and water. Only 125 fountain pens and 125 roller balls will be made in each color. Lastly, 16 pens (eight fountain pens and eight roller balls) will be produced in gold with diamond enhancements, the precious gems described in the Alchemist’s journey.

The launch was followed by a factory tour, many of the workers had books signed by Paulo Coelho sitting at their side.

In the evening a St Joseph’s Day Party at a Venetian Medieval Castle.

Montegrappa expected maybe a hundred people to turn up for the launch. By their estimate, over three hundred!

The Alchemist limited edition pen is destined to become the world’s most sought after and desired pen.

A Montegrappa pen is slow fashion, a quality handmade writing instrument that you value for life.

For Montegrappa the day also had another significance, they were celebrating 100 years of Monetegrappa, 1912-2012.

Montegrappa CEO Giuseppe Aquila on the Rich History of his Family Business
Launch of Montegrappa The Alchemist pen

Top Story in the Daily Soul (Tuesday 22 May 2012).

Venice to Bassano del Grappa by train

March 16, 2012
sunset Venezia Mestre

sunset Venezia Mestre

Venezia Mestre double deck train

Venezia Mestre double deck train

train Venice to Bassano del Grappa

train Venice to Bassano del Grappa

Walk out of Venice Marco Polo Airport and catch the No 15 Bus. Note not the airport bus (No 5) as this takes to Venice not the station.

Buses run every half an hour, xx15 and xx45.

Bus takes about half an hour from airport to station.

Need to buy ticket from machine before boarding the bus.

Choose Urban Routes, and select number of tickets required. Cost 1-30€ for single ticket.

Seats on the bus plastic bucket seats. Not as bad as they look.

It is about half an hour from the airport to the station.

The station is not obvious! No grand station building.

Look out for railway tracks on the right. Next stop, station.

A return ticket to Bassano del Grappa just under 10€.

Once purchased, you will need to validate the outward ticket in a machine.

Trains are around every hour.

A rather tedious journey through not very exciting countryside. Very flat.

Train overcrowded, hot, standing room only. Advantage of standing by door, cooler. Seats horrible plastic seats.

At Bassano del Grappa, catch a taxi to where staying.

Protest the dominant theme of 2011

December 30, 2011
St Paul's in-the-camp Time Out picture of the year 2011

St Paul's in-the-camp Time Out picture of the year 2011

here to stay

here to stay

root out usury

root out usury

Christmas Bishop of London at St Paul's in-the-Camp

Christmas Bishop of London at St Paul's in-the-Camp

As 2011 draws to a close, Occupy and Arab Spring were the defining moments. Historians will note the date when one world changed to another, no longer were ordinary people prepared to be kicked around by corrupt politicians in the pocket of Big Businesses.

Strictly speaking the Arab Spring started in Tunisia as 2010 drew to a close, but it really took off in Tahrir Square at the beginning of the year. Mubarak has gone but the job is not yet finished, the ruling military elite has yet to be toppled. In Libya a job well done, but unfortunately much blood was shed. In Syria, work in progress, Assad has a simple choice, hand himself over to the ICC or leave with a bullet in the head. In Yemen, unfinished businesses. In Saudi Arabia the corrupt House of Saud has yet to be toppled or the Mullahs and Ayatollahs in Iran.

Syria troops ‘clash with Damascus activists’

Occupy started in Spain when the young unemployed occupied the centre of Madrid. It quickly spread to New York, then around the world. Brutal crackdowns in the US. In the UK St Paul’s in-the-Camp has spread to an estimated 60 camps around the country. Contrary to the smear stories in the media, it never was the camp v St Paul’s and the clergy are working closely with the camp. St Paul’s in-the-Camp has revitalised the church, made them recognise the core values of Christianity. Contrary to smears in the media, church attendance up not down.

Freedom to protest
St Paul’s plans for lasting legacy of Occupy protest
Archbishop of Wales urges church to ‘get hands dirty’ in the fight against poverty and injustice
The origins of Christmas
The Nativity of Our Lord
Attendances prove Christmas surprise

On Christmas day the Bishop of London delivered a box of chocolates to the camp outside St Paul’s. The year will end with a reading of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol at 6pm this evening on the steps of St Paul’s.

Protesters celebrate Christmas, as judge postpones decision
An Occupy reading of Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’
Occupy London presents a reading of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol – 6pm Friday 30 December at the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral
Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol especially adapted for Occupy London
New Year’s Eve Weekend at Occupy London – Make it count!

As Dickens’ bicentennial approaches, it seems only fitting for Occupy London to stage a public reading of A Christmas Carol at St Paul’s Cathedral. Dickens was compelled to write A Christmas Carol out of a strong desire to comment on the enormous gap between the rich and poor in Victorian Britain. It is a similar strength of conviction that has motivated the growth of the Occupy movement to work to transform the growing social, economic and political injustices of our time. As Giles Fraser, former Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral said:

Christmas is the most political of the Church’s festivals … all politics is about people, and without a fundamental sympathy for the plight of other human beings, and in particular for the dispossessed, no political movement for social change is ever going to capture the heart. For Dickens, Christmas was the emotional centre of the big society. Peace on earth and goodwill to all.

Arab Spring and Occupy have become key words and phrases of 2011. St Paul’s in-the-Camp picture of the year for Time Out. Time Magazine proclaimed this year’s Person of the Year to be “the Protester”. Five of the Top 10 Most Commented Stories this year in the New York Times were about Occupy wall Street!

New words: the official* glossary of 2011
Best of 2011: pictures of the year – Occupy London camp
The Protester

In Leeds, when the unaccountable town council announced £90 million cuts protesters stormed the council chamber, then Occupy Leeds arrived.

2011: when year of global protests became local in Leeds
Quiet in the August troubles; but Occupy looks here to stay

UK Uncut has forced tax dodging up the political agenda. A damning report on HMRC by a House of Commons Select Committee. The Head of HMRC forced to resign, with effect next year. UK Uncut and Occupy London Stock Exchange have exposed the City of London as one of the few remaining Rotten Boroughs.

The tax haven in the heart of Britain

Who would have thought Russians would have taken to the streets in their tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands to call for democratic accountability and to call upon Vladimir Putin to go?

Not all good news.

There has been coups in Greece and Italy. Italy no longer has a democratically elected government, it has a government put in place by EU and German bankers. A government to serve the banks and EU not the people of Italy. In Greece the government is acting for the EU and bankers not the Greek people.

Ryanair refused to allow a passenger on his way home for Christmas to board a flight to Malaga. Hints of terrorism. Yet one more reason to boycott Ryanair.

Occupy protester ‘banned’ from flight home for Christmas

Iraq is descending into Hell.

The Truth as Iraq descends into Hell

Occupy has inspired poetry.

Jesus was born in an empty building
Oh St Pauls, why?

For Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho 2011 was a very good year, his latest book, the biographical Aleph released last year in Brazil, shot straight to No 1 in every country published. The noticeable exception was in the UK thanks to High Street bookshop chain Waterstone’s deliberately choosing not to put Aleph on display.

What a year!

As 2011 draws to a close there is still much unfinished business. The list is long, libraries closures, cuts in public services, Welfare to Work programmes, privatisation of the health service …

How to help disabled people fight the welfare reform bill

I will give but one example.

Lincoln City Council has decided to put a heritage site, The Lawn, up for sale. Set in a 8 acre site, this museum complex was a pioneering mental hospital, it now houses the Sir Joseph Banks Conservatory. Sir Joseph Banks was chief scientific officer on the Endeavour, established Kew gardens, President of the Royal Society. The Lawn is the ideal site for Occupy Lincoln.

Not for Sale! Hands off our Lawn!

As we head into 2012, the fight goes on …

Happy New Year!

%d bloggers like this: