Monthly Archives: August 2013

31st August: The Attic Under the Bell

Last Sunday I got dragged somewhat reluctantly to the flea market in Pontremoli, known locally as La Soffitta sotto il Campanone or The Attic Under the Bell. I love food markets but I’m afraid that the same thing can’t be said for antique or flea markets. I’m not really a fan for the following reasons:

1. They smell funny.

2. They’re normally incredibly crowded and full of the sort of people that will happily trample you to death if they suspect that you might beat them to that antique tea set they’ve been eyeing up.

3. They’ve become fashionable and as with most things that have become fashionable, they have become expensive.

I’m happy to say though that although item number 1 on my list was heavily in evidence at The Attic Under the Bell, item numbers 2 and 3 were happily absent. Well, not completely absent, I did still get elbowed in the gut by woman who looked like she’d kill her own mother to possess the chair I was looking at. But militant antique collectors aside it was a good day.

The Attic under the bell takes place in the old town of Pontremoli, every first and third Sunday of the month.

30th August: Festival of Books

This week, Montereggio has been the host of the annual festival of books.This year marks the tenth year of the festival of books, with Montereggio being the only Italian town in the International Organisation of Book Towns. Montereggio is an ancient fortified village with a host of winding back alleys and medieval architecture, a fitting place for an event of such cultural significance.

Over the past week, there has been an antique book market and public readings with authors. Their have also been open debates on subjects including immigration, the environment and consumerism led by journalists, Giovanni Fasanella, Stefania Limits, Andrea Salieri, Daniel Babbini, economist Alberto Bisin and pharmacologist Professor Silvio Garattini.


August 24th: An Impromtu Seaside Holiday

Today I woke up and contemplated the quiet day I was going to have. I would get up, feed the chickens, have a look at my olive grove and maybe read a book by the pool if I was feeling really adventurous. Oh what a naive fool I was.

Halfway through an inner debate I was having about what to have for breakfast, my friend M called me and decided that my day plan sounded decidedly dull and in need of livening up. You may remember M, from a previous blog post about drinking and debates. As well as having lots of opinions he is also a fan of making grand plans for days out that never seem to quite work out. Luckily, on this occasion things seemed to be unusually smooth running for a day out planned by M.

The stretch of sea between Porto Venere and Palmaria Island was closed off from marine traffic for the day and M decided it was a prime opportunity to gather up a group of friends and go swimming in the sea. As someone who usually sticks to swimming in a pool I had my reservations but it turned out to be good fun.

We drove down to the temporary beach, already filled with families and groups of friends and spent a few hours swimming in the sea and vying for some space on the beach with a few wily back packers. Afterwards we walked to the nearby Piazza Bastreri where load of food stalls had been set up and ate some fresh seafood.

M seemed to think that this successful trip meant that the rest of us were no longer allowed to make fun of him for his previously disastrous trip planning (including, but not limited to, getting kicked out of an art gallery in Florence and getting chased through a field by an enraged cow, but more of those incidents later). We disagreed.

August 21st: Concluding Event of ‘Nights at the Castle’ Taking Place This Weekend

The Concluding event in the summer programme ‘Nights at the Castle’, at the Castle of St George in La Spezia, is ‘Travel the Universe’, taking place this Saturday night at 9.15pm. The event is organised by the Spezzino Institute of Astronomical Research and the talk will be led by their vice president.

A number of speakers will talk about different aspects of the moon including the myths early mankind believed about the moon, the role of the moon in works of art, music and literature, and the arrival of man on the moon. It will conclude with a discussion on the influences of the moon on the earth, the animal and plant worlds and human biology.

After the discussion the audience is encouraged to use the telescopes available to gaze at the night sky.

For more information email

13th August: Because Apparently There’s A Never Ending Supply of Day Festivals in Italy…

Tomorrow Appeninnfest takes place. For one day the land between the National Park of the Tuscan Emilian Apennines and the Parco dei Cento Laghi will be transformed into a festival space with a market, music and a whole lot of activities for kids.

It looks like it’ll be ideal for those of us with children as the organisers have placed a special emphasis on activities for children this year. Children’s activities include donkey acrobatics in which children will be taught how to balance on the backs of donkeys, donkey rides, obstacle courses, puppet shows and canopy tours.

For those of us without the head for heights required for riding zip wires around tree tops there are other activities. Amongst them guided hikes around the lakes led by nature specialists, a market selling food and wine and a concert in the woods.

All activities are free except for the canopy tour.

9th August: ‘Music Under the Stars’ and ‘The Opera in Concert’: Summer Music in La Spezia

La Spezia is celebrating the end of summer by holding two classical concerts which explore classical music in different ways.

Tomorrow (Augest 10th) ‘Music Under the Stars’ will be performed in the open air in Piazza Saint-Bon. The Flutist Tito Ciccarese and the accordion player Gianni Fassetta will be playing a selection of music including work by Mozart, Piazzolla and Verdi.

Next Saturday soprano Silvia Martinelli, flutist Fabio Taruschio and pianist Andrea Found present ‘The Opera in Concert’ outside the Church of St John and Augustine. The concert is a celebration of the bicentenary of the birth of Verdi and will feature his work from ‘La Traviata’, ‘Il Trovatore’ and ‘Rigoletto’.

Entry to both events is free.

August 5th: Tattooed Statues and Slightly Drunk Debates

I’m coming to the conclusion that there is no such thing as going for a ‘quiet drink’ in Italy. By that I don’t mean that a quick drink at the local inevitably turns into an all night drinking session, I mean that the word ‘quiet’ coupled with the words ‘Italian bar’ don’t naturally go together due to the high level of engaging, interesting people you’re bound to start debating with on various subjects.

This was the situation I found myself in, when last night I decided that it would be a good idea to go for a fabled ‘quiet drink’ at a local wine bar. After a day spent evicting a swarm of bees from my garden I decided I deserved a drink and duly pottered into town for a glass of wine.

Sitting in a corner, I was soon approached by an acquaintance of mine, who for the purpose of this post shall be called M. M is a stout, middle aged accountant, he is best characterised as being… vocal. Yes, I’ll settle with vocal as over opinionated sounds a little harsh. M was keen to know my opinion on the newly tattooed statue of David, an exact replica of the famous Michelangelo statue which had been decorated with tattoos drawn by a group of artists. Not knowing much about it, I ummed and ahhed for a while about ‘updating classical art’ and ‘bringing the contemporary together with the classic’ before M shot me a shrewd look and launched into a tirade against it.

As M’s voice is hardly the quietest, we attracted the attention of a small group of people who came over to argue the pro’s and con’s of a tattooed David with M. One thing led to another and within an hour their was a group of no less the 20 people surrounding us, the debate having evolved by then into the comparative merits of modern art.

And this is what I mean when I say that I don’t believe that the concept of a ‘quiet drink’ translates into Italian.


August 2nd: Mama Africa Meeting 2013

Villafranca is currently hosting the annual Mama Africa Meeting, a festival of African culture, which brings together workshops, live performances, film screenings, bars, food stalls and debates on contemporary African issues bought to you by forty different artists and teachers.

It started on the 28th of July, with a parade through the town and an evening celebration. The workshops on offer include African jazz dance, balafon music and African dance theater and the debates range from African economics to the experiences of African women.

I’m going to have to break out of tourism writer mode to tell you about the food. Oh my god, the food. There is nothing quite like eating delicious traditional African food (which has been cooked in front of you) under a tree on a sunny day. Amazing.

There’s room for all to camp, which adds to the festival feeling and amazing atmosphere of fun and learning bought together in setting full of people eating and dancing and debating.