Category Archives: Italy

My train strike mishap

I consider myself fairly well travelled.
You may have bumped into me on a local bus in Hoi An (Vietnam), seen me arguing with taxi drivers in Phuket (Thailand), or spotted me planning complex train journeys, always checking timetables and any other available information.
I mostly travel alone, and careful planning makes my life a bit easier.

So how did I miss the news about the national train strike in Italy this weekend??? How did I manage to find myself completely stuck at a main train station, with no trains (or even buses) to reach the destination of my planned day trip???

I am staring at the board. “Cancelled”, it says. Second train I am trying to catch within an hour. Second cancellation. In both cases, trains were cancelled a couple of minutes before departure, and after I had validated the ticket. Someone’s having a laugh, I thought.

It looks like I am not going anywhere today. I quietly turn around and leave the station, and prepare myself for the online refund process, which isn’t as straightforward as it should be.imagesBut the doubt remains. How did this super-well-travelled chick manage to miss a national train strike in her home country? Ok, I don’t live here anymore, have been back only for a few days and don’t feel the need to be overly alert. But I should have known better. Or not?

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No, this is not how Trenitalia announced the strike!

I look on the Trenitalia website again. I had checked train times online the night before travelling, and all seemed good. I had booked the ticket online in the morning, with no issues. Now I spot a note at the bottom of the webpage stating that there is a national strike and train schedules may be affected. Why not putting that note right at the top of the webpage instead – this defies all logic to me. Yet, they had indeed informed us. I just didn’t read.

So here’s my piece of advice, for what is worth: when you are about to embark on a train journey, always check the news and ensure that trains are actually running… Even more so when you are visiting home: never let your “experienced traveller” guard down!

Now it’s your turn: feel free to share your experience of a time when an oversight badly impacted your travel plans :-)

At the “Festa de l’Unita’ “

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When I was a child, for me and my friends “Festa de l’Unita'” was synonymous with: summer, evenings out, food and dancing.

ItalyPhotogallery_022Despite its political connotation – it used to be organised by the Italian Communist Party, and now by the Democratic Party – the Festa de l’Unita’ is seen by most as a big annual social event. Together with the myriad of festivals that characterise Italian towns in summer.

In the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy all towns and villages seem to have their own Festa de l’Unita’ during summer, and all local events culminate in a main final event that takes place in one of the major cities (like Bologna) in late August-early September.

But for us children, politics was of no interest. All we were interested in was the opportunity to be out until late (well, later than the usual 6-7pm), eat lots of traditional food like crescentine and tigelle, perform our own version of polka, mazurka and waltz at the live music events, and buy raffle tickets in the hope of winning those nice toys that were on display.

During a recent visit to Italy I went to a Festa de l’Unita’ with some friends. It must have been at least ten years since the last time I attended one of such events. The village hosting it was small. The event was quite large. Nothing seemed to have changed since the 80’s.

Two ladies handing out stickers welcomed us at the entrance.  They always give you a sticker when you enter a Festa de l’Unita’.  You get labelled.

Next was the funfair. Not a big one but enough to keep kids and teenagers entertained for a bit. I was tempted to pay a couple of Euros and throw plastic rings around the necks of very colourful plastic swans, but the idea of using my money to buy food seemed more appealing…

Food. One of my main priorities during any visits to a Festa de l’Unita’ as a child. This has not changed with time.  Who can resist some crescentine fritte, freshly made in front of you? They may almost drip with oil, but they are delicious! So of course I had a couple.

 And then there was the live music. There was a large dancing area, a stage and a band playing. The female solo singer was pretty good. But the music was the same as 30 years ago. Ballo liscio, with its polka/mazurka/waltz, dominated the scene. Some group dance songs from the 60’s featured too. The dozens of people dancing seemed to have loads of fun, though!
Looking at how well prepared they were, how in synch they moves appeared, and how no one ever seemed to miss a step, I wondered if the locals spend the whole year taking dance classes with the only purpose to show their abilities at the Festa de l’Unita’ over one week in summer…

We left before the end of the evening, with the feeling that some things have never changed and probably never will.

Let’s talk about Piadina

Ever been to Italy?
Ever tried piadina?
No?
Well, this is something that really deserves a place in that growing wishlist of things you want do & try when you travel!emilia_romagna_map

Piadina is a traditional regional food that originates from Romagna, the south-eastern part of the Emilia-Romagna region in Italy.

Piadina is a type of flatbread made with white flour, olive oil or lard, salt and water, all mixed and then cooked in a flat pan. When it’s cooked you add the filling, which can be anything from cold meats – in the more traditional versions – to Nutella – in the modern variants.
A classic is piadina con prosciutto, stracchino e rucola (Parma ham, soft cheese and rocket). Delicious and definitely one of my favourites!

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ItalyPhotogallery_016And let’s not forget the people involved: a good piadinaro never fails to entertain you with a good chat and a joke! The man on the photo on the left was so excited about me taking pics of his kiosk that started boasting about it with his “competitors” at the market: “This lady is taking photos of my food, and not yours! She is going to take me overseas with her!”.
But no, he didn’t make it into my suitcase in the end…Italy Romagna food piadina piadinaro

Weekly Photo Challenge: Summer Lovin’

 This is my summer lovin’: Italian Ice Cream!
Or as we call it: Gelato!!!!gelato, ice cream

Having been living abroad for well over 10 years now, Gelato is probably what I miss the most from back home. And a regular and unmissable treat during my brief summer visits.
No, don’t tell me that we can have Italian ice cream in most foreign countries now. I know. But it’s not the same.
Gelato eaten on Italian soil on one of those warm summer evenings that still smell of childhood and school holidays is the best!

Featuring in the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge.