Articles tagged:

Italy

Magazine article

Of mountains and memories: Slovenia’s Walk of Peace

by Rudolf Abraham

Join us on the 230 km hiking trail in western Slovenia known as the Walk of Peace. It is a chance to revisit the scenes of terrible First World War battles along and around the Izonzo Front, where the armies of Austria-Hungary confronted Italian forces. Rudolf Abraham leads us through shrapnel-scarred terrain to discover landscapes of tantalizing beauty and rich historical poignancy.

Magazine article

Fuel for the mind: Bologna and the Romantics

by Suzanne and Andrew Edwards

Stendhal, Byron, Goethe and Mary Shelley are among the many writers who made time for the Italian city of Bologna. Often overlooked in favour of Florence or Rome, Bologna’s intellectual history informs the texture of the modern city as Suzanne and Andrew Edwards discover when they visit Bologna in search of fuel for the mind.

Magazine article

Reading Celati

by hidden europe

The Italian wordsmith Gianni Celati, who died in January this year, was not best known for his travel writing. It was for Celati a sideline in a career that mainstreamed on literature and culture. We take a look at some of Celati's work.

Magazine article

10000 steps

by hidden europe

The EU-funded EXCOVER initiative reveals how lesser-frequented regions of the Adriatic coastline have real potential to alleviate pressure in tourist hotspots. One of the EXCOVER case studies is the Po Delta region of Italy.

Magazine article

Editorial hidden europe 67

by hidden europe

In hidden europe 67, we go mountain hiking in Croatia's Kvarner region, ponder the relationship between mining and cultural heritage, take to the rails in Germany with a wonderful slow travel deal and discover a former Catholic seminary in the Braes of Glenlivet. We also visit both Hoek van Holland and Harwich and make tracks for an unsung delta on the Adriatic.

Magazine article

Time for change: new rail services for 2022

Slower trains from Newcastle to Edinburgh and faster dashes from Cologne to Berlin are in the offing. New rail timetables across Europe come in effect in mid-December 2021. New night trains from Austria to France and from Switzerland to the Netherlands will start. We highlight some key changes in European rail schedules.

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Watery diversions

Making time for creative journeys has been at the heart of our work with hidden europe. So in this issue of our Letter from Europe we highlight some longish ferry routes which even allow for some sightseeing. Here are some examples from this winter’s Mediterranean shipping schedules.

Magazine article

A town in the Sicilian hills: Piana degli Albanesi

by Suzanne and Andrew Edwards

To the south of Palermo in Sicily lies the town of Piana degli Albanesi. The first thing to strike the casual visitor who passes the comune’s boundary line is the customary sign announcing the name of the settlement. Underneath the Italian are the words Hora e Arbëreshëvet with the diaereses hinting at altogether different origins. Susanne and Andrew Edwards investigate Sicily’s Albanian connections.

Magazine article

Landscapes of immunity

by hidden europe

There are some small populated islands off the coast of Sicily which have never recorded a single COVID infection. And, by comparison with many European countries, Iceland has consistently shown low incidence rates.

Magazine article

Editorial hidden europe 64

by hidden europe

Staying close to base brings its own rewards. This is the first time since the inception of the magazine (16 years ago) that we have ever carried a full feature on that rural area, just south of Berlin, which we count as our home region. All three of our guest contributors in this issue similarly write on communities and landscapes with which they have had a long engagement.

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A Fiesole residency

With its handsome villas, lavish gardens and sweeping views over the valley of the River Arno, Fiesole developed as a fabled spot. It was a place for political intrigue, a retreat to be creative and a spot to just relax. No surprise, perhaps, that it has attracted generations of artists, scholars and writers.

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The waiting game

hidden europe 63 is now available, featuring articles about Bulgaria, Alsace, rural Galicia and northern Italy. We also look at the prospects for slow travel in the post-COVID world. Single issues and subscriptions are available in the hidden europe online shop.

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Free ports

The current plans to create free ports around the shores of the United Kingdom made us delve into the history of the porto franco. This year marks the 600th anniversary of the sale of Livorno - the Tuscan port which Genoa sold to Florence. It paved the way for competition between Genoa and Livorno and the development of the first free ports.

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Alpine horizons

The English, like travellers from other countries, were enthralled by the scenery of the western Alps. But it wasn't until well after the Golden Age of Alpinism that mountaineers and travellers began to explore areas further east in the great Alpine chain. We look at how in the last quarter of the 19th century, the eastern Alps fired the western imagination.

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The Gotthard revival

The new Treno Gottardo rail service starts in mid-December 2020. It offers the chance to travel from Basel to Switzerland's southernmost canton of Ticino via the classic Gotthard railway. Climb aboard a panorama carriage, sit back and enjoy the Alpine views.

Note

Travels with Jan Morris

Jan Morris, who has died at the age of 94, was one of the most gifted travel writers of our era. But, despite the sadness of her passing, her words remain as an inspiration to those who write about place and space.

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Sauntering through November

Two events: the centenary of the first-ever General Assembly of the League of Nations (held in Geneva on 15 November 1920) and the publication this week of Issue 62 of hidden europe magazine. Yes, there is a link! We look at this new issue of the magazine which includes an article on the Free State of Fiume - one of two small states created by the League of Nations in autumn 1920.

Magazine article

The D'Annunzio affair: remembering the Free State of Fiume

by Nicky Gardner

Gabriele D’Annunzio was an aviator, poet, playwright and populist who in his manner presciently anticipated the current crop of populist leaders. His ‘invasion’ of the Adriatic city of Fiume in 1919 precipitated an international crisis. One hundred years ago, in autumn 1920, the newly created League of Nations endeavoured to defuse tensions by creating the Free State of Fiume.

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The papal states

The emergence in the eighth century of the papal states in parts of Italy and beyond heralded a geopolitical oddity which survived for over 1000 years, and of which there is the faintest echo in the current status of Vatican City - the world's smallest country.

Magazine article

Untold Riches

by hidden europe

Jakob Fugger the Rich was indeed very rich. But his approach to business presciently anticipated many practices which are now commonplace. We look at the life of a man who challenged business cartels and had a canny appreciation of the importance of market intelligence.

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Liturgical adventures during Coronavirus times

Across much of Europe, church services and other faith gatherings were very limited or non-existent at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. In many countries, churches remained open for private prayer, but there were some countries where churches were locked. For me, as perhaps for many others in these difficult times, the online services streamed by various congregations have been an unexpected blessing.

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By the Euganean Hills

The area where the volcanic Euganean Hills meet the plain has more than its fair share of pleasing Renaissance villas, almost all of them oozing that Palladian style which is a real feature of the Veneto. But to the left of the railway, just north of Battaglia Terme is one striking palace which bucks the Palladian trend.

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A Taste of Heaven

Christianity is not especially sweet-toothed, though the Old Testament psalms do drip generously with honey. Shift to the New Testament and there are loaves, fishes, but not much by way of dessert. Yet by the 16th century, convents in Sicily and the Iberian Peninsula were very much into the business of producing sweets for sale to those living beyond the convent walls.

Magazine article

Agrarian Reform in Spain: The Broader Picture

by hidden europe

Mussolini's draining of the Pontine Marshes was a landmark piece of colonisation politics. There have been many similar schemes around Europe – one earlier example was King Carlos III's new town programme in Andalucía in the 1760s. To accompany our feature on Franco's agrarian settlement scheme (see 'Spain's Last Settlers'), we look at the broader context for such ambitious schemes.

Magazine article

Culture Shock: Stendhal in Florence

by Nicky Gardner
Take care how many art galleries of great Baroque churches you visit in a day. Overdoing it can have dire consequences. Too many cherubs or crucifixions might induce transient paranoid psychosis or even irrevocable breakdown. Or so they say. We take a look at Stendhal Syndrome.
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Crossing the Water

There are three places in Europe where passenger trains are still regularly conveyed on ferries. One of them is the Scandlines ferry that carries the regular daytime Eurocity trains from Hamburg to Copenhagen. But the days of that rail-ferry link are numbered.

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The City of Music

Even at this time of the year there is a lush richness in the citrus groves and chestnut woods which tumble down to the sea. We make our way through cypresses and limes towards the Villa Rufolo, the gardens of which inspired Richard Wagner.

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A tangle of detail on the rails

The art of travel writing is not about giving an overview of a country in a recitation of bland generalities. It's about capturing the essence of a place through attention to detail. Tim Parks' book Italian Ways does this wonderfully.

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Gorgona prison island

One of Tuscany's leading winemakers, Lamberto Frescobaldi, works with the prison authorities and the inmates on Gorgona island to produce an outstanding white wine. Gorgona lies in the open seas been the coast of Tuscany and Corsica.

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Frank Lloyd Wright in Europe

Today is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Frank Lloyd Wright. He is often regarded as a quintessentially American architect, a man who perhaps was never really comfortable in Europe. But the great advocate of Prairie Style has a legacy in Europe, where many architects were profoundly influenced by Wright's work.

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New European rail timetables for 2017

This weekend sees the launch of new railway timetables across Europe. This ritual takes place on the second weekend of December every year, with rail operators revamping service patterns and tweaking their schedules to reflect changing demand. We take a look at what the new schedules bring.

Magazine article

South to Sicily

by Nicky Gardner
The latest book from hidden europe editors Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries is Europe by Rail. Catch the flavour of this new edition with our train journey from Rome to Sicily, specially adapted from the book for this issue of the magazine.
Magazine article

Hollandries: Dredging and Draining

by hidden europe
Europe's most accomplished dredgers and drainers are the Dutch. Settlers from the Netherlands have industriously drained wetlands and coastal meadows across the continent from Bordeaux to the Baltic. We look at some of the continent's Hollandries.
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Summer excursions by train

New summer train timetables kick in across Europe this month, ushering in many new rail links and interesting changes in rail services across the continent.

Magazine article

Silent witness

by Nicky Gardner

Discover the extraordinary story of how an Italian village was sacrificed to provide hydro-electric power for Switzerland. The evacuation of Curon Venosta (or Graun-im-Vinschgau in German) was a tragedy. Today the church campanile rises serenely from the waters of the reservoir which flooded a remote valley in the Italian Alps.

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Encounter at Hendaye

75 years ago this week, Hitler was on the move. Within just a few days, the Führer's train was in north-west France, in the Basque region and in Tuscany. But this was no holiday. On 23 October 1940, Hitler met General Franco in Hendaye. It was the only face-to-face meeting of the two leaders.

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Europe by rail: spring news

It is that time of year when rail companies across Europe tweak their schedules for the upcoming summer season. Here's an overview of some of the noteworthy changes for this spring.

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Taranto’s broken heart

by Nicky Gardner

Hop on the slow train to Taranto with us. We ride through rural Puglia in search of Magna Graecia - clutching our copy of George Gissing's account of his visit to the same region over 100 years ago.

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Food for thought - Expo 2015

A van speeds by in the fast lane of the West Tangent ring road, bearing the inscription: 'Nutrire il pianeta, energia per la vita'. That is the Milan mantra for 2015. 'Feed the planet, energy for life'. For this year Milan hosts a Universal Exposition, an Expo, which will focus on themes of food, diet and sustainability.

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Travelling with Shakespeare

Hot summer days... and we've been meandering through northern Italy. Virtually, with Shakespeare by our side. Remember Lucentio who, in The Taming of the Shrew, leaves his home city of Pisa in Tuscany? Lucentio's servant Tranio accompanies his master.

Magazine article

Russian Orthodox churches on the Riviera

by hidden europe

Visitors to the Riviera are often surprised to find the striking Orthodox churches along the coast. From the red headlands of the Esterel Massif to Sanremo in Liguria, there is a hint of the east in the ecclesiastical landscape - a legacy of the history of Russian visitors to the region.

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In search of Eden

There is something very pleasing about communities which display a strong architectural coherence. In some instances, the sense of order and unity might take its spark from one striking central feature. The Italian city of Palmanova is a good example.

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Much ado about the Ascension

There was often much ado around San Marco on Ascension Day. At least if Canaletto's celebrated paintings of Venice on the Feast of the Ascension are to be believed. The particular ceremony that caught Canaletto's attention was the annual dedication of the Venetian Republic to the Adriatic.

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Into the desert

The monastery on the Isola di San Francesco del Deserto is a place apart, an island retreat in the shallow recesses of the northern lagoon well away from the hustle and bustle of Venice. It is an island where blessed solitude is punctuated by the Liturgy of the Hours. Franciscan monks have prayed on San Francesco del Deserto for eight centuries, their chants shaping a soundscape that otherwise is dominated by bird song, the breeze running through avenues of cypresses and the ripple of water.

Magazine article

All points east

by Nicky Gardner

The new rail schedules for 2014 kick in across Europe in mid-December. Big changes are afoot as Russia rethinks its strategy for passenger services from Moscow to principal cities in the European Union. There are changes to night train services, a new international link from Austria and much more.

Magazine article

Maltese connections

by hidden europe

Virtu Ferries have until recently enjoyed a monopoly in the market from Malta to Italy, but a new ferry route launched this summer brings some competition.

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Hercules in Lazio

The time is coming when residents of Rome escape the Eternal City. Rome is not a place to stay in summer. Many from Rome head north into the hills of Lazio, where Etruscan, Roman and Renaissance threads intertwine in history and culture. The lakes pull the crowds. There are three in particular, all marking the site of old volcano craters: Bolsena (with its two pretty islands), Bracciano and the much smaller Lago di Vico. The latter is just about three kilometres across, and the entire lake is quite hemmed in by the hills.

Magazine article

Papal exits

by Nicky Gardner

The Holy See and the Italian Republic tussled for years over which country owned one contested section of the Passetto di Borgo. That's the name given to the elevated footpath that links the papal apartments in the Vatican with the Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome. That path has been for centuries the exit of last resort for popes in trouble. Now the passetto is to be opened to the public.

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Small is beautiful: the view from the Vatican

Rarely has the Vatican been so much in the spotlight as over the last week or two. The dog days of a papacy have never in recent times been quite so clearly defined as they were in February 2013. Benedict’s announcement on 12 February ushered in 16 days of preparations for that moment last Thursday evening when the Pope stepped back from office. Important ecclesiastic business was immediately shelved. We find it interesting what business was still transacted in the second half of February.

Magazine article

Time check

by hidden europe

The second weekend in December sees new rail timetables introduced across Europe. The new schedules see a significant recasting on long distance services in the northern Balkans. Two new international night trains will link Italy with France and Germany respectively.

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The city of spiders

This year, many of our travels have focused on ports. We have criss-crossed Europe from Calais to Cádiz, from Travemünde to Taranto. We sat under the cranes on the quayside of Bari, still as popular today with pilgrims from Russia as it was one hundred years ago. Oceans and quays, slow boats and fast ferries, tramp ships and cruise liners, sea breezes and trade winds, charts and compasses have all helped shape the cultures and coastal landscapes of maritime Europe.

Magazine article

Stranded in San Marino

by hidden europe

San Marino may no longer have a passenger railway. It does however still have a train, thus marking out San Marino as one of two countries in Europe that have a train but no railway. The surviving train in San Marino is a graceful addition to the landscape of the mountainous republic in the Apennines. It is perched on an old railway bridge.

Magazine article

La Serenissima: San Marino

by Nicky Gardner

No other country in Europe can boast so beautiful a name: La Serenissima Repubblica di San Marino. But to experience the serenity of San Marino, you really need to stay overnight in the capital, which clusters around the summit of Monte Titano. Only then can you catch the flavour of another Europe, a long-forgotten Europe, composed of a myriad of small city-states. San Marino is a survivor from an earlier age.

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Reshaping mental maps

This evening, a train will speed from Córdoba to Valencia in just a shade over three hours, marking the inauguration of another link in Spain's growing high-speed rail network. True, the new stretch of line in this case is very modest, but it is enough to facilitate a new fast service linking the Guadalquivir Valley in Andalucía with the Gulf of Valencia. And it will help reshape the mental maps of citizens of both the Spanish Levante and Andalucía.

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The harsh lands

After the lushness of Puglia, the fierce landscapes of Basilicata came as a firm reminder that southern Italy is not all peaches and almonds. In Puglia we had enjoyed orecchiette with broccoli and been seduced by vincotto di fichi. We had heard the chirring of crickets, picked fresh lemons, paddled in the Adriatic and tasted grilled lamb. Then last Saturday morning we moved on to Basilicata.

Magazine article

Rites of penance

by hidden europe

Prompted by Diego Vivanco's report from San Vicente de la Sonsierra, hidden europe sets out to detect the origins of the religious practice of self-flagellation in Europe.

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Church etiquette

Over the recent holidays, a friend and fellow-traveller popped the 'church question'. Is it okay to slip into Mass or Evensong to enjoy the splendours of Venice's Basilica di San Marco or York's magnificent Minster when the principal intent is not worship but a wish to see the buildings' interiors? Or should the visitor more properly attend at times designated for tourists, queue as necessary and pay an admission fee if requested?

Magazine article

Unforgiving stone

by Paul Hadfield

The poetry of Paul Hadfield has featured before in hidden europe. When he sent us a poem on the Whaligoe Steps in north-east Scotland, it set us thinking about some of the iconic stairways that we have encountered on our travels around Europe.

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Russian life on the Riviera

Come on, grab your camera and join us as we explore one or two spots along the coast this Easter morning. It is a stunning spring day, the blue waters of the Mediterranean seem an even deeper blue than yesterday, and the air is so clear that we'll be able to see right along the coast to Cap Ferrat and beyond. "Christos voskres." Yes, that's a phrase we shall certainly hear a lot today, especially as the Orthodox and Western celebrations of Easter coincide this year.

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The Centovalli Railway

Domodossola has sleek trains aplenty. There are great expresses that purr north through the Simplon Tunnel into Switzerland or slide south towards Milan, hugging the west side of Lago Maggiore along the way. But lovers of great scenery and unusual trains head down into the concrete zone, there in the subterranean depths of Domodossola railway station to board the little train that rattles east across the valley and climbs into the hills beyond.

Magazine article

More than small change

by Nicky Gardner

You probably would have no very clear idea what currency is used in Nagorno Karabakh, no indeed whether you need to tip the barber next time you stop off for a short back and sides in deepest Chechnya. We ponder the knotty business of currencies and reflect on tipping etiquette.

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Kicking off the New Year

New Year's Day. Again. Aching heads for those who took their Hogmanay revelries a little too seriously. We slipped into 2011 in a little house on the edge of a heath on one of the North Frisian islands. Yet Estonia awakens today to the euro as its beautiful kroon banknotes are consigned to currency history.

Magazine article

Sea and Sardinia

by hidden europe

'There's nothing to see in Nuoro,' wrote DH Lawrence when he and his wife Frieda visited Sardinia in January 1921. 'Happy is the town that has nothing to show,' opined the English writer. We follow the Lawrences on their winter journey by sea to Sardinia.

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Sillitoe in Menton

by hidden europe

Alan Sillitoe's first publications, written during the brief spell that he lived in Menton in France, were travel essays. Sillitoe died in April, having achieved a formidable reputation as a novelist. We take a look at the lesser known side of Sillitoe's writing, namely his travel prose.

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The road to Latte

by Nicky Gardner

Border regions in Europe are always fascinating. Travel east from the French town of Menton and in no time you reach the Italian frontier. The first place of any size on the Italian side of the border is Latte di Ventimglia. We follow the road to Latte, looking at how the Italian village has been framed in the Menton imagination. In a time of cholera, Latte housed a large border internment camp. Now it is a favoured spot for discount shopping.

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From Austerlitz to Solferino

A name seen or heard out of context can be a powerful provocation. Travelling through the hinterland of Munich a while back, our train paused at Dachau. At one level this was just one more railway station serving commuters in a rather overcrowded part of Bavaria. But the single word Dachau, innocuously proclaimed with an onboard announcement on our train, unleashed such a flurry of thoughts and emotions.

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Ligurian passion

The long-standing English infatuation with the French Riviera has been well documented, but much less has been written about English affections for the coast of Liguria. Yet the influence of the Hanbury family, and other English settlers in this part of Italy, is still very evident today.

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The Baedeker legacy

"Kings and governments may err, but never Mr Baedeker," wrote the English humorist AP Herbert in the libretto for Offenbach's operetta La Vie Parisienne. Baedeker was the brightest star in a constellation of nineteenth-century guidebook publishers that also included such redoubtable names as John Murray and Thomas Cook.

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Europiccola (Little Europe)

If the essence of Europe is distilled in any one city, then Trieste must surely be a strong candidate for the distinction. James Joyce rather affectionately described the place as Europiccola (Little Europe). East meets West in this outpost of central Europe on the Adriatic.

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East of Trieste

Europe's Cold War borders were by no means ubiquitously impervious. Trieste on the Adriatic coast of Italy always had rather good links to neighbouring Yugoslavia. Earlier this week, we decided to travel east from Trieste, and found that the modern piety of open borders has done nothing to foster eastbound rail links from the port city.

Magazine article

An immortal mortar

by hidden europe

It is a little known fact that the entire course of European history has been shaped by mortars and pestles. We unravel a little tale from Venice that highlights why the mortar deserves pride of place in any good culinary armamentarium.

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New 2010 train timetables

Europe's new 2010 train schedules take effect today, opening up lots of glorious new travel opportunities. Faster trains from the Kent coast to London are the highlight in England, while in Italy there is a veritable revolution as the 'missing link' in the country's main high speed axis is plugged.

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The feast of St Nicholas

St Nicholas is the ultimate all-purpose saint. His patronage extends to virgins, sailors, children and pawnbrokers. And he is patron saint of Bari in Italy, where the local fishing community makes much of the feast.

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Shortlisted for UNESCO

by Nicky Gardner

There are the sights which already feature on UNESCO's World Heritage List. And then there are the wannabes. We take a look at sights around Europe that are angling for one of the coveted places on the UNESCO list.

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The Italia expedition

The Italia left its Milan base in mid April, under the command of Umberto Nobile. Destination: the North Pole. In late May, the pioneer aviators reached their goal. But luck was not on their side. Returning south towards Spitsbergen, the Italia was damaged in a storm and plunged onto the pack ice.

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Cross-border traffic: missing links

by hidden europe
Investments in cross-border roads in remote and rural areas of the European Union are much to be welcomed. But where are the bus services that should be plying those routes to connect communities across borders?
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The city of St George: Genoa

by Nicky Gardner

The port city of Genoa commanded huge influence on account of its mercantile acumen and its early schemes for the management of public debt, which paved the way for modern banking. Today the city of St George still has the face of business.

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List mania

by Nicky Gardner

Is the Baltic the new Med? Or Bridlington the new St Tropez? Come now, we don't write about that sort of thing in hidden europe. But we do like to keep in touch with mainstream travel writing. And we find that in Britain the travel pages are full of lists.

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Airport links

Is not the journey to the airport often one of the great hassles of modern travel? Not all of us can enjoy the relaxed approach taken in the Isle of Man where narrow gauge steam trains pause on request at Ronaldsway Halt, just a short walk from the island's airport.

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Italy: Thomas Hanbury's Garden

by Nicky Gardner

The Quaker businessman and philanthropist Thomas Hanbury was a latter-day Marco Polo. His legacy includes a remarkable garden on the Riviera coast of the Mediterranean. We visit the Hanbury Gardens at La Mortola.

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Towards the Simplon

by Nicky Gardner

For those without a hint of romance in their souls, it is possible to speed through the Simplon Tunnel from Switzerland to Italy. The train takes just fifteen minutes. But the old Simplon Pass route is still there for the taking. Brig is the starting point.

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Switzerland: the Bernina connection

by Nicky Gardner

The small Swiss town of Pontresina once attracted many of Europe's literati. Today, the poets and philosophers have gone, yet Pontresina and the surrounding mountains are as exquisite as ever. The town's railway station is the jumping off point for the Bernina pass route to Tirano - arguably the finest train route from Switzerland to Italy.full article available online

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Island antics

by Nicky Gardner

from Sicily to Scotland's Orkney Islands: hidden europe explores how two island communities will spend New Year's Day

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Ethnic enclaves

by hidden europe

Migrant communities are often some of the most intriguing in Europe. We look at Senegalese settlers in Lombardy and Vietnamese entrepreneurs in Berlin.

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City of the Muse: Barga

by Adam J Shardlow

Barga is quintessential small town Italy. And Aristo's, the bar and café in the middle of Barga, is the quintessential bar - a spot that is amiable, intimate and safe. Guest author Adam J Shardlow lingers in Aristo's and finds a rich vein of artistic and musical life in the Tuscan town.

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Gnome world

by Nicky Gardner

Gnomes of Europe arise! You have nothing to lose but your shackles. hidden europe checks out the sanctuaries where liberated gnomes, freed from enslavement to oppressive gardening cultures, can live in dignity and peace.

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Rest-stops for the soul

by Nicky Gardner

There is little that is religious about modern mass travel. But seaports, railway stations, airports and even motorway service areas have chapels and churches that address the needs of travellers.

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An edible Eden: Piemonte

by Peter Wortsman

Not for the first time, hidden europe salivates over north Italian food. Guest writer Peter Wortsman takes a few Piemonte byways in search of truffles, the perfect ravioli and a tongue tingling grappa.

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Arrivals

by Nicky Gardner

The finest arrivals are moments to savour. hidden europe recalls a few memorable arrivals: by train in Istanbul, by boat in Venice, by plane in L'viv (Ukraine) and by car in Newmarket (England).

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Venice: the islands of the mad

by Michelle Lovric

Venice has a long tradition of exiling her problems to preserve her serenity. Gunpowder, lunatics, lepers and amputees had no place in the heart of the city. Michelle Lovric visits the islands of the lagoon in search of hidden Venice.

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Temples of pleasure

by Nicky Gardner

Many modern shopping centres are parodies of the elegant glazed arcades that were, in many nineteenth-century European cities, focal points for shopping and relaxation. From Brussels to Milan, Cardiff to Genoa the arcaded gallery became a byword for style. Many of the best still survive.

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Europe's fading borders

by Nicky Gardner

With the expansion of the Schengen zone to encompass nine more countries, Europe's borders are fading fast. Communities once divided by international frontiers are happily united. But there is a downside, for fading borders within the European heartland are creating some formidable frontiers further east in Europe.

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Polar quest: the 1928 Nobile expedition

by Nicky Gardner

It was eighty years ago this spring that Umberto Nobile embarked on the airship Italia. His destination? The North Pole! Read about an expedition that was to prompt the biggest rescue effort in the history of polar exploration.full article available in pdf format

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Rotor heaven: Europe's helicopter links

by Nicky Gardner

We take a look at commercial helicopter routes around Europe, both past and present. There are areas in Europe where helicopter services are still very much a part of the regular transport network. Examples include the Faroe Islands, the Scilly Isles, Isole Tremiti in the Adriatic and the Gulf of Finland.

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Alpiniøya (Spitsbergen)

by hidden europe

The name of a tiny island off the coast of Nordaustlandet in Spitzbergen is a tribute to an extraordinary series of expeditions conducted in 1928 by members of the Alpini, the elite mountain brigade of the Italian army. A report from Alpiniøya.

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All change: 2009 rail schedules

by Nicky Gardner

It is often said that Europe is experiencing a new "age of the train" as travellers rediscover the pleasures of rail travel. We take a look at what the 2009 timetables have to offer.

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Autumn in Trieste

by hidden europe

The best cafés have the knack of allowing you simultaneously to feel alone and yet in company. The Caffè San Marco in Trieste is one of the best.

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Swallowed by the sea: Jordsand

by Nicky Gardner

Jordsand is no more. The island in the Wadden Sea was once German then Danish and provided valued summer grazing for livestock from Jutland. Now it has been swallowed by the waves.

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Sea fever

by Nicky Gardner

When one time English poet laureate John Masefield extolled the lure of the ocean ("I must down to the seas again..."), he clearly didn't have Cunard's luxury Queen Elizabeth II ship or the same company's new super liner Queen Mary in mind.

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Arabic Sicily

Wander along the Via Porta Palermo in Mazara del Vallo and you might easily think you were in North Africa. The fishing port on the southwest coast of Sicily is an extraordinary spot, a little haven of North Africa in southern Europe. It happens to be the place where Arab forces first landed in Sicily during their invasion in 827 AD, marking the start of a period of Arabic influence that is still detectable in Sicily today.

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Campione - an Italian exclave in Switzerland

Campione is an extraordinary spot - a geopolitical oddity of the first order. The village is an exclave of Italy within the Ticino region of southern Switzerland. The conundrum that is Campione'd Italia is nicely captured in a set of old Campione d'Italia postage stamps that we purchased from a philatelic dealer in nearby Lugano.

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Santa Lucia

Santa Lucia is patron saint of Siracusa, the island fortress city on the Sicilian coast, where Lucia was born in the late third century. The story tells of her being martyred in her home city at the tender age of twenty. Of course, Santa Lucia's feast is marked in Siracusa, but it is to northern Europe that we must look for the most demonstrative expression of the cult of light associated with Santa Lucia.

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Seasonal diversions

Christmas-tide travellers, if they are lucky, might get a privileged glimpse into the lives of others. The results are not always comforting. Dervla Murphy, writing in Through the Embers of Chaos, recounts an invite to a post-Christmas soirée in Zagreb in late December 1991.

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Cultural landscapes in the Veneto

Venice may come with a constellation of superlatives, but head out into the Veneto to find a world apart. The country around Treviso, just a dozen miles inland from Venice, is classic città diffusa territory. As if in retort to Venice's urban perfection, the Veneto hinterland is a seemingly unending suburban sprawl - place after place uneasily suspended between a rich agrarian past and an urbanisation that has never quite been realised.

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Trieste connections

The slow train to Trieste hugs the Adriatic coast, giving gorgeous views of the Miramare, a fabulous folly of a fortress built on a rocky plinth by Archduke Maximilian, the younger brother of Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I. The train brings the traveller into the very middle of Trieste, from where it is but a stone's throw to the Serbian Orthodox church, the old synagogue and a hundred other buildings that serve as reminders that this was once Europe's most cosmopolitan port.

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Shrovetide frolics

Consider a journey that starts in the Swiss Alps and ends in an abandoned city in the south Caucasus region. To be more precise, we'll start at Pontresina, just over the hill from St Moritz. It's a place where poets and philosophers used to come for their holidays. From Matthew Arnold to Herbert Marcuse. Stefan Zweig was a regular, and discovered in Pontresina what he claimed were the best petits fours in the world.

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Lost communities: France, Russia and more

Many are the European communities that have been lost to warfare, natural disasters or other agencies. The modern world's voracious appetite for water has spelt the death knell for many communities. On Russia's Volga River, the great Rybinsk dam project in the 1940s led to the flooding of a huge area, engulfing over a hundred villages and the entire city of Mologa.

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La Brigue / Briga (French-Italian Border) - hidden europe 7

With all eyes on Turin and the Piedmont Alps this week, hidden europe escaped the glitz of the Winter Olympics and went off in search of some curiosities on the French-Italian border. It is a three hour journey down to the Mediterranean coast on the morning train that departs bang on time from Turin's monumental Porta Nuova station.

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Latin superstition in Sardinia - the Moldova-Romania border - Christmas gifts

Sardinia is a place steeped in superstition, as the English novelist DH Lawrence discovered when he rushed through the island and found it a curious place, 'lost between Europe and Africa and belonging to nowhere', as he wrote in Sea and Sardinia (1921). Blood feud in the Sardinian hills may be a thing of the past, but there remains an enigmatic quality to life in the remoter parts of this island.

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Liechtenstein cows - Schengen (Luxembourg) - hidden europe 5 contents

For Liechtenstein's cows, 2005 has not been the easiest of years. The bovine population of the Alpine principality used to be the most laid back cows in Europe. Since a government crackdown earlier this year, the cows are no longer regularly fed hemp, an animal husbandry practice that ensured that the cannabis satiated creatures were the happiest cows on the planet.

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Migrants in Lampedusa (Sicily)

The Mediterranean island of Lampedusa is generally one of those 'out-of sight, out-of-mind' places, a tiny speck of Italian land that is much closer to Africa than the Italian mainland. Even the Sicilian port of Porto Empédocle is over two hundred kilometres away