A new blog and a new home

lenzime

It’s been a while, but for two good reasons.

The first is that we have upped and moved countries, and we are now in the Netherlands (in Utrecht, while flat hunting in Amsterdam). Moving house is difficult, moving countries is more difficult. Moving out of Italy is more difficult again, even this morning I had another, completely unnecessary, conversation with our ex-internet provider.

I think we’re still recovering from the pack-and-move.

The second very good reason is that I have shifted this blog and its content over to a self-hosted server, you can now find us on moltoandmolto.com. Everything is still Italy themed, but I may replace Portofino and Limone photos with tulips and windmills soon.

There is a subscribe link on the About page, if you want to receive email updates on new posts. I still have photos I want to share and stuff I want to say about Italy (including the trip we took last month down to Naples and the Amalfi Coast) before I switch over to Dutch stuff.

First impressions here, though, do make Italy look a little old-fashioned. Our airbnb has an induction stove top and Matt’s little Italian moka pot is made of the wrong metal to work on it. He’s using the provided (self-cleaning) coffee machine instead.

So we’re tired but we’re happy.

 

Rovereto bomb days

WWII

Update: I’ve been doing a little work transferring this blog over to moltoandmolto.com. It’s my first time using wordpress.org, so things are a little messy for now (and perhaps for a while) but we’ll get there! Check out the new site for new content.

One of the more dramatic events of 2015 was the discovery of a rather large (?) bomb in Rovereto. Though we knew nothing of its existence until a week out from bomb disposal day, when we discovered that half of Rovereto was to be evacuated and all north and south transport links shut down. That is more drama than usual.

The bomb, the giant thing in the photo, was found buried in the grounds of the old tobacco manufacturer. It was dropped by the Americans during the Second World War and had been sitting quiet ever since. War, what is it good for exactly?

IMG_2992IMG_3008Initially, there was no¬†bomb information anywhere. As I said, we didn’t even know of its existence. I should also mention here that we tend to not follow local news aside from what pops up from the papers on my Facebook news feed. But, eventually, signs started going up around the city. And it made front page local news, as did the arrests of suspected terrorists in Alto Adige.¬†Things are usually a lot¬†quieter around here. As a comparison, last week’s headline¬†was about a supermarket’s opening hours, so this was kind of a big deal.

Bomb day turned out to be the same day that mum and I were flying to London (this was back in November), with our planned train right in the middle of it. We were (wrongly) skeptical about Italian planning and worried that the trains they had said would be running earlier in the morning would actually be running, so we got an early ride down to Verona with friends instead. We had expected to see a lot of traffic on the road but at 7 in the morning it was pretty deserted. I think the queues came later.

We made our flight with hours to spare, though¬†it turned out we needn’t have worried. Everything seemed to move so smoothly. Matt was stuck at home, although our flat was just outside the evacuation zones, and the road blocked off to stop cars moving into the closed area, there was nowhere for him to go. All the pre-bomb trains ran when they said they would, the bomb was deactivated and moved, and the roads reopened after barely an hour.

The photo at the top of this post is from ladige.it. There is also video of the bomb exploding in this article and other photos from the evacuation day.

Another bomb related event came at the end of January. Matt, working late one night, was hustled out of his office by Carabinieri who were clearing the building because of a suspected bomb in a bag outside a cafe. Matt burst through the front door completely out of breath and clutching the few possessions he was able to grab Рhe had been told he had to leave right then, and the street outside was already cleared of pedestrians and traffic.

The bomb scare turned out to be just that, a scare. The overnight bag was water blasted and found empty.  Photos and step by step updates (Italian) here.

Prague photos for my parents and advice on foreign cash withdrawals

imageThey didn’t ask for them, but we did talk about their possible future Prague trip yesterday. So, here are my photos from a trip to Prague last August. And you’re welcome.imageimageimageI had long wanted to visit¬†Prague, even though I really knew nothing about the city. The inspiration came from my cousin who had visited something like ten years ago. There was something about the idea of a short holiday in Prague that sounded so completely European I filed away the intention under ‘things to do when I have a chance’. Last summer we had that chance, between going to Poland for a wedding and Matt attending a conference in Vienna. How very international.

I have an actual physical memento from that same ten-years-ago trip, my cousin, who is a much better gift giver than me, bought me a pair of earrings that I not only still own, I actually have them here in Italy with me. Because they’re so nice! Despite that, I did no jewellery shopping of my own on this trip. In fact, I don’t even think I bought anything.imageThis was somewhere near our apartment in¬†ŇĹiŇĺkov, on a hill and a tram ride/long walk away from the old city centre. We liked it a whole lot.¬†imageimageimagePrague has just a little of the same feel of Budapest. A river runs through it, there are many ¬†bridges and a large castle complex on the hill. We tried to visit the castle but arrived at the ticket office too close to closing, and they wouldn’t let us in.imageMore impressive than Munich’s nouveau ancien glockenspiel, Prague’s astronomical clock is actually from the middle ages. And the pieces still move! They were being cleaned on rotation while we were there. In this photo the top left two are missing, the next day they had been replaced and another two were gone.imageWe were in Prague in August and it was hot and crowded and hot. I do not recommend it, unless you like heat and crowds.

Also, advice from a walking tour guide for cash conversions and withdrawals in Prague: do not use the money exchange bureaus to buy Czech Koruna, they will rip you off. Nice! We needed cash as soon as we arrived at the train station and got a baaaad deal. Instead, use a reputable bank ATM to withdraw cash and, here’s the kicker that I guess applies everywhere and we didn’t know until then, when the bank machine asks if you want it to exchange the money for you (or convert it or change it into local currency, whatever it says) or somehow offers to do the conversion to your home currency, say no. What happens if you say yes is that the foreign bank/ATM owner will do¬†the cash conversion and they will use a less-favourable¬†rate. When you say no (which, at the time, seems like the wrong thing to do based on the wording and the fact you want some money) you let your home bank do¬†the exchange, with a better rate.

This is apparently called Dynamic Currency Conversion. We were able to compare rates a couple of times, because the ATMs would say how much the withdrawal would cost¬†us in euros if we chose yes. Our bank sends an SMS for any large cash withdrawal we make so we could instantly compare the Czech bank rate to our bank’s rate when we chose no, and our bank always gave a better deal. I’ve noticed when using my Italian bank card in the UK that a number of shops will offer to let me pay in euro (amazon also does this) and I assume the good rate/bad rate applies here too. Always choose to pay in local currency and let your bank do¬†the conversion!imageimageimageFrom the¬†Vysehrad cemetery, where each headstone is rather like a work of art.¬†imageimageimageFrank Gehry’s Dancing House on the riverfront in Prague. The design was chosen to optimise the small space available.imageHere Matt tries to escape the heat with an ice cream and the shade of a street light.imageimageThe end!

Saturday ramblings

imageimage

One of the best ways to combat winter blues, in my opinion, is to wrap yourself in many layers of clothing and head out into the cold. Rovereto hasn’t even been that cold this past month, but that’s what we did Saturday a week or so ago, hiking up behind the city castle and into the valley beyond.

imageimageimageimagePainted alters everywhere.

Most of these photos are from Noriglio, a small town just beyond Rovereto. There are a number of almost identical towns as the road carries on, snaking around the side of the mountain.

imageimageimageimageThis last photo is looking back on southern Rovereto, the castle is just visible by the river. We have a¬†small list of activities making up our bucket list – the things we want to do, or re-do, before¬†moving on from Italy. This Saturday walk was one of those things, a short andata e ritorno (round trip) from Noriglio. By short: the signposted notice said the walk should take two to three hours. We busted it out in one, so either we are very fast or we missed a crucial section. We’re pretty sure its the former.

imageimageimageimageimageI’m pretty sure these chickens were up to no good, they were¬†definitely plotting something by the hay shed (their coop was at the top of these steps).

We were looking for more than an hour’s walk so the last part of our outing¬†took us into the bosco della citta, Rovereto’s city forest. The trees are still rather barren and brown because, as much as I would like to hope for it, spring just isn’t here yet. So we will be backūüôā

Chicken run

image

From our walk up the back of Rovereto last Saturday. We came across these chickens loitering in the corner of the driveway. They took off towards their coop the second they saw us, they had definitely been planning to get up to no good.

It’s supposed to be a rainy¬†few days coming up, so there shall be no repeat outings this Saturday. But have a happy weekend everyone!

You can’t always get what you want from small town supermarkets

Because what you want most of the time, is food.

Two food related things took adjusting to on our arrival in Rovereto*. The first was the choice of food. Like Amsterdam three years before, we struggled to locate and identify sour cream. It took me until Christmastime to find frozen blueberries. Like a sucker, I definitely searched for them in every different supermarket I went to, and that finally paid off with a new supermarket that just opened. Avocados were the other big thing for us and we have had spotty success rates over the past (nearly) three years. Baking soda, strangely, was another ingredient I initially struggled to locate.

The second thing was the opening hours of supermarkets. In New Zealand it was sometimes possible to find a supermarket with a 24 hour opening schedule – although this was actually a little unnecessary, it was nice to know you could buy candy at all hours of the night (and I sometimes did).

Before we discovered the Sunday supermarkets, and the Monday morning supermarket, and the midday supermarket (all common times for shops to be closed), it definitely felt like grocery shopping happened¬†according to some¬†very old fashioned market hours. That if you hadn’t completed your shopping by early evening on a Saturday, it was a long, hungry wait until early Monday afternoon when they reopened. Eating out for every meal the other option.

Gradually, both the supermarkets started to change, and we discovered those with extended opening hours. Because we like to shop on Sundays, we used to cycle further to the outskirts of the city Рjust because there was a shop open on that preferred day. With more bread options.

And so it was big news when, just before Christmas, two new supermarkets opened. Rovereto being a small town, this made local news.

And, get this, our new local is open every day. Until 9 pm, except Sundays when it is open until 8.30. This is almost bittersweet as it is so close to our end, but we can now grocery shop almost anytime we like.

The other supermarket is too far outside of the city to be a regular, though we did walk by it on new years day. Being a holiday it was¬†closed, but we could still see how enormous it is. Luckily for this nervous cyclist, it’s that much closer to the cycle path than the other giant¬†supermarket further down the same road, where I once bought a pillow and then cycled very carefully home with it stuffed in my bike basket. Memories!

Matt has said that he will miss this, this not being able to buy anything and everything, at any and every time.

These small Italian supermarkets, selling their small range of Italian products, inspired a kind of comaraderie among the other foreigners here. We swapped tips on where to buy things. Fresh coriander arrives at one particular spice shop once a week (which we occasionally buy, even if it is stored in the meat counter). Another store by the river sells tahini paste, etc, etc. Beer, specifically craft beer, has been the big one for Matt. The lack of variety has inspired a beer tasting night, with beer ordered online consumed and compared. The demand for this type of event is less in a bigger city where every bar sells craft beer.

 

 

How many times can I type supermarket in one post? Just watch me: supermarket supermarket supermarket supermarket supermarket supermarket
supermarket supermarket supermarket supermarket supermarket supermarket supermarket supermarket supermarket supermarket supermarket supermarket

etc.

 

*The abundance of pizza and gelato was not a problem.

Brighton

BrightonBrightonHow cute is Brighton, though!?

When we first arrived in Italy, one of my first jobs was ‘English tutor’ at some local English summer camps. Oh how I hated those camps. I did, however, make a close friend in the very first week – I attribute it to bonding under terrifying circumstance – and we have stayed in touch since then.

On trip to the UK last October, I travelled down to Brighton, where this friend has recently moved, to visit her. We spent the afternoon eating cake and walking around the city, before having the worst luck trying to find an eatery open and serving food for Sunday dinner.

BrightonBrighton

Because I watched the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice as an impressionable 13 year old, I can’t hear Brighton mentioned without imagining Julia Sawalha begging her father to allow her to¬†go there. So Brighton is slightly associated with a whiny teenager, but then it also isn’t, because I can’t imagine any Jane Austen characters associating in anyway with the current Brighton Pier.

Brighton PavilionBrighton PavilionThey may have visited the pavilion, though. When I was first went to Brighton just over five years ago, I mustn’t have ever seen a minaret or a mosque before and I thought the pavilion the most fantastical building ever, especially for a royal palace. This time I saw it and went ‘oh of course’. It is still beautiful, but it was less of a surprise. The pavilion was built in a style popular in India at the time, because, Britain and her Empire.