A new home


It’s been a while, but for a good reason.

We have relocated to 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.

First impressions here 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.

Edited to add: life has a way of getting in the way and I don’t update here anymore! I share occasional photos and updates on Instagram – of Amsterdam and of our less-frequent travels.


Rovereto bomb days


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 – he 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 Žižkov, 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


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 back 🙂

Chicken run


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


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.


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.


What’s so civic about a civic museum


Just before Christmas I spent a week knocking around Rovereto on my own. Matt was in the Netherlands for a conference, I would later meet him in Amsterdam where we spent Christmas. When I am home alone, I have a tendency to untether from routine. My routine isn’t even anything like Matt’s, but somehow when he isn’t here I stay up later, I stop cooking and I generally stop getting stuff done.

In spite of the extra time I spent in bed, claiming Matt’s side for sleeping and my own for storage of important things, I actually was out most days both working and socialising. I even managed to get to the Rovereto Mueso Civico, the final museum I had yet to see from Rovereto’s small collection.


I knew what to expect from this particular museum, it having already been visited by Matt and both sets of parents. And yet, I was still hoping for a little of Rovereto history, a little bit of civics. Rovereto’s civic museum is instead more of a natural history museum. The entire collection is rocks, taxidermied animals and the more decorative items from the ruins of Isera’s Roman villa.

Most perplexing is the presence of a kiwi in the bird collection, under the heading of ‘birds not often found in Italy but here by an accident of migration, etc, etc’. I’m paraphrasing, I don’t remember the exact words. If you didn’t know, New Zealand’s kiwi is a flightless, shy, nocturnal non-swimmer. There is no way that bird swam, flew or somehow migrated from New Zealand to Italy without being tucked (carefully, those claws are sharp) under someone’s arm and marched onto a ship.


There was no explanatory note card for why other non-Italian animals were here, other than they’re pretty fierce looking. Which begs the question, just what is a civic museum for? I assume general education and knowledge, meaning this museum was more valuable at its inception than now.

I can’t help but feel that a civic museum would better serve a city if it were about a city and its social history (the Isera Roman villa ruins aside), rather than a collection of the rocks it is built upon and a zoo of dead animals. I did actually feel very sad for all those animals.


At the time of my visit I was waiting to hear from Matt about how the conference and associated university work was going, hence my collection of inquisitive bird photos that were sent to him.



There is an absolute glut of holidays and festivals for Italian children in the month around Christmas. Like all good holidays, they are primarily about giving candy. And for this my candy-loving childhood self is so, so jealous.

The celebration of Befana (and the epihpany) today (6 January) is only the final day of a long festive season that starts on 6 December with celebrations for Saint Nicholas. The celebrations across Italy seem quite varied, but here in Trentino the kids get candy. The following week, 12 or 13 December, is the festival of Santa Lucia, and the kids get candy. Befana also brings candy. Lucky kids.


These photos are all of effigies of Begana in Piazza Bra, Verona, 2014 and 2015.

The story of Befana has a few versions. Most involve an old woman who was alive at the time of the birth of the baby Jesus. She encounters the wise men, or doesn’t, and either refuses their invitation to journey to Bethlehem and then later regrets her choice, or sets out herself – mistakenly believing the baby Jesus is her own son.

The story is a little sad as in all versions the woman is alone, her own child or children having died. She decides to visit the baby Jesus and take her own children’s toys. She also takes her broom, in case the new mother needs help with house work.

Can we note here how much more practical woman are in times of childbirth. Help with the house work? Yes please! Toys or other items that baby needs now or in his near future? A great idea.

However, those wise men may have been playing the long game, according to this site frankincense helps relieve arthritis, and the myrrh may have prefigured the death and embalming of Jesus. Helpful. I’d take the gold though.

In most versions of the Befana story, she doesn’t even find the baby Jesus. And for this reason she continues in her search once a year, leaving gifts and candy for Italian children and sweeping their houses with her broomstick.


In Italy Befana fulfils a role usually taken by Father Christmas in the US and UK, leaving those toys and candy in a sock or stocking. Most/all stockings are sold pre-filled by the major sweets companies in the supermarkets.


Were you wondering what was going to happen to that hapless Befana sitting on a pile of flammable sticks? I believe the annual Befana burning only takes place in the Veneto, but I could be wrong. This is in Piazza Bra, the main square in Verona.

The burning symbolises both the end of the Christmas season and the previous year, the old woman representing the old year. The direction the wind blows the smoke is a foreshadowing of the weather the new year will bring.


Because nothing says ‘hey thanks for the candy and cleaning my house’ like burning the witch.

Mercatini di natale


All of my Christmases came early this season: with my visiting mum and sister I visited six Christmas markets in November in the space of a week. With so much Christmas spirit it felt strange to then wait another four weeks for Christmas day.

Also, how nice it was to have my mum and sister stay! They came for my 30th birthday (and for Europe, I guess) and we did lots of little trips together. That photo above is them, with their daily vin brulè.


On one memorable occasion, we visited TWO Christmas markets in one day. Because I was the tour operator and I was that keen.

The wooden decorations are from a little shop within the Merano markets – they sold such cute stuff but I couldn’t bring myself to spend close to 20 euro for a Christmas decoration, and I left empty handed. Those gingerbread weren’t from a market at all, but a bakery in Merano. So festive! They looked better than they tasted.


Merano, our first stop, is rather adorable. It’s an ex-Austrian spa town so, like other towns in Alto Adige/Sudtirol, the main language is German. I never know if I should speak Italian or attempt my very, very poor German, or if should give it all up and speak English.

*My German is about ten words strong, most of them food related and most of them I can even pronounce properly.


After Merano we went to Bolzano. As much as I love visiting the markets, I never actually buy anything, except food. And for this Merano and Bolzano didn’t rate so highly for things I wanted to eat. But, they are quite pretty, no?

Ever since our first Christmas here, I have had a mini, mostly internal, dialogue that I should buy things – I can imagine a day in 15 or 150 years time, when a mortgage and school fees have sapped my income and I can’t afford to leave the country, and at that point I might like to have decorations for my tree from Italian Christmas markets. But, I still can’t be bothered buying them, and practically my only Italian-bought Christmas decoration came from Upim (a small department store, similar to Farmers), so I shall have to steal them from my mother instead. You won’t mind, will you mum?


Those last photos are all of Bolzano – so pretty! See also, no snow. It has been a very dry winter so far, I’ve heard the ski slopes look a little dismal with only a thin track of artificial snow for the skiers to follow. Things might be looking up now, Saturday brought actual, real snow to Rovereto’s mountains and on the ground in the city, so things can only improve.