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.



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


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.

Autumn in Rovereto

It’s Autumn in Rovereto and I’m thinking about investing in a hard hat, because those chestnut trees are shedding conkers like they’re weapons.

It’s still too early for the Halloween pumpkins that decorate the Neptune fountain to come out. Once you’ve witnessed one annual cycle here, you start to know what to expect from Rovereto’s festive calendar. It isn’t too early, though, for the leaves on the trees to change, so there are lots of beautiful leaves in reds and browns that haven’t yet fallen from the tree.

And because it’s Autumn, I’ve started back at school with the community Italian lessons again. I won’t complain about them, as they have a very accessible price, but so far (one lesson in), my expectations for the amount to be learned are not so high.

Weekend cycling, September edition

Castelbello Alto adigesunflowers alto adige italyCastles, flowers and farming towns close to sum up our weekend cycle trip through Alto Adige / Südtirol. It was a mostly downhill trip, going from north to south. Just getting to our starting position required leaving home at 7.30 am then three trains and a bus (Rovereto > Bolzano > Merano > Malles > Resia).

Alto Adigelago di resia church towerlago di resia italy church towerThat bus and an overnight stay were partly because Matt wanted to see lago di resia and its flooded church tower. And because Matt plans these adventures – I usually just turn up – he gets to choose our itinerary. He plans well.

Alto adige italyAlto adige sudtirol italyreligious figure alto adige sudtirol italyimageMost of the small towns we passed through at the beginning, as well as were we stayed overnight, were small farming towns. In common with Austria, the border of which we were not too far from, there was a lot of large religious sculpture (though what I saw in Austria was close to life size). Perhaps the home owner in the last photo is no longer so pious, or perhaps they were just a little worried about sun damage, as they’ve let things get rather overgrown.

Alto adige sudtirol italyapples alto adige sudtirol italyhonesty box italy alto adige sudtirol italyalto adige sudtirol italyThe cycle path wound through a lot of apple orchards. Most were in the midst of the apple harvest, though there were still plenty on the trees. There was a ‘self-service’ / honesty box stall set up in one, where we bought fresh strawberries and apple and pear juice. Those beautiful fresh strawberries were no longer so fresh when I took them out of my bag at the train station, a few jolty and hot hours later. But they were still delicious.

Merano alto adige sudtirol italymerano alto adige sudtirol italyWe had a late lunch in Merano. Like all other small towns in Austria and ex-Austria, they had a small Sissi connection that they were pushing. We plan to go back in December for the Christmas markets.

The final stretch, from Merano to Bolzano, was a little less spectacular than the rest of the ride. The path was flat, and hugged the river the entire way, meaning no more down hill to help out those tired legs, and no more forest scenes to break up the scenery.

merano sudtirol alto adige italymerano alto adige sudtirol italySo at one point during our cycle, I managed to knock the lens out of my camera. And of course it fell into the side-of-road dirt. After patting around in the leaves, I found the lense, cleaned it, and managed to drop it back in. I then took a test photograph and turned the camera off, when the lens promptly fell out again. Cue a longer stretch of patting around in the grass before I found the lens again. I then popped it into my pocked for safe keeping and raced to catch up with Matt, who was wondering where I was. At the hotel that night, I managed to more securely screw in the little round piece of plastic that goes on top of the lens. I don’t know though, on those two photos above things look a little warped? Like some unintentional fish eye effect is happening? I think I need to take it somewhere to get a professional opinion.

imageimageFinal photos, a tiny Matt! Or just a very large chair.

Venezia: boats, doors and windows (plus a rat and a little art)

Venice Venezia Italy boatsVenice Venezia Italy boats
I know I already shared at least some of these photos. I was sorting through them again, to send them on to the friends we were on this trip with, and I quite liked them. So, some again and some more.

Venice Venezia Italy boatsVenice Venezia Italy boatsVenice Venezia Italy boats
On this trip we went on one of the gondolas for the first time. You get a slightly different perspective when you see Venice from the water! You also get slightly more rats. Though, on this particular trip, we got a rat anyway. We were waiting at a restaurant for our table to be ready, when a man came up and informed me that a rat had just run inside. Umm….? Was my response. Because he’d thought I worked there. So he ambled off to find someone else and we kept waiting. And then we ate there anyway. is that gross?

Venice Venezia Italy boatsVenice Venezia Italy boatsVenice Venezia Italy boats
I often visit places and judge them a little to see if I would like to live there. Venice, as pretty as she is, gets a big fat nope. Not because of the rats. More because tourism seems to have completely overrun the city (which I know isn’t quite true, many locals are likely hunkered down behind barred windows – having a great time). It does have a nice collection of doors and windows, though.

Venice Venezia Italy boatsThe Venice Biennale is also on this year, and we visited just a little of it. This pavilion, and I can’t remember which country it belonged to, was likely my favourite.

A day in Mantova

Mantova pasticceria

The first time I went to Mantova I was the guest of an Italian family, their six year old twins were students at the summer English school where I was tutoring. We went together to Mantova with the other tutors and their host families, to see the sights and have lunch. I tried the ‘typical’ pumpkin pasta dish, which could have been nice if it hadn’t been flavoured with that marzipany almond flavour that I hate.

Mantova Teatro Bibiena
Mantova Italian flags

I had this idea that Mantova was a massive/normally sized city – a consequence of being shown around by other people is that it is easier to ignore some of your surroundings and just blindly follow the group leader. And so when I returned to Mantova on Friday with a friend, I was surprised to see just how small the city appeared on the map. It’s also surrounded by artificial lakes on three sides, meaning you quickly come to the end of the city by walking too far in any direction. So it was perfect for some late-summer touristing and wandering.

Mantova lake

One of those many lakes ^^

We spent a lazy, languid day, checking out cake shops, the cute rococo theatre and lunching on pasta at a restaurant that used fake sunflowers (!) as table ornamentation. It was also one of those places that refuses to serve tap water, but at least the food was good.

Tuscan roadtripping

rolling fields in Tuscany


We have spent the last two years living our Italian life all without a car. Our car ownership history was rather patchy even before moving to Rovereto, so really it wasn’t such an adjustment – we manage quite well without access to motorised wheels. Instead, bikes and our own two (/four) feet get us around town. We catch trains when we travel, and we’ve even taken cycle trips within our region. Hiking, that part time love, is achieved only when we are invited by friends. The isolated start off points and long days make this activity too difficult to achieve with public transport alone.

When I say we ‘manage’, I ignore the fact that we don’t really have a choice. Our New Zealand driver licences are ineligible for conversion to their Italian equivalent, and obtaining an Italian licence would require resitting the entire test, a very Italian and very expensive process that we aren’t willing to go through. This means our current no car, no drive (neither cars nor scooters) situation is going to change so long as we live here.

And all this is fine; as I said above, we manage. And then this past weekend we discovered the advantages that come with access to and legal usage of a car.

The obligatory photographs of pastoral idyll above, the sunflower fields will follow in a scroll.

Sunflower fields in Tuscany

Sunflower fields in Tuscany

We visited Tuscany with car owning friends, and the things that could be done outstripped everything we’ve ever achieved on holiday before. Like leaving after work on Friday and arriving in time for a music festival in the South of Tuscany that same evening. Plus navigating ourselves through dusty back streets and past endless fields of sunflowers on our Saturday exploring. Who knew car ownership allowed for such convenience.

Matt is ever on the look out for music and concerts. This past weekend this searching took us to Chiusi, population 8,842, one of the many small towns located on the top of a hill in Siena, Tuscany. The draw cards were threefold: Tuscany, a music festival, a free music festival. The main band for us was Unknown Mortal Orchestra, an American/New Zealand rock band.

Chiusi, province of Siena, Tuscany

Heading south was hot. Because summer, and no air conditioning, but mostly summer. We stayed in the one hotel in cute little Chiusi listed on Which isn’t a requirement for accommodation, it’s just a damn convenient way to find and compare. It was a little old fashioned, and vaguely grand for the price charged.

Lars Rock Fest Chiusi, province of Siena

The suburban location of the festival. I’m not sure how the neighbours felt about the late night music.

Being a micro-weekend trip, we headed straight back down the hill to the rock festival. And if by rock festival you were expecting a rock festival, with hundreds of punky/rock dressed teenagers and general youth, then you would have been mistaken, and a little surprised. Because Lars Rock Fest was a little like every small town Italian festival we have been to, but with rock music. It was awesome, and we arrived almost knowing what to expect, having attended a few small community festivals here in Trentino. The music was much better, though, and they had a Sicilian street food cart. Our travelling companion ate a mystery meat panino, before curiosity got the better of him and he discovered he had ingested spleen and lung. We stuck with fried fish, fried arancini and fried french fries (eek).

Unknown Mortal Orchestra Lars Rock Fest

Unknown Mortal Orchestra Lars Rock Fest

The band we were there to see were awesome. The crowd (the youths had arrived in time for the music) loved them, and were cheering on the front man by first name (vai Reuben, andiamo Reuben!). When they discovered that they could jump the security-free barrier, they partied at the base of the stage.

Lago di Chiusi, Chiusi



Saturday we took advantage of our Tuscan location and the car (!) and took a micro tour of lakes and Montepulciano. Montepulciano is famous for its wine, and its popularity as a tourist destination was immediately obvious compared to sleepy little Chiusi. The lakes were beautiful but, unfortunately for the togs carried all day (in the boot of the car, such luxury), none were inviting enough to actually swim in. Instead, we lunched and napped lakeside, and fed bread to a water rat (not its actual name) who seemed to be a regular waterside at the restaurant.

Chiusi, province of Siena

We came back to Chiusi in the evening where we skipped festival food in favour of the restaurant next door, before heading back to our community rock festival. The restaurant was a little fancy in that rustic Tuscan way, feeding me pear and sheep cheese with honey, and smoked aubergine soup.

And that was it for our weekend. We returned to Rovereto on the Sunday, rolling home early in the afternoon. Our brief flirtation with a car now over, and Matt is now reconsidering our Sicilian intentions – thinking they may be more thoroughly achieved once we have reclaimed our legal driving status (also known as when we don’t live in Italy anymore..).