Friday, 29 June 2012

Padua - Pilgrims and Much More

The walk from Padova's (Padua) station to the centre is not overly inspiring. The trams and buses run alongside the bicycles and cars down streets that seem too narrow to house them all.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Stanghella - Villas and Vintage Bikes

A bicycle was required. We could not move from place to place with only one, and whilst the public transport is reasonably priced, it would soon add up. A 'bicicletteria' was sourced in Stanghella that sells not only brand new bicycles but those of a vintage as well.

Stanghella sits on the highway between Rovigo and Monselice. A five minute train ride and we found ourselves at a ghost station.
It's been a whilse since the board at the train station was updated!

A further five minutes and we had skirted the edge of Parco M.A. Centanini and were stood outside the gates of the dilapidated Villa Manfredini, Centanini. What a beautiful building. Behind rusted iron gates the villa spread out before us. Steps and a portico on each side of the central section are evidence of the development of the villa over the years. The windows were shuttered and the chimneys and tower rose into the summer sky. Juliet balconies stood empty. This was a villa worthy of a person of standing, or me - I could live there, indulging in romantic fantasies.
If I stand here long enough, can I claim it?

The first record of Villa Manfredini-Centanini was in 1668 when Giovanni Battista and Giacomo Manfredini di Rovigo registered ownership of a house of brick with the local authority. Extensions and improvements had been made over the years, and the villa's last owner was M.A. Centanini who created the park opposite the villa. The park was created on six hectares and provides a wonderfully shaded place to rest from the heat of the Italian summer. The design of the park is evocative of the romantic garden model that was popular in the late nineteenth century. It is enclosed by mature trees and shrubs, whilst the interior space is organized into three areas: the first two, of circular form, are maintained with grass, the third is an  irregularly shaped basin surrounded by trees and small man-made hills.

Stanghella is a quiet town with little to offer in terms of sight-seeing. However, it is lovely to stumble across the beautiful villas of Italy in such unassuming places. We are on the look-out for more.
Villa Manfredini-Centanini, Stanghella

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Avoiding Heat Exhaustion.

I am enjoying another trip to northern Italy, aiming to see more of the wonderful towns, cities and countryside that the region has to offer. Movement is a little curtailed due to my bicycle failing to make it to the north as its car transportation is lying sick in a garage somewhere. Bearing that in mind, we set out on the one bicycle we do have at the house, which has a vintage look (and feel) to it.

Balancing precariously on the cross bar as the boyfriend did the hard work of pedalling (something I didn't do even when svelte and young!), we made the 6km or so into Rovigo town centre and in search of the 'BiciSharing' - a bike sharing programme which purports to give free bicycle hire. Well, 16 people or so do have free bike hire as they have the keys necessary to free the bikes from the stands. What that means is that nobody else can hire a fuschia pink bike and cycle around the town in which most people cycle. We had checked the website only that morning, posters adorned the comune's walls and I was clutching a leaflet provided by the first office we had entered, nowhere did it say 'the scheme is on hold in Rovigo due to poor management.'

What this meant was a long walk home. The basket was laden down with shopping and understandably the boyfriend was running out of steam with all aboard. We stopped for cold piadine at the side of the road, in order to refuel. It was after 1pm, the temperature was around the 39C mark, and little shade was offered from the sun. I had also forgotten my hat.
The old workhorse did us proud!

Taking on much needed energy.
Birthday lunch at the roadside!

To cut a long story short, by the time we reached the house we were both suffering from the symptoms of heat exhaustion. Shopping was abandoned as we stripped and flung ourselves under a cold shower whilst taking on bottled water. Another kilometre and we could have been in serious trouble. So, please be careful when venturing out in the summer. Take water with you (we had, but not enough), wear a hat, keep in the shade and avoid strenuous exercise or long walks during the hot hours of 11am - 3pm. There is so much to see during summer holidays that the temptation is to overdo it  - please be careful!
NHS info on Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke

I do like to end on a positive note...we recovered, the BBQ is on, wine is in my glass and we are set for trips to Bologna, Padua and some small towns dotted across the plains of Po. Just don't expect to see this mad Englishwoman out without her hat again!!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Trevi Fountain, Rome

Some of the decorative elements of the Trevi fountain in Rome have fallen off, which would seem to indicate that some major restoration is required. I sincerely hope that any necessary work is carried out soon and appropriately. The Trevi fountain is not only iconic, but a wonderful sight that dominates the small piazza in which it sits.

An extract from City Chronicles: A Little Bit of Italy about the Trevi Fountain.

We entered the piazza via one of the three narrow lanes that converge upon the square and which give it is name – tre vie. The square is not huge and is entirely dominated by the fountain, which meant a considerable press of people around the edge, all vying for a for a good camera angle. I was more than a little concerned about the presence of pickpockets; it would present a very good opportunity; the sight of police officers standing nonchalantly in the shaded areas of the square enforced my feeling. I zipped up pockets and we inveigled our way to sit by the water to study the sculptures that covered the fountain. The present fountain replaced an earlier version that had been fed by the Aqua Vegine aqueduct and been erected in honour of Pope Nicholas V. This version had been completed for Pope Clement XII in 1762. Neptune dominates the marine and seasonal statuary. He is flanked by tritons on horse-back who represent both stormy seas and the sea in repose. In the niches behind Neptune are statues representing Health and Abundance, whilst the pediments are decorated with the four seasons and their gifts. The statues nestle in amongst the boulders from which the water cascades into the pool below. All of this sits against a wall of the Palazzo Poli. The sculptures are not the best in Rome; it was the sheer size of the fountain in the small square that created the drama that left me inspired by the place. We were only missing Anita Ekberg trailing through the waters to complete the scene. The police were most likely on hand to prevent any re-enactments as much as to warn off pickpockets.

The sound of coins sploshing into the pool’s waters mingled with the cascading water and hum of conversation. Throwing one coin into the fountain is meant to grant you a wish, throwing a second is to ensure a return to Rome. My mood may have mellowed but I was not sure that my most fervent wish at that time ought to be granted and I needed to see more of Rome before I decided whether I wished to return. 

Rome certainly did grow on me, and although I did not throw a coin into the fountain I know I will return there.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012


We were on our way back from Venice when we made a last minute decision to offload ourselves at Monselice. Despite Stefano originating from Veneto, he had never ventured into this town. We had no idea what to expect, or where to go; we were not disappointed.

As we headed into town from the station we could see the Rocca Hill, on top of which sits the Mastio Federiciano. A medieval keep, the Mastio was part of the town's fortifications and houses a museum of medieval finds.

Walls of the medieval castle complex

Below the hill are the walls of the old town and part of the castle complex. We followed the walls into the Piazza Mazzini with its medieval Torre Civica (Civic Tower).

Due to our visit being unplanned we did not have enough time to visit the inside of the castle, villa and museuems. Instead we wandered around the town, following the cobbled via del Santuario that led us past the towns most important and interesting sites.  

Part of the castle

 The Sacred Way ultimately leads to the Villa Duodo with its geometric gardens, and passes six little churches as you make your way up the hill. At the top is the seventh church, St. George's. The external architecture of the town is fascinating with some strange statues decorating the top of some of the walls. The views from the hill across the town and the Po plains towards the Colli Euganei (Euganean Hills) was worth the climb on a warm day. 
This little chap and others lined the walls of the villa/castle complex

Monselice is a pretty town, with a lot to see. I will definitely be returning, at a sensible hour(!), so that I can experience the castle and its museums from the inside. If you are on the Bologna/Venice rail line you could do worse than making a stop at Moselice and enjoying its history, architecture and natural beauty.

For more information on Monselice:  Monselice Tourist Board website. Available in 5 languages. Monselice Castle website. Available in Italiano, English and Deutsch 

Monday, 11 June 2012

OUT NOW!! A Little Bit of Italy

The paperback will be available from July 2012.

And don't forget the first of the City Chronicles trilogy, A Tale of Nine Cities, is also available from the same vendors.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012


Exciting times! The second of the City Chronicles travelogue trilogy is almost ready for release. The cover has been designed and the manuscript edited and corrected. All I await is the printed proof to confirm that all has worked as it should...then publication day!

A Little Bit of Italy tells of my travels, by train, from Venice to Rome via Florence, Siena, Milan and Pisa, and the added bonus of the Bay of Naples.There's history, culture, architecture, churches and the odd dead body. There's an insight into the relationship with my fiancĂ© who travelled with me (I don't mind telling you, it wasn't good!); but most of all, this is my look at the parts of Italy most travelled.

The Grand Canal, Venice

Extract from City Chronicles: A Little Bit of Italy

Approaching the piazza from the west via the Calle Larga XXII Marzo I imagined emerging from the colonnades to gaze across the gathered tables of the coffee houses and restaurants to the Basilica of San Marco whilst the words of a dozen languages floated up into the air to be scattered by the pigeons as they swooped for tid-bits amongst the tables. 

Caserta Palace

Extract from City Chronicles: A Little Bit of Italy

CASERTA - sat on the edge of a fountain
Sitting on the basin’s edge in the warmth of the sun, that was doing its best to keep the clouds at bay, I was joined by a lizard which had crept out from between the stones. The lizard sat next to me, lifted his head and closed his eyes. I’m rather fond of lizards and this chap with his lozenge markings of dark green was the perfect, quiet companion to contemplate art with. Suitably warmed, the lizard departed for the undergrowth while Sarah, Marco and I started our descent back to the palace.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Editing Isn't As Painful As You Think.

It wasn't too bad. The thumping heart and damp hands were an over-reaction. My manuscript had returned from the editor, and whilst there were quite a few red marks they were not as numerous as feared. It was my first time submitting my work to a professional editor, and I urge all writers to do the same.

With my first book I was confident that I would be able to self-edit as well as any professional editor could edit. I was wrong. The first edition of my book suffered from poor layout and was peppered with typos. These have since been rectified. I was not going to make the same mistake again.

I am pretty thorough with my self-edits but it takes a fresh pair of eyes to really polish a piece of writing. That is what my editor did. I do love a comma, and semi-colons are a passion, so my sentences can wander a little (though not as much as a Spanish author who in one book had a final sentence that was a page and a half long). My editor added a few full-stops and capital letters. There was only one instance where I chose not to accept my editor's recommended change to the sentence length.

One big fear that I have been able to put to rest with the return of my manuscript is that editors do not change the 'voice.' A good editor will let the integrity of your work remain. When my editor changed words, or word order, the meaning and voice of the sentence was not changed, it simply flowed better. Of course, you can ignore the changes, but there is little point investing in an editor only to ignore their advice. That said, do not click on 'Accept All Changes' without checking them first.

There are two good reasons for making your way carefully through your editor's changes. Firstly, you learn from them. You learn not to split your infinitives - or in my case carry on splitting them but with more awareness - to correct repeatedly misspelled words, and pick up grammatical tips. Secondly, your editor is human too; they can make the odd mistake. I write in English English, a couple of the changes suggested by my editor changed the spelling to American English; I did not accept them. It is a partnership between writer and editor - embrace it.

When all is said and done I am very pleased with my choice of editor, her work, and my completed manuscript. Editor's aren't cheap, but a good one is worth the money and a shiny, polished manuscript has more chance of being picked up. Be brave, get an editor, it is not as painful as you think!

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