This story in the IBTimes is also in The Times and is almost unbelievable. Here’s the first three paragraphs.
Vladimir Putin has met Pope Francis in Rome, amid rumours in the Italian media that he is set to appoint the disgraced former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi as Russia’s Ambassador to the Vatican.
Berlusconi is to face a period of community service after his conviction for tax fraud, but could be offered an escape route by his long-term Russian friend.
As ambassador to the Vatican, Berlusconi, who is also appealing a conviction for sex with an underage prostitute and facing new allegations of a £2.5m bribe to a senator, would receive diplomatic immunity from any custodial sentence and be free to maintain his lavish lifestyle.
At least the one thing you can say about Berlusconi, is that he isn’t gay, which is probably why he appeals to the Russian, who Peter Tatchell called the Czar of Homophobia. I hope the Pope is sensible and brave enough to give the dwarf Italian lecher, the Papal Order of the Boot.
Remember that Berlusconi and Putin at 1.65 m and 1.70m are both shorter than my 1.71.
I love Venice and so did my late wife, C. We must have gone about five or six times and it was no surprise, that the first place abroad I visited after her death, was Venice, to see if I could holiday alone. This post contains a lot of how I feel about Venice.
So Venice to me is special and I’ll probably go again this winter. The winter to me is the best time to visit, as there are less tourists and day-trippers gumming up the city. I always stay in the same hotel close to St. Mark’s Square and even next week, prices are high. So I suspect that even in the winter now, it’s getting lots of visitors.
So to see that the city is to limit the number of cruise ships that visit, as reported on the BBC, is to me a very good thing.
Looking at prices and knowing the city as I do, I would recommend that if you want to visit Venice, you book the best hotel you can afford close to St. Mark’s Square, fly into the Marco Polo airport and then take the ferry to the centre. It looks like nights at the beginning of the week are best and as Venice is a city which is on the go all the time, Monday to Wednesday, aren’t the disasters some cities are. But go out of the city the back way, using the train to a contrasting city like Milan, Bologna or Verona and fly back from there. Remember, every sizeable city in Italy is worth visiting and there are very few, where you can’t enjoy yourself sightseeing, eating and drinking for a couple of days.
We must find better ways of visiting Venice, otherwise the city that I love, will be ruined by tourism.
Not my words, but those of Ottaviano de Medici, a direct descendant of the Medicis, who created Italy’s jewel. He is quoted in this article from the Sydney Morning Herald. Here’s the first paragraph.
A descendant of Florence’s famous Medici family said on Tuesday that mass tourism was a “threat” to his native city and called for it to be put on a UNESCO list of endangered areas.
I must admit, I get a bit fed up with tourists, especially in London. It’s one of the reasons, I’m a member of many of the arts institutions in London, as it means I can bypass queues and crowds, and get invited to special events like this one at the British Museum.
So if I go to Florence or Venice, I always go in the winter, as the threat of cold and wet weather keeps most tourists away. It was one of the great charms of my visit to Genoa recently, that the city was almost empty.
Tourists may be a curse, but they do bring in money and create employment. We need to find a balance as to how we charge them for their disruption.
One slight irritant in Italy is that the law says you must have a receipt. Unlike in the UK, Italians seem very reluctant to bin them for you.
I arrived back safely from Palermo last night and I’ll be posting the details of the trip over the next few days. The posts will be dated as they happened.
I should say though, that I travelled on eight trains in the seven days, since I left on the eighth of this month.
Other than the choosing of the wrong hotel in Naples, I made only one big mistake; I travelled with an out-of-date guide, which made Naples, Genoa and Turin difficult.
This link will give all the posts, when they’ve all been written.
Occasionally, you get a disgusting or failed toilet on a British train.
But not so in Italy!
On the five Italian trains I travelled on, only one had a clean toilet and on that train, it didn’t flush properly. So much to my shame, I left it rather filthy.
But even in the cheaper of the hotels I stayed in, the plumbing was good.
The train journey from Milan to Geneva goes through the lakes and mountains and the Simplon Tunnel.
It is a journey that must be one of the most spectacular in a train on a regular rather than a tourist service.
It is also pretty fast, as my journey took under four hours. It’s not expensive, as for the 17th November, you can book the same train for just £20 and First Class for £110. By comparison London to Newcastle on the same day at a similar time are showing at £60 and £90 respectively for a journey an hour shorter.
This science museum, made ours in South Kensington seem particularly narrow in scope, very small and boring.
They also had no objections to the taking of pictures, providing you switched the flash off.
It was very busy with families and lots of kids.
One of the great things about a lot of Italian museums, is they seem to open early, unlike in some countries like Denmark.
I saw this plate on a handrail on the Milan Underground.
My eyesight may not be good enough to drive, but my brain compensates by turning my head to make my walking safe.
But it is touches like this, that must help those with limited vision to navigate a city safely and successfully.
To contrast, in Turin I’d seen a partially-sighted guy with a cane, having trouble with an escalator on the Metro.
Milan Cathedral is one of those buildings that you can’t photograph too many times.
The way the spires and the other carvings interact to create different shapes is almost unique and is far superior to the creations of Gaudi.
Again, I’m drawn back to 2001, when the cathedral was surrounded by a massive army of Ipswich supporters dressed in blue. Sadly, I don’t have any photos of that day.
I also went to see the Jackson Pollock exhibition in the Royal Palace. It emphasised how little I know of modern art. But it was very well presented and thought provoking.
Milan is a place that you can really do in a weekend, as the public transport is good, and the major sites are clustered around a few points, like the cathedral and the castle. I was only in the vicinity of the cathedral for about two hours, but if I’d had more time, I could have wasted a whole day, not going further than say a kilometre from the cathedral.
One regret was that I didn’t get up very early and go to the piazza in front of the cathedral, as only at that hour do you really appreciate the beauty of any place of architectural integrity. It was raining hard, so I chickened out!