If you see Edelweiss packaged like this anywhere..

Window of cheesy gift shop, Monte Lussari, Italy, 21-Aug-2012

..don’t buy it. It’s protected virtually everywhere. Sightings in their actual alpine settings have become increasingly rare.

And the next time you visit one of the little gift shops near the mountain-top pilgrimage church on Monte Lussari near Tarvisio, let them know they should be embarrassed to have these knickknacks on display. I did and the shop keeper did turn a few shades redder. He didn’t remove them though.

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Landslides and Flooding in Cinque Terre

I was planning to tempt the mid-November weather Gods and visit Cinque Terre for the first time later this month. That’s not going to happen now since they beat me by about three weeks.  Severe storms hit the area on October 25, triggering massive flooding and landslides. Most severely hit were Vernazza and Monterosso; I was planning to stay in the former.

Travel writer Rick Steves has a good write-up of the devastation that affected his favorite corner of Italy on his website here and here. He also posted a slideshow focused on Vernazza, including some before and after shots.


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Enquiring Mind

It’s always a pleasure to encounter inquisitive people.

This is at the train station in Brescia, Italy, on 21-March-2011, just one of several long shots I collected for a project that might come to pass at some point. I couldn’t have planned the stop better if I tried.

If anyone knows this person, drop a line.

Milano Centrale update

A quick stop in Milano Centrale, one of my favorite stations, yesterday to snap a few pics and check out the progress of the massive €100 million renovation. New artworks –one-fifth of the total budget was earmarked to restore “areas of high artistic value”– appear during every lay over. No word yet on completion date.

Milano 014 (top), originally uploaded by pirano.

Trieste Centrale notebook

On an early summer morning in 2003, I spotted a copy of Jan Morris’s Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere in the bookshop of the Newcastle train station. I was heading to Trieste in a very roundabout sort of way, due to arrive at 2:05 am the next morning. I bought it and spent the rest of the day –on trains, in small airport lounges and uncomfortable budget carrier planes– reading her fascinating memoir of the once mighty northern Adriatic port city, one she had often characterized as her favorite. There was a strong sense of melancholy exuding from the pages; there was simply no other way for Morris to remember a city that history had since chosen to relegate to the sidelines, one that is now simply trying to live out its uselessness.

trieste_centralJust as I finished, two whistle stops from the Centrale station, I experienced part of what she was talking about. Without explanation or warning, the train came to a halt and we were told to step off and travel the remaining 28 kilometers by bus. By the time I arrived at the station she so vividly described, I was an hour-and-a-half behind schedule, missed my ride to Portoroz just across the border in Slovenia, and was forced spend the next four hours trying to explain –no, not justify– the George W. Bush doctrine to a stoned and hysterically giggling French-speaking spitting image of Bob Marley who was out walking his unkempt scrawny mutt. I had arrived in Nowhere.

The moral? Choose your travel reading carefully.

trieste_centrale2But much has changed in those ensuing five years. At least as far as the station is concerned. I used it regularly during the year I lived in Piran, and while hints of its past glory were evident, you had to look well beyond the grit to find them. It’s gotten a complete makeover since; the main entry looks terrific, there are a few new shops, a large airy cafe, and a very convenient grocery store. Morris would probably approve.

Related: The €100 million renovation at the massive Milano Centrale, my favorite Italian station, continues. The new moving sidewalks/escalators are finished and functioning, and new artworks –one-fifth of the total budget was earmarked to restore “areas of high artistic value”– appear during every lay over. No word on completion date.

Trieste Station, originally uploaded by pirano.

Ljubljana-Venice Rail Update

Earlier this year, a convenient, fairly popular and reasonably quick Ljubljana-Venice route was sliced from the timetables. It was Trenitalia that wielded the scalpel, choosing to use the tracks in the late AM hours for local traffic.

So now the only option with a reasonable departure time is routed north through Villach, Austria (where you change), and then back south via Udine. Aesthetically, it’s a much nicer ride; the downside is that the old 3 hr 20 min trip is extended to just under 5 1/2 hrs. Another upside is that you arrive about two hours earlier than with the old option, opening several more options if you’re connecting onwards from Venezia-Mestre.

Dep Ljubljana 08:05 – IC 310
Arr Villach Hbf 10:00
Dep Villach Hbf 10:37 – OEC 31 / EC 31
Arr Venezia Mestre – 13:18
Arr Venezia Santa Lucia – 13:30

With at least seven day advance purchase, price is as low as 15 EUR one-way. Much less than the cost of parking your car for an afternoon in Venice.

Ljubljana-bound from Venice:

Most practical is the same route with a mid-afternoon departure, travel time 5 hrs, 4 min.

Dep Venezia Santa Lucia 14:44 – EC 30
Dep Venezia Mestre 14:56
Arr Villach Hbf 17:40
Dep Villach Hbf 18:04 – IC 311
Arr Ljubljana 19:48

If you don’t mind a much later arrival, you can leave Venice in the evening, no change, and spend less time traveling (4 hr 24 min).

Dep Venezia Santa Lucia 21:27 – EN 241
Dep Venezia Mestre – 21:40
Arr Ljubljana 01:51

Some more info on the SLO Rail site. As always the first place to look for connections in all of Europe (EU and non-EU) is Bahn.de.

venice-s-lucia, originally uploaded by pirano.

Vinicio Capossela

Discovered this Italian singer from Putomayo’s Music From the Winelands compilation. Simply Fabulous.

Here’s an interview with Capossela with NPR’s All Things Considered last January.

“I have an attitude about the grotesque in my shows,” Capossela says. “I like to scare people a little, but then make them feel safe again, and go home hugging each other like friends.”

This is Si è spento il sole, roughly, The Sun has been Extinguished.

[Official Website] [tour schedule]

Weegee in Milano

Meant to post this months ago, but there’s still a little time:

If you’ve watched old Hollywood crime films from the 1930s and 40s, you’ll have seen plenty of Speed Graphics in action, those bulky cameras with large bulbs that could light up a dark alley at night. Among the most widely regarded real news photographers of the day was Weegee, whose street beat work in New York City set the news photography standard.

Born Usher Fellig in Ukraine, he earned his non de guerre from the Ouija board, given his knack to be first on the scene, whether a fire, riot, ghastly car accident or grisly murder. The right place at the right time. He would often sleep in his car –where he had a portable darkroom set up– and was the first photographer given permission by the police to listen in on police band short wave radio.

Those tabloid newspaper street scenes are well represented among the 100+ currently on display at the Palazzo della Ragione in Milan, but the best work is that which goes beyond the screaming headlines. He shot everything, from the good to the bad, but apparently enjoyed focusing on the bad. He spent a lot of time examining the racial tension, the class divide and general anxiety of the city between the Great Depression and immediate post-WW II era. Some of the best shots are opposite of the event he’s there to witness, capturing onlooker’s reactions. I was captivated watching other exhibit visitor’s reactions.

Unknown Weegee, Palazzo della Ragione, a block away from Duomo square. 7 EUR. Thru 12-Oct.

And if you won’t be in Milan over the next eight days, The International Center for Photography, who own some 18,000 Weegee images, has a slide show of the exhibit.

weegee in Milano, originally uploaded by pirano.