Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sardinia's coasts safe for now


I'm glad that on my last post for 2009 I can write good news. Recently I have written a post about the risk of seeing the small beach where I grew up destroyed by the building of a huge wind power plant. We have learnt that the project has been stopped, I'm not sure whether we need to thank politicians' wisdom or the stubborness of the inhabitants, determined not to let this overcome by bad governance.

Whatever the reason is, local as well as national politicians were pushed to find a solution in order to stop the ruthless installment of wind turbines all along Sardinian western and southern coasts.

Instead of providing clean energy, this complex of wind power plants would only have caused further pollution and a dangerous impact on the environment on an untouched bay in the island's west coast.

Apart from the negative environmental impact that such construction would have had on the small, pristine bays they were aimed at, it turned out to be a cloudy issue.

The Anti-Mafia Parliament Commission is in fact investigating on the possibility of money laundering and mafia involvement. When I first heard of this wind power plants, it didn't seem quite right: the company's social capital was way too small to be able to carry out such project to the end, so the prospect seemed to be like the many wind turbines present in the island: developing companies have clained the public funds aimed at clean energy projects and then fled once they got the money, leaving still turbines that don't have other function but polluting and spoiling the landscape.

Italian Parliament is (in)famously mafia-run, so I admit I'm pleasantly surprised at the news that an investigation has been launched. For now S'Archittu and the whole Sinis peninsula are safe. Hopefully natives will continue to enjoy their land for long.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

GiBì & DoppiaW: Italian creativity to boost social empathy


A contagious star, the star of peace

It was one of those afternoons devoted to writing and with no planned outings. When I got tired of staring at my computer screen, I went for a refreshing stroll.

I was dawdling about my little town with my camera, as usual, looking for nothing in particular. Christmas time, possible season decorations to capture. Although the simple festive ornament in Ghilarza is prerogative of the sole main street, I was drawn away from the town centre by a quirky green sign leading toward Piazza Torre Aragonese, named after a big Aragonese tower that dominates the little square.

On my left, just behind the tower, something caught my attention: the entrance to a comics. It took me a minute to understand I had ended up at an interactive exhibition for children.

Kids were meant to go during their morning classes, so in the afternoon the venue was empty and I had all curators around me willing to explain the meaning of their art.

Yes, because Gibì & DoppiaW need at least an introduction. Their author, Walter Kostner, was born in Ortisei, picturesque town surrounded by the overwhelming landscape of the Dolomites. Since 1978, he has been travelling all around the globe to meet children belonging to any ethnicity, religion and culture, with the goal to boost their creativity.

Facing problems together makes them less demanding


"Because the main problem of our times is that we've lost togetherness!" Told me Duccio, one of the curators.


Tell me about it.


Technology is a great thing, but modern society is driving people to live increasingly alone, less needy of each other and therefore less keen to establish relationships.


Paradoxically, now that I live in London, I feel weird when I come back home and I see what's like the life in small villages. Locals barely close their frontdoors, always wave at each other, when they shop if they don't have the change they'll pay some time later on, they know they'll find their car if they forget it open, and so on and so forth.


Of course in cities like London this is not possible (please don't leave your frontdoor open!), but socializing is generally more difficult, unless you're drunk.


So, Walter Kostner and his young team hit the road and work on boosting creative thinking through these comics strips that suggest an easier way to face reality.

A new religion?


The goal of this travelling exhibition, titled "Tesori Tra Noi" (Treasures among us) is to introduce an innovative learning method that gives paramount importance to personal creativity in order to reinvent the way people interact with each other.


The strips themselves, although aimed at children, are by not means easy and require a guide, who normally wears a colourful bow tie. I don't watch TV, so I've particularly appreciated the strip titled "A new religion", that implicitly suggests to go out and enjoy real life experiences.

A team of experts in the learning and artistic fields journeys throughout Europe to meet as many people as they can, in the hope to help children to relate and establish new ways of communication. I truly wish them the best of the achievements.



All strips are courtesy of interactive exhibition "Tesori Tra Noi".

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Travelling with kids, a family affair

I've been reading articles and blog posts with any sort of advices and tricks about travelling with kids. The amount of literature produced on the topic led me to think this was a major adventure, and I started wondering how on earth my grandmother managed to do what she did more than fifty years ago.

Today most travelling happens by plane, and most airports and airlines provide facilities for babies, kids and parents, so I asked my grandmother to tell me her story: how did she bring in 1957, at the young age of 26, six children, of the age range between six years old and eight months, from Sedilo, a godforsaken village in Sardinia, to Lorraine, France?

"Easy! We got ready and we left!"

I'm not sure whether my grandmother was reckless or brave, but the fact is that she actually left her hometown, alone (my grandfather was already in France looking for job and accommodation), with no money (or very little since she had just sold a pig!) and six little pests, to embark on a journey without any kind of facility.

I guess she was both brave and reckless, but first of all, she was pushed by the need to provide her sons and daughters with food everyday. Post-war Italy was a wreck, Sardinia was among the worst hit regions and Sedilo suffered terribly from hunger. There were no options but leave.

The preparation involved also taking the picture for the ID (photo above). The council told my grandma the photo needed to include all members, that's how the picture that now is the symbol of our family was taken. The photographer fell in love with it and displayed it for months in his shop.

I knew they started their trip in Abbasanta, the nearest train station from Sedilo, but I've always wondered how they got to the station so, artlessly, I asked her: "Did you book two cars at least to go from Sedilo to Abbasanta?"
"What car?? I stuck them all in a coach! The little money we had was to suffice for the whole journey, and rest assured that we knew when we were leaving, but we had no idea what day we would arrive!"

My grandfather's youngest brother helped my grandmother during the trip, he was 22 and, like the rest of the group, he had never left Sardinia before. They didn't even speak Italian, only Sardinian native language, let alone French.

Once in Abbasanta's train station, my mother ran to the platforms: "Grandma took me away by my hair," she told me. "She didn't have time for pampering anybody. I never ran away anymore."

"Felice," remembers my grandmother amused, "didn't want to go anywhere without pabassini (the typical Sardinian cakes), so I had to make some before leaving." Felice is my uncle, and at the time he was two. Needless to say, the smallest daughter, the eight-month one, caught the flu during the journey.

After a two-hour journey by train they arrived at the port and got on the ship. The most obvious way would have been toward Genoa, which is close to France, but in 1957 there weren't any ships travelling from Sardinia to Genoa, so my future family got off in Civitavecchia, Rome's port.

From here, they caught the train to Switzerland, where they waited for another train that would bring them to Metz, Lorraine. It was November, and temperatures were starting to go down, especially in Switzerland. The kids were not dressed with winter clothes, so the social workers provided them with blankets. "I might still have one of those blankets," remembers my grandmother. "They were very warm!"

The journey lasted three days and in Metz my grandfather was impatient to welcome his family.


My mother doesn't remember much of her first moments in her new hometown, so my grandma helps us piece together the events. Once in France, all immigrants were gathered in a former military dormitory, where they would live together for a month.

After a few days the families were allocated a house each by the mine company (because my grandfather got a job in a mine in Lorraine, 1000 mt underneath the earth surface). The house actually became property of my grandparents, who were also given the first monthly salary and one allowance for each child.

My grandmother remembers that they had never seen so much money all together so, when my grandfather got home with all that cash, they spread it out on the main table and kept staring at it, speechless. With hindsight, that money was barely enough to make ends meet, but my grandparents were used to living in such poverty that they believed they had touched the sky with a finger.

Since then, my grandmother was the family's accountant: her husband would give her the salary every month and she had the task to administrate for everybody's expenses.

This is how their French adventure started. Now that I'm an expat, every time I go to visit my grandmother she cries at the idea of her granddaughter living abroad, because I remind her of all the difficulties they had. Of course there is no way to make her understand that my situation is very different from theirs, that I have chosen this life, and that my travels are much easier.

I think that, after all, she's proud of my choice to carry on with the family tradition, and somehow, I feel I have more in common with my grandparents since I left my hometown.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Travelling through Ireland

Although I've lived in Dublin for two years, I admit I haven't travelled extensively throughout Ireland as much as it deserves. I have been to the Irish west coast and it's truly stunning. It was pouring, but this is normal, although I would have preferred to stare at those landscapes with the sunshine.

Galway is a very lovely picturesque town and people's warmth confirms the dogma of the Irish friendliness. My friend and I had lunch at a small restaurant, before jumping on the coach for the Aran Islands. Needless to say, it was pouring, and when I got on the boat I was soaked.

On the boat I got sick, and once in the island (we chose Inis Mor, the biggest one), we rushed to the b&b, barely able to see around us, due to the heavy rain. We only had a weekend, and didn't manage to see much. Of course, this is a good reason to go back, maybe around May or June, in the hope of a greater cosmic cooperation.

My ideal trip in Ireland would be travelling through all the west coast. I would go to the first car hire at Cork Airport and then start journeying from Cork, passing by County Kerry, going up to Galway and Aran Islands.

I would stop here a couple of days to have the opportunity to better visit the area and especially the Cliffs of Moher that I missed last time. Just past Galway I would definitely stop in Connemara and in County Mayo, before getting to Donegal, very famous for the unforgettable sceneries and the constant bad weather.

I can't wait to visit the area, get to know the Celtic traditions Dublin is losing and listen as much Irish music played live as I can.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

My life as an expat in London: hit the ground running

When I moved to London two years ago, I wasn’t a newbie: I had been living as an expat in Dublin for other two years so, with my previous experience and confident in a language not so foreign anymore, I was ready to face the jungle.

Despite grim forecasts, on my very first day in London it wasn’t raining, and this made it much easier for me to understand the bus service and locate the stop of my future university.

I originate from a godforsaken little village in central Sardinia, but I had lived seven years in Rome, so I was aware of the difficulties I will have found at the beginning. However, I was pleased to notice that, despite its size, moving inside London is quite handy: the public transport is very efficient (almost always) and decentralized facilities make every district independent and citizen-friendly. As much as a fast-paced, hectic metropolis can be.

Looking for accommodation in London is always a lottery: luck is crucial. It’s not hard to actually find a place, especially if it’s a room in a house share, but beware, or you’ll end up spending most of your salary in rent and bills. Your best bet is to look for an all-inclusive rent, so that you don’t have bimonthly surprises.

Once I was settled and had all papers sorted out, I tought I could relax a bit. I soon understood it wasn't my case.

I live in what is commonly known as being the “bronx” and I love it. Peckham derives its fame from violent clashes between local gangs that took place years ago, but today it’s a colorful district and by all means my favorite shopping destination: I know I can find anything, especially when it comes to ethnic food.

As soon as I leave the apartment in the morning, I rush to the bus stop, because not catching that bus means missing the other connections and potentially getting stuck in a heavier traffic than usual.



One thing hasn’t changed since my first trip on a London bus: I'm constantly distracted by the colors, the variety of styles, ethnicities and little markets. I keep thinking this is also London’s greatest strength: I live in one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world.

The line between my working day and my time off is very blurry because I work from home, so when I’m not busy I feel guilty and I find myself something to do.

Once or twice a week I work in an office located near one of the busiest tube stations in Central London, Waterloo, and when I get off the bus I get mesmerised by staring at thousands of people darting in and out the metro, up the bridge that connects two street levels, and hundreds of commuters queueing for the bus.

I never have lunch every day in the same place: at times I manage to treat myself with half an hour (nonetheless) at home enjoying a proper meal, other times I grab some noodles or sushi on the road.

Living in London doesn’t necessarily mean being able to enjoy the impressive range of opportunities such as museums, theatres, events, but somehow nobody seems to know what to blame.

Extreme consumism. Zygmunt Bauman has defined London as the "dustbin" of globalisation: sometimes I think he's right. I like living in big cities, but sometimes in London I feel like I'm a number, and this freaks me out.

Nerve-racking red tape aside, time managing is perhaps the most frustrating thing in London. The days fly and once in bed I inevitably realise I have done barely half of what I was meant to. Like in most big cities, tourists in one week visit more than locals in a year.

Truth be said, when I manage to get myself some time off, I’m spoilt for choice. Whether you prefer sophisticated or casual leisure activities, in London you will find what you are looking for.

Food-wise, I’m definitely less fussy than I was when I left Italy almost five years ago. I like going out for dinner and try the huge range of ethnic restaurants, be them Moroccan, Indian, Italian, Chinese. Despite my friends’ warnings, I was pleased to acknowledge that eating out in London is not as expensive as its reputation suggests.

I usually end my day jealously looking out of the window at the willing runners jogging around Peckham Rye Park and I wish I was as athletic as they are.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What to visit beyond Dublin

I'll never forget (and always regret for not having photographed) a postcard picturing a skeleton at the bus stop, with the underlying caption: Dublin bus.

Having lived in Dublin for two years, I can say that postcard gets pretty well to the point. Some buses pass regularly, but others never come. The worst thing ever when you leave home in the morning and get to the stop, is seeing your bus leaving: you are going to be late.

Dublin city centre is quite walkable, but if you are to stay longer than a week, you can't miss visiting the villages around the outskirts, such as Howth, Malahide, Dun Laoghaire, and for a more comfortable tour, your best best is to go to a car hire in Dublin. By relying on pricey public transports, journeying through the towns around Dublin can take you days, instead, by driving you keep your own pace and visit much more.


Howth is a little fishing village that offers truly breathtaking views, and restaurants serve the best salmon in the area. On Sunday there is also a little openair market with stands selling homemade products, not only Irish: I found a delicious Polish bread with many cereals.

If you ever go to Howth, get fit before: you can't miss climbing the sheer cliff up to the tower, it's a great, properly thrilling stroll.


In Malahide, besides the lovely beaches, there is a beautiful castle, inhabited by the Talbot family for some eight centuries. If you have time and feel like driving, a very suggestive spot is definitely Glendalough.


I went to Glendalough by coach and I spent there a whole day. Truly amazing, the tour starts at an old cemetery, with a tiny old church that reminds me of the movie Magdalene's Sisters about the past Catholic zealotry of the Irish people.


Going beyond the graveyard, there is a countryside path with a river equipped with many bridges, two lakes, wildlife and seldom heritage sites, all contributing in giving the impression of a bucolic walk where modernity hasn't arrived yet.


Of course the dream suddenly stops when you get to the end of the itinerary and find yourself in front of fast-food stands releasing the smell of freshly made sandwiches.


The trip to Glendalough really impressed me, even if there's no museum or castle to visit, and I surely recommend it to anyone who plans a holiday in Dublin.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Want to buy me? I'm worth two camels

Striking (and disappointing) revelation, in Istanbul, when a camel-trader was ready to pay only two camels to buy me.

"Only two??" I muttered, outraged.

"But they are expensive!"

"That's ok, then."

After a couple of minutes of negotiation, the deal was closed. I'm not sure why the buyer offered to pay the two camels to my friends instead of my parents for example, since I'm not married or engaged, but with the prospect of my future life in the desert, that was definitely a minor detail. I was actually flattered that someone was ready to give up on something precious for me. And camels are precious, indeed.

It all started when my friends and I were lured in a permanent exhibition in central Istanbul, where artists were teaching their art to young students and, at the same time, displaying their work. Just before the entrance we found a local carpet-maker who invited us in his lab/store performing the most charming techniques Turkish shopkeepers learn the very first day they start working.

Situated beside the Topkapi Palace, Ismail's shop is a colourful exhibition of strictly handmade carpets aptly enriched with photos of her mother and sisters during the whole making process, sewing and colouring with natural pigments, more resistant than the artificial ones.

Chatting, it came up that Ismail doesn't originate from Istanbul but from a little tribal village and, having noticed my enthusiasm, he kindly invited me to a bellydance party with his friends and family next time I would go to Turkey.

Since then, I've been dreaming about all this bellydancing (not that I'm able to bellydance, but still like the atmosphere), so when I go back to Istanbul my first stop will certainly be at Ismail's studio, just to make sure he's going to keep his promise.

In that case, my promise is that I will post here the pictures of myself bellydancing. If not too detrimental to my public image.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Travel Writing and International Relations

“Be careful when you go to Brasil, it’s very dangerous!” I was thirteen when I went to Rio de Janeiro for the first time and after all the warning I was ready to face a war zone.

I must confess, as soon as I got off the plane and jumped on a cab, those advices became very meaningful. My surreal adventure was starting: we were racing other cars through the largest streets I had ever seen, giving right of way to nobody, ignoring most roadsigns and my parents were chatting and laughing with our swarthy taxi-driver as if everything was normal. After ten minutes of reckless driving, I was happy to see that we were still alive and certainly not the passengers of the craziest car.

The Corcovado and the Pão de Açucar were still wrapped up with the first-morning haze but the city was far from being asleep: brave early-risers were already running up and down Rio’s beaches, buses darting blatantly and local lanchonettes releasing their typical smell of misto quente, a toasted ham and cheese sandwich.

After a couple of months hanging around Rio and traveling throughout Brasil, I realised how distorted our European impression of other countries was and embarked on my battle against prejudice, initially by word-of-mouth, then through my blogs and articles.

During the Cold War, Brasil was a third-world country, and the most common mistake we could make in Europe was to consider it as semi-primitive. Now Brasil is going through a major development, imposing itself as one of the world's future superpowers, and boasting a vibrant civilisation and intense culture.

The role of the travel writer becomes crucial when the goal is to introduce cultures, lifestyles and reasons why a country could not develop the same way as others. In a nutshell, making people more aware of the world we live in.

I’ve always thought that travel writing was not just a “job”, but a mission, and the task of the travel writer one of the hardest to accomplish.

Being a journalist entails huge responsibilities: since the birth of the profession it became immediately clear that the press had a massive power on the public mind.

As early as the eighteenth century, journalist Eleonora De Fonseca Pimentel devoted her life to the revolution. In a Naples oppressed by the Bourbons and shaken by the echoes of the French Revolution, she carried out a battle against the exploitation of the poor. Despite her noble roots, she couldn’t spare herself from being executed for what she believed in, the importance of educating the population and giving them the tools to improve their living conditions.

We don’t have the Bourbons anymore, but in an era where democracy is becoming an empty word, where the political class is seen as belonging to a separate dimension from the rest of the population, the role of the journalist is one of monitoring and denouncing political decisions that have devastating consequences. One of the most inspiring examples of today’s journalism is Australia-born author and documentary film-maker John Pilger. War reporter and outspoken critic of Western governments’ foreign policies, his definition of the profession reaches its very soul: “It’s the journalist’s job, first of all, to look in the mirror of his own society.”

Among all specialisations, travel writing involves some of the heaviest burdens: putting its readers altogether in another country and making them feel, understand and appreciate other cultures.

If this sounds like a hackneyed expression, it’s when the travel writer starts witnessing realities unknown to most people and uncovered by most media that this cliché takes on a deeper meaning.

I think combining the passion for traveling with a good grasp of history and global affairs will show the traveler a world where most media are controlled, used and abused by the political and financial power and in which the “propaganda model” suggested by Chomsky and Herman has become daily routine.

That’s why it’s vital for travel writers to carry out an accurate research before boarding on a plane, trawling through the social and political background of a nation: they are about to become the eyes and the ears of the country they will visit, and have the tools to discover a place's more intimate soul, capturing the essence of people's mentality and traditions, to be able to outline a true x-ray picture of what they see.

So, for example, if you go to Chile you’ll be able to sense the consequences of one of the bloodiest and darkest fascist dictatorships that literally put the nation on its knees from the 1973 until Pinochet’s gradual departure.

Not only can travel writers see and describe such phenomenons, but I think they also owe their readers an accurate explanation of why such events could happen, what is the history behind today’s societies and what are the factors that pushed the country in that specific direction.

At the same time, if not combined with traveling, research runs the risk to overlook the human element of a population, possible to be captured only first-hand. Every human being has something to tell, every single person has done something worth mentioning and remembering and books cannot contain everything.


Dealing with social issues cannot be detached from travel writing, it’s part of the same mission: to engage the community on challenging distorted visions of the world and on raising consciousness that we all live in the same planet, share the same resources and deserve the same respect. This will inevitably add to everybody’s civic sense and make people demanding a better quality in articles and tv shows.


Ambitious task and big responsibility, but necessary to make our contribution to building hope for a better world. With all this in mind, I consider as my departure point Derrick Jensen’s beautiful thought: “If we wish to stop the atrocities, we need merely to step away from isolation. There is a whole world waiting for us, ready to welcome us home.”

Friday, November 27, 2009

Dublin, Dubliners and modernity

I've lived in Dublin for two years and I have to say, I don't miss it that much. The famous Irish friendliness is not really a Dublin attraction and is more likely to be found in other parts of Ireland, such as down in the south or west, like Galway and the Aran Islands.

Dublin and Dubliners are very peculiar. I've always been fascinated by the Celtic culture and was definitely disappointed by the lack of character in the Irish capital. In fact, I've only found the common European city, with no particularly striking personality and a strong will to emulate London.

I've ended up in Dublin four years ago because I expatriated with a friend of mine who had been there when she was 14 and has dreamt about it since. When first she went, Temple Bar didn't exist, and her passion stemmed more from the Cliffs of Moher than Dublin itself. But for obvious reasons, it was much handier living in Dublin than on the Cliffs.


The first impact with the city and its inhabitants has been funny, parties almost every night, meeting friends was the easiest of the tasks, a great complicity among foreigners, connected by our common status of expats who, for a reason or the other, shared the same difficulties.

The first thing tourists notice (and how couldn't they) as soon as they arrive in the city centre, is the Spire, a huge metallic, horrendous thing that rests in the middle of O'Connell Street, just before the River Liffey that divides the town into the "rough" North and the "posh" South.

Once overcome the shock of the Spire, tourists are left with a handful of interesting sights to explore, among which are noteworthy the Castle, the (tiny) Writers' Museum, Trinity College, Stephens' Green Park, Joyce House, Guinness Storehouse.

I don't like beer and I'm a major fan of literature and history, but I have to say that among all Dublin attractions, the one that impressed me the most is definitely the Guinness Storehouse: they organise the tour perfectly, and visitors have the opportunity to see how the beer is made and to trace the history of this national pride. At the end of the tour, beer lovers will be pleased to receive a complimentary pint of freshly made Guinness. Definitely, highly recommended (no, this is not a sponsored post).


Seemingly, Temple Bar is the tourism icon. Built in a mock-antique style, it's actually very recent and the best definition for it is "a cluster of pubs". You can also stumble on ethnic, little clothes shops, but besides the street artists, there's not much to see. It's mainly a night-time attraction, but beware: the weekend all pubs are packed, most people are drunk and there is a good chance you'll need to work somebody over in order to reach out the bar and have your pint.

Modern Dublin definitely misses the cheerful atmosphere created by local artists playing traditional music, and is a telling evidence that sacrificing old customs in the name of modernity doesn't always work.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tracking the Knights Templar in Sardinia

I'm carrying out some in-depth research on Sardinia's stormy past and on the mysterious traces left by the Knights Templar. Until now, I knew they might have quickly travelled the island while guarding Christian pilgrims in their journey to and from Jerusalem, but now I'm discovering scenarios I wasn't certainly aware of.

Who said Sardinia's attractions are clustered in its coasts? The mainland reeks of ancestral spirit, primeval fears and needs, and thousand-year-old heritage sites belonging to Sardinian lost civilisation. Professor Ross Holloway has effectively observed "Sardinia's is a landscape frozen in time."

Recent studies have claimed that Sardinia can be the place that Greek philosopher Plato described when writing about the mysterious lost civilisation named Atlantis, and after a quick look at the island's tangled history, we can by all means think we still have much to discover.

I've always been fascinated by the history of Free Masonry, and researching it, I've often stumbled across the Templars. It's difficult to imagine monks that were warriors too, but those were dark times, the darkest memories the Catholic Church can hold.

Studying the passage of the Templars in Sardinia, I found many traces, mainly churches and hospitals (there was the Hospitalliers Order), and they all give evidence that these medieval knights quite liked this desolate Mediterranean land. Was it because of the benefits of its mild temperatures? Or because of its strategic position between the two worlds (East and West) and so crucial to their businesses?

What sparks my love for history is not just my will to find out where we come from, but to discover little by little that the findings don't belong just to the past, but they are everywhere in our lives. The flag, symbols of regional councils: they are connected with an untaught history and are part of our daily routine more than we expect.

Monday, November 16, 2009

5 travel blogs you can't afford to miss

Trawling through the resources of the net I keep stumbling across marvellous travel blogs and, I admit, I keep stealing other bloggers' ideas. So now it's time to give myself up and confess which are the blogs that have inspired me the most.

1- Cool Travel Guide. I know, Lara Dunston doesn't need an introduction. Established travel writer, she has published in newspapers, magazines and websites all over the world. However, I can't avoid mentioning her blog as it's a real source of inspiration for travellers and travel writers.
First of all, in her posts she covers cool and quirky sides of travelling, as promised in the headline, but also, Cool Travel Lara doesn't shy away from criticising what's wrong in the travel publishing industry and shares very willingly useful tips for would-be travel writers. Do you want to start a career in travel writing? First step: Cool Travel Guide!

2- My Several Worlds, written by Carrie Marshall, Canadian writer and photographer. The website is focused on destinations, attractions, lifestyles and cultures in Asia and features interviews to artists, writers and photographers.Very user-friendly, My Several Worlds gets its glamourous looks from the fabulous pictures and the state-of-the-art design. If you are thinking about travelling to Asia, in here you will find all the useful info you need, from travel insurance to "teach-and-travel" matters.

3- Europe à la carte. Although the title can mislead some first-time visitors, this is not a blog about European wines, but Europe all over. Literally. Travel writer Karen Bryan here covers every single aspect of Europe and European life, from the world of arts to over-packed capitals to small idiosyncrasies that make the Old Continent a huge immortal attraction.
Hotel reviews, museum tours, quirky traditions and unsung spots: Europe à la Carte has all you need from a proper European online travel guide.

4- Nomadic Matt. Yes, THAT Matt. The young king of the travel blogs. "Twenty-something vagabond" he's already written an Internet best-seller, whose title speaks for itself: "Monetize Your Travel Blog". Currently on the road, Matt not only updates his blog with his latest trips, but starts thought-provoking posts on the role of blogging, comparisons with the world of professional journalism and bad travel experiences. Cool choice of photos and videos and the greatest tips if you want to make profits out of your travel blog (who doesn't?).

5- Almost Fearless. Modestly titled, I would suggest "Completely Fearless" for Christine Gilbert's ever-expanding website. A complete guide on how to be a digital nomad, Christine suggests the best moves to take from day 1. Never-ending source of ideas, this site's author comes up every day with a new initiative. Started as a modest blog, now it's a busy website with tips, stories and free "Twitter for Travelers e-book". Really? Yes, just subscribe!

I know there are plenty of other great websites out there, and every day I stumble on some awesome travel blogs. Many of them inspire me when writing other posts or articles, and althout I'm not really the "series" type of person, I'll be surely writing about some other great finds!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Travel Calling's Best Kept Travel Secrets

I've been nominated by Carrie of My Several Worlds to contribute to Katie Erica's list of her best kept travel secrets listed in TripBase Blog. Along with the style, I will list my best kept travel secrets and will nominate five famous travel bloggers in the industry.

This is how Tripbase Blog Tag works:
Been somewhere amazing you’d never even heard of? You want to let your buddies in on the secret, right? Read on for my top travel gems!
What’s interesting about travel is that the places / hotels / restaurants that everyone agrees are fantastic, are often not so fantastic.
And even if they are, it can all be a bit predictable.
Now what’s really fun is when you find somewhere obscure that is truly out of this world.
You can’t believe your luck to have stumbled across this travel gem. How could you not have heard of this place before?
You want to shout it from the rooftops.
We have all been somewhere unusual or that for some reason struck a chord for us, so here are Travel Calling's best kept travel secrets.

STAY AT

Hostal El Santuario, Agua Calientes, Cuzco, Perù














View from Hostal El Santuario                                   Machu Picchu

If you are bound to find a five-star luxury mega residence, forget Hostal El Santuario. El Santuario doesn't offer luxurious facilities, but a modest and friendly service. However, its strenght, missed by most five-star hotels in the world, is a view that will undoubtedly take your breath away.

It lies at the very feet of world's wonder Machu Picchu and is dominated by the overwhelming mountain where you will find the ancient "ghost" town. Looking out the window first thing in the morning, you'll stare at the unforgettable scenery of the river Urubamba, before taking up the adventure that will make you step back in time.

3 reasons to stay at Hostal El Santuario:
- You will breath heady breeze as soon as you get up
- You will stare at a truly breathtaking view dominated by the wonders of the Machu Picchu
- It's cheap


VISIT

Nuraghe Losa, Abbasanta, Sardinia, Italy



Sardinia is dotted with nuraghes, stone-made castles dating back thousands years. They were used as habitations, fortresses against foreign attacks or ancient tombs.  

Nuraghe Losa, in the heart of Sardinia, was built roughly during the Bronze Age and archaeologists are still bringing up the remains of the whole area: the nuraghe is in fact only one piece of a prehistoric village and was very likely a built-up area with the burial complex attached. A visit to Nuraghe Losa is a proper walk through the twilight of European civilisation.

3 reasons to go to Nuraghe Losa
- You will track the cradle of Western civilisation
- It's surrounded by pristine countryside
- You'll be immersed in history and culture


EAT

Dans Le Noir? London, UK


Photo Ewan-M's

Nice area in London, Clerkenwell Green, but this won't be the thing you will remember after eating at Dans le Noir?, nor will be the food. 

Costumers of this restaurant will have the opportunity to enjoy good food and drinks better than in any other restaurants. Why? Because they will only use the senses of taste and smell: the hall is completely dark, waiters are blind and they will be your guides through this unique experience.

3 reasons to go to Dans Le Noir?
- You will be able to re-discover your senses of smell and taste
- You will be guided towards a unique experience
- The food is great


The final list of Top Bloggers’ Best Kept Travel Secrets, which will be shared as a special post on TripBase Blog.

I nominate these five bloggers to share three of their best kept travel secrets on their blog. 

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Guest post at Casa Dolcetto!


I've written recently a guest post for Casa Dolcetto, A View of S'Archittu, about a tiny seaside resort in Sardinia, with rather fluctuating tourism moments.

I've been hanging out in S'Archittu since I was 7 and two are the main differences I can spot: I used to get much more tanned (not really S'Archittu's fault, but this somehow annoys me) and tourism was thriving definitely more than it is today.


Until this year. Last July and August were the busiest months I can remember since I was a child, bars and restaurants were happy bunnies and I could barely sleep due to the noise all night long.

Never mind, I'm glad S'Archittu is coming back to life. Although, selfishly speaking, I enjoyed the almost empty beach.

Hope you enjoy my post at Casa Dolcetto!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

What's your favourite beach?

I've grown up close to the beach, so when I have to choose a country to live, I usually prefer one with the sea. It's completely psychological, but I feel I have more space if the sea is within easy reach.

Among my favourite beaches, Sardinia has a privileged place in the podium, but I'm still deciding whether this golden medal stems from objective consideration or rather unconscious loyalty to the sceneries of my childhood.


Truth be said, the world boasts plentiful stunning beaches and seaside landscapes.

On the South American continent, from Rio de Janeiro to Fortaleza, I would only be spoilt for choice on where to go. I've always been attracted by the semplicity of life and the spontaneity of the "south of the world", and Brazil has all rights to share the podium with my hometown.

In Fortaleza the choice goes from Beira Mar to Praia do Futuro: they are all beautiful, not excessively big and comfortably accessible from all parts of the city. Moreover, the city itself is living a period of huge economic development.

But so far, my favourite is Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana. I know, in Rio there is the beautiful Ipanema and classy Leblon, but Copacabana has kept its original Brazilian character: it's colourful and (true, I promise) people keep smiling!

On the European side, I found nice by not breathtaking the Spanish beaches of Malaga and Cadiz, while I've been completely captivated by the attractions of the main Andalusian cities such as Seville and Cordova, and their peculiar way to blend Catholic and Muslim cultures and designs.

Of course, many are the beaches I haven't been to, and among the places I'm planning to visit in a close future, the Asian beaches are the first of the list, especially after my parents told me their adventures on their trip in the Far East last year. The ones I find more enticing are the beaches in Thailand, they embody the most traditional and evergreen tropical dream, they are the image of purity and the best connection between present and past.

So, where to next?

Monday, November 2, 2009

The night of the dead

All over the world, these days are devoted to the dead, and different places remember them in different ways.

In the United States, as well as in the UK, it's Halloween, with plentiful witch-like costumes and parties. Some if Italian biggest cities like to celebrate Halloween in a proper US way, but in Sardinia something very different happens in the night between the 1st and the 2nd of November.

My mother has always told me that since her very first memories she remembers her mother preparing the dinner for the dead, who would come during the night and eat it. Every year, the scenario sees my grandmother preparing tomato-sauce spaghetti, a bit more than usual as some is for the family, some for the dead. After their own dinner, my grandmother would leave a bowl with the rest of the spaghetti, a bottle of red wine and the table set for a proper meal, strictly in odd number.

When my grandfather was alive, he would get up and eat the rest of the spaghetti when the children were already in bed, so that the morning after everything was gone. Now, the spaghetti stay there until next morning and are eaten for lunch.

This tradition is very felt in Sedilo, to the extent that when my grandparents migrated to France, they kept doing it every 1st of November.

However, not everywhere in the island this tradition is either followed, nor desirable. On that night adults would tell mystery stories to children, and in the area there is plenty of options as Sardinian people have kept myths, traditions and mysteries of their ancestors. Just, when I was a child these stories have given me shivers more than once, while now, I'm a big girl, "brave" and not a very easy believer.

Of course my grandmother kept telling stories, for the generations of cousins, nephews and nieces that followed mine. I like listening to them, more to remember my childhood than to get scare. Until last night.

I was at my grandma's with some other family members and we were talking about past family history, without forgetting to mention the dead, of course, in line with the general mood. From here to the 1st November traditions the gap was quickly filled: while in Sedilo they remember their dead by leaving them a ready meal, in Nuoro's province they just bring them flowers. Nothing spooky so far.

So yesterday they told me about a lady, from Nuoro's province, who didn't know about this tradition of leaving the dinner ready all night but, once heard of it, was fascinated by it. To the extent that she wanted to try it: so she prepared dinner, ate some herself before going to bed and then left the table set all night: she was found dead the morning after. The very first time she prepared dinner for her dead (of which she ate some herself, according to tradition), was also the very last time she prepared dinner at all, making it become a proper meal for the dead.

In Sardinia, inexplicable events have always taken place, and throughout the centuries the mysterious element has played an important role in the local society. When you hear black-dressed old ladies whisper, very likely the reason is that they are talking about something paranormal (or gossip, very likely, too, not really paranormal but equally saucy). 

Getting closer to the local society and its traditions might turn out more amusing than expected, so if you like the topic feel free to ask your Sardinian friends to tell you about some quirky fact: you'll certainly find willing story-tellers, and every time some further detail to the story is added.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Speaking of... bad airlines


I've come across a couple of badly run airlines, but the worst one I've experienced is by all means Ryanair. When the actual ticket costs £0.00, after you're done with the booking you can easily pay £100. How is that? No idea.

Taxes, fees, online check-in, airport check-in, hand-luggage, baggage to check-in: everything has a cost. And when you think you are finished, here it comes that last surprise, you have certainly done something wrong: another fine.

I'm not a very patient person, so after two dodgy events, I deleted Ryanair from my airline-related world.

The first fact was related to the luggage weight. Ryanair is the only company that allows only 15 kg in the luggage: quite not handy, but at least we know it. Then, suddenly they changed it: passengers were allowed to check-in 20 kg each. Marvellous. So I packed my suitcase, with all the shopping from Italy and the delicacies my parents had prepared to take to London with me, very careful not to overcome the weight as Ryanair's intolerance is legendary. I arrived at the check-in stand and here was the surprise: "We got back to 15kg, you have to pay for the 5kg in excess." And why on earth didn't you email anybody about this? "Oh, I'm sure it's included in the Terms and Conditions." It was, the tiniest characters ever at the very end of a 20-page email.

Let's forget about it, at the end of the day, it was still convenient.

Shortly after that, I bought a return ticket London-Alghero and, at the end of the whole booking process, after inserting credit card information and personal details, the amount to pay was about 150 euro. I hit "confirm" and then surprise: I had payed 170 euro. Was it not 150? Too late to amend, tickets are not refundable, but at least I wanted to be sure I wasn't going completely crazy.

I did the whole process a second time: yes, I was right, the original amount was 150 euro. So where were the further 20 euro? Credit card fee? Impossible, in the figures breakdown there was already mentioned the visa fee (5£). Ok, I had got that, those 20 euro were to pay a not better identified fee, one of the many, actually.

Ryanair fees keep getting higher: hand-luggage started with 8 euro and are now 15 euro per bag. You can choose if checking-in online or at the airport, if you choose to check-in at the airport you have to pay a fee (the 5-minute labour for the employee?), and once at the airport you have to self-check-in anyway. So what's the point to pay the labour-fee?

After these and some other clues I realised that maybe it wasn't the case for me to fly with Ryanair anymore. The only thought that I could be welcomed by other surprises once at the airport, such as being refused to board because my bag has some irregularity or being forced to pay a non-foreseeable fee, just puts me off from buying a Ryanair ticket.

So I "quit" and am flying with other low-cost airlines such as Easyjet, which I found reliable, affordable, and with no last-minute surprises. So far, so good, I hope it'll keep this standard.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Is London becoming intolerant to tourism?



Not only tourism, but also simple life in London is becoming harder: "security reasons."

What security? And especially, what's the danger? Now that the excuse of international terrorism is becoming more and more incongruous, Londoners and tourists in the UK are wondering what are the reasons for this increasing hostility and harshness from the police and security services in general.


I had written an article back in April about this topic, when a tourist was stopped and asked to delete all his pictures from his camera. That seemed to have been an isolated case, but unfortunately it wasn't: a photographer friend of mine was asked (read: forced) by the police to delete all her pictures from her camera. Reason? "You can't take photos of buildings?" Um... What??? "But it's my job!" My friend tried to explain. "Sorry, luv." The end.

Yesterday I read an article from Tom Gates, editor at Matador Nights, about his recent misadventure at Heathrow Airport. He was pretty gentle, I would have put in place all the loudest aspects Italians are (in)famous all over the world for. Easy prey, he might have been, but the truth is that security, or whatever officers, shouldn't be allowed of treating people like this.

After CCTV all over the place, a disgraceful anti-terror media campaign, able only to foment fear of your neighbour, the atmosphere in the UK is getting heavier. Good aspect of all this? The late campaign didn't work, people are waking up and human empathy is growing.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Savage building on Sardinian coasts



Savage building on Sardinian coasts doesn't seem to come to an end: after the project of building wind power plants in S'Archittu, despite there are many other more suitable areas and this would destroy the summer tourism, let alone the marine fauna locals are trying to reproduce, and let alone the fact that this will inevitably spoil the view and destroy thousand-year-old arch formed throughout the centuries between the sea and the coast, this is not the only area in the island affected by unrestrained building.

Although current President Cappellacci's main message during the electoral campaign was to protect the pristine coasts from savage builders always in the lookout for new untouched spaces, it seems like this is not going to happen: the regional council has approved a new law making it possible to build 300 mt away from the sea.

For Sardinians this sadly sounds like a déjà-vu: the Emerald Coast is not Sardinia anymore, belonging once to Prince Aga Khan and now to a not-better identified US company is mainly private beaches, villas and 5-star hotels where CEOs and presidents (and their escorts) come to spend their holidays. Truth be told, the Emerald Coast is beautiful, but Sardinia has many other equally or more stunning sceneries, so the population turned a blind eye and sucked that up: "Never mind, we'll go elsewhere."

Then, from the Emerald Coast, the building wave kept spreading, northward, southward, and now on the west coast. Is unrestrained building the only problem in Sardinia? Apparently not: NATO bases are carrying out poisonous experiments, DU-based. I come from London to breath some clean air and I find this situation: now it's a bit of too much.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

How to destroy a paradise. And the dream of it



If you want to visit this corner of paradise, hurry up: it's about to be destroyed by the latest plan of a foreign energy corporation.

There is a not-better-identified company, seemingly from Montecarlo but with strong bonds in Luxembourg, that has secretely applied for the permission to build a huge wind power plant all over Sardinian western coast. If approved, it will frustrate the beautiful landscapes of Is Arenas, Torre del Pozzo, S'Archittu, Santa Caterina di Pittinuri.

For the first time in Italian political history (well, after the Constitution of 1948), all parties agree in fighting this plan and the President of the Region, Ugo Cappellacci, is said he will not grant such permission. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be as easy: at a national level, our legislator has just made a new law that deprives regional politicians of any power on renewable energy matters. What a coincidence.

Are Sardinian people against renewable energy? Absolutely not: the island is full of allowed areas where it's possible to build wind and solar power plants.

Locals have been demonstrating and fighting with every legal means at their disposal, will it be enough? 
I can't believe there is the chance I won't be able to spend my ritual week a year stretched out on my favourite beach, anymore.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Saints Cosimo & Damiano, Sardinia and its lost spirit


 As summer nears the end, people all over Sardinia seem to cling onto the last heat with all their energies. In Saint Cosimo's pint-sized sanctuary the evening is already cold(ish) and gives the impression autumn has come.

Close to Mamoiada, in Nuoro's province, around Saints Cosimo & Damiano church lies a tiny village where people start celebrating the two Christian figures in July till the 27th of September, last day of the festival.

The sanctuary lies at around 700 mt of altitude, what makes it the greatest hit during the summer, when temperatures in Sardinian plains can easily reach 40-45°.

As soon as I arrived, I was welcomed by a mandatory glass of wine and unmissable homemade cakes, mandatory too. At lunchtime I was already full, and almost drunk.

Sardinian clichés were all over the place: spitroasting piglets, wine and cakes everywhere, parish acting as the host, music, dances, people out of their front doors chatting and playing on the street, and the ever-present nougat-seller.

The ancestral village-like atmosphere that is getting lost a bit everywhere (Sardinia included) is found now only in these festivals usually carried out under the pretext of religious celebrations but showing the need to connect and socialise like in the past.

I missed that, I hardly remembered it actually, but it's always good to revise such lost routines.

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