Once upon a time when the world was a different place, when travel meant discovering new people and places and life was more carefree, we took time off from a hectic round of sight-seeing in Ravenna, Faenza and Bologna and booked ourselves into a gorgeous hotel in one of Italy’s smart resorts.

The idea was to relax completely and recharge our batteries ready for another few days of treading the cobble stoned alleyways of the towns and villages of Emilia-Romagna – and it worked. Milano-Marittima, smart and ultra-cool, was so unlike our normal holiday destinations that we were able to put aside our pursuit of historical remains and sink into a few days of mindless enjoyment. Time to sit on the beach and read the novels we’d brought along for the ‘down-time’.

And you know what? If I ever get to travel again I’m going to do more of that!

Milano-Marittima is the beach resort to which the fashionistas of Milan take themselves for a spot of r and r. where among flower-filled roundabouts and tree-lined avenues they can be tempted by high-end shopping and lush living.

 It’s also perfectly placed for a week-end trip from the UK, flying into Bologna or Rimini and despite its de luxe lifestyle, surprisingly reasonable for a few days because, let’s face it, you are not going to be buying one-off haute couture from Dior or Armani or if you are, then you won’t worry about budgetting.

Milano-Marittima lies on the Adriatic coast, just 30 Kl. from Rimini and 90 Kl from Bologna.  Surrounded by lush green pinewoods, it combines the best of all possible worlds with sporting activities, a clean sandy beach, crazy nightlife, and fantastic shopping.  Cycling and walking paths through the pinewoods lead to the Natural Park, home to a rich wildlife and flora typical of coastal pinewoods.

Beach at Milano-Marittimo

Beaches are immaculate, as is usual in Italy, and as usual, the sands nearest the sea are free to everyone by law (a path from the esplanade to the beach area must be negotiable, again by law), and the rest of the beach is controlled by the hotels and other concessionaires.

 There are some magnificent hotels along the front and in the streets off the beach, and if you are a resident of one of these you will, in most cases, be offered a discount on the basic beach package.  This entitles you to two loungers, a table, an umbrella, use of a changing room and a locker.  Prices vary depending on how far from the sea you want to sit.  For instance, the Grand Hotel Gallia where I stayed charged €25 per day for the area nearest the sea.  This is for two people and although it may seem a lot, it isn’t if you work out what you get for this. 

There is usually a café or a snack bar on the site, the wooden walkway is swept regularly and kept clear of sand, and with a locker for your wallet and keys you can relax without worries.  If you are only there for a day, or if you fancy a spot that belongs to another owner, you will pay the full price.  And yes it’s a bit crowded, and yes you can overhear your neighbours, but for the denizens of Milano-Marittima, it is less about relaxing with a book and more about mingling and checking out la bella figura so join in and enjoy the fun.

Nightlife is exuberant, people spilling out of bars and restaurants, eating al fresco some of the best food in the area and generally enjoying life.  Believe me, it’s good.

Tearing yourself away from the beach, the shopping or window-shopping in Milano-Marittima is almost equal to that of Milano itself, the opportunities ranging from glamourous boutiques to shops that are very much on trend.   Most of the top fashion houses have outlets on the wide avenues of the town and attract as many lookers as they do buyers, who come to enjoy the art of window dressing which, as in most of Italy’s towns and cities, is a delight in itself. 

There is nothing in the way of historical monuments to interrupt the relaxation in Milano-Marittima, but it is well placed for sight-seeing in the nearby town of Cervia, famous as the repository of the precious salt but visited nowadays for its palaces, churches and the castle; Ravenna for the glorious Byzantine mosaics housed in 5th and 6th century perfectly preserved buildings; and Faenza for the medieval streets and alleys of the town, its piazzas and palaces, and the ceramic workshops and factories where they produce the world-famous Majolica items.

Magnificent Mosaics at Ravenna, Faenza, Dante’s Tomb, I Populi

If you want nothing to do and to do it in comfort and style, I can’t recommend Milano-Marittima enough, and the Grand Hotel Gallia for peace and tranquillity in the midst of a busy town plus outstanding cuisine.

Silent Sunday on the Gota Canal

The Göta Canal which links Sweden’s two cities Stockholm and Gothenburg, runs through the heart of Sweden. A one-way trip on one of the historic ships that plies the route takes 6 days; it is like a journey into another world.

Cruising through archipelagos with thousands of small islands, one river, eight lakes, two seas and three canals with 66 locks (in one case ascending 91 metres) the ship makes several stops at places of interest along the way.

The ships used were built between 1874 and 1831 and are considered historically important. Furnished in a period style there is neither radio nor TV on board any of the ships, and the use of mobile phones is discouraged. Between 40-50 guests are accommodated in small cabins about the size of a sleeping compartment on a train with bunk beds and a wash basin with hot ad cold water. Communal showers only, I’m afraid, but the food makes up for it.

Fresh lake fish every day, game from the forest, the freshest of vegetables and saladings, lots of the berries for which Scandinavia is famous and of course that marvellous coffee and cake.

This journey along one of the world’s great canals is an experience like no other but is only available during the summer months. And in those cabins you really get to experience what travelling was like in the 19th century on board these ships that carried immigrants from rural Sweden out to America.

The 190 kilometres of the Göta Canal were dug out by hand between 1810 and 1832 and it runs from Sjötorp in the west to Mem in the east, it is three metres deep and approximately 14 metres wide.

Sculpture Saturday – Cardiff


Challenge hosted by Sally Kelly over at Ruined for Life: Phoenix Edition.

This striking Merchant Seaman’s Memorial in Cardiff Bay is in the form of a sleeping face fused with a ship’s hull. This was made by riveting plates of metal together, a traditional technique used in early iron and steel ship building. The sculptor Brian Fell, whose own father had been a merchant seaman, was commissioned to create the work in 1994 by Cardiff Bay Arts Trust, Cardiff Bay Development Corporation, Merchant Navy Memorial Committee and Cardiff County Council and it sits in Tiger Bay, Cardiff.

The ports of South Wales played a vital role in supplying coal from Welsh mines to fuel the world’s ships, especially warships and the allies were dependent on merchant vessels to transport troops, food, ammunition, raw materials and equipment. Shipping lanes ran around Pembrokeshire and around the island of Anglesey to get to and from the port of Liverpool and to access the Atlantic; within these lanes German U-boats targeted ships, sinking them with torpedoes and sea mines.

Over 150 vessels were sunk off the coast of Wales during the first World War alone.

Challenge hosted by Sally Kelly over at Ruined for Life: Phoenix Edition.

When Democracy Ruled

Image by Carol M. Highsmith –

Depressed by the current news, the arguments, the depths to which politicians and supposedly clever men and women are sinking, I think back to how years ago Franklin D. Roosevelt was a beacon of light to a world deep in a fiscal depression. As he saw America through a war and put in action methods to help Europe build itself up after the second world war, he laid the groundwork for 20th century democracy in the western world. Less than a century later, we stand to lose it.

FDR had many faults, he was a human being after all, but he was a giant compared to what we see today.