Category Archives: Europe – Mediterranean

Spain, Italy, P:ortugal & France

Silent Sunday in Crete

The Oldest Byzantine Church in Crete

It definitely was a silent Sunday when we came across this deserted Byzantine church which we later found to be the oldest in Crete. Overgrown with grasses and weeds, it still has charm and I remember well the smell of the herbs underfoot as we explored the near-ruined building.


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.


Linked to Thursday’s Special at Paula’s here

A few days ago I published a post under the same title using two of Paula’s suggested words, and now I’m following up with another – Cuisine.

A couple of years ago I attended the Artusian Food and Wine Festival in Forlimpopuli in Italy, a festival that runs for ten days (I was only there for two) and which is run in honour of the father of modern Italian cookery Pelegrino Artusi (1820-1911). Mention him to any Italian chef and he will be instantly familiar with the name.

The Festival is about “home cooking” and “eating well”, and during the festival the town is thronged with food lovers, the streets and Piazza’s are re-named to connect with the Artusi cookery book, and day and night there are food tastings, packed restaurants, speciality menus, concerts, events, street musicians and happy people.

Piazza Artusi – re-named for festival
Night time and the eating continues at the Artusi Festival
The tasting tent for Philippine food

I had planned a return this year but the festival was cancelled. I hope to make it next year as I yearn for that full-on festival atmosphere (without drunkenness, muddy fields or portaloos) which, it seems, you only get in the Mediterranean countries.

Thanks again to Paula for her inspiration.

One Word Sunday – Arches

Posted in connection with Debbie’s One Word Sunday – Arches

Arches are hard to avoid anywhere with ancient Roman or Greek architecture but I managed to find a ‘natural’ arch to supplement the two historic ones from Sicily/

Cave of the Nymphaen at Syracuse, Sicily
Arch in the rocks off the coast of Lipari, Aeolian Islands
Greek Theatre, Taormina, Sicily

If I had to choose a favourite it would be the Greek Theatre one, through which one can see a snow-covered Etna during the winter or on a still, calm, day, perhaps smoke erupting from the still-active volcano, at all times a perfect background to the play being enacted.

Posted in connection with Debbie’s One Word Sunday – Arches

Sculpture Saturday: in Cesena

Sculpture Saturday is hosted by Mind Over Memory

This unusual pairing of bronzes is Gli Equilibristi by sculptor Leonardo Lucchi. I took the photograph with a cheap throwaway instant camera in Cesena, Emilio Romagno in Italy, two years ago but unfortunately, my notes did not survive the trip (not a good one from the point of view of losing stuff).

Gli Equilibristi de Leonardo Lucchi

I stood before this amazing balancing figure with the corresponding male figure at the foot of the stairs for a long time, returning a few days later to try and get a better picture. I could never find a time when there were no bikes or cars or wheelbarrows parked in the space under the stairs and my efforts at removing them were not professional enough so I’ve left them in.

The sculptor lives and has his studio in Cesena, a town I an keen to return to as I only had a few hours there over two days and I wasn’t able to explore enough. Lucchi’s work is so energetic, his figures depict strong movement and I just have to see some more. If you’d like to see some more of his work, check out his website below:

Art Studio

A YouTube which shows some more

Sculpture Saturday: Cyprus

This group of bronze statues shows the release of Greek Cypriot prisoners, peasants and clergy, from British colonial rule during the fight for independence on the island of Cyprus. The statue is in Nicosia but I was unable to find a date for it. I photographed it sometime in the 1970’s and I think it was fairly new then.

EOKA and the fight for Independence, Cyprus

Linked to Mind Over Memory who hosts this challenge.


It is always sad to see deserted villages and town and even though they are being given status by UNESCO, they still harbour a feeling of meloncholy.

Fikardou Village – a Unesco Heritage Site in Cyprus

There is no escaping the fact that young people will no longer work at back-breaking, low-paying jobs on farms, and abandoned villages like these are a familiar site all over the Mediterranean. Even when some houses are restored by a local who works abroad, they are then used only as holiday homes. The greatest cause for concern then becomes the elderly left to fend for themselves when all the young people have fled to coastal towns for work.

Sculpture Saturday

And now, for something completely different (thank you Monty Python).

 (this was still in my Drafts folder so I’m re-posting it as I’m unsure what is happening. Another mix-up with Blocks?)

Les Braves by Anilore Banonon on Omaha Beach, Normandy

Commissioned by the French government on the 60th Anniversary of WWll and erected in 2004 as a monument to the Americans who helped liberate France, this moving sculpture stands at the centre of Omaha Beach.

The beach today is an place of calm and tranquillity but 76 years ago it was an inferno of noise, smoke and slaughter. Here, along a five-mile stretch of shoreline, the men of the American 1st and 29th Divisions, caught off-guard as they had not expected to meet such opposition, battled their way through fierce German defences.

Thousands of Allied troops were killed in the D-Day battle of Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944, but it was perhaps the single greatest turning point of World War II.t.