Italy's Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi met with Norway's Foreign Minister, Ine Eriksen Soreide, at the Farnesina, October 9th, 2018 to discuss a variety of key issues, including Italy's role on the EU and the Norwegian military exercises.
Friday, October 12, 2018
Rome's Mayor, Virginia Raggi, played host in the Campidoglio (City Hall) to the Global Democracy Forum, September, 2018.
Monday, October 01, 2018
Well, where does one begin to talk about 16 wonderful days spent in gorgeous Greece? Perhaps with the recent words of Bono when he said that “There’s NO better place in which to be born than in Europe”?
I totally agree, especially when you think that you’re standing at Rome’s Fiumicino airport and just 1 hour and 40 minutes later you’re standing instead at Athens’s E. Venizelos airport!
From Athens we rented a small car and drove 360 km north (an interesting experience driving around Athens’s ring road, a city which is host to over 4 million people and with one of THE highest ratios of taxis-inhabitants in the world!) to the marvelous Meteora, indeed quite the treat for me as one of the six monasteries which lies on top of the particular geological formations was once the site of the final scene of the 1981 “For Your Eyes Only” James Bond movie (with Roger Moore in the role of 007).
Here’s that scene too and with pics of that very same monastery (apparently, the monks, who live there still today, weren’t THE most cooperative bunch with the film crew. As a sign of protest they hung the monastery’s windows their laundry and flags. Broccoli and Saltzman, the historic producers of the early Bond movies, had to therefore re-construct the monastery on the left side of the original one). To get up there be prepared to walk up 150 steps. And to get in it’s only 3 euros (with women that have to cover their shoulders and legs if their wearing shorts).
And while we were there one evening in Kalambaka (where the Meteora are located) the locals organized in a free meal in honor of their mushroom festival. Indeed a very nice touch of good ‘ol Greek hospitality which was then followed by some typical Greek dancing.
We spent two days there and then we drove the 360 km back to Athens. We left the rental car and took a 35 minute flight to the island of Cefalonia, or Kefalonia as the Greeks call it. We had a nice centrally located studio called Alexatos Studios & Apartments (www.alexatos-studios.gr). A quiet area, including the studio itself, located near the port of Agia Efimia. The studio is also handy because nearby there are three convenient supermarkets (we prefer to cook our own meals as I can only put up with so much moussaka and souvlaki every day).
We usually rent a scooter on the Greek islands but this time I had a bummy knee and so, with an island that’s approximately 700 sq/km, we opted for another rental car, an automatic version which was great in order to face the ups and downs of the surrounding mountains.
The island, which is very green, lies right in front of Ithaca, home to the brave Ulysses. You can take a 9 am glass boat ride to the nearby island from the nearby port of Sami, stop in the town for lunch and then head back by 4 pm to the town of Sami.
There are also a few interesting caves on the Cefalonia, including one that also has a lake, as well as several monasteries. Unlike other islands though, such as Milos (it’s STILL no. 1 for me as I’ve been there twice), Cefalonia seems to be lacking in some typical Greek architecture. The explanation for this is quite simple: in 1953 the area got hit by a devastating earthquake and so a lot of towns and buildings had to be reconstructed from scratch, so much so that the film crew of the Corelli movie had to literally reconstruct some of the villages. The island also got hit by other earthquakes in the 1990s. It also appears that the area is one of the most seismic in the Aegean Sea.
And the natives? All wonderful people and very, very laid back as many Greeks can be with almost 99% of them (unlike Italians) who speak good English. And for those from North America who expect things to be done asap? Forget about it when you’re on the Greek islands. Just sit back, relax, take in the wonderful sky and sea, the great Ouzo and frappe’ coffees and don’t worry, sooner or later what you need done will eventually get done!
The water is crystal-clear, so much so that you actually feel like drinking it! Costs vis-à-vis beaches and bars? Two sunbeds plus an umbrella can at times be free or a mere 5 euros. On the beach at Antisamos the parking was also free as were the two sunbeds and the umbrella, something TOTALLY unthinkable in Italy. The folks running these beaches hope that you’ll indulge in their food and drinks (most beaches have good bars/restaurants). A frappe’ will run you around 3-4 euros, ditto for a great Mythos beer. The only beach which cost 10 euros was the one at Myrtos.
Very nice also the town located in the northern part of Cefalonia, Fiskardo, with some nice bars, stores and restaurants.
Roads: some can be a wee bit tricky to handle with a car, not to mention a scooter. Luckily though, most that we travelled on were covered with asphalt and not gravel. The so-called “guard rails” in some points only consisted of a wire meshed fence and with empty cans and water bottles on top of the fences to act, I guess, as reflective devices at nighttime (!!!!). The problem is that if you hit these things with either your car or your scooter you go over the edge and down the high cliffs, and you’re basically dead.
You also have to take in account that occasionally you have to come to a grinding halt because those loveable goats and cows are crossing the roads in front of you so speeding is certainly OUT of the question. Yes, it’s ALL very Greek, but you just have to go with the flow!
Great beaches on Cefalonia, including one of the top 10 in Greece (so they say), Myrtos. The island is unfortunately sadly famous for the massacre of more than 9,000 Italian soldiers of the “Divisione Acqui” as a result of the September 8th, 1943 Armistice which led to the break-up between Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany. The monument near the island’s capital, Argostoli, is run by the Italian Defence Ministry. That tragic event one day became the subject matter of the touching movie “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” with Nicholas Cage in the role of an Italian soldier and Penelope Cruz in the role of a native of the island.
The glass boat ride to nearby Itaca.
On September 9th we took another 35 minute flight from Cefalonia and back to Athens aboard a Canadian De Havilland propeller plane, one that quite often reminds me of something straight out of a Bond movie with the pilot all of a sudden jumping out with his parachute. We arrived rather late in Athens, around 11 pm and with their handy metro-train which closes at 11.30 pm (a 40 minute ride from the airport into the heart of the ancient city). By the time we got our rather heavy luggage it was 11.20 pm. Would we make it?
We rushed out of the terminal and the option would have been a taxi drive into town, which would have cost us between 30 and 50 euros, or the metro ride that would have only been 10 euros per person. What to do? So I said to myself, “So what would have Bond done”? I saw some Greek-looking women walking quickly ahead of us and towards the metro train stop which was a few hundred meters away from the air terminal. We began following them and sure enough they too were about to take the metro. A problem though soon arose: the automatic ticket machine had long line-up of tourists and an employee was about to close the gate which led to the train platform. Again, what to do, try to get the ticket or risk losing the last train into Athens?
We opted for the latter choice and made finally it on the train. I began chatting with a native of Cefalonia as we began to panic: the signs inside the train said that if you didn’t have the normal metro ticket the fine was a whopping 60 times the cost of the ticket and if you didn’t have the special Athens-airport ticket the fine was 20 times the original cost of the ticket! Hmm, I did some quick calculations and that came out to a 200 euro fine PER PERSON! So we prayed and I leaned on the Greek fellow who, like us didn’t have a ticket either, hoping that if the controller came by he’d tell him in Greek that we were two stupid foreign tourists! I guess our prayers were answered as at that time of the night (ditto for Rome’s metro) no one bothered checking if we had a ticket or not.
The hotel in Athens was also very convenient, the Attalos Hotel, located in the central Athinas Street no. 29 (www.attaloshotel.com), so convenient that it was near the Monastiraki metro stop, which is located near the Plaka and the world-famous Acropolis. In fact, a rough life indeed: we also had a small balcony in our hotel room and there, about 600 meters away, you could see the Parthenon! A nice view also from the bar on the rooftop of the hotel.
Taking a walk around the area and you could see that some of it is rather “Bohemian” in nature with some rather “interesting” shops and vendors who literally sell their wares on the roofs of their cars. And lots and lots of bars, cafes and restaurants (and, to paraphrase Supertramp and “Crisis, What Crisis”?, most of these locales were full of people so perhaps finally the Greeks are coming out of their lengthy and painful economic crisis).
Nice to be back in Athens (for the 3rd time) as we got to visit this time their magnificent and fairly new (2009) archeological museum. Only 5 euros to get in. The Athenians took only 30 years to complete the museum which was designed by a Swiss architect, but it’s truly a spectacle to see, especially when you look out of one of the museum’s windows and there you’re staring at the Acropolis!
We went for a walk on the 9th at about 12.45 am. I was dying for a nice, cold Mythos beer. We walked around the Acropolis and finally found an outdoor café. We sat down and I ordered a beer. The 19 year-old waiter told me that unfortunately they were closing up but that he’d see if he could get me that cold beer. Which he did and….for free too. God bless the lad!
The weekend was spent walking around the area, including the parliament building at the Syntagma Square, where once again we saw the rather unique changing of the guard. Beautiful also their university, National Library of Greece and Academy of Athens buildings. Some of these same buildings have statues of both Socrates and his disciple Plato (and Aristotle’s teacher), two of history’s greatest philosophers.
Very interesting also the Gazi area of the city with an area for music, art/crafts vendors, restaurants and a playground area for the kids.
Before heading back again to Rome on September 9th we managed to also take in Melina Mercouri’s museum. Melina starred in the movie “Never On A Sunday” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAh-RA6IjRQ&t=42s) and was once also Greece’s Cultural Minister, the very first woman to have occupied that important position. She had also been a fierce opponent of the Colonels who had brutally governed Greece from 1967 to 1974 (thanks also to a CIA-backed coup). Melina used to go around the world denouncing them. It’s thanks to her that we now have a city in Europe which becomes the European capital of culture (the Italian town of Matera will be the capital of culture as of January, 2019) for it had been Melina who, as a member of the Greek parliament, had come up with the idea, an idea which was later adopted by the European Union.
The wreath in honour of Melina.
The wreath in honour of Melina.
There were only three of us at the museum that day, a museum which by the way was free. Another wonderful Greek lady who worked there and who showed us around Melina’s museum. The neighborhood around her museum is rather nice and the surrounding streets eventually lead right up to the Acropolis.
All-in-all, another GREAT trip/vacation to a simply wonderful country and with splendid weather too (a GREAT period to go in September as the kids are back at school and the beaches are quieter and less crowded). And with my 8th time to Greece and a total of 1,600 km by car (like driving from Rome to Cracow!) once again I can’t seem to find ONE single thing that I don’t like about the country, nor about its wonderful people (all pics were taken with a Canon PowerShot SX60HS digital camera. The trip itself was organized thanks to “Greciamondo” in Rome, www.greciamondo.it).