Category Archives: Italy

g a p s

03:58 thursday 7 september – via solferino , milano

i lost a month’s worth of digital photos with my powerbook , including some i took whilst i was staying with my parents’ in sandhurst which i really liked . in fact i spent a few hours the evening before i left stromboli constructing the modules ready to publish . oh well .

there are some new pics at
http://www.charlesarmstrong.net/snapshots/2000-08-06 . finally my interface has reached a state i’m quite pleased with .

: cH

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v i a g g i o

16:10 sunday 13 august – eurostar , milano to napoli

a month to fill in …

my intention had been to return to britain for just a week , principally to gather with warren langley , craig and henry to discuss the next steps for trampoline and to start organising the sse learning web project with james smith . james had phoned me in milan a few days earlier to let me know that the school’s bid for core funding to cover its development for the next three years had been successful so we could start putting some of our plans into action . this is enormously exciting for me but it also brings new responsibilities . circus must evolve into a more formal structure than has been necessary hitherto .

when my work in london was done i decided not to return to milano immediately , but to head down to mum and dad’s house in gloucestershire and bite the bullet of scanning my slides from last year in the islands . ten days later i had 1050 of them digitised , cropped , resized and catalogued . this represents about half of the slides i took . the experience was a kind of purgatory , both for me and for mum who had to put up with my steadily declining temper . i really hope i never have to do anything like this again .

but the satisfaction of having the archive here on my powerbook is considerable . the process has also given me a clear sense of the raw material i have to work with , should i attempt any kind of publication or exhibition . it was , of course , a strongly nostalgic experience retracing my footsteps through the period , moment by moment . as i reached the final week i felt again the heaviness of each frame , remembering my sense that i was looking at things for the last time , paying my final tributes to places and objects i loved . my heart was in my throat once again .

during those ten days my relationship with sandhurst , my parents’ village , changed somehow . i explored the bank of the river severn on my bike , discovered favourite places to which i returned day after day . likewise the local hill with its views to the malverns on one side and the cotswolds on the other . experiences i overlooked when i lived there as a child . we take so much for granted . it has taken me this long to appreciate the beauty of the area and particularly of the garden mum and dad have created over the last dozen years . for a few days this became my office and i could not have wished for a more idyllic environment in which to pursue my unwelcome labours .

finally it was done and i was free to return to italy . i flew from stansted to brescia with ryan air . bizarrely the ticket cost even less than my previous charter horror but the service ran like clockwork and after an hour’s train journey i was back in fofo’s appartment on via solferino . to my delight my arrival coincided with a brief visit on business by my friend christian , so we had time for a fleeting coffee before he returned to london .

and in milano i have remained , buried in my work for the sse and the scillonia digital workshop . my only escape has been a day with a friend on the shores of lago di como … until today .

fofo and his family have been holidaying on the tiny island of stromboli , just north of sicilia , since my return to milano . finally , a few days ago , my resistance to his urging that i should join them collapsed . for one thing milano has almost completely shut down . over the last week swathes of shops have put up sheets in their windows and announced their closure until september . now that my favourite grocer , fruiterer , fishmonger and bakery have joined the stampede , life is scarcely worth living . on another note , this is a good opportunity to spend a week of retreat preparing the development plan and specifications for the sse learning web . and , of course , i am only too happy to be travelling to a small island once again .

so here i am , just leaving firenze , almost halfway through the six and a half journey to napoli . i had no difficulty deciding to travel by train rather than flying . this is a wonderful introduction to the changing landscapes and architectures of italy . what a trip !

from napoli i will board a ship for the six hour voyage to stromboli , where i shall arrive at five tomorrow morning just as it is getting light . what a way to arrive !

typically i am relying to a daft extent on fortune . i have no accommodation booked on stromboli and this is the peek week of the year , so i am likely to find myself sleeping beneath a tree . also i have no booking for the ferry . and i will have a mere thirty minutes between this train’s scheduled arrival and the ferry’s departure . not really a comfortable margin . who knows how it will all work out .

my absorption in various projects has resulted in a greater backlog of personal correspondence than i have ever accumulated before . it weighs heavy on me . when i return to milano i shall dedicate an hour each day to its reduction . if anyone were to draw the conclusion that their missives were unvalued they would be sorely mistaken . i regret my carelessness .

oh , there’s another batch of photos at
http://www.charlesarmstrong.net/snapshots/2000-07-01 . another experimental interface , i’m afraid … this time you only have to * point * at the thumbnails to download the large image ! i’ve already thought of some improvements for the next cluster … when i get round to it .

: cH

m i l a n o u n o

20:55 saturday 1 july – brisa di mare , rapallo

bobo , roberta and i caught a train from milan just after midday , heading south and west towards the coast . the journey was somewhat less luxurious than that from stresa to milano i made a week ago . the rolling stock showed its age , lacked air conditioning and was packed full . we stood in the corridor all the way to genova , watching the surroundings change from urban milan to rich farmland to steep basaltic mountains . at genova we changed to a train which took us the short distance down the coast to rapello , clinging to the mountains around a sweeping bay . here we were met by bobo’s father , enrico , who drove us up to this house , his retreat perched at the top of a hill overlooking the town and harbour , surrounded by terraces of old olive and fig trees .

i sit here on the terrace now with the fountain gurgling and sounds of people in the town below drifting up on the still dusk air . today is the start of a three-day festival in the town . earlier we watched barges being towed into the bay , loaded with fireworks which will be set off later on . i’ve been investigating the rows of yachts in the harbour with the binoculars my parents gave me for for my birthday last year .

the past week has been wonderful .

14:20 saturday 8 july – aeroporto malpensa

oh no , it’s happening again . i left the apartment on via solferino soon after midday , took the metro from moscova to cadorna , and from there got the express train to malpensa . my flight to london was due to depart from here at 19:35 . the reason for my uncharacteristically early arrival : a careless misreading of the ticket when i checked it last night . a fortuitous error as it transpires .

i spoke to one of the check-in clerks , who looked puzzled , made a couple of phone calls and told me my flight would in fact be departing from bergamo . which , ironically , was where my doomed inbound flight was intended to land .

so now i’m on a bus ( which has just set off ) taking me back to milano stazione centrale , from where i’ll set out for bergamo .

i phoned the company in britain from whom i bought my ticket ( thomson ) but after half an hour of uninterrupted soft rock i felt sick and hung up . phrases for a letter they’ll be receiving from me begin to assemble themselves in my head …

18:22 – aeroporta orio al serio , bergamo

standing in a queue with a couple of hundred people , slowly being processed through two check-in desks . i notice that the inbound flight is now being predicted to land half an hour late .

i’ve got my powerbook set up on the handle of the luggage trolley . just the right height to type standing up ! i’ll take a photo .

22:50 – connex train , gatwick airport to victoria station

the half hour delay wasn’t augmented and i reached blighty without incident . everything seems grey , cold and shabby . but then it always does . i think it’s a fine thing to be british . but i find it hard to muster much affection or respect for contemporary british society .

: cH

a v e

16:39 saturday 24 june – restaurant ” est est est ” , gatwick airport
south terminal

damn . i’ve succeeded in booking myself onto today’s flight of doom .
i spoke to a few agents on tuesday and purchased a dirt-cheap seat on a plane operated by one of the myriad charter firms of which nobody’s ever , ever , ever heard .

but as i sit here waiting for my voucher-subsidised pizza , my 15:45 departure receding into the distance ( latest estimate – 19:00 ) , it somehow seems less of a consumer triumph .

the desk where one might expect to find an unctious company rep remains resolutely unattended , a phone cursorily left in front with a number to call . the number , though , has been amended by hand and rendered unintelligible . a shifting coterie of nervous-looking package fodder huddles around it , left rootless by this unforseen gap in the stream of commands by which they secretly prefer their holidays to be organised . nobody is telling them what to do now . even the muttered complaints sound hesitant , half-hearted .

we ( suddenly a community , our uncertain fates fused in this hermetic city , our common submission to the invisible ” them ” who hurl aircraft between continents ) have been issued with ” light refreshment vouchers ” . my experience suggests this is a bad sign . it happened far too quickly . something must be seriously wrong with the plane and the i won’t be surprised if the19:00 prediction slips back further . i dislike the way that airlines routinely lie to their customers , announcing an iterative procession of further delays rather than squaring up right away with the true prognosis . it is as if they wish to toy with us , manipulating our hope and despair on the ground just as they manipulate our sleeping and waking in the air .

the pizza has come and gone . a modish confection of roasted vegetables ( scarcely cooked ) on a tomato base ( unseasoned ) with rocket and shaved parmesan . the environment is pleasant though . light wood , modern chairs and white walls . quite unexpected in an airport which aspires more than anything to resemble a shopping mall . indeed one of the syntheticically cheerful voices which springs from the ubiquitous speakers every now and then celebrates the ” south terminal shopping experience ” where ” tax-free prices ” are available to passengers ” for all destinations ” . it is as if the various retailers have collectively willed themselves into a parallel universe in which intra- european duty free was never abolished . presumably they hope to take a few passengers with them .

the last time i flew from gatwick was in december 1998 , on my way to australia . on that occasion my flight departed six hours late . or was it twelve ? or twenty-four ? time somehow changes its substance in these places . incongruously i am reminded of lapland and perpetual daytime . but that experience is one of freedom as opposed to this confined purgatory .

i am glad to have the company of my powerbook , my backlog of correspondence , my scribbling book , the reading i was meant to do for michael young , books by george soros and plato . enough to tide me over , i think . however long i must remain here in limbo .

18:04

latest prediction – 20:30 . apparently a replacement aircraft was flown in … and found to be defective . aircraft number three is being sent down from luton . or perhaps they’re constructing it out of the remaining pieces of aircraft numbers one and two ?

20:05

about quarter of an hour ago we were all shunted off on the crummy monorail thing to the deserted north terminal . the screens indicated that our flight was now boarding … except that there was no plane at the indicated gate .

an aircraft has now rolled up , with ” european ” painted rather generically down its side . somebody with limited english made an announcement . it sounded like they were informing us we’d be landing at verona rather than bergamo , but surely that can’t be right …
surely … ?

11:06 sunday 25 june – express train , stresa to milano

verona it was . by the time my flight entered italian airspace last night bergamo airport was closed . milano’s two airports were too busy to accept additional traffic . so verona it was . we landed around midnight . i explored various options for getting to milano and the party i knew was underway . but it was hopeless .

my night’s accommodation came courtesy of a couple of fortuitously non- showing packageers . their room in a rather grand hotel had already been paid for so i blagged it . what i didn’t altogether grasp was that their hotel room was in stresa , three hours’ drive away on the shore of lake maggiore . i arrived there at half three this morning , feeling slightly jaded .

waking up this morning to the lake , the moutains , the cool air and the hot sun soon put paid to that though . what a gorgeous and unexpected place to spend my first morning in italy . my room had a big terrace surrounded by camelia blossom . i could have asked for nothing more .

now i am on my way to milano on the alpine express , destined beyond that for geneva and venice . it’s a beautifully designed modern train . my ticket cost 18600 lira , about six sterling . a similar service in britain would cost three times as much .

the drive from verona to stresa was a good introduction to northern italy . the road was lined with factories , each with its impeccably designed logo . i don’t get the impression this society is ashamed of old-fashioned heavy industry in the way that britain is . there’s obviously a bit of a fad for high intensity light projectors at the moment , used as a promotional device . i noticed about a dozen of them along the route , tracking their silent beams across the bellies of low clouds .

21:15 – fabrizio’s appartment , via solferino , milano

it’s taken a couple of hours to set up but i’ve finally got a free dial-up account working properly . i’ve been phoning bobo every ten minutes or so to get off-the-cuff translation of crucial bits of registration forms i couldn’t work out . he’s working on a painting at his apartment round the corner .

it’s been a fabulous day . brilliant to be with bobo . feeling excited about italy in general . but i’m tired and expect to sleep well tonight . down to work tomorrow .

: cH