Category Archives: Europe

Montevideo to Madrid, Spain


Flying from Montevideo to Santiago, Chile over the Andes Mountains which stretch along South America’s western side, is among the world’s longest mountain ranges. Its varied terrain encompasses glaciers, volcanoes, grassland, desert, lakes and forestation. The mountains shelter pre-Columbian archaeological sites and wildlife including chinchillas and condors. From Venezuela in the north, the range passes through Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile. So much more to see of South America and one destination on my ‘return list’. LANTAM have an extensive network right across South America and destinations such as Spain is well serviced.

Australian passport holders do not require a visa to enter Chile. You will receive entry for up to 90 days with multiple entries.

Australian tourists entering Chile through Santiago International Airport are required to pay a ‘reciprocity fee’ and at the time of writing this blog – USD117.00 per adult. The fee can only be paid by cash or credit card upon arrival before clearing immigration. Transit passengers (like myself here) are not required to pay.

Contact the  http://Embassy or Consulate of Chile in Australia for updated information.

The LANTAM Lounge in Santiago offers a place to relax with fast wifi and facilities for a shower before heading off onto a long-haul flight with LANTAM being part of the Oneworld Alliance. Flying on a Boeing 789 from Santiago, Chile to Madrid is approximately 13 hours and being able to unwind beforehand is worth being a member of the group. On a commercial ticket just think of all those points you’ll accumulate!

Delicious canapés and drinks are available for passengers who qualify for entry.

Arrival at Madrid Airport is quite efficient despite its size, with a Visitor’s Desk nearby to the baggage carousel, they are happy to advise your options of ground transport and city attractions.

The Metro in Madrid is one of the best and fastest ways to make your way around a city whereby its population exceeds 3.3 million. For less than 20 Euro you can purchase a three-day Metro Pass or around 26 Euro a five-day Pass.

As a travel agent, I’m off to check out some of the best hotels Spain has to offer – Melia Hotels are superior and quite unique in their own right, not just in its own country, but they’ve been expanding further afield for sometime now. Let’s take a sample of what’s here in Madrid.

For starters, hotel of choice is Melia Princesa which is 50 metres from the Ventura Rodriguez subway – phew no taxis required!   It’s truly an affordable luxury hotel with a polished entrance (which I might say from the street is a little deceiving). The smart interior design shows off some striking ornaments in the foyer with staff gushing to take all your stresses away after a very long flight from South America.

The Level rooms are exclusive – located on the 12th Floor and allow entry to the Member’s Lounge on the ground floor. One interesting aspect of the hotel was the delightful staff member Sandra who asked me to choose a scent for my room. She chose the right person to ask as exquisite fragrances are one of my passions – lovely bouquets and the aroma filled the room after I’d returned from a relaxing time in the Lounge area.

Magnificent panoramic views over the city; felt very comfortable here with a nice desk to catch up on some work.

Breakfast was more than sufficient with an interesting drink cart to choose a wake-up brew and the coffee was one of the best. Trust me, us Aussies are fussy about their caffeine. Alternatively, the Lounge was also available for qualifying guests.

Moving onto Plaza Santa Ana there’s a vibe worthy of a visit and shopping in Madrid has some of the best brands, eateries and bargains. So kick your heels up and make your way over there! Not a place to be missed and loved by locals.

The ME Madrid Reina Victoria Hotel right at the Plaza offers a welcome drink of sparkling wine or water which certainly adds to the feeling of satisfaction you’ve chosen a great hotel. Staff were extremely pleasant and enjoy a bit of a chat too. I’d almost forgotten what it was like to speak English again …

This Hotel radiates chic and an urban culture and, oh so stylish at the same time. Very modern with my ‘Mode’ room which looked straight out over the Plaza along with its ceiling to floor length windows and the abundant natural light into the room made it feel like home. Just how we like it in Australia!

At night a visit to the hotel’s ‘The Roof’ Bar looks right out over the very busy Plaza, allowing you to relax without feeling you need to be a part of the buzz at street level. Just kick back, admire the view of the lights and sip those yummy cocktails. The sound/video equipment is cutting-edge technology and a drawcard for anyone who considers they’re a ‘cool cat’ at night.

The ME is also located perfectly at the pulse of Madrid’s major theatres, nightclubs and museums. It’s a destination of its own – no need to go too far away for anything else really.

If you feel you’re wanting a luxury five-star retreat in the heart of Madrid, the Gran Melia Palacio de los Duques is the one – look no further than this magnificent palatial building which is virtually at the epicentre of the Royal Palace’s location and surrounds.

And indeed,  the hotel was a 19th century palace itself and still maintains an air of royalty with the staff doing their utmost to make you feel warm and welcomed. And staff member Hector deserve a special mention for his willingness in giving me an insight of the hotel’s historic beginnings and in particular the art work which is embedded as part of the interior design, in particular Velázquez’s Meninas.

The roof top view can’t go unnoticed.

A contemporary swimming pool is a relief (with an infinity outlook over the Royal Palace) after a big day out visiting the sights such as the Teatro Real, the Almudena Cathedral and the Sabatini Gardens. Serious shopping is a short walk up the hill, not only top brands, but interesting labels which Madrid is well known for having new and emerging designers. By the way, there’s also a Jacuzzi on the top floor for those aching muscles from all your day’s walking; no need for a vehicle as it’s all here.

What I’ve enjoyed so far with the Melia Hotel group is that they are all unique and not the normal ‘copy cat’ style of say other leading hotel chains. This hotel The Gran Melia, is not just at the top of the echelon, but it exudes a rare style and elegance which is synonymous with its own décor and surrounds.

My room had a spa bath and Clarins amenities (love ’em) to make it even more enriching. The bed was two metres long and fitted me perfectly as I’m 183 cm tall (6′) and the pillows were so, so soft. Fast wifi is a must for me and no problems there. Good size safe and easy to use.

So, if you’re looking for an experience where you know everything will be taken care of, then this hotel is not to be missed. And, I do have to mention, it has one of the finest breakfasts I’ve enjoyed – reading a paper (in English) whilst the staff make you feel like royalty …

For bookings see

And yes, a quick two-minute walk down the road and you’re at the Royal Palace and Sabatini Gardens!

Grounds of the Royal Palace nearby.

Well it’s bye to Madrid for this year – a city which never disappoints – architecturally, its culinary delish and culture cannot be missed.

I know where to direct my clientele in future should they wish to experience intimate details of an amazing city with its centrally located hotels.


Freiburg to Frankfurt, Germany


Christmas Markets in Freiburg, Germany and anyone thinking of visiting Europe later in the year would have to stay for the festivities, especially in Germany where it’s almost a cult.

Hanging out at the Market with my gorgeous young cousin and her special man Tomasi who is a world-class Tattooist. One day I will have my own special little tattoo – just like actress Dame Helen Mirren decided it was time, I too will do so, but I need some more gluhwein! Maybe yext year …

Instead I’m here sporting my new gangster hat bought in Palermo, Sicily.

I wish I could say this is my backside, but obviously not. However, I do have admiration for work which is innately tribal and represents a desire to be an individual artistically.

Seeing Tomasi Suluape Tatau Samoa’s work today at his studio, he’s the only official Sua trained Sulu’ape tatau artist based in Europe, keeping the traditions and the family name alive through his tattooing. Each piece, whether machine or traditional is a completely unique customised work of art with an unmistakable style.

Onwards to Frankfurt to travel home, one of the most recognisable buildings in the city and a favourite.  Westendstraße 1 is a 53-storey, 208 m skyscraper in the Westend-Süd and close to my hotel, you can always spot it coming into the Hauptbanhof (main train station) and for me it means either arriving in Europe or departing …  Almost time to head home to Australia.

However, there’s always time to grab a bite to eat and enjoy the atmosphere before heading off to the airport for the arduous trip.

Bratwurst – yum! Today who cares? I’ll have two thanks.

Liquorice stall at the markets – so much colour and beautifully presented.

Frankfurt Christmas Markets are crowded and they’re always open till late in the evening.

Take a stroll, listen to Christmas carols and church bells, smell the aroma of roasted chestnuts and almonds, cinnamon stars, mulled wine and Feuerzangenbowle.

Everyone including families being able to enjoy the amusements.

Ebbelwei-Express stop can be found directly to the southern end of the main Hauptbanhof.

The fun costs €8.00 for adults and €3.50 for children and teenagers up to the age of 14 and includes an audio tour lasting one hour. Not only will you enjoy an extraordinary journey, the ticket price also includes your choice of a bottle of cider, apple juice or mineral water and a bag of pretzels. Other beverages can be bought additionally.

Hammering Man is a series of monumental kinetic sculptures designed by Jonathan Borofsky which have been installed in various cities around the world and this one being in Frankfurt is unmistakable.

Shopping in Germany is such a pleasure with so many delicacies and treats on offer.

Heading home on the unmanned train between the two terminals is quick and easy, just check your electronic ticket if your airline is departing from Terminal 1 or 2 as Frankfurt Airport is one of the busiest in Europe.

Well it’s bye for this European trip, but I’ll be back …


Turin, Italy


Turin with its art, history, nature, sport and tradition has an exceptional appeal.  In the province there are endless discoveries to be made, from learning about Italy’s first capital to the Alps of the Olympics and from the hills of Canavese to the summits of Gran Paradiso.

People watching people in the Piazza Castello.

Statues watching people in the Piazza.

First stop at the Tourism office whereby this lovely lady helped me find the best spots for a quick run around the city in a day. Apparently she’d spent her honeymoon at Kangaroo Island, South Australia –  I’ve not been there yet … too busy exploring one of my other favourite countries – Italy!

The royal gates of the palace have a golden Medusa symbol embossed on them in order to fend off intruders.

Interior of the Royal Palace which also houses artwork throughout and along the beautiful staircase by Filippo Juvarra.
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See what happens to metallic monuments etc when they stick their fingers (or toes) out?
Beautiful architecture to be admired, just heading off for an espresso. The first machine for making espresso was built and patented in 1884 by Angelo Moriondo of Turin. Thank you Angelo for making one of the best-loved machines the world has ever known.

National Museum of Cinema is one of the most important of its kind in the world as the vast collection has many different scientific and educational activities included within.

Black Wolves Exhibition – the installation was created for the University of Turin in collaboration with the Italian Institute of Culture in Beijing and the Confucius Institute of Turin.

However, only good canines come here and are spoilt for choices. Wolves not allowed.

You can see the Cathedral from any direction within the Piazza.

Archaeological dig in the middle of Turin.

The Palace also includes the Palazzo Chiablese and the Chapel of the Holy Shroud, the latter of which was built to house the famous Shroud of Turin. In 1946, the building became the property of the state and was turned into a museum. In 1997, it was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list along with 13 other residences of the House of Savoy.

Copy of the The Shroud of Turin or Turin Shroud, a length of linen cloth bearing the image of a man, is believed by some Christians to be the burial shroud of Jesus of Nazareth.

The original Shroud is kept in the royal chapel of the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin.

End of the day ready to find a nice spot to eat a fresh crusty bread roll with some beaut Italian cheese …


Vatican City and the Papal Audience.


Fountains of St Peter’s Square,  this is one of two fountains created by Carlo Maderno (1612–1614) and Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1667–1677) to decorate the square in front of  St Peter’s Basilica.

Crowds moving in with high security in place when entering the Square.

Pope Francis arrives and moving freely around the crowd with his minders of course – it’s what everyone’s been waiting for since early morning.

People Papal Audiences: Every Wednesday morning Pope Francis (when in Rome) holds a General Audience open to the public with thousands of people from all over the World.

Not as crowded in early December and an excellent time of the year to visit. Summer is almost impossible …

Christmas tree and Nativity Scene leading up to the usual festivities at this time of year.

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Message to the Celestial heavens, even priests need to be connected …

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On the 29th of April 2013, the coffin containing the body of Pope John Paul II was disentombed  before his beatification in the Vatican. The coffin was removed from the crypt below St. Peter’s Basilica as top Vatican officials and some of the late pope’s closest aides watched and prayed. Pope John Paul II was beatified on the 1st of May 2013 at the Vatican.

On another of my previous trips and at the time of Pope John Paul II’s passing, it was time to chose a new Pope and the smoke (chimney on screen) would turn white when a decision had been made and about to be announced to the public.

The cardinals vote by secret ballot, processing one by one up to Michelangelo’s fresco of the Last Judgment, saying a prayer and dropping the twice-folded ballot in a large chalice. Four rounds of balloting are taken every day until a candidate receives two-thirds of the vote. The result of each ballot are counted aloud and recorded by three cardinals designated as recorders. If no one receives the necessary two-thirds of the vote, the ballots are burned in a stove near the chapel with a mixture of chemicals to produce black smoke.

When a cardinal receives the necessary two-thirds vote, the dean of the College of Cardinals asks him if he accepts his election. If he accepts, he chooses a papal name and is dressed in papal vestments before processing out to the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica. The ballots of the final round are burned with chemicals producing white smoke to signal to the world the election of a new pope.


Stairway down to the Pope’s Tombs within the Basilica.

Inside the walkways underneath the Basilica – a must-see regardless of your faith or religious status.

On this ancient bronze statue, St. Peter has his right toes worn down by centuries of pilgrims who traditionally touch the foot.

The Baldachin is at the centre of the crossing and directly under the dome of the basilica. Designed by the Italian artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini, it was intended to mark in a monumental way, the place of Saint Peter’s tomb underneath.

Under its canopy is the high altar of the Basilica.

Guards at the Vatican City gateway and time to say bye to Rome once again.

Vatican City Post Box to send off those prized postcards.

Buses to the airport and some information to note …

Trains to/from the airport are easy to use and a quicker option to move through a traffic-congested city. See

Next stop Turin …


Rome, Italy


Remember your first trip to Rome? How could you forget falling for one of the most romantic, sophisticated and yet historically significant cities in the world. Here at the Spanish Steps quite some time ago it was just delightful to hang about – considering it was my first European trip. However on this occasion, the area adjacent to the Steps were just being transformed and not yet complete … So I’ll have to show you around some other favourite spots of mine.

Running shoes on and about to revisit one of my most-loved cities in Continental Europe.

Undoubtedly, one of the big favourites – Trevi Fountain was designed by Italian architect Nicola Salvi and completed by Pietro Bracci. Standing 26.3 metres (86 ft) high and 49.15 metres (161.3 ft) wide, it’s the largest baroque fountain in the city and in fact one of the most famous in the world. It’s appeared in several notable films, including Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita.

The Colosseum is an oval amphitheatre within the centre of Rome, built of concrete and sand it’s the largest ever built. A must see …
Just situated just east of the Roman Forum, it could hold up to 80,000 spectators in its day and used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles such as animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles and dramas based on classical mythology.

Not too far away is the Vespa Museum – Free Entry! Worthy of a visit.

And you have the chance to view Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck on their Vespa from the movie Roman Holiday. The Mouth of Truth can be located at the church known as Santa Maria in Cosmedin.

The Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs, Michelangelo achieved an unexampled sequence of shaped architectural spaces with few precedents or followers. There is no true façade – the simple entrance is set within one of the coved apses of a main space of the thermae.

Additionally, this Basilica is used for many ceremonies including the funeral of soldiers killed abroad.

Dedicated to the Christian martyrs – both known and unknown.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  The National Monument of Victor Emmanuel II (Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II) is a remarkably large building made of white marble. Although not having towers in its general design, the medieval structure still attracts attention from almost all parts of Rome because its colour stands out in an array of other earth-coloured buildings. It is situated between the Capitoline Hill and Piazza Venezia and features some statues, columns and grand stairways.

Basilica of St John Lateran (San Giovanni in Laterano), the present structure of the Basilica resembles the St Peter’s Basilica and the ancient church was residence of the popes until the coming back from the exile in Avignone (1377), when it was moved to the Vatican.

The central bronze doors are Roman originals from the Curia (Senate House) in the Imperial Forum.

Well, I’m just a tiny bit short these days from 183 cm/6′ tall, so you can imagine the height and weight of this pair of metallic slammers …

It’s for real. And not being used to seeing historical artefacts on display whilst walking around the streets, I’m thinking it’s not at all like my usual neighbourhood’s street art at home … Pleasantly surprised of course.

Time for a snack, hot-roasted chestnuts this time.

Followed by a proper Italian lunch of pasta, I just have to choose my sauce.

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Not forgetting to call into the entrance of the Vatican City to check there’s still a ticket available for the Papal Audience which is held on a Wednesday morning in front of the Basilica. If you need less than 10 tickets you can normally pick them up without a reservation from the Swiss Guards at the “Bronze Doors” located just after security at St Peter’s Basilica.

For tickets and information see website

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Just checking the seating arrangements this time around as it’s been busy in the past, especially when it used to be inside the Basilica. I just happened to be lucky enough on my first visit to be in the front rows with Pope John Paul II officiating.

At the end of the day it’s time to go home and rest up. I’ve decided to stay an extra couple of nights now I’ve my ticket to the see the Papal Mass for the People.

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Happy to have my ticket on show and looking forward to attending once again.

More of Rome to follow …


Palermo, Sicily – Italy


Anyone who remembers Cannoli at school will be drooling at the sight of these … Originating in Sicily it’s a favourite doesn’t matter where you go.

Walking around the centre of Palermo, it’s a photographer’s dream, an architectural adornment having weathered the test of time. All statues proudly showing off all their bits and pieces …

For cultural, artistic and economic reasons, Palermo is one of the largest cities in the Mediterranean and is now among the top tourist destinations in both Italy and Europe – easy to see why!

Yes sculptures galore, particularly in the central area and the city has a population of more than 676,000 people. Many will be delighted to see these beauties basking in the sun on a daily basis – which incidentally would be most of the time during the year.

Interesting doorways have become ‘my thing’ of late. Wondering who had passed through these now closed doors?

The inhabitants are known as Palermitani or, poetically, panormiti. The languages spoken by its inhabitants are the Italian and Sicilian language including the Palermitano dialect.

The Cathedral and Roman Catholicism is very important in Palermitano culture with the Patron Saint of Palermo being Santa Rosalia whose Feast Day is celebrated on 15 July.

Lovely street scenes with florist shops full of colour and variety. Sicily is where you can pass through medieval villages and pristine historic centres; doesn’t matter if you’re on your way to crystal-clear waters lapping at white sandy beaches or just take a stroll through enchanting streets, stopping for an espresso or vino rosso and enjoy some people watching.

Did someone say food?

Although many traditional Sicilian dishes are termed Arab legacies, it is more accurate to say that they were born in Sicily and incorporated both Sicilian and Arab traditions as it’s renowned for its flavoursome derived ingredients.

However, I found a cute little café, which as usual full of people with a mix of traditional and notably antipasti … And here at 4.00 euro, this was one of the best I’d encountered while swanning around Europe! Yum, couldn’t wait and starting eating before taking the photo … bit naughty!
Antica Focacceria Del Massimo – Da Basile Via Bara All’Olivella, 76, 90133 Palermo.

A quick trip to the Post Office with its monolith exterior is a reminder of the power and might of what was once the communications centre. Once inside, it was quiet and echoing with silence. No lining up at all.

Back on the tourist trail to visit some of the better-known areas such as The  Chiesa di San Cataldo at the central Piazza Bellini. It’s an exceptional  example of the Arab-Norman architecture which flourished in Sicily under the Norman domination of the island.  In the 18th century the church was used as a post office, then in the 19th century it was restored and brought back to a form which was more similar to the original Mediaeval edifice.

The Regional Archaeological Museum Antonio Salinas possesses one of the richest collections of Punic and Ancient Greek art in Italy, as well as many items related to the history of Sicily.

Just out of the city centre Palazzo dei Normanni and highest point in the area. Great for shopping, eating and just taking photos.

The Palazzo dei Normanni or Royal Palace of Palermo. It was the seat of the  Kings of Sicily during the Norman domination and served afterwards as the main seat of power for the subsequent rulers of Sicily. The building is the oldest royal residence in Europe, the home of the rulers of the Kingdom of Sicily and imperial seat with Frederick II and Conrad IV.

Must be in season … The area attracts significant numbers of tourists each year and widely known for its colourful fruit, vegetable and fish markets in the heart of Palermo, known as Vucciria, Ballarò and Capo.

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Located on the western side of Palermo, popular ferry destinations include Sardinia, Naples, Genoa, Tunisia and Malta.

Bus, car and taxi are the best methods of getting to the Palermo Ferry Port which is located on Via Del Mare. It’s possible to walk from Palermo’s central train station to the port but beware of pick pockets.

Heading to Palermo’s Falcone–Borsellino Airport (IATA: PMO, ICAO: LICJ), formerly Punta Raisi Airport is located at Punta Raisi, it’s 35 kilometres (22 miles) west northwest of the city. Buses are inexpensive and taxis available and quoted around A$50.00 one way.

Next stop Rome …


My Story … Naples to Sicily, Italy.


20151124_091625Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot to report from Bari to Naples by train as the weather was inclement with very little photo opportunities and the outlook diminished somewhat. I know I could’ve flown to Sicily, but for me it’s about seeing the lay of the land and enjoying the rocking, rolling sojourn of a rail escapade.

However, this next post I’d penned mostly as a recount of my train journey last year from Naples onto Sicily.

For those who know me well, you will again read excepts from the Facebook Page ‘You Know You’re from Cowra  When…’ And, because Cowra was where my parents as ‘Displaced Persons’ had settled after arriving in Australia, I felt it was fitting to write about some of those insights. Firstly, they were at the Bonegilla Camp (like many others), and  they too had left war-ravaged Europe and mine embarked on their new life from the seaport of Napoli and the records show the Ship Nelly had arrived late November, 1949 into the Port of Melbourne, Victoria Australia.

Whilst I was standing here at Napoli Termini looking at the schedules, I’m pondering what life may have been like as post war-torn Europe tried to repatriate its peoples – most of whom would never return to their origin after leaving its shores hoping for a better life, leaving their families behind and facing an uncertain future.

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Königsberg (until 1946 officially: Königsberg in Preußen) Now Russia’s Kaliningrad it was the first opportunity we had access as part of a tour. Photo taken in 1997, and on this visit with my cousin Beine and Uncle Reinhard, we found the family farm of which the nearby township no longer exists of its old name – just like many other European places. Additionally, many country’s borders had changed after the war and of course, the division of Germany being the most evident.

This is my story, partly of my family’s early life in Australia, perhaps I’ll write more about it at a later stage … These are the excepts from my journey in November, 2015 of my thoughts and maybe one answer to Jean’s post. See below.

“On Facebook I’d read with interest Jean Eade’s post of ‘Town Revival’ with Cowra having been given as an example to the dwindling numbers of country towns.

What they seemed to have forgotten is the post-WWII immigration of the 1950s onwards – when towns such as Cowra swelled due to the then current Government’s slogan of ‘Populate or Perish’. There was an influx of new migrants who helped form the backbone and soul of this community’s psyche. In terms of multiculturalism, I believe Cowra was somewhat ahead of its time, considering the diversity, skills and cuisine offered to a small rural epicentre; of which they had to call their new homeland – for better or for worse.

After I boarded the train in Napoli (Naples, Italy) heading onto Sicily with a nine-hour trip ahead of me, it brought back a few memories of what it was like growing up with European parents who’d left their very own world from this Italian port.

20151124_093423On this sector of my trip, I was holding a Prima Class ticket and I knew that the train would eventually divide at some point, I’d then have to move to another carriage to ensure I ended up in the right destination. Once the conductor came along, he tried to explain reluctantly, but as luck would have it, I was seated next to an Italian Professor who spoke ‘good’ English and informed me when I needed to shift myself to another carriage.

20151124_134436Afterwards, we chatted and the Professor asked me, how many days would it take to sail by ship to Australia? Clearly he could see I couldn’t answer immediately as I had reflected when Mum talked about the journey from Napoli, Italy to Australia; going back then through the Suez Canal when it was still opened and then onto Melbourne, Australia. Even as of today, I don’t believe there are any passenger ships which solely cruise direct from Europe to Australia. Maybe he had me bemused – because I was awokened to the fact this was exactly what my parents and two older brothers did in the latter part of 1949; one of which who had to be ‘fattened up’ due to having rickets before being permitted the stamp of approval to travel. They embarked on a voyage to the southern hemisphere which was as foreign to them, as were they to Australians. And, not just by language or borders, but a whole new ‘she be right mate’ way of life.

20151124_122705The question of being asked how many days sailing, can only be described in my mind as, what would’ve it been like if sailing to Australia on a luxury cruise liner as opposed to a ship load of immigrants? They were about to become New Australians (as the Government then coined their status), trying to embrace their new ‘one-door opening and another closing’ ideology – not necessarily having a marvellous time for the duration of the voyage.

As many migrants with ‘Displaced Persons’ stamped in their passports, they took Australia as their new homeland and were dispersed to regional areas with no input or say as to where they might like to live. I remember asking Mum as a young teenager ‘why Cowra?’ and she’d said it was because the Government placed them where they thought relevent at the time after being processed in Bonegilla. Dad had to catch/kill rabbits in Gunnedah (due to plague proportions) for a period of time to pay for their passage and Mum stayed with the two boys at the Cowra Camp trying to learn English – along with all the others. However, Dad gained a job on the Railway and they then lived close to the Loco in a tent alongside with three other families until they’d saved enough money to buy land and build in town. (You may have noticed by now, rail is my preferred mode of travel …)

Anyway, I have given this some consideration over the years and I believe Cowra was in fact ahead of its time in regards to multiculturalism and acceptance. I feel, many of the nationalities bestowed upon Cowra made it one of the most diverse small European communities in Australia without maybe realising it at the time. Move aside Melbourne … We already knew what it took – with a population which was miniscule by comparison to this cosmopolitan city, we were entwined with a varied assortment of nationalities and a kindred neighbourhood-like spirit. Everyone seemed to ‘get on’ with life and held similar Christian values and judgements.

20151124_141915 (2)Anyway, having digressed from my travelling yarn, I eventually moved carriages earlier than I should’ve on my trip to Sicily ensuring I had plenty of time to do so. However, an older gentleman did the same as I and we ended up with our own cabins as most passengers left at Lemezia Termini, including the English-speaking Professor. This older man couldn’t speak English, nor I of Italian, but we struck a chord with a little bit of German. He’d never heard of Sydney, Australia. (It was a stark reminder that we as Australians are on a much smaller stage in this world than we think, even though we live in a big and lucky country of which others are at break-neck speeds to come and settle.)

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Our train was then prepared to be loaded onto the ferry for transportation for the 20-30 minute crossing from San Giovanni, which incidentally was a truly thought-provoking encounter. What if this was me sailing into unknown territory as a migrant? I don’t know the language for starters or customs, nor what lay ahead in terms of a home to live? How would I have been in a totally different environment trying to fit in if it had been me heading to say, this new land? Luckily I’m on holiday and just blogging along as I go.

Coleone family and mafia were still being spoken about by my new companion. My guardian, if I can call him that, looked out for me throughout the remaining five-hour journey to Palermo, even though I  understood he was alighting at Terminal 1 before me, his instructions were clear. However, once we arrived at San Giovanni, the train did indeed divide and importantly we were in our correct places at the time. He pulled out of his pocket a three-pronged key meant for carriages on different train services – not just in Europe (not unlike a wheel brace to look at) and he offered to lock my carriage door like his. I thought perhaps he was a retired train conductor with his precious spanner which would make us a little safer in a world full of materialistic people? Sometimes, you just think to yourself, maybe you’re in the lap of the Gods and you need to just trust in what’s before you. All what was in my suitcase – was it really all that important? Not at all. As long as I had my documents and something warm to wear, that’s all that really matters.

He and I meandered up to the top deck of the ferry after leaving the train’s compartment and then watched San Giovanni slowly disappear from our view. Certainly not something I’ve experienced before, but this elder had witnessed it many times and you could tell he was excited about going home to his family and something I admire greatly about the Italians – their sense of home and family.

20151124_151936It pelted down with hail as we glided past the seven metre-tall golden Madonna guarding the entrance of the port in all her glory looking out across the Strait of Messina. Once on land again at Messina and the train offloaded onto the tracks, it was again divided and separated with the rear-end carriages departing for Syracuse and the remainder of us continuing north to Palermo hugging the coastline.

20151124_155612 (2)So what’s the purpose of me writing this? I think it’s wonderful Cowra had/has a respect of its immigrants’ contributions towards the Australian way of life – be it food, culture, art and yet, its differences. I’m glad to have been a part of it, rather than as a young teenager asking Mum ‘why Cowra?’ I’m grateful my family assimilated into a country town which did embrace us and we had the opportunity of growing up there. Unfortunately I don’t have an answer for the dwindling numbers, but it’s not always easy when it comes to offering new opportunities to everyone who seek them. Hence, the reason many of us leave for the metropolis of city life and move on.”

Next stop Palermo, Sicily



Bari, Puglia – Italy


Bari is the second most important economic centre of mainland Southern Italy after Naples and best known as a port and university city. It has a population of about 326,799 as of 2015.

I needn’t have been worried about Bari too much years ago,  it’s quite a cosmopolitan metropolis – so much to offer in terms of an endearing culture and interesting places to seek out.

With the Basilica of Saint Nicholas, the Cathedral of San Sabino (1035–1171) being one of the main attractions; its architecture and central location make it one of the most popular.

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Even a visit to the cathedral doesn’t escape life’s everyday technology. Maybe one day they’ll have a App for Confession? That’ll save the ceiling from falling down on a few …

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Pope John Paul II – never to be forgotten and a lovely reminder of a great man.

The Swabian Castle or Castello Svevo also known as Norman-Hohenstaufen Castle was built for Frederick II, is now within a major nightlife district and serves as a gallery for a variety of temporary exhibitions in the city.

20151122_133058To the south is the Murat quarter (erected by Joachim Murat), the modern heart of the city, which is laid out on a rectangular-grid plan with a promenade on the sea and the major shopping district (the via Sparano and via Argiro).

Harbour is very calm and a plethora of fishing charters are on offer.

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Plenty of artistic works on display and fabulous shopping along the boulevard, especially duty free considering it’s a major sea port.

Street art on building work sites is always acceptable.

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Cafes are full of coffee lovers and enthusiasts. Personally, I think Aussies are the best at making a fantastic flat white, but the Italians still have the upper hand for an exceptional espresso.

Everywhere you go, there’s wonderful photographic opportunities.

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No shortage of attractions to keep you busy.

Government buildings are well kept in the era they were constructed.

No other country on the planet can build motor cycles like the Italians … All I want for Christmas is a Vespa!

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Yeah, wish it were me on the back of the motor bike! Vroom …

A couple of days is not quite enough, my advice to anyone is to spend somewhat longer in Puglia as there’s so much to offer in terms of food and culture.

Back on the train and heading across Italy now for a one-night stay in Napoli before heading south again and onwards to Sicily by rail.


Bologna to Bari in Puglia, Italy


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You can now arrive at Bologna Central Station, thanks to high speed trains in half an hour from Florence, an hour from Milan, or an hour and a half from Venice. Why fly when in 2 ½ hours from Rome and you can arrive hassle free at the Terminus with excellent connections by bus as well. And now where I’m heading to, in just 5 hours and 45 minutes it’s Bari in the south of Italy.

As well here in Bologna, the Metropolitan Railway System is also connected to almost all the cities and provinces of Emilia Romagna.

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Trenitalia’s high-speed trains are called Alta Velocità (AV) and are broken down into three categories: Frecciarossa (“Red Arrow”), Frecciargente (“Silver Arrow”) and Frecciabianca (“White Arrow”). Frecciarossa trains are the fastest of these, reaching speeds of up to 190 MPH (300 km/h).

Italo’s high-speed trains are even faster, operating at speeds up to 220 MPH (360 km/h) and the network, which operates on a different set of rail lines, connects Turin, Milan, Venice, Padua, Bologna, Florence, Rome, Naples and Salerno. These routes make it possible to consider day trips from Milan to Rome or Rome to Naples despite the great distances. Italy’s high-speed trains help evoke the 19th century romance of rail travel, albeit at 21st-century speeds.

The AV train network connects Turin, Milan, Bologna, Florence, Rome, Naples and Salerno. and are two sites valuable for Australian travellers.

Not too far out from Bologna, the scenery changes to the eastern coastline’s tributaries and extensive beach areas.

Surprise! More vineyards along the way …

Swimming areas are normally filled with tourists during the summer months, but now in November it’s changing and the weather’s just a little more inclement.





Red wine has come from Puglia in profuse quantities and garnered the region a reputation for being a terrific source of “plonk” for a long time.

Just on the outskirts and pondering what’s ahead.

Years ago, Bari had me worried as it’s reputation may have been a bit tarnished, being a major thoroughfare with shipping and passengers arriving from many other parts of Europe, I was told it wasn’t a place a backpacker should spend too much time. Bit older and wiser now, I thought I’d give it a chance considering I’m travelling a little more gracefully …

The metro system looks quite straight forward …

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The capital of Apulia and is now considered an important touristic destination within Puglia, Bari lies on a fertile coastal plain facing the Adriatic Sea and I’m keen to see more of it.


Bologna, Italy


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Heading into Bologna city from the airport, you’ll witness some of the best rural properties whereby the grapes and crops give Italy and the world its favourite wines, vinegars, pastas and the most wonderful culinary dishes you could wish for.

Many years ago, whilst backpacking in Florence I realised there was a need to shift off the usual tourist trail. However a quick look at a map and there was Bologna? Not only did the name intrigue me, but it’s where Artusi recorded and subsequently published his recipe for Maccheroni alla bolognese, better known to us Aussies as Spag Bol (Spaghetti Bolognaise) and one of my all-time favourites.

Bologna is so close to Florence, it’s a really easy day trip by rail, however one day is not enough, hence the reason for a return to explore it a little further – even after all this time.

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Bologna Guglielmo Marconi Airport is the international airport servicing the city and the Emilia-Romagna region. It’s approximately 6 km (3.7 miles) northwest of the town centre and about 200 km (120 miles) south-east of Milan. (Cost of bus approximately seven Euro per adult from airport to BLQ city centre one way.)

The airport is named after native Guglielmo Marconi, an Italian electrical engineer and Nobel laureate who began to develop the system of wireless telegraphy which then spread throughout the world. His Villa Griffone is a National Monument and is located in Pontecchio Marconi, about 15 km from Bologna. The garden and the rooms of the villa are home to the Marconi Museum which is dedicated to the origins and development of radio communications.

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And not surprisingly, there’s amass of liberal students who reside here and call it home as it’s considered the world’s oldest University and believed to date back to 1088.
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Named in honour of Bologna patron saint Petronio – 8th bishop of the city from 431 to 450, the Basilica is the most imposing and has certainly stood the test of time for all to see and enjoy its might and power.

Madonna frescos can be seen just walking along the colonnades.  In 2000 it was declared the European Capital of Culture and in 2006 a UNESCO “City of Music”.

My local neighbourhood at home is full of street art but on this occasion, really glad to see there’s very little of it here as it’s one of the most architecturally important cities and I’d hate to see it ‘painted’ over.

Historic towers, antique buildings, churches and the layout of its historical centre along with works of art, thankfully, are the result of a first-class architectural and artistic history.

You may even feel you’re on a movie set with Roman soldiers about to storm through as the medieval atmosphere has been carried over here for centuries.
Margherita Park and the surrounding neighbourhood is a lovely area of town to seek solace and spend a peaceful Sunday. Not too far are there’s a market with beautiful fresh flowers and produce.

Have a seat? Don’t mind if I do amongst the pigeons who are pecking away madly at some crumbs.

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And, as for walking around taking photos all day being on a tight schedule, it’s time for lunch and another favourite of mine being antipasti – only this time it’s a buffet lunch at the Empire Hotel which is central to almost everything. At 9.90 Euro I’m not in a hurry right now and will savour this one …

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Point taken and no explanation needed!

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Glad I had lunch earlier, couldn’t have gone past this deli without feeling a bit lavish. All those yummy cheeses …

If you come to Bologna for one reason, let it be the food. It is informally the culinary capital of Italy and it isn’t nicknamed “Bologna la grassa” which means “Bologna the fat” for nothing. The market in the city centre is one of the largest in Europe and has a huge array of fresh cheeses, meats, fruits, vegetables, dairy and baked goods. The best deals are the balsamic vinegar from nearby Modena and prosciutto from Parma.

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Yeah, it’s that time of day to say bye and a bit sad. One day or two days are just not enough, next time around I’ll base myself in Bologna and then do day trips from there as it’s quite central to so many other places in northern Italy.

Haven’t ever traversed along the east coast of Italy and now heading south towards Bari to see what’s in store there … As for Bologna – I’ll be back without doubt.