26 September 2007

Exploring north-east Italy

Over recent weeks we've been adding to our coverage of north-east Italy, particularly the mainland around Venice. Italy Heaven's latest pages include descripions of the Veneto spa towns Abano Terme and Montegrotto Terme, and the much more picturesque Lake Garda resorts Sirmione and Desenzano del Garda. In Desenzano we stayed in the nice little Hotel Piroscafo, which we recommend. We also had a great meal in a restaurant called Kapperi, which served excellent dishes at good prices, with a pretty courtyard, decor somewhere between elegant and kitsch, and queues of glam young Italians arriving late and begging for tables.

In Venice we've compiled lists of Venice luxury hotels and hotels on the Grand Canal (not 'near' but actually facing onto the water). Our newest page is about Palazzo Fortuny, a lovely Gothic building which is currently housing the extremely eclectic exhibition Artempo.

Venice today, incidentally, has had some incredible downpours, with parts of the mainland settlements Mestre and Marghera actually flooded, with four months' worth of rain falling in just a few hours.

10 September 2007

Rupert Everett & Italy's pricey beaches

As outlined in our recent article about Italian beaches, access to the sea can be tricky and expensive in Italy. Despite the many fee-paying beach establishents, the public ought to have free access to the water's edge. Often, however, this is hard or even impossible. Each summer there are protests in Italy from consumer groups. And this year they have an unlikely hero: British actor Rupert Everett. During his trip to the 2007 Venice Film Festival (official website), held at the seaside Lido, he apparently attempted to put his towel down on the sand at the water's edge and was moved on. (He obviously didn't trek to the 'free beach'). Now there are hopes (perhaps unlikely) that he will spearhead a test case against Venice council.

We've tried walking along the sea in front of all the expensive beach concessions on the Lido and not been ordered off (a beach guard did follow us for a while though). And there are usually a few bold sunbathers who've brought their own towels to the water's edge, so we're a bit surprised that Everett encountered these problems. A good thing though, if it focusses more attention on this Italian problem. There's so much money being made by beach businesses that local politicians (who are generally also businessmen) turn a blind eye to fenced-off beaches. Italians care what foreigners think of them, though, so perhaps this will be a catalyst for change. A shame it didn't happen at the start of the summer season.
> The Guardian: How Rupert Everett became the hero of Venice's bathing classes