Or three reasons why now it’s a really good moment to go and see the National Archeological Museum of Naples.
Antonio Canova. Enjoy Naples, the crowd, the food, the sun (despite this cold, cold spring), but don’t miss the chance to also enjoy the purity of the forms of classical sculpture, reinterpreted by one of the greatest artists ever. Canova’s skills earned him the nickname of new Phidias and you’ll soon understand why. The grace of the bodies, the incredible mastery of drapery that reminds the foam of the waves, hard marble that turns into soft curves, everything is simply magic in this exhibition. It made me all emotional, so open your heart and let youself be enchanted by beauty. It’s definitely one of those feel-good experiences that can change your whole perception of a city. It stays in Naples until 30 June 2019.
The archeological section. This is a permanent (outstanding) exhibition in Naples and basically what makes MANN one of the most important archeological musums of the world. Now, despite a few sections being closed for a few days due to some restorations, since many Canova’s sculptures are there, you can enjoy the paralles between classical art and noclassicism. It’s truly interesting and actually accessible to all. Meaning there are a lot of things you can notice, learn and understand without needing a classical education.
Hugo Pratt. Naples has always been a city of sailors and travelers, so it is definitely appropriate that it hosts a beautiful exhibition dedicated to the sailor and pirate Corto Maltese, the most famous character created by the world-famous comic artist Hugo Pratt. Corto tells the history of the first years of the twentieth century with irony and humanity, siding invariably with the weakest people while still being friends with some hardened criminals. Not your typical hero, but that’s what makes him even more charming. The exhibition, Corto Maltese – An extraordinary journey, will present a huge thematic itinerary, with 100 pieces including original panels, sketches, photos and more. Until 9 September 2019.
I said I’d join, right? So this is my entry for the #fairtradechallenge! Coffe is already here, so are sugar and chocolate, tea will join very soon.
Now, this is just a fun game (and my pic may have been better) but the most important thing is that we all remember, at least every now and then, to buy food whose proceeds go to the real producers, the farmers of the countries where the goods actually come from. They often are taken advantage of or run just small business unable to compete with huge companies.
Today I really feel like talking about France and why you shouldn’t miss Camargue, the region between Arles and the Mediterranean sea. It may not be a mainstream international destination, as far as France is concerned, but it’s still very popular among the locals, so if you choose to go during the summer keep in mind that some places can be very crowded.
According to yours truly, the fact that the region isn’t extremely popular is a major plus, but if you need more reasons to visit it, here is my personal top 5.
1-Horses. Indeed. Sometimes advertising posters don’t lie. You can really drive along a paved road and see wonderful, white horses in the fields left and right. I knew that the area was actually famous for this, among other things, but I dind’t realize that I’d be able see so many of them just passing by. Just remember, don’t stare at the horses while driving! You’ll have plenty of chances to interact with them in one of the many riding schools all around the region.
2-Aigues Mortes. The dead waters. I know how this sounds, and we’re talking about a swamp, after all, but believe me, this is a truly amazing place! The city itself is small and pretty, but the real point is the salt pans that are just a few kilometers away, west of the National Park of Camargue. This place is definitely not your average swamp, it’s made of xpanses of sparkling white salt and high dunes that look like snowy hills. They dazzle the view in the sunlight and have something… otherwordly. All around there are large pools of water, pink due to a particular seaweed. The salt pans can be visited aboard a small train with a guide, or you can explore the area by car. If you choose the second option mind the calendar. In some periods of the year there are people at work, and some places are forbidden to tourists. Try the official site.
3- Birds. Let me be brutally honest, here. I never really cared much for ornithology, yet I enjoyed Camargue’s local fauna quite a lot. There are some large protected areas in the region, where numerous bird species live free. I was able to visit only one, La Palissade, a wonderful park where you can observe storks, herons, swans, flamingos and many other species that I can’t even name. Don’t worry though, the park is provided with plenty informative material so even the less experienced can enjoy the visit in full. There are two routes, a short one of a couple of hours, and a long one which takes almost five hour of trekking. The paths are easy, very well marked, but the summer sun is unforgiving and the only bar is at the beginning. Don’t do like me, then, and bring plenty of water! Keep in mind there are also many nutrias strolling around. They mind their own business but I must admit that I’m not a nutias enthusiast.
4- Sea. Forget the Côte d’Azur… well no, don’t. Just know that Camargue’s beaches really have nothing to envy of their much more famous “sisters”. Personally, I’m not too fond of luxury tourist destinations, that’s why I loved those wide expanses of soft sand, with no big resorts in sight, or other forms of entertainment, apart from simple bars or small restaurants. Here the sea is just as blue as the sky, and there’s a gust of wind that makes the climate almost perfect. Again, unfortunately, the road can get pretty crowded. Try to avoid the small towns like Saintes Maries. It’s actually a pretty place, but the traffic is crazy, better drive directly to the more isolated beaches.
5- Van Gogh. Right north of the National Park there is Arles, one of the few places in Europe that get the honor to be considered the city of Van Gogh. The most important thing to know is that the house where the artist lived is immediately outside the walls, not inside, and nowadays it’s a bit of a disappointment. I don’t know exactly what I expected to find, but that small building squeezed between two bigger ones made me a bit sad. It looks just like a trivial little concrete house with no particular charm. However, albeit one doesn’t usually visit Camargue for its towns, Arles is nice and lively, and worth a stop. The bar that inspired “Cafè de Nuite” is quite famous and distinctive. There’s also a pedestrian path, called of course the Van Gogh Path, along which you’ll come across other places where the artist left his mark.
This feels sort of personal, but I want to talk about my experience because I’m sure there are a lot of other women out there who are going through the same path. Maybe this can help a bit.
So we all want to go, right? Then why we end up staying?
When I was 20 I was super shy, afraid of my own shadow and at the same time eager to spread my wings and fly. Imagine the amount of frustration, to be like a tornado trapped in a bottle. I had to finish studying anyway, so university kept me from having to make any actual choice.
When I was 30 my family went through a very rough period. It really didn’t feel right for me to just leave, even if it was what I wanted the most. I knew pretty well, tho, that leaving was 90% running away from problems than anything else.
Now I’m in my 40’s and still afraid, still making excuses with myself. I mean, I do a lot of things, I travel much more than before thus I’m proud of myself, but there’s always that little voice in the back of my head. “It’s not yet the right moment. Just wait for things to settle down. If only you had a little more money.” What changed then? Mainly it is that now I am aware enough to understand when there is a real problem that prevents me from leaving and when I am only finding excuses.
Just a few days ago a friend of mine said something along the line of it’s too late for a new chance and I realized, not for the first time, that I didn’t want to become that sort of person. I didn’t want to wither to the point of thinking that at 40 life is already over. Actually, I feel much more an accomplished and complete person now than 20 years ago. People gets sad when they realize time goes by, I don’t. I wasn’t a very happy teenager and I already talked about my 20’s. Time is making me wiser, calmer, more positive, thinner, even (my nutritionist is an hero and I’m on a super diet which I just love!), but I am digressing.
Granted, there will always be something or more probably someone who doesn’t want to let you go. For me there is family, with the good old adagio: you should think about how to fix your life before anything else. This is a vaguely polite way to say that since I am not married, I don’t have children and I work as a freelance, my life is a disaster and they worry for me. The last part is true at least, they worry because they care, that’s why I don’t get mad at them.
Anyway, my point is it’s never ever too late to leave life at the full extent, to be what you want to be, to pursue a dream or simply to enjoy a peculiar hobby. Unless you decide so in your head. There are many people who are loaded with prejudices that prevent them from doing things, but I don’t have to be like them and neither do you. This obviously doesn’t only concern the topic of travel, it applies to everything. So what I’m doing next? First of all I’m looking for a job abroad. Secondly I’m planning to go away for the next couple of months. Most probably I’ll find myself a nice farm in the UK or Scandinavia to spend the summer, it get’s too hot in the south anyway. They always need an helping hand and they give you a place to stay for free. Isn’t it a great deal?
Did you know? Next weekend, 10-11-12 May 2019 is the World Fairtrade Challenge. It is a nice initiative that mainly serves to make people aware of the issue of fair trade, of the way in which small businesses that produce the goods we consume every day (coffee, cocoa, fruit juices, clothes and many many others) are often penalized, if not really robbed, by huge supply chains. There is so much we can do, for example by choosing the products that have the Fair Trade logo, both in some supermarkets and in specialized shops. The quality is excellent (I’ve been using them for years), the price is reasonable and the profits are distributed much more equitably so that farmers and small business, the people actually doing the job, get a fair deal. But there’s even more. It’s not only about money, it’s about child labor, gender equality, climate change etc.
I’m totally convinced that none of us have to be a martyr, a saint, much less a fanatic, but we can still help with little gestures every day, the ones that cost us almost nothing but mean so much for other people.
We are many small drops and together we can become the sea. Why give up this opportunity?
As for the World Fairtrade Challenge I’m talking about, it’s simply a nice and fun thing to do with coworkers, friends, family or by ourselves. If you work in contact with many people you can organize a public event, but a family breakfast is also perfectly fine. It’s what I’ll do, for example. More or less every country has its own site where if you want you can even request free gadgets to personalize your event. Then you upload some nice photos using the tag #fairtradechallenge et voilà, many people who previously had no idea what fair trade is, now know and maybe tomorrow some of them will make the right choice. Believe me, it may not look like much, but a little is more than nothing, right?
Unfortunately Naples, although beautiful, lively and very rich in culture, is not a city that makes you think of large green spaces and pure air to breath, but in the heart of the historic center, on the edge of a gray and busy street, there is a wonderful park full of history and rare plants: the Botanical Garden. In May it also hosts Planta, a market and exhibition dedicated to plants of all kinds, the rare ones, the exotic ones, those typical of the Mediterranean area and so on. Even on a rainy and windy day the colors of the flowers are vibrant and magnificent and it is wonderful to see the people happy and smiling for something as simple as a flower. I was lucky, the whole time I was there it rained only ten minutes and the uncertain weather also discouraged the large crowds typical of Sunday afternoons. The next edition will be in a year’s time. What a pity! How wonderful it would be if an event like this was organized more often, especially in the city, where it is most needed.
By the way, this is my little purchase. I couldn’t buy more mostly because I didn’t know how to carry heavy vases at home all by myself. It’s an Albuca Spiralis, it comes from South Africa so I guess it should find itself at home in the south of Italy too. It’s pretty, it should have small flowers too, and quite low manteinance, perfect for my not so green finger.
I’m writing this because not so many days ago a friend of mine asked more or less this same question. And I won’t lie, I asked myself this too when I was planning my first trip to Moscow/S.Petersburg. Back then I knew almost nothing about Russia, apart from the things you can usually read in history books and that they have some amazing novelists. Anyway, what I found on the internet wasn’t always encouraging, especially if you are a woman. Most people were just as enthusiastic as I felt, but every now and then I came across people who suggested to only go with tour operators so that they’d take you to the main attractions and pick you up soon after (boooring!), even in the main cities. They also said to not wander the streets after the sunset (!), to not look at the policemen too much (!!) and stuff like that.
Now, since I’ve always been in love with Russian culture of course I decided to go and ignore all the scaremongering. Plus I’m from a city that sadly has a quite high crime rate so it’s not like I’m a naive woman who can’t tell a bad neighborhood apart from a good one and I’ve been to almost every big town of Europe so I know how it works.
Granted, the very first thing that happened right after getting on the train from S.Piet’s airport to the town’s center was that my friend got robbed! Anyway, at home I was robbed ten meters from my own house, I’ve witnessed bag-snatches in Lisbon, Paris (twice), Madrid. Bad things happen all over the world and big towns are almost never entirely safe.
Apart from that single episode on the metro my (our) perception of danger has been basically non-existent. Moscow and St. Petersburg are two incredibly beautiful cities, full of history and life and also quite tiring because of the long distances, so make sure you have very comfortable shoes. It is enough to use common sense and the normal precautions that would be used in any other huge city. I mean, I wouldn’t go and stare at policemen anywhere. Even traveling on the night train that connects the two cities, in second class, was fun and safe and as comfortable as it can be. Actually, the beds are even a little wider than those I found on other trains in the rest of Europe.
When I left Moscow it was dawn, the sky was pink and the city lights were still on. I swallowed my tears because I didn’t want to look like a fool in front of the taxi driver, but I miss Russia so much, and I’m planning to come back soon, probably for a trip a little more focused on natural landscapes.
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